Archive for the ‘Features/Interviews’ Category

What is #RP612Fic (2016 edition)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On June - 5 - 2016

In one week, this coming Sunday, we celebrate the Independence Day of the Philippines. By celebrate, of course, it’s time once again for #RP612Fic. Those of you who have participated before know the drill, but I’ve updated the primer a little this year, so both old hands and mystified newbies may want to read on.

What is #RP612fic?It’s Filipino creators coming together on Twitter to celebrate Philippine Independence Day vial alternative history, creating tweet-length stories, or attaching images or .GIFs (or any media really) and sending them out into the wild with the #RP612fic hashtag. (I used to explain what a hashtag is here, but it’s 2016 guys.)

How do I join with art? Just send the pics out on social media with the hashtag #RP612Fic. Here are some examples from Studio Salimbal.

When did it begin? In 2009, and we’ve been doing it annually ever since.

Who started it? That’d be me, Paolo Chikiamco, of Rocket Kapre and Studio Salimbal.

So you control it? Uhm. No. You can’t control how a hashtag is used on Twitter. And especially not when it has hundreds of thousands of Tweets. Did you know that for a while we were the #1 Twitter Trend in the entire world (not just the Philippines) in 2014?

So what’s your role? Aside from founding the event, and archiving the (early) content, I basically remind people when it’s almost that time of the year, and occasionally explain to people that, no, Rizal didn’t actually come back from the dead to become part of a meme.

What do memes have to do with alternate history? One of the most popular ways of re-imagining historical figures/events is by mixing them up with contemporary pop culture, and memes are a part of contemporary pop culture.

Isn’t that disrespectful to our national heroes? I hardly think they mind. In fact, I’d assume most would be happy to have a society where this kind of silly remembrances are allowed. Many of our national heroes were revolutionaries, which means they didn’t place much stock in sacred cows — I don’t think they should be turned into those themselves.

Will this bother some people? Sure, but no one is required to participate, and there are ways to mute a hashtag on Twitter (Google is your friend).

At the end of the day, #RP612Fic is a way some of us choose to celebrate June 12, in a manner that actually has some relation to history (rather than, I don’t know, having a shoe sale). Personally, I love the tweets/stories/images that are closer to what most people would recognize as alternate history — I love, for example, learning about heroes and events that I otherwise wouldn’t have, because people used them in an #RP612Fic story — but the hashtag has a life of its own, and as long as people are having good natured fun with it, I’m happy.

That being said, there are a few best practices that should be emphasized.

Best practices? Glad you asked! As I said, there is no way for me to control what people use the hashtag for, or how they use it. I can’t police the damn thing, but as its founder what I can tell you what kinds of acts aren’t part of the spirit of #RP612Fic — most of these are bad form anyway, and should be common sense, but here we go:

* Credit Creators / Don’t Plagiarize: There are easy ways to share a tweet or image in a way that acknowledges the original creator. Don’t rip off other people because you want to be popular for the fifteen minutes it takes for the Internet to realize what you did. Like I said, it’s easy to find the original creators, which means it’s very easy to prove that you’re a plagiarist, which is a label that kind of sticks. Pro Tip: If you want to be popular, don’t make yourself a pariah.

* Don’t Harass: You want to do slash fic for #RP612Fic — go for it! Don’t put your ultra-religious next door neighbor in it because his dog shit on your door mat (again). Of course if your next door neighbor is a public figure and you’re making a point about his stance on LGBT rights, then that’s likely the kind of satire a public figure has to deal with, but not Juan from next door… even if he has a literally shitty dog.

* All in Good Fun: This is an election year, and that can bring out the worst in people. Sometimes this is righteous anger and justified, and #RP612Fic could be just the escape valve you need… but at the end of the day, I created #RP612Fic to be a celebration, so do it because you find it fun — not just for you, but for Filipinos who may have very different beliefs from yours. If you’re going to participate, you need to be willing to see those ideas / fics / people on your timeline — and if you don’t want that, then opt out. God knows there are many other ways that you can celebrate independence — taking care of your own well-being is more important than participating in #RP612Fic, no matter how cool it is.

