18 Best Filipino Authors on Your Must-Read List

Are you looking for a new book to read? Check out these 18 best Filipino authors that you will absolutely love. 

Many people living in the Philippines have had intense struggles through poverty, crime, and cultural challenges. Those who are skilled writers take those challenges and transform them into great works of literature. If you want to get a feel for the human struggle that the people of the Philippines experiencing, reading one of these Filipino authors could give you that insight.

Throughout the works created by famous authors from the Philippines, you will find something to fit almost any taste. From historic to modern, here are the Filipino authors you need to read.

Best Filipino Authors

1. Carlos Bulosan

Born in the Philippines in a small farming village called Mangusmana, Carlos Bulosan came from a family who struggled to make ends meet. Determined to help his family and improve his education, Bulosan emigrated to the United States at the age of 17. He started working low-paying jobs while facing racism and illness until he finally learned how to write and put a voice to the struggles of the Filipino people in the United States. 

His best-known work is a semi-autobiographical book called America Is in the Heart. He also wrote The Freedom from Want. Bulosan was both a novelist and a poet, and he died in Washington in 1956.

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America Is in the Heart: A Personal History (Classics of Asian American Literature)
  • Carlos Bulosan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 327 Pages - 04/01/2014 (Publication Date) - University of Washington Press (Publisher)

2. Jessica Hagedorn

Born in 1949 in Manila, Jessica Hagedorn is a modern playwright, poet and writer. She came to the United States in 1963 to get her education at the American Conservatory Theater training program. She lives in New York City and has won an American Book Award and the Lucille Lotel Foundation fellowship.

Hagedorn has many famous works to her name, but Mango Tango, her first play, is one of her most famous. She also wrote Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines and the fiction novel Dream Jungle.

Dream Jungle
  • Hardcover Book
  • Hagedorn, Jessica (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 09/29/2003 (Publication Date) - Viking (Publisher)

3. Jose Rizal

Jose Rizal came from a wealthy Filipino family He was well-educated, and spent much of his time as a young adult traveling Europe to discuss politics. He also studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg and pushed for Filipino reforms under the Spanish authorities. His execution at the age of 36 put a fast end to his writing career.

Rizal wrote a number of poems as a teenager. He also wrote an Operetta called On the Banks of the Pasig. His first novel, Noli Me Tangere, offended the religious leaders of his area and caused him to be deemed a troublemaker. This likely led to his later arrest for political and religious problems.

Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not)
  • Rizal, Jose (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 06/27/2006 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

4. Randy Ribay

Randy Ribay is a Filipino author who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Though he was born in the Philippines, he was raised in the United States and majored in English literature at the University of Colorado with a graduate degree from Harvard. In addition to writing, he teaches English in San Francisco. 

Ribay’s first works were poetry, but his book Patron Saints of Nothing is an award-winning work of adult fiction. He also wrote An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes and After the Shot Drops.

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Patron Saints of Nothing
  • Ribay, Randy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/21/2020 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

5. Barbara Jane Reyes

Best Filipino authors: Barbara Jane Reyes
Oscarb, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Poet and author Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila and moved to the United States as a child. She studied literature and writing in California before launching her award-winning career. She now serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.

Reyes’s published works include full-length poetry collections and chapbooks. Gravities of Center, Easter Sunday and Poeta en San Francisco all won awards, including the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Letters to a Young Brown Girl is another popular collection.

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Letters to a Young Brown Girl (American Poets Continuum Series, 182)
  • Reyes, Barbara Jane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 72 Pages - 09/22/2020 (Publication Date) - BOA Editions Ltd. (Publisher)

6. Elaine Castillo

Elaine Castillo is an American writer who is of Filipino descent. She studied at the University of California Berkeley and the University of London. She is passionate about equality for the people of the Philippines, and that comes out in her work.

In 2018 Castillo published her first novel America is Not the Heart. Though this is the only publication she has so far, many reviewers consider her an up-and-coming name in literature. NPR named it one of the best books of the year. 

America Is Not the Heart: A Novel
  • Castillo, Elaine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 04/02/2019 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

7. F. Sionil Jose

Francisco Sionil Jose was a Filipino writer who is one of the most widely read in the English language. He writes about the social struggles of his culture, and his books and short stories have a huge following. He was born in Pangasinan and attended the University of Santo Tomas before starting his journalism and writing career.

Jose has many novels in his name, including The Pretenders and The Rosales Saga. He also wrote Dusk: A Novel. He won the National Artist of the Philippines award for his literary works. He died at the age of 97 in 2022.

Dusk: A Novel
  • José, F. Sionil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/28/1998 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)

8. Gina Apostol

Gina Apostol is a modern Filipino author who was born in Manila and attended Devine World College and the University of the Philippines before coming to the United States to earn her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University. 

Apostol’s first book, Bibliolepsy, recently received republication. She also wrote The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata and Gun Dealers’ Daughter. She has non-fiction works about Filipino American History and short stories to her name as well.

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Bibliolepsy
  • Hardcover Book
  • Apostol, Gina (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 216 Pages - 01/04/2022 (Publication Date) - Soho Press (Publisher)

9. Joanne Ramos

Born in the Philippines, Joanne Ramos moved to Wisconsin when she was just six years old. She attended Princeton University, where she received a bachelor’s degree. She worked in investment banking and private investing before becoming a staff writer for The Economist. 

