Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines

‘Fungi’ my short fiction in the Filipino language published in several literary journals in Manila in the early 2000’s is included in this groundbreaking collection of stories translated from seven languages in the Philippines.

Book cover of Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines (USTA, Gaudy Boy, fortcoming March 2021) edited by Tilde Acuña, John Bengan, Daryll Delgado, Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III, and Kristine Ong Muslim

Gaudy Boy Press will release Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines this March with stories translated to English from several laguages in the Philipines. Fungi, my short story written almost two decades ago and appeared in literary journals in Manila since then is included in the collection.

Yes, the Philippines has several languages and the Filipino (some people mistankenly called ‘Tagalog’ which is one of the several major languages in the country and spoken mostly in the island of Luzon and in the capital Metro Manila) is the country’s lingua franca. English, of course, the language of our former colonial master is widely used across the archipelago.

The Philippines decided to have a lingua franca so we have a language we can shift to in a conversation that is not the English language.

Fungi is also included in my last book before I left the country in 2018, a collection of stories May Rush Hour Ba Sa Third World Country (the formidable poet and storyteller Kristine Ong Muslim is translating the entire book to English!)

As a Philippine Literature teacher back in the Philippines, Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines editors’ introduction For Consciousness to the collection is a breathtaking essay on the history of the short story form in the Philippines, the practice, the politics of anthologizing, and an invitation to readers outside the Philippines to go beyond the textual productions of Filipino writers writing in English for them to have a glimpse of Philippine literary imagination within across the archipelago.

Ulirát’ which translates to ‘consciousness’ in English is also an invitation to the complex imaginations in Filipino literary productions across the archipelago that are usually beyond and probably outside the Filipino literary production in English. As a Filipino writer writing from the lingua franca some of the stories in this collection are even inaccessible to me unless, of course, they get to be translated to English or Filipino.

Curious on what Fungi is all about? Here’s an excerpt from For Consciousness on the decision why the editors and the translators included my story.

Currently in exile in London, where he sought and received refuge from the harassment and death threats of the Duterte regime, Rogelio Braga wrote “Fungi” as part of his short-story collection Is There Rush Hour in a Third World Country. The story’s main characters—two kids who we are made to believe have found a “magical” object in a dumpsite where they scavenge for fabric scraps and other discarded items for a living—follow Joseph Campbell’s archetypal “hero’s journey” monomyth down to the finale. We chose “Fungi” for its empathy and its staunch refusal to go for cheap shots and poverty porn in its harrowing depiction of the lives of the Filipino urban poor. A “best of” short story anthology using the Philippines as a thematic pivot is not complete without a narrative that aims to capture and question Filipino consumerism, the absence of national industries, and the lives of people in the slums of Manila.

Fungi is my first work of fiction translated to the English language that will be released to the public. I can’t wait for March!

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