So when does #RP612Fic begin this year? People use the hashtag year round nowadays, but the bulk of the tweets traditionally come from 6PM on June 11, to 6AM of June 13.

Can I interview you about #RP612Fic for — Not this year! But feel free to use anything you find in this primer.


Recordings from the 5th Filipino Reader Con

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 10 - 2015

The 5th Filipino Reader Con took place a few weeks ago, and as always it was a great deal of fun. No local convention truly feels like :coming home” to me like the ReaderCon does. The theme of this year’s activities  was “Toward a Reading Revolution” — you can feel that readers are starting to influence local publishing more, but the revolution, in the sense of a radical change in how things work, isn’t here yet. What we do have are a lot of discussions about where we should be headed and how readers can use their newfound power. As has become customary, I was the emcee of the event and moderated a pair of panels, which I’m sharing with you all here.


This panel was basically meant to be a power fantasy, with the panelists replacing the Powers That Be — any powers necessary to make their bookish wishes come true! It’s primarily a way to talk about being a reader in the Philippines — in general and for the panelists and audience specifically — and in the process of checking off things from a big wishlist, we get an idea of what can be done to make readers happier. We touched upon a wide variety of topics here, including the type of books we wanted to see, the role of libraries, the Filipiniana section, and the need to get books and bookish events outside Metro Manila.


Eriele Japsay is a 19 year old book blogger and cosplayer. She loves bringing book characters to life, thus making her cosplay debut as America Singer from the Selection Series during Kiera Cass’ first book signing event in 2013. She is now taking her degree in Marketing in University of Santo Tomas.

Blooey Singson is the owner and author of Bookmarked!, a blog for book reviews, author interviews, and other things book-related.  An administrator of the book club Flips Flipping Pages, a member of the Filipino Book Bloggers Group, and organizing chair of the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards for the annual Filipino Reader Conference, Blooey reads over 250 books a year and cannot leave a bookstore empty-handed. Blooey is also a published children’s book illustrator and a partner in a public relations firm in Makati.

 Tarie Sabido is a fangirl and her fandoms are children’s and young adult literature. She is the chair of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), a nonprofit organization committed to the development and promotion of children’s and young adult literature in the country.
(Note there are two recording files here, but both cover more or less the whole panel. Volume is a bit low, sadly.)

Readers Take the Reins (MP3)

Readers Take the Reins (CAF)


The panel’s goals were two-fold: to detail a variety of ways that different kinds of readers can help different kinds of authors, and to inspire readers to go out and support authors in a variety of ways. The feeling I’ve always had is that readers would be more than happy to do more to support authors (within their individual comfort zones) if they felt that their actions truly mattered to the authors in tangible / important ways. The ensuing discussion was very lively — any panel with bebang usually is — and touches upon where authors earn the most money, how to spread the word about a good book, and “shelving problems.”

Si Bebang Siy ay isang manunulat, tagasalin at copyright advocate. Isa rin siyang lover… as in book lover. Nag-umpisa ang hilig niya sa pagbabasa nang matuklasan niya ang matalinghagang mga entry sa kolum na Xerex ng tabloid na Abante noong siya ay bata pa. Sa kasalukuyan, abala siya sa pagtataguyod ng mga writing at bookmaking workshop sa buong bansa dahil naniniwala siyang lahat ng tao, anumang edad at background, ay kayang-kayang gumawa ng sarili nilang aklat. Makipag-ugnayan kay Bebang sa pamamagitan ng email:

 Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance and young adult novellas. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication from the Ateneo de Manila University and a master’s degree in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines. Her contemporary romance novellas won the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards for Chick Lit in 2012 (Fairy Tale Fail) and 2013 (That Kind of Guy).

Kimberly Joy Villanueva started writing when she was in high school. She daydreams most of the day, thinking about what ifs, and scenarios for her stories. Music helps her in creating plot outlines. Before becoming a writer, she was an avid reader. She’s a bibliophile. Time is irrelevant when she’s reading. Her first book, The Bet, became a major motion picture this 2015. Just the Way You Are was produced by Star Cinema, starring Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano. Her other stories are posted on the online site Wattpad. She hosts the yearly Wattpad meet-ups as Wattpad Filipino Ambassador. She took up Marketing Management in Holy Angel University, and now, she works as a Marketing Officer at Jocson College.

