Manuel E. Arguilla

Manuel Viloria of writes...
I found out about Manuel Arguilla when I chanced upon a twenty peso copy of How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife (And Other Stories) lying around some dusty corner in my old house. It was published in 1940 by the Philippine Book Guild (Manila) and it represents the only collection of his stories written between 1933 and 1940. This collection won the first prize award for short stories in English in the first Commonwealth literary contest in 1940.

Looking at the book's inside front and back flaps, here's what Francisco Arcellana of the Philippines Herald had to say:

I have three favourite stories about Manuel...

"Once during a Christmas celebration on the University of the Philippines' Campus, just after the lantern parade and the Christmas program, I ran into Manuel and he called my attention to the way the lights were glinting like diamond pinpoints on the smooth tops of the rattan chairs. It is a favourite story of mine about Manuel, because it is so revealing: when you meet him for the first time you notice his eyes--they are the kind of eyes of which it has been written that they suck in things: very keen eyes, always taking in things, almost always sharply glinting.

"He has also a very keen sense of smell as you will see from the stories in this book, and he has himself told me: It is not eyes with me, Franz, as you think it is; rather, it is nose, it is smell--not sight; it is scent, odor first, and then the form and the shape of things afterward.

"My second favourite story about Manuel has something to do with the way he writes his stories. Once he told me that whenever he was working on a story, he usually woke up at one or two o'clock every morning and when he would sit in the darkness and keep still and think of the story he was writing and somehow the writing of the story came easily afterward.

"My third favourite story about Manuel is of a time when he suddenly asked me: Just how do you feel about your writing? Don't you feel that in spite of everything you will be writing the rest of your days that you cannot give it up, that you must keep on writing every day of your life? That is how I feel, he said." (Francisco Arcellana, in the Philippines Herald)

Even Pearl S. Buck, Nobel Prize Winner said this about the book: "I have read these stories with great interest and admiration. . .Mr. Arguilla's writing is so good and his character sense is so developed."

Most of Arguilla's stories depict scenes in Barrio Nagrebcan, Bauang, La Union where he was born (1910). His bond with his birthplace, forged by his dealings with the peasant folk of Ilocos, remained strong even after he moved to Manila where he studied at the University of the Philippines (B.S.E. 1933).

He later married Lydia Villanueva (another talented writer), and they lived in Ermita, Manila. Their house eventually became a meeting place not only of other writers, but also of those who joined the underground in World War II.

In August 1944, Manuel Arguilla was captured and executed at Fort William McKinley (now known as Fort Bonifacio).

Biographical Reference: Filipino Writers in English by Florentino B. Valeros and Estrellita V. Gruenberg, New Day Publishers, Quezon City, 1987.

How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife

The Long Vacation

  • Mr. Alisangco
  • Though Young He Is Married
  • The Maid, the Man, and the Wife
  • Elias
  • Imperfect Farewell
  • Felisa
  • The Long Vacation

Caps and Lower Case

  • Caps and Lower Case
  • The Socialists
  • Epilogue to Revolt
  • Apes and Men
  • Rice
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