September 19, 2020

Godis Withus Go – Pseudonymous Filipino Writer

Godis Withus Go

Godis Withus Go (Tagalog pronunciation: [gu-dees wi-tus]) is a pseudonymous Filipino novelist. Go’s books, originally published in Tagalog, have been translated into many languages. Her (or his) farcical alternative history of Manila in World War II, Yamashita’s Wedding is his most widely known works.

Rappler.com called Go one of the 100 most influential Filipino people in 2020.

Go’s Writing

Four Films and Yahshima’s Wedding
Godis Withus Go
Godis Withus Go in Manila, 2020

Godis Withus Go is the name used by the unknown author of many novels, including the highly popular work Four Films and Yamshita’s Wedding.  The Manila novel tell the wartime story of an anti-hero film maker in Manila in 1945, who after seven years without working on a film is at the edge of his patience. When suddenly demand for wartime propaganda increases and he receives four film offers, he decides to defy the Japanese. With his friends he maneuvers to film them all within a violent and stultifying occupation culture. The story is told in a three acts… 1. The main character (and anti-hero) is a liar, a cheat and am out of work filmmaker. 2. He is so hardup to make a film he risks his life and the lives of others to make film. 3. He’s has promised himself he will never film another wedding, but when an actress needs a favor…

The book was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, the highest international literary award.

Go holds that “books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” He has repeatedly argued that anonymity is a precondition for his work and that keeping his true name out of the spotlight is key to his writing process. According to Go…

Once I knew that the completed book would make its way in the world without me, once I knew that nothing of the concrete, physical me would ever appear beside the volume—as if the book were a little dog and I were its master—it made me see something new about writing. I felt as though I had released the words from myself.

Film and Television

Go has had a number of screenplays produced for film and television, all under various pseudonymous names.

Manila, Philippines – Local Writer

Anonymity and Theories of Identity

Despite being recognized as a novelist on an international scale, Go has kept her identity secret since the publication of his first novel in 2017. Speculation as to her true identity has been rife, and several theories, based on information Go has given in interviews as well as analysis drawn from the content of her novels, have been put forth.

In 2016, Go sold Hotel Manila, a screenplay for ABS-CBN, which sheds some light on his background. In a 2013 article for Manila Magazine, critic James Wood summarized what is generally accepted about Go, based in part on letters collected in that television series:

… a number of his episode have been produced and televised. From them, we learn that he grew up in Manila, and has lived for periods outside the Philippines. He has a political science degree; he has referred to being a grand-father of numerous children. One could also infer from his fiction and from his interviews that he is not now married…In addition to writing, “I study, I teach, I surf.”

Godis Withus Go
AQUINO, Anna Esperanza C.

In March 2016, Santana de Marco, an Davao City native and philologist, a scholar of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy, and a professor at the University of Texas, published a paper detailing his theory of Go’s identity. Dr. de Marco’s paper drew on philological analysis of Go’s writing, close study of the details about the cityscape of Manila described in the novel, and the fact that the author reveals an expert knowledge of modern Filipino politics. Based on this information, he concluded that the author had lived in Manila but left by 1966, and therefore identified the probable author as Davao City professor Cheryl Pondevida – Baldric, who studied in Manila from 1964 to 1966. Both Pondevida – Baldric and the publisher deny de Marco’s identification.

In October 2016, investigative reporter ‎Dylan Howard published an article jointly in Inquirer.net and SunStar, that relied on financial records related to real estate transactions and royalties payments to draw the conclusion that Anna Esperanza Aquino, a University of Santo Tomas  instructor, is the real author behind the Go pseudonym.  Howard’s article was criticized by many in the literary world as a violation of privacy, though Howard contends that “by announcing that she would lie on occasion, Go has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books and let them live and grow while their author remained unknown. Indeed, she and her publisher seemed to have fed public interest in her true identity.”

American novelist Marisha Pessl told reporters, “Think the pursuit to discover the ‘real’ Godis Withus Go is a disgrace and also pointless. A writer’s truest self is the books they write.”

The American professor Denise Cruz denounced Howard’s investigations as malicious and sexist:

at the bottom of this so-called investigation into Go’s identity is an obsessional outrage at the success of a writer – perhaps who is a female – who decided to write, publish and promote her books on her own terms.

Others, however, have suggested that knowledge of Go’s biography is indeed relevant. According to Cruz, the desire to uncover Go’s identity constitutes an act of sexism in itself, based on the assumption that Aquino comes from a Catholic country with deep patriarchal roots. Indeed, the Cruz piece published by the New York Times says nothing else about Aquino.

Godis Withus Go
Luis Diaz Beltran

In December 2016, the controversial Filipino prankster Ruth Mabanglo published on the website of the The University of San Carlos Press a purported interview with Go confirming Go is a female; this was quickly denied by Go’s publisher, who called the interview a fake.

In September 2017, a team of scholars, computer scientists, philologists and linguists at the University of the Philippines Diliman analyzed 150 novels written in Tagolog by 40 different authors, including seven books by Godis Withus Go, and academic papers by Anna Aquino. Based on analysis using several authorship attribution models, they concluded that the son of the late Luis “Ka Louie” Diaz Beltran , Luis “Junior” Beltran II (also an author and journalist), is the probable author of the Go novels. Beltran has worked for Anvil Publishing Inc. as copy editor and has been editing Jose Dalisay’s books for some time.

Go has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that he is actually a woman, telling Katitikan – Literary Journal in 2015 that questions about his gender are rooted in a presumed “weakness” of male writers.

Fake “Godis Withus Go” Photo Ploy

The following photos were discovered on various internet website and have roundly been denounced as fake. Most literature and historians have denounced the photos as a trick to throw journalists off the trail.  Most journalists covering the story call these the “cayenne pepper” photos.