The contemporary Filipino YA roundup

We have made the case for YA (young adult) fiction in the past. Since then, we can say that YA books have broken out of its “shallow” moulds, simultaneously taking up more space on bookshelves in stores and libraries across the country. It’s now common to read about teenage protagonists dealing with topics ranging from mental illness to dystopian realities.

But as much as we love these stories, there’s also that longing to read something more familiar, something that at least reflects your own experiences as a Filipino. Think of how different it’d be to read about a protagonist named Una instead of Eleanor, or a love interest named Miguel instead of Tanner.  

Filipino YA is out there — you just have to be persistent enough to look for it. Walk towards the Filipiniana section at a bookstore, and you’ll find a shelf or two dedicated to children’s and YA literature. There aren’t as many titles as those from the US, but the genre has started welcoming more diverse topics that delve deeper than the tired tropes we’re used to reading.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite novels and novellas from recent years (not including anthologies) for your reading pleasure. Check them out and tell us what you think!

Salingkit: A 1986 Diary by Cyan Abad Jugo (2012)

Set in 1986, Salingkit tells the story of People Power from the perspective of 13-year-old Kitty Eugenio. The 16-page introduction serves a great primer for kids (and adults) who aren’t familiar with the atrocities of Martial Law. Watch out for all of Kitty’s Depeche Mode and New Order references.  

Available at National Book Store.

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera (2016)

What is it like being the closeted gay kid of a devout Catholic mother and an estranged OFW father? The novel follows Caleb, a college freshman who falls in love for the first time and struggles to find the courage to come out. Bonus: this involves a lot of spoken word poetry.

Available at Smashwords.

Si Janus Sílang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon By Edgar Calabia Samar (2014)

Janus Silang is a computer game-loving kid whose experience competing in a tournament of TALA Online leads to him becoming entangled in an adventure. Edgar Calabia Samar’s Filipino-language novel incorporates Filipino mythology with concepts from RPGs (role-playing-games). A word of advice: you might not want to read the ending while alone in your room at night.

Available at National Book Store.

What’s In Your Heart by Ines Bautista-Yao (2013)

Anyone who’s got an old-fashioned name might relate to how 19-year-old Natividad hates her name (she thinks it belongs to 19th century Intramuros, not the age of iMessaging and Facetime). The book follows Nat as she strives to figure out her goals in life while pining over hot, charming, and talented Gabe and getting into an unlikely friendship with boy-next-door Luis.  

Available at Buqo.

Dwellers by Eliza Victoria (2014)

“Dwellers” leans more on the side of speculative fiction, but its premise will draw in young and old readers alike. Eliza Victoria writes about two young men with the power to take over other bodies . The men have three rules: 1) You do not kill the body you inhabit, 2) You should never again mention your previous name, and 3) You do not ever talk about your previous life. Ever.

Available at National Book Store.

Anina ng Mga Alon by Eugene Y. Evasco (2002)

The Filipino-language novella follows Anina, a young Badjao girl who loves the sea. Learn more about the Badjao culture in Eugene Evasco’s work, which tackles the issues surrounding being a native caught in the middle of poverty and violence.  

Available at Adarna House.

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra (2013)

Imagine being in your sophomore year at University and finding out that you were descended from a god. This is what happens to Hannah Maquiling, who gets enlisted by The God of the Sun (an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside Metro Manila) to fill in for the (currently AWOL) Goddess of Love. In the Q&A at the start of the book, the fictional romance writer even mentioned that the plot was inspired by all the stories her lolo would tell her about Filipino gods and goddesses.  

Available at Buqo.

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