Reading Quijano de Manila

February 24, 2011

The books of Quijano de Manila [pseudonym of National Artist in Literature Nick Joaquin] have been in our house from the time they were bought in 1977, that I am sure as my brother Gani never let any good book passed his preying eyes. I have his large collection of Filipiniana books half of which were already sent to Metro Manila College [a school founded more than 60 years ago by my brother-in-law and ran with my eldest sister] where I decided to deposit them. He was a book hoarder in a way, as hundred of books, thousands even, piled up as he attended book launchings—one after the other. I remember my mother who always lamented when he came home with new books: “Babagsak na ang bahay natin sa libro!”

“Nora Aunor & Other Profiles” has Nick Joaquin’s autograph, the other “Ronnie Poe & Other Silhouettes” unfortunately wasn’t signed. We have other Nick Joaquin books, notably “A Question of Heroes” (1977), “The Aquinos of Tarlac,” and “The Woman Who had Two Navels” which I used as reference for our film “Tatarin” by Tikoy Aguiluz. [To read his short bio from Wikipedia, click: Nick_Joaquin. To watch him with the members of The Ravens a few months before he died, click: watch?v=v938IEaRRCU)

Though in our library for more than 30 years, it is only now that I actually picked up and read the books “Nora.. and Ronnie…” I loved the way he wrote. They are so unlike the way our present crop of writers write. In reading Quijano de Manila’s feature articles I felt like I was reading short stories. They were replete with words that give so much color and texture to the characters in his stories, and life–so much life– to the personalities he wrote about. I could ride back in time and I could easily tune in with the times because of the ambience his descriptive details created. You could even smell the places he described so much so that I felt I was actually one of the participants in his story—whether the setting is Tondo in Manila, in Bicol where Nora grew up, in the den of junkies and dope addicts with Rod Reyes, the newsman. I came to know Flash Elorde, Kerima Polotan, ordinary taxi driver Gil Guerrero who made news on front page when he returned large sum of money to the owner that he was visited by then newly elected President Diosdado Macapagal… I particularly liked Lady Psychologist Among the Spooks, a feature on Dr. Matilde MartinValdez, an exceptional woman with ESP. Mang Nick conditioned the readers when he wrote: “Our senses permit us only ‘glimpses of the truth.’ We see as ‘through a glass, darkly'”. Then he described about sounds beyond the range of our hearing [ave. of 20 decibels],  air that is not empty because of sound waves, and finally the existence of the other life on earth in the realm of/ or under the name of—ghost, spirit, fairy, miracle, occult.

Anyway, his dedication to my brother reads: “Happy Reading!” Indeed, I was very happy to have read Quijano de Manila’s books about people during one of their “mortal moment: the moment when they were news or in some way excited other people’s interest.”

Below is a home video — one of the last, if not the last video shot a few months before Nick Joaquin died. I happened to be invited by Ms. Virginia “Aling Barang” Moreno to attend the affair she held as a tribute to Mang Larry Francia. I was quite excited to see him and despite my cam’s low resolution, I recorded the event. Other Raven writers like Adrian Cristobal and my Humanities professors — Deanna Ongpin-Recto and Ms. Jesusa Lava also attended.



  1. please recommend me other books of quijano de manila…i have 2 already…i love his writing style

  2. I also love his writing style. Can you tell me the title of the 2 books that you have?

  3. Hello Advocacine,

    I’m so envious of you!

    I’ve been looking for the books you mentioned in your blog entry–

    Joseph Estrada and Other Sketches (1977)
    Nora Aunor & Other Profiles (1977)
    Ronnie Poe & Other Silhouettes (1977)

    but discovered that they’re all out of print!

    I was wondering if you know anyone who has copies of these books (and is perhaps willing to sell them). Going to libraries in the Philippines is out of the question as I’m currently living abroad.

  4. Hi Wil!
    Yes! The books are out of print and there are no re-editions as yet. I don’t know of anyone who sells them. I consider them rare because they were written more than 3 decades ago. In fact, I wouldn’t know that they actually exist if I didn’t find them in the collection of my brother. But in case I do find them sold in book sales, I’ll grab them for you… will keep in touch whenever that happens.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Thanks a lot, Advocacine! Although I think there’s only a very slim chance that you can find these books anywhere. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Anyway, Happy New Year! =)

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