In 2019 Ramos published The Farm, her first novel. It tells the tale of a facility named Golden Oaks, where women serve as surrogate mothers for wealthy clients, and the main character is Filipino, shedding some light on the plight of poor Filipino women and where current cultural ideals could lead them. 

The Farm: A Novel
  • Ramos, Joanne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/28/2020 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

10. Malaka Gharib

Malaka Gharib works for NPR as the digital strategist and deputy editor for their global health and development team. She started this position in 2015, and before that worked with the Malala Fund, which raises money for educational charities. 

Gharib is the author of the graphic novel I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir. It talks about what she faced growing up as a Filipino Egyptian American and introduces young readers to the culture of the Philippines. She also wrote How to Raise a Human and #15Girls, both of which won Gracie Awards. 

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir
  • Gharib, Malaka (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 04/30/2019 (Publication Date) - Clarkson Potter (Publisher)

11. Melissa de la Cruz

Best Filipino authors: Melissa de la Cruz
Genevieve, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and made the move to San Francisco as a teenager. She majored in art history at Columbia University. She lives in West Hollywood, where she continues to write novels and middle-grade fiction.

Many of de la Cruz’s works are quite famous, including several New York Times bestsellers. She published The Isle of the Lost, a prequel to the 2015 Disney movie Descendants, which spent weeks on the bestseller list. She is also famous for her Blue Bloods series, which has three million copies in print, and she has over 50 books to her name.

Return to the Isle of the Lost (A Descendants Novel, Book 2): A Descendants Novel (The Descendants, 2)
  • de la Cruz, Melissa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 02/20/2018 (Publication Date) - Disney-Hyperion (Publisher)

12. Mia Alvar

Mia Alvar was born in the Philippines and raised in the United States and Bahrain. She attended Harvard College and Columbia University and currently resides in California.

Alvar won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction for her short story collection In the Country. She serves as the writer in residence at the Corporation of Yaddo. Sech also earned the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers award for her work.

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar (16-Jun-2015) Hardcover
  • Hardcover Book
  • Knopf Publishing Group (16 Jun. 2015) (Publisher)

13. Nick Joaquin

Best known for his short stories and novels, Nick Joaquin often wrote under the pen name Quijano de Mania. He was born in 1917 and fought in the Philippine Revolution. After winning a nationwide essay competition, he started contributing poems and stories to magazines and newspapers. He was named the National Artist in 1957. 

Joaquin has several novels to his name, including The Woman Who Had Two Navels and A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. He focused on trying to explain and showcase the Filipino culture and its history. 

The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic
  • PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • Joaquin, Nick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 04/18/2017 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

14. Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitan

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitan was often called Plaridel, his pen name. He was born in 1850 and lived in many parts of the Philippines before moving to Barcelona, Spain. Well educated as a young man, especially in the arts, he became a well-known Filipino writer as an adult. He also attended law school and wrote on legal topics quite often. 

Del Pilar was a prolific writer who published many works during his lifetime. The Greatness of God and The Triumph of the Enemies of Progress in the Philippines were some of them. 

15. Meredith Talusan

Meredith Talusan is a Filipino-American author who moved to the United States at the age of 15. He has many excellent essays, stories, and books to her name. She attended Cornell University, where she received an MFA degree, and she worked as a journalist for many well-known publications. In addition to writing, Talusan trained as a dancer.

Talusan has hit the New York Times Bestsellers list with Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. She earned the Marsha P. Johnson Fellowship and the Poynter Fellowship at Yale. Many of her books talk about the LGTBQ+ community, and Fairest is her most recent publication. 

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Fairest: A Memoir
  • Talusan, Meredith (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 06/08/2021 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

16. Lysley Tenorio

Lysley Tenorio is a Filipino writer who wrote The Son of Good Fortune and Monstress. His work won many awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, an Edmund White Award, and the Rome Prize. Many of his works have become plays.

Tenorio focuses much of his writing on short stories. He was born in the Philippines and moved to San Francisco to pursue his passion for the arts. He works as an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Monstress: Stories
  • Tenorio, Lysley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 01/31/2012 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

17. Mia Hopkins

Mia Hopkins is a Filipino-American writer known for her romance novels. She lives in Los Angeles, and continues to publish new novels today. She likes to use working-class heroes in her works. 

Mia Hopkins’ novels are full of steamy stories. Trashed is one of her most recent, and it is written from the point of view of the anti-hero of her previous novels. Her books have been featured on Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, and The Washington Post. Several of her works are part of larger series, which give the reader the chance to get to know her characters.

Trashed (Eastside Brewery)
  • Hopkins, Mia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 07/16/2019 (Publication Date) - Little Stone Press (Publisher)

18. Tess Uriza Holthe

Tess Uriza Holthe is a Filipino-American writer who was raised in San Francisco. She attended Golden Gate University and works as an accountant in addition to her work as a writer.

Of her books, When the Elephants Dance is her most famous, hitting several national bestseller lists. She wrote the book during her breaks at work, and she drew information from her own father’s experience in the Philippines to inspire the story. She also wrote The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes.

When the Elephants Dance
  • Holthe, Tess Uriza (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 06/24/2003 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

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Author

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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