It’s a new year, and for the first interview of 2012, it’s my great pleasure to present a short question and answer session with Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Rochita attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in 2009 as that year’s Octavia Butler Scholar. Her work has been published in print and online, both abroad as well as in the Philippines. Some of the publications she has appeared in are: Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology (second and fourth volumes). She has stories coming out in the Second Apex Book of World SF and Realms of Fantasy. She is currently working on a tribal sf novel.
Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?
The inspiration for this story came from reading the poetry in Mangyan Heritage. I had an exchange with the curator of the Mangyan Heritage Institute and I expressed my desire to use the poetry in some of my work.
Harinuo’s love song was an experiment in combining mythic storytelling and the Ambahan. In a certain sense, Harinuo’s Love Song resembles the story of the Star Maiden. It’s not the same though.
What made you think of using elements from Mangyan poetry and Ifugao folklore in the same story?
To be honest, I didn’t set out with a definite plan. I was reading the poetry and I allowed myself to be led by it to the story which turned out to be based on Ifugao folklore. I suppose this was influenced by my absorption in tribal lore at the time of writing. I was very much inspired by the poetry of the Mangyan and wanted to showcase it against a background that was much more familiar to me which was the Ifugao culture.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?
What I enjoyed the most about writing this story was how it just flowed. I wasn’t really concerned about whether it was publishable or not. I just wanted to put the words on the page. To me capturing that image and the feeling was very important. In writing this story, I didn’t pay attention to the conventions of story writing. I think I was more immersed in the language and the rhythm of the language. I was not so much concerned with writing a traditional story as being true to the spirit of the telling.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?
Letting go and sharing it with readers. As I said, it was very much a personal experiment. Stuff like this isn’t easy to let go of. I guess, it’s also because it exposes the artist’s vulnerable soul.
How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?
I think that we grew up with it in a certain sense. It’s kind of impossible to be unaware of certain mythologies when you grow up in a tribal area. Later, I became more fascinated with Philippine myths and I wanted to read more and more that was Filipino.
Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?
“Aponibolinayen and the Sun.” It was this tale about a maiden who got married to the sun. I liked that story a lot.
Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?
I am rather fascinated by the character of Bugan. Perhaps because this name is the default for a lot of female characters in Ifugao mythology. In any case, I find myself speculating on Bugan and wondering what if she was a recurring being. I’m still pondering on it and I know I’ll probably write something about that sometime in the future. But to me, Bugan is fascinating because the myths connected to that name allow the imaginer to travel diverse pathways and still in a sense remain tied to the original tale.