Tepai Pascual is a Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman and worked as an Art Director in a top advertising agency, now creates storyboards for TV commercial / movie directors. She is co-founder of Meganon Comics and one of the organizers of Komiket. She’s best known for her National Book Award Nomimated graphic novel, MAKTAN 1521. Tepai also produced three more comic book series: Mark 9Verse47 with Maika Ezawa; Noodle Boy and Buhay Habangbuhay (Life Afterlife) with Paolo Herras and has a comic strip series in Adobo Magazine called Krokis.

Supporting Authors We Love (MP3)

If you’re interested in attending or participating in the Filipino Reader Con, please do join our community on Facebook. Thanks!

It’s the first of June, which means that in less than two weeks, on June 12, we celebrate Independence Day here in the Philippines. It is an occasion which I, and a growing number of Filipino writers and artists, like to commemorate with a little something we call #RP612fic.

For anyone late to the party, here’s all you need to know:

  • What is #RP612fic?It’s Filipino authors coming together on Twitter to create tweet-length stories (130 characters, because you need to leave space for the hashtag) and sending them out into the wild with the #RP612fic hashtag. When the event is over, I’ll collate all submissions into a single post here on the site.
    • What’s a Hashtag? It’s a word/code you put in your tweet after the “#”. It acts as a label of sorts and makes it easier for me to find all participating stories.
  • When does this take place? At least once a year on Independence Day, but sometimes we participate in other events, such as a Blog Action Day. For any compilation or selection post I do, I’ll be looking for stories sent from 6PM on June 11, to 6AM of June 13.
  • What kind of stories should I submit? For Independence Day, I’d love to see alternative history stories, but it’s not like I’m going to tell you to delete your 130 character realist micro fiction opus.
  • What if I’m not on Twitter and I want to participate? Just send me your tweet length stories via rocketkapre[at] and I’ll try to tweet them out myself.
  • Artists are also free to participate. Just tell your stories with a single picture instead of a single tweet, and send it out on Twitter, or to my email account, with or without text (but if you put text, keep it to the Twitter limit, which includes the link to your image, if possible.) If you decide to illustrate one of the old RP612fic stories, from my previous compilations, please indicate the username of the original author, as found in the list.

I’ve pretty much given up on coming up with a comprehensive archive of #RP612fic tweets — to give you an idea of how big the celebration has become, here’s a reminder that we were the #1 hashtag in the world for a time last year — but will of course retweet any that catch my eye, from my personal twitter account (@anitero) or the rocketkapre account (@rocketkapre).

I don’t think we can get any bigger this year — though I’ve been wrong before — but I would like to see more #RP612fic illustrations this year. If you’re in a doodling mood during the next week or so, and want to try to get some new eyes on your art, you could do worse than envisioning an alternate Philippines and uploading your art with #RP612fic on June 12. We usually get local news sites compiling choice tweets and artwork with the hashtag, so it could be a good opportunity. I’ll also try to compile artwork with the hashtag. If you’d like to see how artists have contributed before, here’s a gallery of Studio Salimbal artwork from last year.

Recordings from the UP Myth and Writing Roundtable

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 22 - 2015

Last March 19, 2015, the University of the Philippines Press 00 in honor of their 50th anniversary and in honor of the late Dr. Damiana L. Eugenio — had a roundtable on “Myth and Writing.” I attended the event, and for the sake of those who were unable to do so — there was a lot of interest, but it was a weekday — I’ve uploaded my recordings from the event. Not all the recordings are of great quality, but hey, better than nothing right?

To give you an idea of what to expect, it wasn’t a roundtable in the sense of a facilitated discussion with a series of questions being posed to the panel. From what I gather, the panelists seem to have been asked to read/present an excerpt from their work, then talk generally about their writing in relation to myth, followed by a general Q + A. Not all panelists adhered to that structure, mind you, which was good — I personally found Nikki Alfar’s portion to be the meatiest, even if it was the shortest. Panelsists spoke in a mixture of English and Filipino, although except for one it was mostly English. Also, Budjette Tan was unfortunately not in attendance.


