Archive for the ‘Slider’ Category

Launch: Philippine Genre Stories Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 18 - 2011

Kenneth Yu’s “Digest of Philippine Genre Stories” was one of the reasons why I even realized it was possible to write and publish speculative fiction in the Philippines, and it gave new writers such as myself a chance to be recognized as authors. It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a regular publication that was open to submissions year round and accessible to young writers.

That’s why it gives me great pleasure to announce that PGS has been reborn online. You can read about the journey to the digital domain and the changes to the magazine here, or jump in and read the new story, “What You See” by Ian Casocot (art by The One Left Behind), the first of three selected by sub-editor Charles Tan. Expect a bit of chaos as PGS finds its place, as Kyu says in his introduction:

PGS online (as with the print digest before it) is a work-in-progress. I hope to improve it bit-by-bit over time, and I’d also like to see how this site fares over the next 12 months or so. The goals are the same: To get more people—especially younger folk, most especially Pinoys, but anyone would do—to discover the pleasures of and develop the habit of reading through fiction, fiction written by fellow Filipinos, in particular.

Congratulations to Kyu, Charles, and Ian, and best of luck on the new endeavor!

Summer Komikon 2011 Impressions and Photodump

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 17 - 2011

The 2011 Summer Komikon took place yesterday at the Bayanihan Center. I didn’t have enough time to go around as much as I usually do, but here are a few pictures and some thoughts on the event.

The turnout seemed about equal to what it was at the Bahay ng Alumni, which was a pleasant surprise and is a testament to a bang up job that organizers and advocates did getting the word out. I found the Bayanihan Center to be an improvement over the Bahay ng Alumni in most respects: the air condition really helped to make the event more comfortable (and hence more accessible to the more casual fan or newcomer not willing to bathe in sweat – their own and that of assorted strangers’ – in order to browse the wares). It also seemed to me to be easier to secure – the Bahay ng Alumni had a lot of ingress/egress points. I didn’t notice any food/drink concessionaires, however, which could be a downside to those not willing to cross the street to the restaurants around Pioneer supermarket.

I also wish that the hall itself had been made to look a bit more festive – the hall doesn’t have a lot of character, and the wedding reception type music that was playing (at least when I arrived) seemed out of place. I’m not looking for giant Kubori Kikiam blimps – although, hey, that’d be awesome – but  few more banners, posters, and standees would have helped give the convention more of a “convention” feel, especially since cosplayers are usually sparse in comparison to other cons.


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The FFP 24 Hour Readathon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 28 - 2011

The Flips Flipping Pages book club/shelfari community is holding their first ever 24 Hour Read-a-thon from 9pm April 8 to 9pm April 9. What’s a Read-a-thon you may ask? ”

For 24 straight hours, we will get together in one venue and read books, cheer each other on, and participate in games and mini-challenges. We can read for the pure enjoyment of it, for the experience of participating in a readathon, to meet new friends, or even to raise money or awareness for a cause. If you can’t stay the full 24 hours, then drop by and stay for however long you can. The FFP 24 Hour Readathon is based on and in connection with Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, a twice-yearly international online readathon which began in 2007.”

The event will be held at everyone’s favorite independent bookstore, Libreria at Cubao X. You can find directions to the venue, as well as the sign-up page, at the official FFP Read-a-thon site.

Does Art Have a National Identity?

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 3 - 2011

I stumbled upon an… interesting article on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts website. It’s a short piece by poet/critic Leo Benesa on what makes Philippine Art “Filipino?” and it got me thinking. While, to his credit, Benesa doesn’t claim to have the answer to his initial question… I can’t help but wonder if it’s a proper question.

I don’t think that one can ascribe a nationality to a contemporary expression of an artistic style. While the style may have historical origins in a specific country, in my opinion the style itself is a tool. For example, “manga style” artwork has its origins in Japan, but I wouldn’t say that a Philippine artist employing that style is creating a work of Japanese art (or art of any particular nationality, which is my point). A style of art may have characteristics that make it more popular to, or representative of, a particular culture, but a work done in that style no more inherently “belongs” to said culture than “Life is Beautiful” is “American” because cinema was born in America.

I suppose this is why, when I refer to Philippine speculative fiction in general, the nationality I am referring to is that of the author, and not of the “style” of the work. There are generalizations that can be made because of the nationality of the author (in my interview with Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, I mentioned a few), so one may be able to arrive at shared characteristics through induction, but the presence of those characteristics in a work isn’t enough to ascribe a nationality to a work or style.

Of course, I could be wrong. I put a draft of this book up on my Facebook page and thought I’d run it by a few of my writer/reader friends, and received a wide variety of opinions. A small sampling of the issues touched upon in the comments: the definition of Asian American Literature, the difference made by the language used (and the use of Filipino as a national language when it’s basically modified Tagalog, the language of just one region), the effects of technology and globalization, nationalist literature, and the utility of ascribing nationality to art/style. I’m not posting the comments here verbatim because the note was a place for private back-and-forth, but anyone who wants to comment on this topic is welcome to do so here (even those who didn’t have access to the original note).

