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Philippine Literature  

A vigorous gay and lesbian literature emerged in the Philippines in the last two decades of the twentieth century.

Largely ignored among postcolonial writing, Philippine literature surprises everyone who happens across it with its rich characterizations and stubborn insistence on substance. Although its oral roots date back five thousand years or more, Philippine literature has come into its own primarily within the last century beginning with the American colonization of the islands in 1898, which ended 332 years of Spanish rule during which all printing presses were controlled by the Church.

The best Filipino authors writing in English--Bienvenido Santos and Nick Joaquin--are among the twentieth century's best writers in the language. Filipinos claim that their authors who write in Tagalog are even better, but little of their work has been translated.

There are few places in Asia and the Pacific where homosexuality is as accepted and visible as in the Philippines. It is not unexpected then that as Philippine literature has emerged, gay Philippine literature has emerged as well. What has been surprising is that it didn't develop sooner. Although individual gay poems and stories appeared in various publications during the 1980s, it wasn't until the 1990s that books on gay themes began to be issued by Philippine publishers.

Noted poets and newspaper columnists Danton Remoto and J. Neil C. Garcia were two of the first published, and have emerged as two of the most outstanding gay poets and essayists in the Philippines. Remoto's Skin, Voices, Faces appeared in 1991 and Garcia's Closet Quivers in 1992. Tony Perez's Cubao 1980 at Iba pang mga Katha, written in the national language, appeared the same year.

These books were followed by Margarity Go-Singco's A Different Love: Being Gay in the Philippines (1993) and Nicolas B. Pichay's Ang Lunes na Mahirap Bunuin (1993). In 1994, Remoto and Garcia teamed up to edit Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, and literary critics in the Philippines began to take notice.

Ladlad 2 and Woman to Woman: A Collection of Lesbian Reflections (edited by Aida F. Santos and Ginay Villar) soon followed, and Remoto published a collection of essays, Seduction and Solitude, in 1995.

Most of the gay titles have been published by Anvil Publishers, the publishing division of the National Book Store chain, which has bookstores in most of the Philippines' large shopping malls. By 1997, Anvil was publishing a considerable number of gay titles each year.

Because many Filipino writers have studied and lived for long periods of time in the United States, the lines between Filipino literature and Filipino-American literature are very difficult to draw. Thus, it is worthwhile to also mention the contributions to gay literature being made by Filipino-American writers.

R. Zamora Linmark's Rolling the R's, Nice Rodriquez's Throw It To the River, and Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters (1990) all have lesbians or gays among their central characters. And Cecilia Manguerra Brainard's anthology, Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America (1997), contains three stories with gay themes: Luis Cabalquinto's intense "buddy" story with a psychological twist, "The Fog," Eulalio Yerro Ibarra's sexually graphic "Paperback Dream and Other Realities," and Jay Ruben Dayrit's humorous but ultimately profound "The House of Prime Rib."

Keith Hale


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literature >> Overview:  Asian American Literature

Asian American gays and lesbians voice richly multiple and diverse identities as they assert sexual autonomy in the face of stereotyping, homophobia, and racism.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Philippines

Although the Philippines are sometimes extolled in the West as a homoerotic paradise, attitudes toward same-sex sexual activity in Filipino society are complex and ambivalent.


Brainard, Cecilia Manguerra, ed. Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America. Pasig City, Philippines: Anvil, 1997.

Garcia, J. Neil C. Slip/pages: Essays on Gay Criticism. Manila: De La Salle University Press, 1998.

_____, and Danton Remoto, eds. Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Manila: Anvil, 1994.

_____, eds. Ladlad 2: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing. Manila: Anvil, 1996.

Remoto, Danton. X-Factor: Tales Outside the Closet. Pasig City, Philippines: Anvil, 1997.


    Citation Information
    Author: Hale, Keith  
    Entry Title: Philippine Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 31, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, New England Publishing Associates  


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