RRT: Favorite Philippine Speculative Fiction Story

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story

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!).

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: [Blog]
==Rochita is a writer-mom living in The Netherlands, whose stories have been published in Weird Tales and Fantasy Magazine, amongst others. She is a proud member of the Villa Diodati Workshop for expats in Europe, and most recently a graduate of the Clarion West Writing Workshop (class of 09) where she was named the 2009 Octavia E. Butler Scholar. ==
I don’t remember a particular story from childhood, but I do remember one particular character. I remember reading Zuma (Anak ni Zuma etc.) when I was a child. I remember reading it at first as a comic strip in one of the daily papers.While I lived in fear of Zuma, I confess to having been quite fascinated by him and the lives of his spawn. I think one reason why I would pick Zuma as one of my favorite Filipino speculative fiction characters is because he seems to be one of the truest Filipino creations I’ve ever read. I’ve never seen the movie and I confess to being reluctant to see it as I rather prefer my memory of Zuma on the page and dread having that totally spoiled.Thinking about it now, I would have to say that Zuma’s appeal for me probably stemmed from his otherness. He was quite a complex character and I couldn’t help feeling sad for him no matter how evil his character seemed to become. My Mom was very much against comics so when Zuma got into the full tagalog strips, I only ever got to read of him and his spawn during stolen moments.If we’re speaking of more recent Speculative Fiction Stories, I’d still have to pick Dean Alfar’s The Kite of Stars as my favorite. [Ed. Note: Available at Strange Horizons.] This is a story that still makes me cry whenever I read it.

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.==

It’s not just one story, but rather I’m going with Emil Flores’s character Arturo Ganigan NBI. [Ed. Note: He's the lead character in a Cadre Comics series.] He’s been in two stories and a comic book thus far. The character functions somewhere in the realm of the X-files, but he works as an Indiana Jones and a martial arts master as well. The stories in which he’s featured run at breakneck speeds, have fun, fun twists, and are great, exciting material.

Yvette Tan: [Blog]
==Yvette’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in so many venues online and offline that I truly believe she could put together an entire magazine all by her self. Her stories have been recognized by the Palanca Awards, the Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards and the 2008 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her first short story collection, “Waking the Dead,” was released just last month to stellar reviews.==
Mine would be Luis Katigbak‘sDear Distance” for the imagery [Ed. Note: An excerpt can be found here.] , Arnold Arre’s Andong Agimat [Ed. Note: Dedicated blog is here.] and Budjette Tan’s Trese series [Ed. Note: Blog and the first seven issues in full can be found here.], the last two because of the well crafted storytelling and use of horror elements in a distinctly Pinoy setting.

Eliza Victoria: [Blog]
==So far, Eliza has owned the year 2009: she’s won a Palanca Award for her poetry, been named as a finalist at the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards, and had her works accepted in Cantaraville, Expanded Horizons, Elimae, and the Farthest Shore. Her most recent victory was being included among the ten winners of the Gig Book Storywriting Contest. All this before hitting her first quarter century.==
Just one? I’ll give you three because I’m stubborn.

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.

Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah” [Ed. Note: Site is here.] by Carlo Vergara . Because. It’s hilarious. Nuff said.

Mia Tijam:

==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.

8 Responses to “RRT: Favorite Philippine Speculative Fiction Story”

  1. [...] come on over and join the fun! For launch day we’ve got a round table discussion of our favorite Filipino-created fantastical stories, a preview of the ambitious Mind Museum going up at the Fort, and an interview with Kate Aton-Osias [...]

  2. eliza says:

    A Davao based teacher and author, Dominique is a self-proclaimed geek, and says he was a geek before it was fashionable.

    Okay, that made me laugh. :) )

    I just want to say that thanks to the link here, I was able to finally (finally!) read Trese. I love love love it. “Our Secret Constellation” (http://tresekomix.blogspot.com/2006/04/our-secret-constellation-complete.html) is one of my favorites. :D

    Also? Drilon’s Pericos Tao sounds mighty interesting. :)

    • paolo says:

      I loved that one too! But then again, that story has an advantage because I was a huge fan of Warren Ellis’ Planetary at the time that I read that Trese issue. I can’t wait to read the third graphic novel, especially since all those stories will be brand spankin’ new!

      And I second the motion re: Andrew’s “lost” work… Adam sold it well ^_^

  3. don says:

    Doug Candano’s Dreaming Valhalla and A Reply to a Query are both awesome

    • paolo says:

      Hi Don! Thanks for this – I know of “Dreaming Valhalla” but hadn’t heard of “A Reply to a Query” before (A quick google search rectified that ^_^)

  4. adam! says:

    i’ll second emotion the vote for cholo’s “An Introduction to the Luminescent.” cholo’s one of the few few few fictionists that UST & the thomasian writers guild have actually managed to produce, and also one of the few few few fictionists writing right now who are actually producing work that are smart, funny, opinionated, and all that bullshit cliche we all hear about good writing. he’s actually producing work that matters. he wrote one of the seven days in our week-long project, and is actually one of my three favourites (the others being ken ishikawa’s and vlad gonzales’). cholo’s a pretty slow writer, but is always worth the wait.

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.