Taking our cue from SF Signal, in Rocket Round Table, we pose a single question to those who toil in the fields of Philippine SF. Our aim is to promote reflection and discussion, as well as to simply compare notes on the genre we know and love. This month we ask the question:
What is your favorite Filipino-created Speculative Fiction story?
The story can be prose or komiks, a movie or a television show… any medium by which a narrative can be told is fair game. One caveat though: let’s limit ourselves to works whose authorship is certain, and not Philippine myths/legends. In other words, Florante and Laura qualifies but “Ang Alamat ng Pinya” doesn’t. Let’s leave those for another day. ^_^
Here are the first batch of answers–I’ll compile any further replies in a subsequent post.
Adam David: [Blog]
==Indie publisher, published author, opinionated blogger. He recently released “A Week of Kindness” - seven works from seven writers written in seven days revolving around seven images/elements/themes.==
Barring my own set of scintillating sensurround scifi scintillations, the best Pinoy SpecFic story would be the unfortunately still largely unread “Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon. It was supposed to be part of Drilon’s Kare-Kare Komiks print remix a bunch of people – me included – tried their best to make manifest around the middle of 2008. I was the layout artist so I was privy to the actual finished pages – “actual finished pages” being actually “virtual” as Drilon assembled everything on computer – and I was one of maybe ten or so people who have seen the whole book (maybe I still am). The publisher ran out of money, so the project didn’t push through. The book was 96 pages of Drilon’s full-colour ChemSet strips, and a handful of new ones to round off the collection, some of which already saw publication in places, but not “Pericos Tao” for some reason.
“Pericos Tao” is one of those too few gay stories that’s ABOUT being gay and at the same time ISN’T in the sense that it isn’t pushing an agenda. It’s about a young man trying to escape the past, and, unsuccessful, finally decides to come to terms with it in his own terms. It makes use of a few characters/creatures from Visayan tradition and somehow making them not clunky as how most of these things are on the page more often than not. It also employs some formal play by way of recreating the young man’s Visayan childhood via impeccably mimicking Larry Alcala’s unmistakable cubist brushstrokes, while the present rendered as how Drilon renders his usual, only slightly better, all of these things running in synch all focused on telling the story, and telling it well. Of everything I’ve read by Drilon, or any one else’s in SpecFic for that matter (and I’ve probably read about 90% of what’s been published so far as of 05:04AM of 7 September 2009), “Pericos Tao” remains to be the most honest and most complete and most heartfelt and really just one of the best stories I’ve ever read, printed (or not) on paper. It’s really all just downhill from here for Drilon. I hope more people will get the chance to read “Pericos Tao,” before he decides to sell out and go manga on everyone. Make it so, Andrew!
Erica Gonzales: [Blog]
==A Christian by grace, a doctor by training and a writer by inclination. An anime and manga fan, Erica used to do copy edits for a local anime magazine, and currently writes fic in multiple fandoms. She has been published in Philippine Speculative Fiction, the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and Inscribed: A Magazine for Writers.==
Of the prose: Celestine Trinidad’s Juan and Maria story in PGS (“Beneath the Acacia“). She took two characters from local lore, gave them personalities, and made them her own, such that her Juan and Maria series are part romantic comedy, part detective cases, all fantasy. There are several more stories in various states of development, go ask her for them to place in Rocket Kapre.
Of visual media: Ninja Girl KO! (in Mangaholix, by Marco Dimaano and Kriss Sison). It has manga sensibilities (after all the authors work for mangaka) but is distinctly Pinoy, filled with typical Pinoy side streets and culture sensibilities (Anton whines as much as Sawada Tsunayoshi and all typical shonen manga whiny-boy tropes, but he whines in a definitely Pinoy-comedy-movie way; Japanese straggler stories are part of our wiring, not Japan’s). Sometimes it even ribs at local otaku culture, which is totally different from otaku culture in the States, in Japan, or even in other Asian countries.
My point: our culture is what it is, a hodgepodge of east and west served up like halo-halo and made our own. Our best stuff is the stuff that takes from that hodgepodge and creates something new.
