Charlson L. Ong, resident fellow of the Institute of Creative Writing and fictionist/scriptwriter/singer extraordinaire, was born on July 6, 1960. He obtained an A.B. in Psychology from the University of the Philippines in 1977, and currently teaches literature and creative writing under UP's Department of English and Comparative Literature. He has joined several writers' workshops here and abroad, and has acquired numerous grants and awards for his fiction, including the Palanca, Free Press, Graphic, Asiaweek, National Book Award, and the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Award for Excellence. His novel, Embarrassment of Riches published by UP Press in 2002, won the Centennial Literary Prize. In addition to this, Ong has served as co-editor of the Likhaan Book of Poetry and Fiction.
His short stories range from parodies of well-loved Filipino texts to insightful treatments of Chinese-Filipino culture. These have been collected into Men of the East and Other Stories (1990 and 1999), Woman of Am-Kaw and Other Stories(1993), Conversion and Other Fictions (1996), Banyaga: A Song of War (2007, Anvil) and Blue Angel, White Shadow (2010, UST).
He is a bachelor based in Mandaluyong City.
-Palanca Award for the “Men of the East” (Short Story, 1985)
-Palanca Award for the “Another Country” (Short Story, 1987)
-Palanca Award for the “Owl” (Short Story, 1989)
-Palanca Award for the “A Tropical Winter's Tale” (Short Story, 1990)
-Palanca Award for the “The Trouble in Beijing” (Short Story, 1992)
-Philippine Free Press Literary Award for the "Fixing a flat" (Fiction, 1992)
-Philippine Free Press Literary Award for the "Conversion" (Fiction, 1992-1993)
-Centennial Literary Prize for the “Embarrassment of Riches” (English Novel, 1998)
-Dr. Jose P. Rizal Award for Excellence (Art, Literature and Culture, 2003)
-Juan C. Laya Award for Best Novel in a Foreign Language, National Book Award for the “Banyaga: A Song of War” (2006)
-Balagtas Award (English Fiction, 2007)
Charlson’s works are:
An Embarrassment of Riches
Banyaga: A Song of War
A Tropical Winter's Tale and Other Stories
Conversion & Other Fictions
Woman of Am-Kaw and Other Stories (Contemporary Philippine
Blue Angel, White Shadow
Men of the East: And other Short Stories
The Philippine National Red Cross: 50 years Of Courage and
Men of the East: And other Short Stories (Philippine Writers Series 1998)
I features some of his WORKS,
One of his works is the “AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES”
In this story/novel An Embarrassment of Riches, Ong employed metafiction to portray the Victorianas, a fictional country. Metafiction uses techniques to draw attention to itself as a work of art, while exposing the "truth" of a story. In the case of Ong, he used metafiction in An Embarrassment of Riches in order to draw attention to the novel as a work of literature and as a work of fiction, while exposing the realities happening in a non-fictional country - in this case the Philippines – represented by the Victorianas, an island monickered as a "small Philippine. Ong created an alternate country – one smaller than an archipelago, and with a different name – to represent the Philippines and its social, economic, and political situation and atmosphere. Because Ong is of Chinese descent, there was a possibility that the reader of ''An Embarrassment of Riches can be interpreted as an "allegory of the Chinese gaining power – control and supremacy – in the Philippines".
The next one is the “A TROPICAL WINTER’S TALE”
In this story/novel by Charlson Ong "A Tropical Winter's Tale," based by Ms. Pickles Li Hua's development from an oppressed, powerless girl to a woman who wields power to subdue the tyranny of her despotic husband occurs across the bounds of time, dream, reality, and geography. Through many expositions that lead to the inciting incidents-marital oppression and Bei Xiong's rape of Anna-the climactic event of Li Hua's murder of her husband magnifies her attainment of power over a period of around forty years.
First exposition of Li Hua's past takes form in a dream, in which her wintry childhood and the start of her relationship with Bei Xiong are narrated. The dream points out Li Hua's "affinity with winter," which mirrors the desolation of her life: "The sadness without her was sister to the sadness within." It also sets the tone and mood of the story and delineates between Li Hua's past and present, in which her emotional development occurs.