What I will do here is include a list of links to articles (roughly in chronological order, excluding the Benesa article already linked to above) which were referenced during the discussion, for those who want to explore the issue further (note that a few of these are specifically about Philippine SPECULATIVE Fiction, as opposed to Philippine Art in general):

  • (EDIT – a late addition, courtesy of Joanah Tinio Calingo): Filipino Comics and Everything in Between – Komik creator Taga-Ilog talks about the debate concerning the definition of Filipino Comics [2006]

Filipino comics are comics created primarily for Filipino consumption. Yes, I know this is a very utilitarian description of what Filipino comics are. I chose to describe it as such because I believe that comics are first and foremost, a product meant for entertainment. It is an art form, of course, and it’s a powerful medium to convey nationalistic ideals and socio-political concerns, but in the end, it is still a product meant for mass consumption.

“With subject matter being too constricting, one tries to find the Filipino identity through style: there is the baroque mentality, the love of color and the affinity for graceful and decorative lines. While these are principally agreed upon as qualities that have continually surfaced on paintings done by Filipino artists, one has to ask how applicable are they when dealing with different media? Nowadays, contemporary art deals with performance, installation, video and sound and certainly, there haven’t been enough of these works to see a common quality or to form a judgment on a Filipino identity.”

Prof. Flores said that perhaps it’s the story itself that should have that distinctive Filipino flavor. But what comes to my mind is does the author’s citizenship matter? In other words, if an American, Englishman, or Australian of Filipino heritage, or any heritage for that matter, wrote a very Filipino-flavored story after lengthy research, can it maybe make the story a part of Philippine speculative fiction? And if so, where does that place the beautiful melancholy of Kij Johnson’s excellently written “Fox Magic”? Is it American speculative fiction, the author having been born in that country? Or is it Japanese? Would the Japanese take and accept it as being the equivalent of one of their own stories written by one of their own citizens? Or not?

  • Tagalog : A Fun Language to Learn - Benny Lewis (a polyglot who, in the process of chronicling his mission to become fluent in Tagalog, dissects characteristics of the language that many of us may have been unaware of/taken for granted) [February 2011]

The good news is that Tagalog has no grammatical gender, no person or plural based conjugation, no grammatical cases like the dative and lacks many other features that could make it harder to learn. But it does indeed have complex parts to it that make it more interesting to learn (read: interesting since there has to be differences, not “hard” unless you like being a crybaby). The first of these are infixes (or prefixes when the word begins with a vowel). These are used to take a root verb and give it a time (past, present, future). So aral is the root, mag-aral means “to study” (or imperative study!), nag-aral is past tense studied, nag-aaral (repeated first syllable of root) is present tense study and mag-aaral is future tense.

“Skygypsies” – Free Philippine SF Comic, Now Online

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 1 - 2011

Filipino artist John Raymond Bumanglag illustrated a comic adaptation (originally a thesis) of a prose story from Timothy James Dimacali entitled “Skygypsies”, which was published in “Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 3.” The result is a classically illustrated comic book adaptation of “Skygypsies” which has been posted on John Raymond’s blog in its entirety, for your viewing pleasure.

It’s quite an unexpected treat, and a quality read. The artwork is meticulous and it is clear how much care and love went into its production. As for the tale, Philippine space-based science fiction stories are something of a rarity, and the fact that this features one of our more distinct indigenous cultures is a bonus. The Sama Dilaut (or Sama-Laut, as referred to here) are sea nomads who tend to avoid violent confrontations. I’m no expert, but based from what I’ve read about the Sama Dilaut, their portrayal in the story seems consistent with their history–they have a tradition of male bonding that develops from the prolonged isolation of each ship, and suffered discrimination at the hands of some of the more aggressive cultural groups. They could find their way across the seas through the use of sailing songs, kalangan tebba, which helped them commit to memory precise alignments or landmarks. [Herminia Meñez Coben, "Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities"]

May I extend my congratulations to both creators, as well as my thanks–I’m thrilled to be able to use the tag “Sama-Laut Science Fiction” in a post. (And thanks to Budjette Tan as well for bringing this comic to my attention.)

Komik Review: Urban Animal #1 by John Amor

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 24 - 2011

John Amor’s “The Urban Animal #1″ tells the beginning of the story of a young man (apparently in college, although he looks like a high school kid) who crosses the wrong person and is placed under a monstrous curse–although, to be frank, none of that is evident from the cover, which does a poor job of giving the prospective reader any idea as to what the comic will be about. The cover also does little to showcase Amor’s stylized art, which is a shame, given that the art is the highlight of Urban Animal. Amor has a hyper-expressive, stubby-figured style that reminds me of the early work of Humberto Ramos. While there are some panels where the facial expression of the characters seems off, or where there were better angles from which to view the scene, the art in general is clean, bold and sufficiently detailed–though nowhere near as polished as Amor’s more recent  work (Urban Animal was drawn ten years ago, and the comic released by Super Debil Robot Comics contains the original art, touched up slightly). The artwork reaches its pinnacle toward the end of the issue, where the story takes a step toward horror, of the “creature feature” variety.