Reaction Speech at the 5th Philippine International Literary Festival

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 12 - 2014


This morning, I was asked by the NBDB to give a reaction to the Report on the State of the Book Industry Address given by Ma’am Neni Sta.-Romana Cruz, speaking from the perspective of an author-creator. I’ve received a few requests for the text of the speech, and since this is one of the few times I didn’t extemporize (much), here it is. (Weird to post it without the speech I’m responding T) but I’m not sure I have the permission to post that one.)

I’ll be back there tomorrow for the Contract Consultation activity, then all day for the Filipino Reader Con and, of course, the Mythspace launch.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the speech:

Read the rest of this entry »

Alternative Alamat Interview: Budjette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 25 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch today– yep, the 25th — I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.



 Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

One of favorite bits from Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS was this vignette of how Egyptian Gods now run a small funeral parlor in Middle-America. Which made me wonder, where are the old gods of death from Philippine mythology? What are they doing now in the city? I then remember a story my mom told me, about a story she heard from the sales lady in the mall, who heard it from the security of the mall; about how, every now and again, senior citizens were found dead in the movie theater of the same mall. Obviously, they died of natural causes. Well, maybe they did.
This one was also a bit different, in that it didn’t start with a call from the police, but from Spunkmeyer…
I guess I just wanted a break from the usual way Trese gets brought in for a case (Captain Guerrero calling her up). It was also an opportunity to shed more light on Spunkmeyer of the City Morgue, who’s actually patterned after fellow author, David Hontiveros.
How different is it, writing a prose Trese story as opposed to a comic book script?

Whenever I write a TRESE prose story, it allows me to immerse myself (and the reader) in her world more.
When I’m writing the comic book script, I can easily just tell Kajo, “Page 1, Panel 1: we are inside The Diabolical. It’s a Saturday night. Full of people bouncing up and down the dance floor.”

But when I’m writing a short story, I need to guide the reader into that world and get to spend more time talking about the details of Trese’s Manila. So, I end up knowing more about it and at the same time the reader comes along for the ride.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?
I had fun revealing those bits about Spunkmeyers’ back story.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?
Usually, it’s the middle part. I usually know how things will end and sometime I know where things start. So, it’s trying to figure out how to get there that’s the problem.
How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?
Oh wow! I have no idea. Does the legend of Malakas at Maganda count? That was probably my first exposure to a “creation myth”, which confused the hell out of me, since as far as we were taught in school, we all started from Adam and Eve. So, who the heck were Malakas at Maganda? Took me awhile before I sorted all that out.
Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?
Unfortunately, I can’t really name a specific one. I think all of our major myths and epic poems should be adapted into some new form. I recently attended a book conference in Singapore and the featured country of the year was India. One talk specifically focused on the Indian comic book market, which has numerous adaptation of their myths. It seemed like every couple of years, they’d have a new version of their myth, retold for a new generation. It would be great to see that happen for the Philippines.
Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?
What about the myth of The Honest President? No? That doesn’t count?

New Alternative Alamat Book Launch Details

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 22 - 2014

Here’s the new poster and some new details for the new launch date of the expanded Alternative Alamat print edition. It will be on July 25, Friday, from 4PM onwards, at Powerbooks Greenbelt 3 (2nd floor). Here’s the official Facebook event page.I’ve also updated the Book FAQ page to reflect the suggested retail price of PHP250. See you there!

Alternative Alamat Interview: David Hontiveros

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 17 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch this coming Saturday [EDIT: LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO JULY 25, FRIDAY, 4PM, SAME VENUE] I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.


David Hontiveros, author of “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan”, was a 1997 National Book Award Finalist in the Best Comic Book category for “Dhampyr” (drawn by Oliver Pulumbarit), and a 2002 Palanca Award Winner (2nd Place in the Future Fiction- English Category) for his short story, “Kaming Mga Seroks.” He has three horror/dark fantasy novellas out under the Penumbra imprint, published by Visprint, as well as a digital novel, “Pelicula”, from Bronze Age Media. His on-going comic book series, “Bathala: Apokalypsis”, is also available digitally from Flipside. He has had his short fiction, film reviews, articles, and comics appear in several Philippine publications. He has adapted Bret Harte (no, not the wrestler) and Edgar Allan Poe (twice!) into comic book form for Graphic Classics. He may be observed online at (where he blathers on about film) and (where assorted bits of his work are housed). He would like to humbly dedicate the story to his four current grandspawn, in chronological order: Gray, Mischa, Chloe, and Sophia, who will keep the flames of his family history burning on, down through the years.

