Archive for May, 2010

Art Fantastic: Interview with Benjo Camay

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 26 - 2010

There’s no better complement to a Spec Fic story than some good fantasy or science-fiction artwork. CG Pintor is an organization of Filipino digital painters, co-founded by Usok #1 cover artist Kevin Lapeña, and now and then we’ll do interviews with some of their members. Today we speak with Benjo Camay (The-Hand on deviantart), who contributed a piece to the illustrated edition of Usok #1, namely the art for “The Coming of the Anak-Araw” by Celestine Trinidad.


What’s the first thing you remember drawing?

I remember that I when I was 4 years old I’d always draw a scuba diver thrusting a knife unto a shark’s body.

Uhm. Why? Did you have a deep hatred of sharks or something?

Actually, I don’t really know why I did that when I was a kid… maybe sharks are just so cool to draw?

Read the rest of this entry »

Usok Interview: Crystal Koo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 20 - 2010


Here’s the fourth Usok #1 author interview, this time with Crystal Koo, author of “The Startbox“, which now has an illustration by Kevin Lapeña.

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

Given the theme that was set as a guideline for the issue, I actually started writing a completely different story, a very science-fiction one with a lot to do with computers. But I was having really big trouble with it, so one midnight I just abandoned it and started writing this one, without any planning at all, and for the most part of the first draft, it wrote itself.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?
Making the main character’s transformation credible.

Do you remember the first short story you ever wrote? What was it about?
I started off scribbling bits and pieces of things on lined paper and stapling them together into a “book” when I was a little girl. I can’t remember any of those. The earliest that I can remember is the first story I ever typed on a computer – something about a Molly.

Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?
What I write, yes (the how is mostly influenced by the books I read). It’s a bit complex writing as a Chinese-Filipino who’s moving around Asia at the moment, so all kinds of considerations crop up, but most of the time I just make sure that I don’t pigeonhole myself into writing about one particular culture all the time.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?
“The whole business of writing is to live with doubt: to do what you don’t know how to do, to place yourself continually in a situation of ignorance and inelegance” – Peter Carey. Not exactly advice, but it’s very reassuring, especially from a big guy in the business.

Usok Interview: Celestine Trinidad

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 19 - 2010


Here’s the fourth, and final, Usok #1 interview, featuring our youngest author in this issue, Celestine Trinidad. Celestine is the author of “The Coming of the Anak-Araw” which now has an illustration by Benjo Camay.

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

I had originally written a story about a storyteller (the same character in my story, “The Storyteller and the Giant”) and his apprentice, and that was the story I was supposed to be writing for the Palancas, but it ended up too long that I eventually decided to just turn into a novel—which, as with most ideas, had a life of its own, I swear—morphed into a series in my head. In that series, the storyteller and his apprentice will eventually face the same anak-araw that appeared in “The Coming of the Anak-Araw”, and they will be helped by other characters found in this story. I guess this is sort of a prequel to that, of sorts.

That is, if I ever get around to writing that series.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?

As Pao can probably attest, this story was very different originally, before he did some wonderfully extensive editing, hehe. Mostly I struggled with the pacing of the story, since in my head it was already part of that series of books I wanted to write, but this is a short story, and hence should be written differently.

Do you remember the first short story you ever wrote? What was it about?

I think I wrote a short story (complete with really horrible illustrations, hehe) about an alien woman whose planet was destroyed, so she sought refuge on our planet, and became a teacher. I…think she battled the aliens who destroyed her planet? And fell in love with this human co-teacher who guessed her secret, probably—I always was a sucker for romances like that. I lost the original version of that story, alas.

Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?

Of course, as mostly I like writing about Philippine mythology, and those stories are the ones I am most comfortable with writing. I find our myths on the whole really fascinating, and love how you can play around with them, reinterpret them in so many ways. Being a doctor also influences my writing, because I always tend to include medical-related things in my stories (Sari is a healer in this one, after all, and works with herbs I once studied), I guess these are things I can’t help either.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?

From my former Creative Writing 10 teacher in UP: “Keep reading and writing. Don’t let what other people say stop you from doing so.” It’s really simple advice, I know, but whenever I face rejections and feel like I can never be any good at this, I remember all those workshops we had with him, when he always found something nice to say about what we wrote, while still offering advice on how we could make those stories better. He was never harsh, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve kept on writing, because of those first lessons I learned from him.