Her awakening from the dream symbolizes the transition from the nightmarish episodes of her life into a present that is still plagued by the haunting memories of an oppressive past, nevertheless the medium in which she finally takes control of the things in her life. She wakes up to a life in Chinatown where she exercises control over the operations of the eatery. The story then delves into another exposition, this time outlining the following: marital oppression and Bei Xiong's savage treatment of her; her love for butchering, repeated mentions of which foreshadow the fate of Bei Xiong in her hands; the couple's journey and settlement in Manila; Bei Xiong's dissatisfaction in Li Hua's failure to become pregnant, his "animal ways," and finally his doomed relationship with Clarita.
In the expositions of the past Li Hua is portrayed as a helpless victim of her husband's tyranny, but when the story resumes the narration of the present, Li Hua's possession of power and control are made evident. This occurs not only in the moment of her literal awakening from the nightmare of her past, as she goes to the kitchen to supervise the day's eatery preparations, but also in the second part of the story in which her emotional development is viewed from Bei Xiong's perspective. Bei Xiong's resignation from women bearing his children indicates the disintegration of his control over Li Hua, yet it doesn't stop him from exerting his carnal, inhuman desires upon Anna, with his direct aim being sexual gratification rather than conception.
Bei Xiong's tyranny is the inciting incident that leads to the climactic end of his inhuman life and the height of Li Hua's commanding one wherein she is "the master of her actions." Anna's rape is a manifestation of Bei Xiong's tyranny and it is what triggers the peripeteia that finds Bei Xiong being killed as an animal, a reversal of roles that allows Li Hua to treat him just as he has treated the women in his life. The story's denouement finds Li Hua devoid of fear, which "flew from her as the ghosts of dead sparrows," and her business "razed by fire." These images were mentioned earlier during her dream and the repetition effects the story's unity of action as the end is tied to the beginning to illustrate Li Hua's twofold awakening and rebirth from the last literal and figurative winters of her oppressed life. The novels entails sad experiences.
Lastly is the “Blue Angel, White Shadow”
In this story/novel “Blue Angel, White Shadow” Binondo, Manila; a young woman is found murdered in a room above the bar where she works as a cabaret singer. Cyrus Ledesma of the Philippines Police force is sent to investigate. Binondo, is Manila’s Chinatown, and as a mestiso (half Chinese, half Filipino) is also Ledesma’s home turf.
The bar where the young woman, Laurice Salgada, was murdered is known as The Blue Angel and is an old fashioned piano bar with an equally aging cliental. To the accompaniment of piano player Rey Nadurata, Laurice would sing various jazz standards throughout the night. Although not especially beautiful she has many admirers included among them are the owner of The Blue Angel, Antonio Cobianco and Lagdameo Go-Lopez, the Mayor of Manila.
Like the best crime novels the investigating officer has secrets and Blue Angel, White Shadow is no exception. Inspector Ledesma is formally an enforcer for the police. On their behalf he undertook many ex-judicial killings, though he later fell afoul of the authorities when he murdered a police informer whom he suspected of being a paedophile. For this he was sent to prison and it was only through the intervention of his uncle Police Chief Ruben Jacinto that Ledesma was released and allowed to re-enter the force.
Charlson Ong’s story progresses through a series of character portraits where the investigation is related through the eyes of the various individuals involved. For instance the manageress of the Blue Angel is the whiskey drinking Rosa Misa. She’s a former singer, who saw her dreams crushed and with the help of Antonio Cobianco opens the bar where patrons can come, relax and listen to live music. When the investigation begins she is initially resistive and insists that nothing untoward have ever take place in her bar.
Rosa’s daughter Rosemarie, is a former reporter who assists Ledesma in his investigation. As with many of the characters through Rosa Misa and Rosemarie we come to learn of the many hopes and aspirations of Filipino society. The mother has dragged her daughter to Manila with the hope of making it big inevitably she fails and is left embittered, wondering what could have been.
The character Antonio Cobianco is a wealthy Chinese trader who in the late 1940’s fled Communist China. Unmarried, his brother and his wife came to Manila after him. Cobianco set up shop in Binondo and became a successful merchant.
Blue Angel, White Shadow touches on many issues. For example it comments on police corruption as well as the disintegration of civic society. Also we learn about the place of the Chinese community in the Philippines and how it interacts with the larger society.
Nostalgia also plays a big part in the novel and Charlson Ong has gone on record as saying that he’s a big Jazz fan and a great admirer of bee bop musicians such as John Coltrane. But there’s also a nostalgia for Binondo and a looking back with longing for the better days of Manila’s Chinatown.
This novel is great.