Crystal Koo: [Blog]
==Currently an English lecturer at the College of International Education of Hong Kong Baptist University, Crystal is a Palanca Award-winning author. Her play, “The Foundling”, was performed in Hong Kong by Burnt Mango Theatre Productions in 2009. She will have a short story in the anthology “The Dragon and the Stars” coming out in 2010 from DAW books.==
My fave Fil. spec fic would probably be still Arnold Arre’s comics The Mythology Class. (Official Site) Nutshell: it has a sense of sprawling bigness to it, it’s pure magical fun, the plot drive is strong and action-paced while never sacrificing characterization. (And the class begins in UP, which is never a bad sign. ;p) Reading it was a memorable experience. The comics was done in black and white but something about the story itself made it feel like the whole thing had been in color.
Elbert Or: [Blog]
==Comic book creator, university lecturer, graphic designer, freelance writer, entrepreneur (he’s part of Brain Food, which gives speech and writing workshops) Elbert is a jack of all trades and master of… well, lots. He’s currently nominated in several categories for the 2009 Komikon Awards.==
This is just like asking me what my favorite song is — it changes depending a number of factors including time and mood. Right now, perhaps because it was the last story I (re-)read, it’s Gregorio Brillantes’ “The Apollo Centennial.” [Ed. Note: Full text here.] Aside from being a well-crafted short story, it also holds the distinction of changing my opinion about Filipino short stories in general (“they aren’t all boring and parochial after all!”) but they also showed me what Filipino stories can be (not boring and parochial, ha ha!).
Dominique Cimafranca: [Blog]
==A Davao based teacher and author, Dominique is a self-proclaimed geek, and says he was a geek before it was fashionable. A fellow at the 2006 Siliman National Writer’s Workshop, he’s written stories for A Time for Dragons and Philippine Speculative Fiction, as well as technical articles for international publications.==
The stories found in “Pop Stories for Groovy Kids” by Nick Joaquin. [Ed. Note: The cover of one of the books can be found here.] It’s been close to thirty years since I last read any of “Pop Stories” but the characters are as vivid to me as if I read them yesterday. Without peeking at the books — the set, minus one volume, still lies somewhere in our shelves — I can still rattle off the names of some, so memorable are their names: Ellang Uling, Lilit Bulilit, Johnny Tinoso, Juan Tamad, and of course, Mariang Makiling. But the ones that stayed with me best were the three monkeys in Nick Joaquin’s rollicking riff on Ibong Adarna; none moreso than the monkey who was deaf, blind, and dumb. Who would have thought that handicaps would turn out to be advantages?
Just why has “Pop Stories” persistently lodged in my memory? On the one hand, the frameworks of the stories themselves are nothing new: they’re a retelling of old fairy tale classics and Filipino folklore, and hence so much more deeply ingrained in my story consciousness. But on the other, Nick Joaquin and his artistic co-creators took these stories and made it their own unique dreamscape.
Nick Joaquin, apart from injecting humor into the stories, also invested in them pathos mixed with an unflinching view of humanity. I found hardest to read, for example, his take on the Prince and the Pauper because I couldn’t bear to follow the sufferings of the prince-now-pauper (a reflection, perhaps, of my own fears?) Nick Joaquin did not dumb down his stories; and he didn’t pull any punches.
Add to all that the fantastic artwork that complemented the words, each and every one of them a painting in their own right, full of whimsy, wonder, and yes, terror. Nick Joaquin and his co-creators put together a veritable dreamscape of stories, one which would sometimes brush against my nightmares.
At a time when we’re seeing a resurgence in Filipino speculative fiction and children’s literature, I have yet to find any local work which could equal the quality that I remember in “Pop Stories.” Perhaps the fault lies with my nostalgia, but I would even go further a-limb to say that “Pop Stories” in many ways preceded and still stands superior to the Gaimanesque fantasies in vogue today.
What’s more, I don’t think I ever made any overt distinction with “Pop Stories” as Filipino fiction, except perhaps briefly when I first broke them out of their cover. Yes, they were written by a Filipino, and yes, the stories carried Filipino themes or happened in Filipino settings; that I would tell anyone who asked. But to me they had gone beyond that; they had become, for want of a better term, Stories.
