The House on Calle Sombra – A Parable
by Marga Ortigas
The House on Calle Sombra follows the fates and fortunes of the esteemed Castillo de Montijo family over three generations. Set in the Philippines – a tropical island nation where truth blends with fiction – none of the Castillos is quite as perceived. Successful patriarch Don Federico arrived from Spain a penniless orphan. Formidable matriarch Doña Fatimah is a native Muslim fugitive. And their brood of privileged descendants is struggling to live up to their famed and crested motto: FAMILY FIRST.
Mirroring events in the country’s turbulent history, the Castillos’ perfect façade begins to fracture as shadows from their past return to claim their due.
Sardonic, witty, and brutally frank, The House on Calle Sombra is an ode to family, and a compelling exploration of how greed, love, and trauma are passed down through generations.
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An Army of Lizards
Flora and fauna grow in luxuriance in “The House on Calle Sombra,” the debut novel of Marga Ortigas published by Penguin Random House South East Asia.
About The Cover
The cover showcases a 1979 painting by Filipino artist Danny Pangan of a former Manila mayor’s ancestral home. Most Filipino families have a ‘homestead’ at the core of their clans. The hearth of their identities. Unfortunately, as older generations pass on and descendants increase in number, many such residences are left abandoned.
When this particular home faced a similar fate in the 1970s, three of its original wood tracery panels were given to Mr Pangan. Inspired by it, he crafted several studies, ultimately creating what I believe is one of his most memorable paintings. I feel such joy when I look at it–as well as some pangs of nostalgia. For what was, what could’ve been, and what will never be.
I had the honour of meeting Mr Pangan when I was barely 10 years old, introduced to him by my father who–aside from being an admirer of his art–was a guest at his wedding.
Mr Pangan passed away in December 2018, just shy of his 68th birthday. I am grateful to his family (& the painting’s current owner) for allowing me to celebrate him and showcase his wonderful work on “Calle Sombra”. It speaks so much to what the book is ultimately about. Thank you.
Text: Marga Ortigas
Photos courtesy of the artist.
Photos courtesy of the artist.