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Art Fantastic: Interview with Mark Bulahao

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 16 - 2011

Mark Bulahao (edictiv on deviantart) grew up in Northern Luzon, and came to Metro Manila to pursue his education. A fan of history and warfare (evident in his art and his loves HBO’s “Rome”), he painted a more static, yet sinister, scene for Elaine Cuyegkeng’s “The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende” in Usok #2, and he took the time to sit down with us (virtually speaking) to discuss his influences, the importance (and joy) of drawing backgrounds, and whether or not artistic talent is genetic.

How did you get started as an artist?

I got interested in drawing at a very early age. I think it’s all the cartoons and video games that got me started. I also collected Marvel and DC comic books and copied them all the time.

Me and my brother were fortunate to have a few friends who also liked drawing. After playing video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, we would do an artjam on our favorite characters or design ones based on them. They later lost interest with drawing in high school but me and my brother stuck with it.

You have a twin brother who also seems to be a very good artist. Do you think that, to some degree, artistic talent is genetic? Does anyone else in your family draw/paint?

In our family, only the two of us are interested in drawing. So far I haven’t seen or read anything that proves the existence of “artistic genes” so I have no reason to believe in it. We just happen to like drawing and have made it a hobby.

A lot of the pieces in your deviantart gallery have a lot of detail invested in the background, whereas a lot of artists I know would prefer not to do backgrounds at all. Do you enjoy rendering those vast, panoramas? Do you like working on the background as much as working on the characters/people?

If art is biology, then those who are interested in backgrounds would be the type of biologists who study not just a certain species but their environment as well: how they interact with it, what role and niche they play in the ecosystem, how they cope with environmental changes, etc. I guess artists who ignore backgrounds are like biologists who are more concerned with a species’ anatomy, behaviors and interactions with other creatures. I don’t want to choose between the two because I’d rather be both.

I wouldn’t say that I enjoy doing environments and landscapes more than characters, but there’s a special kind of feeling in creating thriving ecosystems or living and breathing societies. There’s an incomparable joy in painting places that can allow someone to forget about reality for a while and be transported into another world, even for just a few seconds.

If you want to create fictional worlds, then you have to understand that a setting can become the star of a story while the characters themselves can take a back seat. Environments can have “personalities” and sometimes they’re much more interesting and complex than the characters that inhabit them.
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“Songs of Memory” Epics Conference: Video Hub

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 8 - 2011

Two weeks ago, the Ateneo de Manila University hosted “Songs of Memory”, an international conference on epics and ballads (this is where the Ateneo’s online archive of Philippine epics and ballads was launched). Here’s how the official site describes the mission of the conference:

Songs of Memory seeks to make the Philippine Epics and Ballads Archive of the Ateneo de Manila University accessible to all. Preserving epics helps conserve Intangible Heritage, fosters pride of the self in cultural communities and in the nation, as a whole, and advances UNESCO’s emphasis on the conservation of Intangible Heritage.

I wasn’t able to attend all the talks/lectures, but I did manage to catch a few that may be of interest to Rocket Kapre readers, and anyone interested in the mythic heritage of the people of the Philippines. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting the videos I managed to take of the event. Each talk will be a separate post, but for greater convenience, this post will serve as an index to the videos.

Congratulations to the Ateneo and all those involved in “Songs of Memory” for what seems to have been a very succesful conference. Special thanks to Professor Calasanz for inviting me to attend the conference.

Songs of Memory Video Index

Taboan Festival 2011

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 6 - 2011

This year’s Taboan Literary Festival will be held from February 10-12, 2011 at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City. The festival is open to the public and will feature panels, a book bazaar, and film screenings. Speculative fiction writer Dominique Cimafranca is the conference coordinator, and here are a few delegates who will be familiar to readers of Philippine speculative fiction: Carljoe Javier, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Sarge Lacuesta, and Vlad Gonzales.

For those who are in the Davao area (or who can manage to make the trip) this looks like a great event for readers and authors. For those who can’t make it, you can still get a taste of the works of the delegates on the Literary Works page  of the Tabaoan 2011 site. Carljoe Javier’s piece on “the “Post-Apocalyptic as the Neo-Western” seems like it could be of interest to genre readers.

I’ve got another review up on that may be of interest to readers and writers of Philippine speculative fiction–not that you’d know it from the title. “Over a Cup of Ginger Tea: Conversations on the Literary Narratives of Filipino Women” is a collection of essays/articles by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo that revolve around the written works of Filipino women. Two of these articles, “Released by the Story: Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s Modern Tales” and “Genre Fiction: Pinay Style” are great reads for those interested in non-realist (not necessarily speculative) and non-”literary” works of fiction by Filipino women writers. Hidalgo’s writing has a warmth that makes the book easy reading, and, as I say in the review, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in what Philippine literature is capable of, especially literature produced by women, as well as those curious about areas of literature which have been neglected in the local literary scene.

You can read the full review here.



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.