July 18, 1917|
Cebu, Philippine Islands
|Died||December 28, 1983(aged 66)|
Estrella D. Alfon (July 18, 1917 – December 28, 1983) was a well-known prolific Filipina author who wrote in English. Because of continued poor health, she could manage only an A. A. degree from the University of the Philippines. She then became a member of the U. P. writers club and earned and was given the privileged post of National Fellowship in Fiction post at the U. P. Creative Writing Center. She died in the year 1983 at the age of 66.
Estrella Alfon was born in Cebu City in 1917. Unlike other writers of her time, she did not come from the intelligentsia. Her parents were shopkeepers in Cebu. She attended college, and studied medicine. When she was mistakenly diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanitarium, she resigned from her pre-medical education, and left with an Associate of Arts degree.
Alfon has several children: Alan Rivera, Esmeralda "Mimi" Rivera, Brian Alfon, Estrella "Twinkie" Alfon, and Rita "Daday" Alfon (deceased). She has 10 grandchildren.
Her youngest daughter, was a stewardess for Saudi Arabian Airlines, and was part of the Flight 163 crew on August 19, 1980, when an in-flight fire forced the aircraft to land in Riyadh. A delayed evacuation resulted in the death of everyone aboard the flight.
Alfon died on December 28, 1983, following a heart attack suffered on-stage during Awards night of the Manila Film Festival.
She was a student in Cebu when she first published her short stories, in periodicals such as Graphic Weekly Magazine, Philippine Magazine, and the Sunday Tribune.
She was a storywriter, playwright, and journalist. In spite of being a proud Cebuana, she wrote almost exclusively in English. She published her first story, “Grey Confetti”, in the Graphic in 1935.
She was the only female member of the Veronicans, an avant garde group of writers in the 1930s led by Francisco Arcellana and H.R. Ocampo, she was also regarded as their muse. The Veronicans are recognized as the first group of Filipino writers to write almost exclusively in English and were formed prior to the World War II. She is also reportedly the most prolific Filipina writer prior to World War II. She was a regular contributor to Manila-based national magazines, she had several stories cited in Jose Garcia Villa’s annual honor rolls.
|“||Alfon was one writer who unashamedly drew from her own real-life experiences. In some stories, the first-person narrator is “Estrella” or “Esther.” She is not just a writer, but one who consciously refers to her act of writing the stories. In other stories, Alfon is still easily identifiable in her first-person reminiscences of the past: evacuation during the Japanese occupation; estrangement from a husband; life after the war. In the Espeleta stories, Alfon uses the editorial “we” to indicate that as a member of that community, she shares their feelings and responses towards the incidents in the story. But she sometimes slips back to being a first-person narrator. The impression is that although she shares the sentiments of her neighbors, she is still a distinct personality who detaches herself from the scene in order to understand it better. This device of separating herself as narrator from the other characters is contained within the larger strategy of ?distantiation? that of the writer from her strongly autobiographical material. - Thelma E. Arambulo||”|
In the 1950s, her short story, "Fairy Tale for the City", was condemned by the Catholic League of the Philippines as being "obscene". She was even brought to court on these charges. While many of her fellow writers did stand by her, many did not. These events hurt her deeply.
In spite of having only an A.A. degree, she was eventually appointed as a professor of Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines, Manila. She was a member of the U.P. Writers Club, she held the National Fellowship in Fiction post at the U.P. Creative Writing Center in 1979.
She would also serve on the Philippine Board of Tourism in the 1970s.
- 1940: A collection of her early short stories, “Dear Esmeralda,” won Honorable Mention in the Commonwealth Literary Award.
- 1961-1962: Four of her one-act plays won all the prizes in the Arena Theater Play Writing Contest: “Losers Keepers” (first prize), “Strangers” (second prize), “Rice” (third prize), and “Beggar” (fourth prize).
- 1961-1962: Won top prize in the Palanca Contest for “With Patches of Many Hues.”
- 1974: Second place Palanca Award for her short story, "The White Dress".
- 1979: National Fellowship in Fiction post at the U.P. Creative Writing Center.
- Forever Witches, One-act Play (Third place, 1960)
- With Patches of Many Hues, One-act Play (First place, 1962)
- Tubig, One-act Play (Second place, 1963)
- The Knitting Straw, One-act Play, (Third place, 1968)
- The White Dress, Short Story (Second place, 1974)
- Magnificence and Other Stories (1960)
- Stories of Estrella Alfon (1994) (published posthumously)
- Servant Girl (short story)
|“||Estrella Alfon writes about everyday life, but she captures the details in this dazzling, intense light. She could write about the ordinary and make it extraordinary. She could write about a day on the farm or a picnic with friends or a poor laundry woman wishing that her life were different because she was being abused by her mistress. They were very simple stories about ordinary people, whose lives we don't know until she uncovers them in the stories. I was just hooked. Whatever designs my mother may have had, they worked. I feel so much more fulfilled because I had that early gift. - Luisa Igloria interview||”|
Alfon was at times charged with sloppy writing and suspected of writing for money.
- Firefly, an anthology of Filipino women's literature in Finnish
- Espina Moore, Lina (1994), The Stories of Estrella D. Alfon, Quezon City: Giraffe Books, p. iii
- panitikan.com.ph :: Philippine Literature Portal
- The Best Philippine Short Stories Authors
- The R54 Online Information Database: A bit about Estrella Alfon
- Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award Winners
- VALib V52N2 - History and the Work of Memory: An Interview with Luisa A. Igloria by C. A. Gardner