Horacio de la Costa was dying of liver cancer before self arrived at Ateneo de Manila, and so she never took a class from one of the greatest Filipino writers.
Last month, she called Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino (Her go-to place for science fiction — she ordered the first six books of The Expanse from them — as well as hard-to-find books like The Laughter of My Father, by Filipino migrant worker Carlos Bulosan) and they were able to get her a copy of de la Costa’s The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768. The book arrived a few days ago, wowowowowow
From the Preface:
A grant from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus enabled me to spend several months in Europe in 1951, which I employed in gathering additional material in Roman and Spanish archives . . . In 1955 the Ateneo de Manila, of whose teaching staff I am a member, granted me leave of absence to undertake the actual writing of the history. A grant from the Philippine Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus permitted my doing this at Georgetown University, close to the great repository of the Library of Congress.
From Chapter One: The First Mission
In 1540, Pope Paul III granted the approval of the Holy See to a new religious order organized by a Basque gentleman . . .
Only 12 years later, the Jesuits were at “the gates of China.” They had founded “mission centers along the far-flung line of Portuguese trading posts from Goa to the Moluccas and obtained a foothold in Japan.” There were Jesuit missionaries in Abyssinia, the Congo, and Brazil. “The mission of Florida was opened in 1566, that of Peru in 1568, and that of Mexico in 1572.” In January 1581, a “little band” of Jesuit missionaries took “the road that dipped down from Mexico City to the little seaport of Acapulco where the galleon San Martin, 400 tons,” captained by Luis de Sahagosa, “waited to take them across the Pacific.”
from the collection Poems: Selected and New (Ateneo de Manila University Press)
It was deer dark when I opened the door,
I mean in the blackness I could make out
The free form of a fawn, a nose
Would be there small and cold, would cloud
My face, and if I stretched my hand I’d hold
A funny little jaw, how dark the round
Night, and it would kneel if it was stroked
And I would pat it, and about
This deer, of course, I’d been feeling the road,
Touch and its tale, and darkness you could count
How many deer —
And then I would not close
The door so they could come and ring around,
Darkness and its animals, so you would know.
Simeon Dumdum, Jr. once studied for the priesthood in Galway, Ireland, but left the seminary to take up law. He has won prizes from the Palanca and Focus Philippines.
(from the collection The Smile on Smokey Mountain, Winner of the Philippine National Book Award for Poetry)
Not having to hear
The guard singing as his keys
Dangle steps away.
Emmanuel Torres was a professor of English at self’s alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University, and curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery. He received his masters in English from the State University of Iowa and was a member of Paul Engle’s Iowa Writers Workshop from 1955-1957.
The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)
She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.
“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.
The answer: 150.
Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.
“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”
What? No . . .
On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!
Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:
Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?
Tia Dolor has been around the world several times, but towns and cities — Nikko and Capri and Copenhagen — all look alike to her: the same buildings, the same churches, the same automobiles. In fact, she is hard put to tell one country from another except from what they sell in the shops. And she has something to bring home for everybody — no one is ever forgotten — her suitcases are cleaned out of everything she has brought home including some that she went away with. And if you expect her somehow to look more chic (a new hairdo, a new suit) you are sorely disappointed: she minces down the ramp wearing the squirrel coat from Hong Kong and her black lizard skin wedgies.
Filipino (Prose) Literature in English, A Few Recommended Titles from the Golden Age:
The Distance to Andromeda and Other Stories, by Gregorio C. Brillantes
A Season of Grace, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
The Bamboo Dancers, a novel by N. V. M. Gonzalez
Now and At the Hour and Other Stories, by Aida L. Rivera
Brother, My Brother: Stories, by Bienvenido Santos
Self got an e-mail yesterday from alma mater Ateneo de Manila University. They’d been trying to reach her because the Philippine Department of Education wants to include her first collection of short stories, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, in schools. It will be part of the supplementary learning materials (SLM) for Grades 7 to 12.
You know what that means, self’s Philippine publisher said. That means, they will order copies. Lots of copies. And if the publisher runs out of copies, they’ll have to print some more.
That book, self’s first, was one of five finalists for the Philippines’ National Book Award. She forgets who won that year. She told her Dad about it, and of all the things he could have said, he said this: “Do you know how famous your Mom used to be? She was so famous, she performed in Carnegie Hall!” Self had no answer.