While the Philippines is home to distinct cultural groups, a certain amount of cultural cross-pollination did take place. The results are myths which are variations of the same themes, and characters which appear in more than one culture, or who bear the same name but with an altered form. But, as David says of his story in Alternative Alamat: there is power in words and there is truth in myth. If these characters did exist…which version would be true? Would it matter?

Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

“Balat, Buwan, Ngalan” is about Bakunawa, the creature that’s blamed by legend for eclipses, this massive beast who repeatedly attempts to swallow the moon, but is never quite successful.

One of the things I tried to do in the story was to provide motivation for Bakunawa, to add an emotional dimension to the legend, to cast the myth in the light of an unrequited love, which is something I think we can all identify and sympathize with.

The story’s about other things as well: the importance of legacies and heritage, and of stories and narrative, particularly the oral tradition.

The structure you used for the story was very striking. What led you to the decision to construct the story in this way?

While I wanted to tell a version of the Bakunawa myth, I also wanted the reading experience to be one of discovery, in much the same way it’s a journey of revelation for the unnamed protagonist.

So the order of the three stories is decidedly non-linear, in the same manner in which we discover things in real life, not in a straight line but in a patchwork way.

We’re told little stories here and there, not necessarily in any particular linear order, and these stories, over time, can eventually be fit together to form a larger narrative.

As I mentioned earlier, among other things, “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan” is about stories and narrative. It’s about the importance of storytelling, and what we can glean from all the tales that we’re told. It’s about the interaction between the storyteller and the audience.

Which is also one of the reasons why I chose second person narrative, since it literally places the reader in the position of the protagonist, who is the audience to the karibang’s storyteller.

Thus, the identification becomes more solid: the reader is “listening” to the stories, just as the protagonist is.

And while first person narrative could also achieve similar results, I feel it would also make the protagonist’s journey a little more specific and particular, whereas second person makes reader identification a little easier.

And I wanted that universality, which is why, even within the story, I make no explicit mention of the protagonist’s gender. You, as the reader, could be male or female, and still slide smoothly into the protagonist’s skin, for the duration of the story.

I also wanted a wide berth between the narrative styles of the sections concerning the protagonist and the three stories.

While the three legends have a very distinct “voice” patterned on the oral storytelling tradition, the sections of the story featuring the nameless protagonist have a very modern, contemporary “voice,” steeped in pop culture and 21st century trappings.

To me, that helped underscore what I’ve learned from distinguished voices like Joseph Campbell and Rollo May: that ancient myths can help us navigate the “modern” problems we face on a daily basis.

That these aren’t just some musty old stories that have no bearing on today’s world of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

That these tales are just as relevant today as they were back then, when they were first being told around campfires, and by traveling minstrels and bards, and in smoky, raucous mead halls.

So it was a matter of presenting these old legends in the context of a very modern world and having those legends reveal something to the protagonist that he (or she) couldn’t have discovered otherwise.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?

I think that would have to be a toss-up between,

A) the period when I’m formulating the story, doing the research and gathering together all the separate strands that make up the narrative, since, at that point, the story itself is still all potential, it’s as grand and as sweeping as my imagination allows; at that point, it’s still the best story I’m ever going to write; and

B) those points in the writing process proper when I’m firing on all cylinders, and the words and the language just all come together with surprising ease, and I’m laying down sentences and paragraphs just as I imagined them in my head, or, on those rarer occasions, when what comes out onto paper is even better than what I’d imagined.

(And this would be the same answer for any other writing I do, not just for this particular story.)

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?

