Archive for the ‘Features/Interviews’ Category

Movie Review: RPG: Metanoia

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 30 - 2010

There’s a lot to like in Thaumatrope Animation’s first film, RPG: Metanoia, the first full length computer generated animated film to be both created and commercially released in the Philippines. It’s also the first animated film to be produced in 3D, but since I only caught the 2D edition (not a huge 3D fan anyway), there’s not much I can say about that aspect of the film.

What I can say is that it’s a pretty good movie (note the absence of the patronizing “… for a Filipino film” addendum) that those of a specific target audience will enjoy–if they can get beyond the film’s implied message, but more on that later. You can find a plot synopsis at the Wikipedia page, so let  me jump straight into the review.

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The 2010 Philippine Spec Fic Review Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 30 - 2010

This post continues my 2010 roundup of reviews that may be of interest to Rocket Kapre readers. A few days ago I posted my list of 2010 komiks reviews, whether or not the komiks were speculative in nature. Today I’m doing the same for reviews that came out this year for books by Filipinos in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres (regardless of the publication date of the book – it’s the date of the review that matters). The list is much shorter than that for komiks, but then, there are fewer works of prose speculative fiction than there are komiks. I do hope that this changes in the future, both in terms of content and commentary, but I’m heartened that we have a very active book blogging scene here, and Chachic over at Filipino Book Bloggers notes when someone has reviewed a local book. With due respect to Bob Ong, I believe that both reviews and critiques (two different things, really) play a part in both improving the quality of fiction and increasing public awareness of a book, something which is very helpful to writers who aren’t residents of the bestseller lists. All of the book bloggers and reviewers I’ve met do what they do out of love, and I agree with Marianne Villanueva when she says that every review is a service. I hope that those who provide these services, whether they be bloggers or academics, receive more respect in the future.

Now, on to the list. As always, if I missed anything, please let me know in the comments section.

The 2010 Komiks Review Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 28 - 2010

Christmas is over and the year is winding down, and I thought this week would be a good time to roundup all the reviews of komiks and Philippine spec fic I could find from the year that was. I decided to start with komiks because there were, or at least it seems to me, a great number of komiks reviews this year as compared to previous years. When I was handed editorial duties for Pinoy Pop, one of the first things I did was pester Gerry Alanguilan for an interview to discuss his post “The Need for Serious Criticism“.  The result was the two part “The Levels of Komiks Criticism” (Part 1) (Part 2) and while Pinoy Pop isn’t a going concern anymore, I still believe that a vibrant community of vocal and critical readers is essential to the development of good komiks. I understand that many creators do what they do out of love, and certainly there are ways to be critical without being mean-spirited, but we all need to accept the fact that if you put something out there for public consumption, you need to be able to take the good with the bad.

I’ll continue to do what I can from Rocket Kapre and in other venues, and I hope more readers decide to critique komiks in the future. For now, however, a shout out to all the reviewers who took the time to put virtual pen to virtual paper, and to all creators who never cease trying to better themselves.

Here’s my list of online komik reviews for the year 2010. As always, there’s no way for me to ensure that this is comprehensive, so please feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments section:

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Readers, Writers, and Marianne Villanueva

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 23 - 2010

In the two years or so since I began to consider myself to be an actual “writer”, one of my greatest pleasures has been meeting and conversing with others who shared my passion. This includes both other writers (and I owe a debt to Kyu, Mia, Joey, Karl and Carljoe for being the first ones to lure me out of the comforts of my home for these conversations) and readers (such as the Filipino Book Bloggers), because every writer must also be an ardent reader (in desire, if not in practice, due to time’s tyranny). There is, I think, often a strange and awkward silence between Filipino readers and writers, like childhood friends who have grown apart and then meet again, neither wishing to probe their earlier shared joys for fear that the other will think them juvenile. A sad state for two groups that should be locked in a symbiotic relationship.

This is why the success of the informal meet-and-greet with Marianne Villanueva (“The Lost Language” and next year’s “Flight”), graciously hosted by Triccie at the Libreria Bookstore at Cubao X, fills me with both joy and optimism. The informal nature of the event (and the venue–I can’t imagine a formal affair that could survive the relaxed atmosphere of Libreria unscathed) allowed an actual conversation between the readers and the writer, one free of any hint of self-conscious marketing or PR. Of course, most of the credit here belongs to Marianne, who is an author who seems uniquely suited to this kind of meet-up: she is warm, candid, gregarious, and genuinely interested in other people. I remember exactly the moment where my anxieties were laid to rest: when, upon hearing Blooey and Honey’s first names, Marianne whipped out a small notebook and began writing them down with evident glee. For all that we learned from Marianne that afternoon, a woman who has a plethora of experiences in the publishing and literary spheres both here and in the United States, she was as intrigued by us as we were by her, and that made a big difference. Marianne did more than sell some books that day–she built new relationships. I hope that in the future, more of us writers can do the same–especially those of us writing genre fiction.