Kate Aton-Osias: [Blog]
==Kate is an auditor who believes that love, hope, and good chocolate can save the world. She’s received a citation in the international Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and recently won her second Palanca Award for her story “Apolinario and the Name Trader” which took home the prize for Best Short Story for Children in English.==
I believe the question itself is too broad. I find it difficult to say just ‘one’ story, but I do have several depending on the genre:
1. Fantasy: Kite of Stars (the play) – Dean Alfar
While I am a fan of the prose version of this, I feel that the play is even more spectacular, encapsulating the rhythm, the cadence, the love and the longing that made the prose version of this be anthologized in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
2. Sci-Fi: An Introduction to the Luminescent - J. Pocholo Martin B. Goitia
Originally anthologized in Philippine Speculative Fiction 1, this was my first glimpse of vat-less science fiction (I had a theory, much to my husband’s dismay then, that all sci-fi had a vat). Until now, several years later, the story resonates with me and hopefully, I’ll be able to write something close to this in the future. [Ed. Note: An analysis of the story by Emil Flores can be found here.]
3. Fairy-tale remake: Bearing Fruit - Nikki Alfar
Originally anthologized in Philippine Speculative Fiction, I had the honor of reading its ‘first’ draft (Nikki, being Nikki, it’s never really the first draft, haha). I loved it then, I love it now. [Ed. Note: An article by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo on panitikan.com includes an analysis of the story.]
Kenneth Yu: [Blog]
==Whether he admits it or not, Kyu (as we call him) is one of the most prominent figures in Philippine Speculative Fiction. He’s the publisher and editor of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, and his fiction has been published in The Town Drunk, the Philippine Graphic and AlienSkin magazine. The PGS blog is a daily staple for anyone interested in Philippine Spec Fic.==
Well, since you allowed not just for prose, but other mediums as well…
First, a disclaimer. I don’t read much comics anymore. I did read Batman, Superman, Spiderman–the usual suspects–while growing up. But the older I got the more my tastes shifted heavily to prose. I do remember reading Swamp Thing, The Dark Knight, and The Sandman series, but after that…well, let’s just say that it’s all been catchup for me since then, though I spend more time reading prose.
Having said that, I very very much enjoy Andrew Drilon’s comics (and prose too, but his comics are just as cool). Links to them, or the actual files themselves, can be found on his blog, andrewdrilon.livejournal.com. Here’s a link to one of his more recent ones: In the Sea of Outer Space, but he’s got more on his blog. Check out Caraboy, What The Cigarette Said, and The Love Eaters, among others, all of which are very enjoyable. His spec fic comics are well-written and well-drawn. Amazing, the way the guy can draw and write, a real talent. I’m sure over time he’s going to get more popular and well-read. I know I didn’t pick one particular title, instead endorsing one man’s body of work, but really, that’s the way I feel about Andrew’s spec fic comics.
Carljoe Javier: [Blog]
==Carljoe aims to one day become a Jedi Knight, a member of the A-Team, a friend to the Transformers, and a member of the human resistance against Skynet. His stories have been published in Tales of Fantasy and Enchantment and Very Short Stories for Harried Readers, amongst other venues. His collection of essays “And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth” was released earlier this year.==
“Candido’s Apocalypse” by Nick Joaquin. I read it as a very young girl (like grade school age) and I absolutely adored the dialogue, especially the phone conversation in the chaotic first scene. And it just felt so real (ha, a strange thing to say about a speculative story eh) to me, this teenager seeing all these strange things and running in the dark city toward a sanctuary he cannot find, and still being an asshole about it. It’s perfect! Quite an accurate description of teenage angst and alienation, I think.
“Apollo Centennial” by Gregorio Brillantes (available online here: http://www.geocities.com/phil_stories/brillantes_apollo). Sad, quiet, subtle sci-fi story by one of my favorite Filipino authors. The helplessness is there, but it doesn’t scream. Stunning.
==One of the co-editors of the path-breaking Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, Mia has been cited in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and been published in Philippine Speculative Fiction and the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. She’s also as adept at creative non-fiction as she is at fiction (as can be seen from her blog and her upcoming interview on-site).==
I’m not a “favorite” kind of gal but I really like Joey Nacino’s “Logovore”. (And if you asked Adam David his favorite, he would say his own story, hahahaha.) I have yet to be blown away. It’s the critic in me.
That’s it for the first batch of answers–stay tuned for the second batch next Wednesday. In the meantime, if you have any favorites that haven’t been mentioned, or want to support or dissent from our Rocket Round Table participants, please do leave a comment below. RRT posts are meant to spark conversation, so lively discussion–and civilized debate–is highly encouraged.