In relation to the previous question, I suppose the most difficult (or perhaps “frustrating” would be a better term) would be when, for whatever reason, I just can’t seem to make the writing as good as how I imagined it in my head, as if my abilities can’t seem to capture in reality the rhythms of the prose that sound so amazing and fantastic in my imagination.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

There isn’t a clear, momentous memory of my introduction to Philippine myth, though I imagine it must have been through folklore and the lower myths, stories of aswang and manananggal and kapre.

My siblings had stories of our family’s ancestral home (a place I have never been able to visit, as, by the time I was born, my family had ceased visiting the house for vacations), which included tales of a woman who might have been an aswang and a large man who might have been a kapre.

Hearing these as a young boy only served to enhance the feeling I had that the world was a very curious and strange place…

I’ve also always been a huge mythology geek, ever since grade school, and though I was first inducted into the Greek myths, and by extension, the Roman, as well as Egyptian, I eventually wended my way all around the globe and then began to unearth our own local myths and legends.

Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?

Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?

At this point, I’m going to have to cheat and reply to both these questions with one answer.

Now, I may be a self-confessed mythology geek, but that’s a very far cry from an expert; I imagine experts are the mega-hyper-geeks of their field of expertise. Like Joseph Campbell or Rollo May or Father Francisco Demetrio.

And, since I’m not an expert on local myths, I’m certain I don’t know even a quarter of all the Filipino myths out there, so it’s difficult to actually peg down a “favorite,” one that perhaps I’d like to see as an adaptation.

The closest I can come to having a “favorite,” I suppose, would be either of the two myths I’ve done more than just passing, casual research on, one being Bakunawa, and the other, Agyu, whose legend I’m currently approaching through the filter of the superhero genre in The ‘Verse comics I’m keeping myself busy with.

The crux of AGYU, the comic, is definitely “shaman as superhero,” and though earlier, ultimately aborted efforts to get AGYU on the comic page hewed closer to the legend (currently, the approach I’m taking is perhaps a bit more oblique than previous iterations), I’m having a lot of fun with the idea right now, along with my AGYU collaborator, Vinnie Pacleb.

As to the “Why?”

With Agyu, I think it’s probably the whole sprawling epic, proto-superhero feel to his legend: bravery, heroism, evil bad guy, struggle, death, rescue, resurrection… it’s all in there, just without the spandex.

With Bakunawa, I guess it’s that fascinating idea of how the human mind, without the rigidity of science, can make artistic associations and take creative leaps in order to explain massive phenomena like eclipses.

It isn’t the planets and satellites and stellar hoohah aligning and blocking each other in our view; it’s a gigantic serpent/dragon (or spider or lion or dog or jaguar or toad or wolf) that’s actually swallowing the moon (or sun).

And we, puny mortals, actually have the power to scare the hungry beast away by making noise…

The thought that we can have that kind of cosmic agency in our world is so awesome…

Alternative Alamat Interview: Timothy James Dimacali

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 17 - 2014

For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch this coming Saturday [EDIT: LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO JULY 25, FRIDAY, 4PM, SAME VENUE] I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.


Timothy James M. Dimacali, author of “Keeper of My Sky”, has always been fascinated by the intersection of science and mythology. He is currently the Science and Technology Editor of GMA News Online, but loves to play his violin every now and then. He has been a fellow for fiction at the annual Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the Iligan National Writers Workshop, and graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines.

The people of Panay tell the story of the god Tungkung Langit’s eternal search for his wife, the goddess Alunsina. They speak of how Tungkung Langit scattered Alunsina’s jewels in the sky in an effort to call her back to him; how her necklace became the stars; her comb, the moon; her crown, the sun. According to the old story, she never returned. Perhaps she had a good reason.

Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

It’s a love story based on a very simple premise: What is it like for a god to be lonely?

The structure you used for the story was very striking. What led you to the decision to construct the story in this way?

I tend to write my stories in chunks, not necessarily in a specific order. If I think of an interesting scene or turn of phrase, I’ll write it at the bottom of the page. I’d collect several of these and move them up the page if I find a place for them to fit. But somewhere along the line when writing Keeper of My Sky, I realized that a lot of the random scenes I had thought up could be tied together as a parallel narrative. From that point on, it was just a matter of weaving the two streams together.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?