I’m glad that everyone else seems to have had as much fun as I did, Marianne included. Here are posts on the get together from Jason, Chachic and Blooey, as well as a post from Marianne where she answers a few questions that she didn’t have time to address during the meet-up (in the process demonstrating once again her willingness to engage).

Thanks to the book bloggers, and the Flippers, and everyone else who was able to join us last Saturday (including author Danton Remoto and Anvil’s Karina Bolasco) . Let’s do it again soon ^_^

[Title image by Honey and her husband. Great work guys!]

Philippine Robots in Action

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 13 - 2010

As I mentioned last week, the House of Representatives (or at least the lobby of the North Wing) got a dose of science during a three day visit from representatives of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), our student representatives to the 7th World Robot Olympiad, and a pair of home grown terminators robots, who were more than willing to show me their evident superiority moves. Well, actually the robots ignored me, but luckily their human attendants were more gracious, and allowed me to take a few videos with my N8.

Nerrisa Nicolas, one of the team of high school students from Dr. Yanga Colleges Inc. who brought home the gold medal at the 7th World Robot Olympiad, gives me a demonstration of Pnoy (note the glasses), the multi-lingual tourist robot who helped them bag the gold. She tells us what materials he’s made of (you may be surprised), how long it took to create him, and what he can do–make sure you stick around until the end of the video for a ‘dawww…’ moment (well, for me at least).

More videos, this time with Larry Labuyo, after the cut.

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Komik Review: Marco’s Delivery Service by John Carreon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 3 - 2010

EDIT: [March 2012] This is a review of the original, print edition. I subsequently worked with John “Koi” Carreon on revising the script of the digital edition.

Judging by “Marco’s Delivery Service”(written and illustrated by John Carreon) and its previous production, “My Falling Star Girlfriend”, Ravencage Studios (Facebook page) understands that while you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, it’s important to assume that many of us will do just that. The front and back cover of “Marco’s Delivery Service” (MDS from here on) are sturdy boards, which serve as the canvas for a colored front cover and a black-on-yellow logo at the back, both of which create a feeling of retro-fun. The front cover in particular calls to mind old school rebel-buddies-with-a-fast-ride shows, which is exactly the genre embraced by this stand alone komik, except in an anime influenced futuristic setting: think Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop.

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Trese (and Komiks) After the Award: Budjette and Kajo Interview

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 30 - 2010

For fans of komiks, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo need no introduction, and neither does Trese, their komiks collaboration, now published by Visprint, which is one of the most popular and most successful komik series’ in recent memory. While komiks still remains, at this point, a niche market, Trese continues to make inroads into mainstream consciousness, its most recent success being recognition in the National Book Awards in the category of Graphic Literature. In what I think is their first post-award interview, Kajo and Budjette talk about the success of Trese, the importance of their fans, transmedia storytelling, and the future of Philippine komiks:

ROCKET KAPRE: First of all, congratulations to you both for winning the National Book Award for Graphic Literature. Is it somehow sweeter to win it this year, when you were up against such strong competition, in Francisco Coching’s “El Indio”? (I remember that in his introduction to the first Trese collection, Gerry Alanguilan mentions Coching, so it seems a weird symmetry for Trese to win the award this way.)

KAJO: Thank you. It feels great to be recognized. Good to have additional gallons of inspiration to do more work like TRESE (or in our case, more ‘play’).

BUDJETTE: Of course, it feels great to finally win! How I wish we could’ve been there to accept the award. Last year, me, Kajo, and Nida (our publisher) were all dressed up at the awards and my jaw just dropped when they announced that there was no winner in the category. You’d think that if you’re the only finalist in the category, then your chances for winning are pretty high. But, as it turned out, TRESE: UNREPORTED MURDERS didn’t get the unanimous vote of the judges and that’s why it didn’t win.

So, when I found out that we were up against “El Indio” this year, I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. I was happy we got in finalist status again and I just hoped for the best.

I still remember the early days when Trese came out as individual photocopied issues, each resolving a single case. Do you still remember your initial print runs for the early issues? How many times did you have to reprint/go back to press before the first collection came out from Visprint?

BUDJETTE: When we were just photocopying TRESE in 2005, the only place you could get [the komik] was at Comic Quest. So, we probably just made 30 copies and made more whenever we’d get sold out. And we’d get a call from Comic Quest every couple of weeks that people were looking for Trese.

During the Komikon of 2005, I only had 50 copies made, thinking we wouldn’t sell a lot.

We were sold out before 3pm. I was so happy that we sold 50 copies!

