5 Must-Read Literary Titles from Eastern Visayas

#PHPicks by Mark Púgnit Bonábon |

CAVEAT: It may appear to you that this article’s title exudes an air of authority from a literary luminary, but mind you, this is just abrief sophomoric essay of a budding Eastern Visayan writer who employed a modicum ofresearch (i.e, consulting Waray literature enthusiasts through Messenger and poring over online book reviews) plus a mound of common sense.

Aside from sharp bolos, which we, Warays readily brandish when we get inebriated with bahalina(which is infamously hyperbolic), we flaunt ourrichly diversified folk and modern literatures. Waray (which literally means nothing or none), the name we call our tribe and tongue, is an altogether oxymoron of what our literatures have become.

Though Eastern Visayans speak three Philippine languages, I could include on this list only literary works written in Waray (the mostly spoken language in the region,originally called Binisaya), since there is a dearth of published works in Cebuano (spoken in Biliran and some parts of Leyte), and Inabaknon (a Sama-Bajaw language spoken in Capul, Northern Samar). These works are ofvaried genres and forms (i.e., plays, novel, essays, stories, folk literature and poetry) wrought by wordsmiths bridged by San Juanico, and either self-published or published by non-Manila-based presses from 2010 to present.Furthermore, these works could be excellent MTB-MLE (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education) materials, and representative texts in teaching literature and creative writing.

  1. Hinapid Samarnon: The Aesthetics of Resistance by Fray Paolo Maria Diosdado Granados Casurao (published by Ibabao Arts Council of Calbayog Inc. and the Pilgrim Brothers of St. Francis, 2010).Plays written in Waray, Filipino and English.

Hinapid could be roughly translated as arranged or compiled. Casurao’s The Aesthetics of Resistance is the first Hinapid anthology of thirteen plays which are as socially relevant and timeless as those of Iluminado Lucente, a renowned poet and playwright of the Sanghiran, an organization of writers established in 1909 to cultivate the Waray language.

In the foreword to the anthology, Dante A. Rosales, an esteemed Calbayognon writer concedes that there is aesthetics in resistance, that “in the context of our reality, Fray Paolo informs us, as shown in his works, that the role of the writer is to resist that which oppresses us and to shed light on these conditions for the audience to discern.”

For orders, please contact the Ibabao Arts Council of Calbayog, Inc. at (055) 2626685.

2. Tabsikhin Kagamhanan by Doms Pagliawan(self-published, 2015).Waray novel.

Pagliawan’s Tabsikhin Kagamhanan (Splashes of the Powerful) is a climacteric etched in the annals of Philippine literature since it touts itself as the first original novel in Waray.

In a book review, historian Rolando Borrinaga, attests that the“novel is a monumental success at writing in…Binisaya (original name of Waray language)” and that “the author has extensively fictionalized the anthropology and folklore of the ‘barang’ sorcery and the initiation processes to the ‘tambalan’ profession and practice in Samar. The book is worth reading if only for these.”

For orders, please contact the author through his Facebook account or access www.payhip.com to purchase a pdf copy of the novel.

3.  Our Memory of Water: Words After Haiyan, edited by Merlie M. Alunan (published by Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2016). Waray poetry, stories and essays with English translations.

Alunan’s Our Memory of Water is a rare tear-jerking read because it documents in a poetic yet faithful manner the poignant experiences of Eastern Visayan survivors of Haiyan (Yolanda), the strongest super typhoon in history which claimed more than 6,000 lives.

In an Inquirer opinion article, Froilan Medina, an award-winning Filipino screenwriter, describes it as an anthology whose “verses voiced spoke of struggles in the raging waters that engulfed land, as well as the engulfing pain of loss and memory. But the weaving of words on which to carry their mourning across the waters of time offered these writers a quantum of solace, healing, and hope.”

For orders, please contact the author through her Facebook account or access www.adnu.edu.ph/upress

4. Kawit: Himusan san Siday, Ismayling, Luwa, Puplunganon ug Titiguhon by Nemesio S. Baldesco(self-published, 2017).Waray poetry and folk speech.


Kawit is a long bamboo vessel that usually contains the newly gathered tuba(a coconut wine) when it is taken down from the tree to the glass jar. Baldesco’s Kawit, a precious vessel of an anthology contains siday (poetry)and folk speech which includes ismayling (a poetic courtship joust between a man and woman), luwa (typically quatrains), puplunganon (sayings), and titiguhon (riddles).

KWF Commissioner Jerry B. Gracio, a Ninorte Samarnon poet and screenwriter, describes Baldesco, the pedicab driver-turned-poet as “an organic intellectual in the real sense of the word” whose“poetry connects to people since he speaks their language.”

For orders, please contact the author through his Facebook account.

5. Waray Hiunong sa Gugma (Walang Tungkol sa Pag-ibig) by Jerry B. Gracio (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2018). Waray poetry with Filipino translations.

Gracio’sWaray Hiunong sa Gugma (Walang Tungkol sa Pag-ibig), his third poetry collection and his first in Waray, is hailed by CNN Philippines as one of “the best Filipino books of 2017.”

Waray TV personality, Boy Abunda has this to say about the collection: “This compendium of poems by Jerry B. Gracio makes me proud as a Waray-Filipino. I read all the poems with love and a sense of familiarity that brought me back to my hometown of Borongan in Eastern Samar. These poems are part of our narrative—brave, flirtatious, unapologetic, happy and at time wry, even sardonic.”

For orders, please contact the author through his Facebook account or access www.adnu.edu.ph/upress.

For orders, please contact the author through his Facebook account or access www.adnu.edu.ph/upress.


BONUS:If I would recommend five more must-read topnotch literary works to constitute the top ten, they would be the following:

  • Inintokan by Victor N. Sugbo (published by UP Press, 2008) Waray poetry with English translations.
  • An Maupay ha mga Waray ug Iba pa nga mga Siday by Voltaire Q. Oyzon(published by NCCA and UPV Tacloban Creative Writing Program, 2008).Waray poetry.
  • Sa Atong Dila: Introduction to Visayan Literature, edited by Merlie M. Alunan (published by UP Press, 2015). Textbook on Visayan literature.
  • Susumaton: Oral Narratives of Leyte, edited by Merlie M. Alunan (published by Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2016). Waray folktales.
  • Paglaum: Mga Susumaton nga Europeo ha Waray by Jerry B. Gracio, Michael Carlo Villas, and Jaroslav Olsa, Jr. (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2018). Waray translations of European stories.

What are your top Eastern Visayan reads besides the list above? Feel free to share them by posting yourcomments below or by messaging me at markpugnitbonabon@gmail.com.

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Topics: Contemporary Waray Writings, Eastern Visayas Literatures

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Mark Púgnit Bonábon

Mark Púgnit Bonábon is a senior high school language and literature teacher from Biri, Northern Samar. He was a Lamiraw Creative Writing Workshop fellow in 2017, and has received Iligan National Writers Workshop fellowship this year. His essays, short stories, and poems have been published in The Modern Teacher, Philippines Graphic, and Hiruhimangraw.

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