The New Usok

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 18 - 2010


The title of this post has a dual significance: first, I’m happy to announce that the new version of Usok #1, with a brand new digitally painted illustration for each of the five stories, is now live. The art credits are as follows:

  • Tey Bartolome – “The Child Abandoned”
  • Benjo Camay – “The Coming of the Anak-Araw”
  • Kevin Lapeña – “The Startbox”, “The Saint of Elsewhere: A Mystery”, and “Mouths to Speak, Voices to Sing”

I think we can all agree that these artists have done a fantastic job. Thanks to Tey and Benjo, and especially Kevin for helping arrange the art despite his busy schedule.


The second thing I’d like to announce is that I’m changing Usok’s release schedule. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that we haven’t managed to keep to our quarterly release schedule, and the reason is simple: we just haven’t received enough stories. I’m holding on to one story right now, and working with an author on another, but that’s the grand total of publishable stories we’ve received in the roughly six months since we launched. I’ve tried soliciting stories as well, but, as every writer knows, it can be hard to determine when your muse will behave, and when he/she will go on extended vacation in Alaska.

So, as of now, Usok will be a somewhat irregular publication. We’re still open for submissions–so please do submit–but based on half a year’s worth of experience, I simply won’t know how long it will take before I can get enough stories for an issue (my magic number is at least three, but I may need to make an exception soon), and I hate labelling Usok as a “quarterly” magazine, then watching the quarters wave gleefully as they pass me by.The good news is that I hope the more flexible schedule will allow future issues of Usok to launch complete with illustrations from the talented CG Pintor crew.

That being said, I realize that more could be done to encourage story submissions, and to improve the quality of these submissions. While I don’t have the time to run a permanent forum based workshop (something that would provide a venue for critiquing such as the one which indie komplex provides for komiks creators), I’ll try to brainstorm some method by which I can provide some critiques for spec fic writers who want to improve their work.

Thanks for supporting Usok so far everyone, and please continue to support it in the future. There’s no real way to learn some things except through experience, so I’m having to learn a lot “on the job”, so to speak, but I promise I’ll keep soldiering onward.

Usok Interview: Yvette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 17 - 2010

Tomorrow, we’ll finally be launching the updated version of Usok #1, with a gorgeous new illustration for each story. We’ll also have an announcement regarding the future of Usok as well. As a celebration of the launch of the illustrated version, I’ll be posting short interviews with Yvette, Crystal and Celestine (I already posted interviews with chiles, and Kenneth, as well as artists Kevin and Tey (who did the illustration for Yvette’s story, “The Child Abandoned“). Here’s the third Usok #1 author interview, with Yvette Tan, author of The Child Abandoned


Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story

I was passing by Sta. Ana one day when I noticed the name of the church near St. Peter School called The Church of Our Lady of the Abandoned, or something like that. I thought it was a sad and beautiful name and that I must use it in a story.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?

I have a horrible sense of direction, so it’s the geographical parts of the story that gave me the most difficulty. I’ve been to Quiapo several times and until now, I still can’t name streets or remember how to get to places. Of course, that just gives me a reason to visit the place again.

Do you remember the first short story you ever wrote? What was it about?

The first stories I wrote weren’t so much original works as adaptations, and more graphic novels than fiction. In grade school, a friend and I used to draw scenes from Maricel Soriano comedies (the more Marias in the movie, the better). I also wrote a personal security handbook which I bound in wrapping paper and refused to show anyone. In high school, I wrote specially commissioned stories that starred my friends and the New Kid on the Block of their choice, as well as some horribly derivative fantasy, one of which was novel-length. This is probably why I flunked a lot of subjects.

Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?

I actually don’t use my cultural background in my writing. I know I should take advantage of my Chinese roots, but I am so much more fascinated by the Filipino side.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?

At a talk, John Maxwell shared his secret for getting stuff done. He said that every day, he had five goals that he should do, and he did them. It’s simple, and it gets the job done.

Launch: Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 7 - 2010


The website is still a work in progress, but Charles Tan, of the Bibliophile Stalker blog and a few hundred (minor exaggeration) others,  has announced that the ebook version of his new reprint anthology, “The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009″ is now available for free download. You can choose from either the PDF edition or the EPUB edition. (If you have the Stanza desktop ebook reader you can export the EPUB file to different file formats–say, if you want a .mobi file for your Kindle/Kindle reader, although such conversions usually junk the formatting). The anthology has cover art Elbert Or, a cover design by Adam David, (who also did the PDF layout and design) qith the Web and EPUB layout handled by Dominique Gerald Cimafranca.

Sixteen stories from fifteen authors, selected by one of the most well-read and difficult-to-please critics in the country–all for free? What are you waiting for?