The whole writing process is fun for me! It’s like being on a rollercoaster that you built yourself, except that you’re riding it *while* building it. You have just a general idea of where you’d like to go, but the track is never quite the way you plan it and you never really know for sure how it’ll all end.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?

I honestly think it’s waiting for the pieces to fall into place. Sometimes I’d stare at the page and all I’d see are just bits and pieces, fragments that I’m not quite sure will fit together if at all. And that gut-wrenching feeling when you know that you’ll inevitably have to throw something out.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

My single fondest memory is of a little book of Philippine myths and fairy tales, written in the 1960′s, that I found in my grandfather’s house.

Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?

Not any story, in particular, but the fabric of it all: the texture of the languages and cultures. I’ve always been fascinated by how closely Tolkien’s world echoed the myths and cultures of ancient Europe, and I feel that something similar can be done to Philippine mythology as well.

Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?

Seriously, it’s always been Tungkung Langit and Alunsina. Yes, that’s two characters, but they might as well be a single one. We often talk about lovers being “made” for each other, but just imagine what it must be like to be gods who have only ever existed for each other. And then imagine that, despite being a god, you can never be with literally the only other being in the entire Universe who completes you. That’s the loneliness that only a god could know.

In the run-up to the print launch, I’ll be reposting old material on Alternative Alamat that’s still relevant for the new, expanded edition. Today, I’ll be reposting the relevant parts of an interview (conducted by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a contributor to Alamat)  that originally appeared on the late, much-missed, World SF Blog. It provides some insight into the editorial side of things, and why I initially went the digital only route.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to start Alternative Alamat?

First, my more selfish reason: I was very into mythology as a child–but it was always Western mythology, not Philippine mythology. I only discovered Philippine myths well into my teens, and was mortified both by my ignorance and by the fact that I couldn’t see many modern writers drawing from these old stories. The reason I put up Rocket Kapre was to allow me to produce/encourage stories of the type that I would want to see on the market, and from the very beginning, I knew that one of my first projects would be to create an anthology which would bring together such stories, or give those stories a reason to be written.

My second reason was to help, in some small way, to promote awareness of both modern Philippine speculative fiction and Philippine mythology. In a sense, both are still invisible, internationally and in the Philippines itself, and one of the most effective ways I know of becoming more visible is simply by producing more content. To put out a book is, I think, the literary equivalent of “showing up”.

How did you first become acquainted with speculative fiction?

I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy and science fiction. The first novel I ever read was a fantasy novel (YA wasn’t a category back then). I’m an only child and, in what I’m sure is a familiar story, I found a haven in these other worlds.

Now, my encounter with specifically Philippine speculative fiction came much later, in the form of, first, the Mythology Class comics, and second, the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology.

Did your experience as a slush reader for Fantasy Magazine come into play when editing the stories for the anthology?

Yes, in the sense that my experience in the slush pile helped me refine my personal taste in short fiction. I find it much easier now to decide whether or not a story is a good fit for me. I did, however, have to always remember that I was an editor as well as a slush reader. As a slush reader, it doesn’t usually matter if a story is “fixable”–it’s a pass or fail. As an editor, those aren’t my only options.

What was your criteria in selecting the stories?

The presence of a mythological element–whether that be in the form of a character, a concept, an artifact–was the first factor I considered. Equally important to me, however, was for the stories to have a clear and coherent arc–even with the more experimental formats employed in the last two stories of the book, readers will know what the stories are about. One of the goals of the anthology was to offer a glimpse of our cultural heritage, and it didn’t serve that purpose to have stories that were amorphous or unclear.

Who was your target reader for the book? Were you gearing it towards local readers or to an international audience?

I tried to make a book that would appeal to any fantasy reader who was interested in mythology–particularly the lesser known mythologies. As far as nationality goes, I didn’t make a distinction between a Filipino and non-Filipino reader because the sad fact is that Philippine mythology is, for the most part, a mystery to both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. It’s one of the reasons I put so much non-fiction content in the anthology.

What made you decide to go with an eBook release?

Lower costs, wider distribution, and faster turnaround. That and the fact that I probably buy ten books a month for my Kindle, so while I still love physical books, I love digital books just as much. That being said, I am still considering a print run, if only so I can put Alternative Alamat on library shelves.



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.