The best books about the Philippines

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Philippines and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Insurrecto

Insurrecto

By Gina Apostol,

Why this book?

Sometimes I read a book and wish I’d written it. With Insurrecto, I cheered and gave thanks that Gina Apostol did write it. Decades ago, I became obsessed with the US conquest of the Philippines after the Spanish American War and how the people of the islands fought back to liberate their country. I knew Mark Twain protested the occupation. I found military histories of the war against Spain. At that time, I couldn’t find anything from the Filipino perspective. Where were books to challenge the American belief we’ve never had colonies? Apostol brings this lost history brilliantly to…

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Book cover of Between Empires: Martí, Rizal, and the Intercolonial Alliance

Between Empires: Martí, Rizal, and the Intercolonial Alliance

By Koichi Hagimoto,

Why this book?

Between Empires compares the anti-imperial literature and history of two former Spanish colonies, Cuba and the Philippines, but this time focusing on the late-nineteenth-century “intercolonial alliance” and, more specifically, on the oeuvres of two nationalist authors and national heroes: the Cuban José Martí and the Filipino José Rizal. Hagimoto explores a transpacific collective consciousness of resistance as well as the shared historical ties between Latin America and the Philippines. What I found more exciting about this book was that it reveals how, led by two national heroes and martyrs, there was still, well after the end of the Manila Galleon…
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Book cover of They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable

By W. L. White,

Why this book?

The author recreated as a novel the adventures of a handful of Navy officers whose tiny Patrol Torpedo Boats more than held their own against the full might of the Japanese Navy during the fall of the Philippines. Told in the first person by three of the principal characters, we meet Douglas MacArthur, seasick and soaking wet, as he flees Manila in an overloaded PT Boat, and eventually reaches a smaller island from which he is flown to safety in Australia. And we see and are in awe, of these young naval officers. In 1951, when I was ten and…

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Book cover of I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

I Saw The Fall Of The Philippines

By Carlos P. Romulo,

Why this book?

The Philippine resistance of WWII was, in my opinion, the most admirable resistance organization of the war, whether European or Pacific. In fact, resistance among the Philippine people was so widespread, that the Japanese occupiers were almost correct in assuming any civilian they encountered was a resister on some level. Carlos Romulo, a Philippine aide de camp to General MacArthur and a hero to his countrymen, gives his personal account of the war in this excellent memoir.

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Book cover of Sun, Sea and Sangria

Sun, Sea and Sangria

By Victoria Cooke,

Why this book?

An easy vacation read is my go-to, so this book was perfect. I also read this during lockdown, when a vacation was only a fantasy anyway. It will not disappoint, the sun is real, the life is real and the need for love is compelling. Kat is a cute character I can relate to because I also moved to a country where it is summer all year round, but the sun doesn’t take your worries away.  

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Book cover of Clive Cussler's The Devil's Sea

Clive Cussler's The Devil's Sea

By Dirk Cussler,

Why this book?

Clive Cussler is one of the few authors whose real-life adventures paralleled that of his action hero, Dirk Pitt, creating a compelling story. It is easier to convey an adventure story if you have actually lived it. I was humbled by an editorial review and a number of readers that stated my book is reminiscent of Clive Cussler’s works.

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Book cover of The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

By Louise Steinman,

Why this book?

After Steinman’s parents passed away, she found a trove of WWII-era letters her father wrote along with a silk flag inscribed to a man named Yoshio Shimizu. In this book, Steinman recounted her years-long quest to learn who Shimizu was, a search that resulted in a trip to Japan to return the precious artifact. At the same time, by reading her father’s letters, Steinman discovered a tender and expressive side of her father—a side that had been wiped away by trauma. Steinman’s book shines a light on the universal cost of war.

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Book cover of Never Have I Ever: Stories

Never Have I Ever: Stories

By Isabel Yap,

Why this book?

Yap's debut collection is full of brilliant moments and haunting images. She wraps together Filipino folklore with characters who are endlessly rich and fascinating, and the result is sometimes terrifying, sometimes weird and unsettling, and always gorgeous. This book will leave you feeling as if uncanny worlds are waiting for you to discover them, just out of view. Many of these stories go to dark places, but then you stumble on a sweet tale like "A Spell For Foolish Hearts," involving a gay magician, a love potion, and a complicated relationship. You'll wish you could read this book for the…

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Book cover of The Embarrassment of Slavery: Controversies Over Bondage and Nationalism in the American Colonial Philippines

The Embarrassment of Slavery: Controversies Over Bondage and Nationalism in the American Colonial Philippines

By Michael Salman,

Why this book?

Salman shows how the anti-slavery discourse became part of American imperialism and how contentious this issue became during US colonial administration over the Philippines. While the American administration acted with growing determination and harshness against slave-holding societies particularly in the Muslim southern part of the Philippines, it also adopted abolitionism as a legitimation for colonial rule over the entire Philippines. Salman exposes the paradoxes of imperialist rhetoric in which people were subjugated to free them from slavery. 

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Book cover of The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

By Robert J. Mrazek,

Why this book?

Florence Finch’s story is astonishing—in part for what this woman did to help save American prisoners of war in the Philippines during World War II. Finch received the Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian award, and has had a Coast Guard headquarters building named for her. Still, had it not been for Mrazek who discovered her story and wrote this book, relying in part on her actual correspondence, her family’s memories, and the historical accounts of the Massacre of Manila, we would not know Finch.

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