"This book consists of four stories-- "Horgle and the King's Soup," for eight years old and above; "Horgle and the Spa Mystery," for young kids who know what a spa is (for obvious reasons); "The King of Paradise," for old kids and repressed adults; and "Trip to Heaven," for young adults and really old ones who love the Philippines. The first story was written for my children (very old now) and it won first prize in the Pamana Children's Book Awards in 1965. The second story in the next in Horgles adventures (1967), updated in 2005. The third Horgle stoy wasn't included because I couldn't finit it. The idea for Horgle, the horse-eagle came from my then eight-year-old son Bey. As we were sitting in the carport with the dog at our feet, a hawk began circling the sky. Bey spotted it and told the dog (whose mouth was open, tongue hanging out), "You better close your mouth, White. If that bird sees you it might wonder, is that a cave or a mouth, and swoop down and enter. And you'll have no choice but to swallow that big bird. And the bird will go down to your stomach get so frightened in the dark it will flutter its wings and flutter its wings until they come out through either side of your body." (That's how Horgle began but in between, we changed him to a horse-and eagle combination.) The actual third story here is all about love. The fourth is a retelling of a Filipino epic about how the Manobos got to heaven. It came from the original chant researched by Elena Maquiso which she translated into English in 1977. There are three versions of it by her which I rewrote into a composite. In case you missed the title, this book is all about bad kings, which you shoud never be becaue the good heroes always vanquish them." --Gilda Cordero-Fernando
Gilda Cordero-Fernando was a multiawarded writer, publisher and cultural icon from the Philippines. She was born in Manila, has a B.A. from St. Theresa’s College-Manila, and an M.A. from the Ateneo de Manila University.
She had a very rich life as a publisher. In 1978 she launched GCF Books, which published landmark books on Philippine cultural history: Streets of Manila (1977), Turn of the Century (1978), Philippine Ancestral Houses (1980), Being Filipino (1981), The History of the Burgis (1987), Folk Architecture (1989), and The Soul Book (1991).
Cordero-Fernando also wore numerous other hats as a visual artist, fashion designer, playwright, art curator, and producer. In February 2000, she produced Luna: An Aswang Romance. In 2001 she produced Pinoy Pop Culture, the book and the show, for Bench.
In 1994, she received a Cultural Center of the Philippines (Gawad CCP) for her lifetime achievements in literature and publishing.
"Horgle and the King's Soup" was first introduced to me in a Children's Literature class and, upon reading the whole collection where it was published, I can fairly posit that it is the best in this collection by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. It is no secret that incorporating adult, overarching themes like totalitarian leadership, abuse of power, and corporal punishment in children's literature is challenging, but "Horgle and the King's Soup" successfully integrated these in a story that is appropriate, amusing, and easily digestible to the child reader. The diction in the story is accommodating to the young reader, with turns of phrases and references that are currently circulating in contemporary parlance.
In general, "Horgle and the King's Soup" can very much be shelved side by side among stories of global standards. This proves to be both an advantage and a drawback. For the character and setting are commonly associated with the Western fairy tale template, it will not have any problem with foreign readership. It also does not hurt that it has a unique premise, strong characters, and deft storytelling. The story, however, will face a special problem with Filipino readers who, though open to the Western template, will be longing for a more Filipinized version.
"Horgle and the Spa Mystery" is the second and last Horgle story in the collection. Like the first story, this one also tackles dark themes that are actually very difficult to communicate to children: smuggling, kidnapping, slavery, and--in a way--cannibalism, since the world-building made it appear that humans and animals are of equal status. (The "bad king" of this story does not hesitate to keep as grocery items his customers, such as the turkeys and the ostriches, who accidentally boil to death while relaxing in his spa.) Considering its nature, it is almost magical that the story turns out to be an amusing read.
"The King of Paradise" is the story that I will most likely forget in the long run. Having immediately followed the two Horgle stories that are exceptionally interesting, "The King of Paradise" unjustly appears to have less pomp than it actually has. Its premise is simple, its structure is solid, but its ending was abrupt.
The last story, "Trip to Heaven," is the odd one out. Agyu is certainly not a "bad king" in the sense that the kings in the previous stories are. I actually find it hard to justify its inclusion in this anthology, although I genuinely appreciate the effort to popularize the local epics such as the Ulahingan to the general readership.
On a final note, this collection could have been tighter if it solely featured more Horgle chronicles with a local flavor. The other two stories, though both good in their own ways, could have been included in other collections.