KAJO: During our ‘photocopied Trese’ days, Budj was technically the publisher, so he’s the one who kept track of the copies being made and copies being sold. I rarely cared how many people were buying [the komiks] because for me, the only loyal customers we needed to maintain were Budj and Kaj. It appeared that many people were like Budj and Kaj, ‘specially when Visprint appeared and gave us a giant hand regarding distribution.

Do you remember when it was that you first realized that you had a hit on your hands? That this was going to go beyond the convention circuit?

BUDJETTE: I’m not sure of the exact tipping point of Trese. I was getting an inkling of it when I would spot the occasional review online. (Yes, yes, I Google “Trese” once in awhile.) It amazed me that people took the time to write reviews that read like someone’s thesis report. These were very detailed and passionate reviews about the stories. It was also great to get feedback from guys like Gerry Alanguilan and Marco Dimaano about the book early on.

And then, when we released TRESE: MURDER ON BALETE DRIVE, me and Kajo were invited guests at the Mangaholix Con in SMX, where we sold 100+ copies. By that time, we knew that people really liked our stories.

KAJO: Honestly, I knew we had a hit when I first read Budj’s script ‘At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street’. I knew that this would be a story that Budj and I were going to love reading, so making it was pretty easy. [Budj and Kaj] are easy customers, you see. It’s a little different now, but I still try and please those two and hope that many others are just as willing to ride along.

You two have always seemed to value Trese fandom, featuring fan created artwork in your collections and online. What role has fandom, in particular online fandom, played in the success of Trese? Has any feedback changed how the story was told, or presented?

KAJO: The fandom is very important to the success of Trese. They are the big, smiling reflections in our mirrors that tell us ‘you’re looking good, keep it up’ or ‘you look like crap, don’t go out’. The feedback they share with us is as valuable as a steering wheel in a car, IMHO.

BUDJETTE: I think the biggest change that affected Trese’s storyline was the feedback about the Kambal. More often than not, people would ask, “Who are the Kambal? What are they? Where did they come from?”

Like I mentioned in the afterword of Book 3, the original “secret origin” of the Kambal was just supposed to be mentioned in passing in the very first Trese story. I just wanted to get that out of the way and focus on the mysteries that Trese had to solve. But Kajo deleted those captions and told me that he’d like to do a whole story that just focused on how Trese met the Kambal. I said okay and thought that it was going to be a simple 20-page story where Trese rescues the Kambal and I was going to write that sometime in the future.

More people asked about the Kambal’s origin after Book 2 came out. So, I thought, I might as well tell it in Book3. I was trying to tell it in the usual 20-page structure, but the story just wouldn’t cooperate and it became the 100-page book that was MASS MURDERS.

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Art Fantastic: Interview with VN Benedicto

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 18 - 2010

VN Benedicto (zahntelmo on deviantart) is responsible for the artwork that graces Eliza Victoria’s story, “Elsewhere” in Usok #2. VN grew up in Romblon, in a place where the old stories (which remind VN of Lovecraft) are very much alive. He retained his love for local myths and legends, and is working on Diwata Nation, a shared world project that is very much influenced by Philippine mythology. A member of CG Pintor, and a digital painter ever since his brother gave him a Graphire4, you can view his works at his deviantart gallery. Today, we talk to VN about his love of myth, steampunk, and how he created the art for Elsewhere:

I was struck by the amount of local folklore inspired artwork you have in your deviantart gallery. When did you become interested in Philippine mythology?

I’ve been drawn to folklore ever since I was a little kid. I was fortunate to grow up in a place where oral folklore still exists, if you know where to look.

Where do you turn to for information about Philippine mythology and folklore? I’m a bit of an enthusiast myself, and resource materials can be hard to find.

In the interwebs there’s the Encyclopedia Mythica, Maximo D. Ramos’ A Survey of Philippine Lower Gods, even Wikipedia… also, I found John Maurice Miller’s Philippine Folklore Stories in the Gutenberg Project archives.

What is it about Philippine mythology that inspires you?

I love all mythology and folklore. But of course I’m more fond of the ones I grew up with, it’s what inspired me to be a fantasist.

Do you have a favorite myth or legend? What about a favorite character?

Let’s see… Well in our province there is an island called Kayatung that is supposed to be a capital of the engkanto realm and a lot of lore are tied to it. Old people claim to have seen golden ships arriving or leaving that island, possessed people are supposed to have been taken there during their possession, and people who go crazy are said to have [had their souls brought] there and will remain insane until their soul/essence returns to their body. There are supposed to be invisible bridges and roads connecting Kayatung to other engkanto cities. Sounds like a really nice place to visit, so if I go insane you know where to find me.
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Black Folklore: Andrew Drilon on Dagim and Black Clouds

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 12 - 2010

Project Raincloud–consisting of a movie, a graphic novel, and a website–is one of the most ambitious Filipino creative projects I’ve seen in recent years, and the film, “Dagim”, has just been released as part of this year’s Cinema One Originals for screening at the Shangri-La Cineplex 4. (You can check the schedule here.) Speculative fiction author and komiks creator extraordinaire Andrew Drilon has been a part of the projection almost since its inception, and will be the pen behind the graphic novel component, called “Black Clouds”. He took a moment out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Can you tell us a bit about Project Raincloud, and the extent of your involvement in it?