Charles is the co-editor (alongside Mia Tijam) of the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, which was released in 2008.  I hope that this is the start of an annual compilation (and I hope that this isn’t the only yer a story of mine qualifies ^_^)

Here’s the full table of contents. Congratulations to Charles and all those involved:

  • Summation 2009 by Charles Tan
  • The Fires of the Sun in a Crystalline Sky by Francezca C. Kwe
  • The Day the World Lost Its Gravity by Camsy Ocumen
  • Strange Weather by Dean Francis Alfar
  • The Sewing Project by Apol Lejano-Massebieau
  • Lex Talionis by Paolo Chikiamco
  • Isa by Marianne Villanueva
  • Spelling Normal by Mia Tijam
  • Daddy by Yvette Tan
  • From Abecediarya by Adam David
  • The Annotated Account of Tholomew Mestich by Elyss G. Punsalan
  • Beats by Kenneth Yu
  • Wildwater by Crystal Koo
  • Moondown and Fugue by Alexander Drilon
  • The Maiden’s Song by Kate Aton-Osias
  • Capture by Gabriela Lee
  • The Secret Origin of Spin-man by Andrew Drilon

Chanted Journeys: May 21 and 22, 2010

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 7 - 2010

Well, isn’t this a bit of awesome timing? For those of you who want to experience hearing Filipino Epics performed live and old school, “Chanted Journeys: Discovering the Oral Traditions of the Cordillera” at the CCP will have renditions of the Ifugao epic “Hudhud hi Aliguyon” and a Kalinga Ullalim (not sure which one). The show, a part of Filipino Heritage Month 2010, takes place at 8p.m. on May 21 and 8p.m.on May 22, at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, CCP. It will feature performances by The Community Chanters of Tungngod, Lagawe, Ifugao; and Manlilikha ng Bayan Alonzo Saclag with the Kalinga Budong Dance Troupe.

(Wow, they translate “Manlilikha ng Bayan” as “National Living Treasure”. That sounds head and shoulders above National Artist to me @_@)

You can buy tickets at Ticketworld. A larger image of the poster can be found here.

I’ll be buying tickets this weekend, and I’m already excited. :) To whet your appetite, let me repost the descriptions of the Hudhud and Ullalim from our Myth List:

  • Hudhud hi Aliguyon (Ifugao)
    • The life of Aliguyon, dealing with his eight year war against Pumbakhayon, which results in the two adversaries gaining respect for each other, until at last peace is made between the two peoples.
  • The Kalinga Ullalim
    • The ullalims in the book (ullalim is a general term for ballads that “eulogize bravery”) deal with the Banna-Dulliyaw Cycle of Southern Kalinga. The first deals with how Banna is born (through the intercession of a piece of betel nut-his mother eats a slice which his father owned and magically conceives) and rescues his father. The second ullalim is the tale of the ordeals Banna has to undergo (several headhunting expeditions, village annihilations, giant exterminations – the typical mythical courtship) in order to win the hand of Laggunawa, who had been promised to Dungdungan.

Komix 101: Required Reading at Fully Booked

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 6 - 2010

The Center for East Asian Languages is holding a seminar entitled “Komix101: Required Comic Book Reading for the Summer” that will tackle recommended comic books and graphic novels, for those looking for something to read this summer. Your guide on this little tour will be none other than Budjette Tan, co-creator of Trese and comics/komiks aficionado.

  • Date: Saturday, May 8, 2010
  • Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Location: U-View Theater, Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street
  • This seminar is for free.

On May 15, a similar seminar will be held covering anime and manga, to be run by Raymond Sison, also from 2-4, at the same venue.

Call for Submissions: Diaspora Ad Astra

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 5 - 2010


Estranghero Press has released a call for submissions for their newest anthology, and, as expected, this time the genre is science fiction–specifically science fiction featuring Filipino characters or the Filipino race (note that this criteria was not present in either their horror or secondary world fantasy anthologies). The title of the new anthology is Diaspora Ad Astra, and you can check the submission guidelines here.

Webkomik Launch: Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 3 - 2010


Over at indie komplex, Mervin Malonzo has announced that his new webcomic, “Tabi Po” has officially launched as of today, with the first six pages having been posted online. Now, this komik is not for minors, nor for people who have weak stomachs (so you can tell it’s also NSFW), but if you don’t fall under either of those categories, the art alone makes it worth a visit, as you can see from the teaser page below (with the NSFW bits cut out).


“Tabi Po” will feature, in Malonzo’s words, “mga tauhang tiyak na iyong kagigiliwan – mga aswang, maligno, lamang-lupa at iba pang kagiliw-giliw na mga nilalang” so I’m sure it will interest readers of Rocket Kapre. From the looks of it, the posting schedule appears to be once a week, every Monday, so check back after voting next Monday for some new pages. Good to see more Filipino artists putting out webcomics, which I think are a great way to build an audience.



About Me

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.