XU Press launches two new anthologies at Basa Books

XU Press has launched two important books by two illustrious authors, celebrating the opening of the Kagay-anon owned and operated Basa Books at the 3rd Level of Ayala Centrio Mall on April 11, 2024.

We were indeed thankful to be favored with an exclusive media invitation for the event, dubbed Celebrating Southern Narratives featuring  Calbi Anji Asain’s Bride Price and Other Stories, and Maria Elena Paulma’s Balangay, celebrating a milestone at the Grand Opening Week of Basa Bookshop.

(Image Courtesy of Jesse Abear)

“The two books are a testament to XU Press’s mission of prioritizing publications that bring awareness to historical and cultural realities in Mindanao,” Arlene J. Yandug, PhD, XU Press Director noted. “This is in line with XU’s mission of engaging in the ‘authentic search for truth’ and appreciation of our culture and heritage.”

With Dr. Maria Elena Paulma and XU Press Director Arelene Yandug.

Balangay Stories

Palanca Award-winning author Maria Elena Paulma weaves together tales inspired by the ancient balangay boats discovered in Butuan City. These wooden vessels, uncovered in 1976, tell the story of “maritime people who were already producing and trading gold, pottery, cloth, oil and beeswax with 11th century China, long before the Spaniards even heard of the fabled Spice Islands.”

(Image courtesy of XU Press)

Through vivid narratives, Paulma transports readers into the Kingdom of Butuan, where they’ll “meet the old Butuanons, the community or barangay members who built the balangay without the use of blueprints.” These skilled seafarers and artisans passed down their maritime traditions orally, as “boats were the only means of transportation at that time.”

As Paulma wrote in the book’s epistolary introduction, the reader is invited to rediscover for himself or herself “that which was lost, replaced, or erased, and what it truly means to be a Filipino.” Using the iconic balangay boat of Butuan as a metaphor for the early Filipinos, Paulma said she wanted to bring the stories to the inner world of the Filipino family.  “I wanted to write for the children not only of Mindanao, but of the Philippines. I wanted them to enter the pre-colonial world of the Philippines, to emphasize that as Filipinos we were talented, we were gifted, we were a rich nation even before the colonizers came,” Paulma explained during the book launch.

Book signing with Dr Maria Elena Paulma, author of Balangay Stories (RMB)

Born in Butuan City, Maria Elena Paulma specialized in Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at UP Diliman where she earned all her degrees. Her short story “Three Kisses” won the First Prize in the 2010 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

As a fellow in the 2016 Fulbright Senior Scholars program, she did research on women’s literature at the Northwestern University in Illinois. Her first book, Southern Stories and Strays by UP Press, was a finalist at the 37th National Book Awards in 2018.

Bride Price and Other Stories

This short fiction collection, a recipient of a Publishing Grant from the National Book Development Board (NBDB) in 2023 and the Publishing Fund for Moro and Lumad Writers of Mindanao established by Ricardo de Ungria, offers a window into the lives of the Tausug people of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Philippines. Asain explores themes of adventure, friendship, relationship, marriage, and family, alongside the crucible of land, culture, politics, and ethnic identity.

(Image courtesy of XU Press)

Showcased at the Frankfurter Buchmesse in Germany last year as part of Philippine Books’ curation and launch, Asain’s work reflects not only the diversity of our experiences as an archipelagic country, but also the richness of our literary expressions.

 “I consider writing as my advocacy, and my output such as this one, I consider them as my legacy to my people. To the people of Sulu especially, but also to the whole country,” Dr. Asain said in a video message from Sulu where he is recuperating from a recent illness.

Dr. Calbi Anji Asain, author of Bride Price & Other Stories. (image courtesy of XU Press)

“I hope you will find time to buy and read my book, we should promote our local literature produced by our local artists such as myself, because local literature should be promoted in all our provinces throughout the country.”

Dr. Calbi Anji Asain is a retired Prof. III and former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Mindanao State University-Sulu (MSU-Sulu). He is a lifetime member of the Philippine National Historical Society (PNHS). At present, he is a member of the Executive Council of the National Committee on Historical Research (NCHR) in the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

For their part, Basa Books explained their advocacy in promoting local authors and literature. “We are offering our space for book launches and we want to feature local authors, Mindanao authors on the shelf,” said Atty. Maricel Seno, managing partner of Basa Books.  To generate interest, she said, “we will spotlight their books on the shelves where they are placed with their specific genres.”

With Basa Books Managing Partner Atty Macel Seno

“We really want to democratize book buying and exposure to literature which is why we want to ensure that our books are not expensive so we curate our selections to ensure they’re good books and we pass on our savings to our customers,” she added.

To give the audience a foretaste of the two books, excepts from Balangay were read by Dr. Heide Rabanes, Dean for Research at Xavier Ateneo, and from Bride Price by Anglica Napone and Chel Sea Obsioma, students in a Creative Writing class.

The launch was graced by members of the Nagkahiusang Manunulat sa Cagayan de Oro (NAGMAC) and  prominent writers based in Cagayan de Oro: from left to right: RM Topacio-Aplaon – 41st NBA Grand Winner – Best Novel in Filipino, novelist from Imus, Cavite, Feb 24 2024 Awards night); Jan Rupert Alfeche, Raul G Moldez PhD, Aimee Abella, Abigail James (Emcee), EJ Villena (City Museum of CDOC and Heritage Center), and Alessandro Nioda. (image courtesy of Jesse Abear)

In celebration of its Grand Opening Week, Basa Books is offering an exclusive special launch price for both books from April 8-14, 2024 with Bride Price and Other Stories (P350) and Balangay (P295) only.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.