Project Raincloud is a tri-media project comprised of a film, a graphic novel and a website, all working toward a single concept. It involves a lot of local folklore and re-examining it from a modern perspective, exploring what it might say about us. When I first got involved in this project, I basically sat down with the writer/director of Dagim, Joaquin Valdez; the curator of the website, Misha Lecaros; and Mark Dantes, one of our project coordinators, to hash out the concept, the framing story, the characters and the themes we wanted to explore. Part of this involved outlining a whole world–almost an alternate universe–that might exist between the cracks of the one we know.

The project has been an amazing multimedia exercise.  My involvement in Dagim only goes so far as the story level—I mean, I attended the shoots and helped out with the legwork a bit, but the film is really the work of Joaquin and the wonderful cast and crew he’s assembled. They’ve taken full advantage of the medium, playing to the strengths of cinema and breathing life into the world. On my end, I’m doing the graphic novel and trying to push the limits of what comics can do. Our stories parallel, but the different mediums enable different approaches, so Dagim is taking a very beautiful, haunting, hi-res perspective of the story, while Black Clouds explores it from multiple angles and a sprawling overhead view. They each stand alone, but play off of each other in interesting, complimentary ways.

Meanwhile, Misha Lecaros is curating the website, Project Raincloud, which sits in the middle of the film and the graphic novel, tabulating the whole creative experiment and offering its own robust behind-the-scenes perspective. There’s this fantastic meta-narrative condensing above it all once you’ve digested each side. Everything’s rolling out in phases, and synchronizes in the end, so I think it’ll be a worthwhile experience.

Dagim, the movie which is the first “leg” of your project tripod. Can you tell us a bit more about it, and why it may appeal to genre fans?

Dagim is a quintessential Filipino horror film, tackling a genre specific to our country—“the aswang movie”. There are loads of predecessors to this kind of film, from Peque Gallaga’s ouvre of movies (“Sa Piling ng Aswang”, “Hiwaga sa Balete Drive”, “Tiyanak”) all the way to “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. What’s interesting about Dagim is how it turns the genre on its end, looking at it sideways and dealing with the horror obliquely. There’s a lot of implication in the movie, a lot of narrative going on in the shadows and spaces, which I’m certain will be clear to sharp viewers. And it’s a beautiful-looking film. I haven’t seen a local movie that’s pushed its visual aesthetic this far. The colors are mesmerizing.

The ground level of the story is about two boys who’ve lost their father. They decide to journey up a mountain and end up meeting a very unusual tribe of people. And as these things go, they discover scary things that happen in the dark… blood spilled, conversions, existential hunger, death and dreams. It’s like an elevator experience, in a way; as the altitude changes, perception shifts. A lot of elements layer upward as the film progresses. I’ll stop myself before I get into spoiler territory, but I think genre fans may want to see this, if only to experience the familiar in a strange new light.

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Folk Tales Interview on SLIA Blog:

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 4 - 2010

Zarah Gagatiga did a couple of interviews in preparation for her upcoming book Tales From the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories (co-authored with Dianne De Las Casas), including one with yours truly. She posted my answers on her blog, School Librarian in Action, so head on over if you’re curious. (Let me take the chance to remind everyone that I’m no expert when it comes to Philippine mythology though, just an enthusiast.) Here’s an excerpt:

d. As a writer and collector of folk tales, what is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered yet? Where do you attribute this challenge?

As a collector, the greatest challenge is finding material that not only gives a narration of the old stories, but also gives a proper context, one that explains what the myth as a whole or elements of that myth meant for the people and culture from which it originated. If I’m reading an epic, say, where the hero turns into a particular kind of animal, it’s very helpful to know whether that animal has a particular cultural significance. The old tales were always more than just literal narrations of events – like the universe itself in the eyes of many cultures, the old stories had layers, and if one simply reads a retelling of the story, without any context, that depth can be lost.

As a writer, the greatest challenge for me is trying to embrace these old myths and legends as a part of my Filipino heritage, without wrongful appropriation. These are my stories and yet, at the same time, they are not, because many of the stories which are considered Filipino folklore emerge from communities which pre-existed the idea of a Philippine nation, or even a Filipino race, communities which still exist today in a sort of grey area where they are struggling to maintain their unique cultural identities.

You can find the rest of the interview here.

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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.

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