Philippine Speculative Fiction 6 Review: Hub and Intro

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 1 - 2012

Yes, I know that reviewing an anthology which contains one of your own stories is not something that is regularly “done” in the world of literature, but after weighing the pros and cons in my mind, I’ve decided that the disadvantages of appearing like a self-promoting lout are outweighed by the benefits of promoting more critical attention focused on Filipino authored speculative fiction.

The authors of Philippine speculative fiction (the category, not the anthology) have been producing an ever growing number of stories since the first PSF (the anthology) volume was released, and I think it’s essential that criticism keep pace. In the field of komiks, I’ve been open about my agreement with the position that robust komiks criticism is necessary to push the field forward, and I feel the same way about prose spec fic. I’ll begin with PSF6 because it is the most recent spec fic anthology, and because I’ve found that while I did not like all of the stories in the anthology, each one is worthy of discussion.

And, as a discussion requires more than one person, I’m happy to announce that I will be joined in this commentary by Mia Tijam, one of the best writers in the field, and someone who isn’t a contributor to PSF6. Mia and I have very, very, different sensibilities, and we thought we’d play with the form of our reviews a little: one of us will write a stand-alone review of a story, and the other will then do his/her review by playing off the initial review (and then a little back-and-forth during the revision process). This is our attempt at having a dynamic element, while keeping it from becoming a total free-for-all, which is what would happen if we merely transcribed our conversations.

This post will serve as a hub for all our PSF6 reviews, as we work our way down from the first story of the TOC, so I guess this is where I’ll make my disclaimers: it shouldn’t need to be said, but nothing here is meant to be the final, authoritative, word about the story– comments and rebuttals are highly encouraged; yes, some of the authors are friends of ours, but we try not to let that affect our judgment, or even our tone; we can’t promise to be nice–as someone who pays people to savage my own stories, I have a bias toward the helpful and harsh as opposed to the watered down and useless–but we promise to take each story seriously; authors are welcome to comment, but, that being said, if you know you’re sensitive to criticism, please advance only when you’ve hardened your heart (after all, this is part of what it means to display your work in a public realm).

All clear? Great. Let’s go.

[Review index under the cut]

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Alternative Alamat Interview: Celestine Trinidad

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 27 - 2011

Alternative Alamat” is now available from,, and iTunes. I’ll continue to speak with the contributors to gain some insight into the stories found in the book. Celestine  Trinidad  is  a  newly  licensed  physician  who  still  tries  to  read  and  write  as  much  as she  can  in  her  (now  unfortunately  very  little)  free  time.  Her stories have appeared in other publications such as Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction IV,  Philippines Free Press,  and  Usok.  Much  to  her  own  surprise,  she  won  the  Don  Carlos  Palanca  Memorial  Award for Literature in 2008 for her short story for children “The Storyteller and the Giant”.

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

Maria Sinukuan, guardian deity of Arayat, is called upon to solve the murder of a young woman from one of the towns under her care. One of her suitors, Juan, insists on tagging along, much to her annoyance. But nothing is as it seems in this mystery—not even her suitor.

I know that you’re a fan of Maria Sinukuan. What is it about Maria Sinukuan (as portrayed in the legends) that makes her so appealing to you?

I like that she is such a strong character—she is called “Sinukuan”, after all, as proof of the strength of her power. According to Damiana L. Eugenio’s Philippine Folk Literature Series (“The Legends”), she was able to defeat everyone who put her power to the test, even those who were said to possess an anting-anting. The young men who came to woo her never stood a chance with her. I love the kind of attitude that I think she would have, based on these legends. She seemed like the kind of character who wouldn’t take crap from anyone, and who can be ruthless, but only if she felt you deserved it. (And yes, it was said that she did turn people into pigs!) I would greatly respect such a person even in real life, though I would probably be very careful not to make her angry.

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

The banter! Mixing someone like Maria with someone as irritatingly persistent and as enigmatic as Juan seems like a recipe for disaster, and that, of course, is fun to write.

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

As with every story I write, I always struggle with the middle of the story, since I already knew how to write the beginning and also the ending, but it’s always such a difficult journey writing what goes on in between. I wouldn’t want to give away too much so the mystery is already predictable, but I also wouldn’t want to give away too little that the reader would feel cheated. It’s a struggle, yes, but a challenge I actually enjoy.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

When I was still very young I liked watching this series on TV, “Ora Engkatada”, which my grandmother appeared in (she played Lola Torya, the grandmother who read from the big book of magical stories, hehe). And then later on, since my parents saw that I liked the fantasy genre so much, they bought me this book entitled, “Mga 55 Piling Alamat ng Pilipinas”, by Pablo M. Cuasay, a collection of various origin legends, which I loved reading even back then.

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

It’d be great if Juan and Maria could be made into a movie, haha! Since I do plan on making this into a series.

Seriously though, there’s this a lesser-known legend about a woman named Tonina, who due to trickery on the part of the other wives of Rajah Solaiman, was raised away from the palace, not knowing she was a princess. But in the end, she managed to save two kingdoms from the invading Spaniards, and reclaim her birthright. (There is also a part there where she cross-dresses and almost defeats her future husband in a duel.) I think having a movie on that would be pretty epic!

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

Maria Sinukuan is my favorite out of all the goddesses, but you probably expected that, didn’t you?  I like female characters that defy conventions, or even redefine them.

RK Recommends: “Writing the Other” by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 20 - 2011

I bought a physical copy of “Writing the Other” last year, but now that there’s an ebook edition out, I decided to write a review that will hopefully encourage more people to buy and read this very important writing. book. We Filipino authors especially should never forget that, as the book says, “difference is not monolithic.” You can find the review at Fantasy Faction, or just read on for the text:

I’m a Filipino, and a geek, but I’m not used to feeling like an Other, like I’m not a part of the mainstream. I live in the Philippines, so I am, in fact, part of the majority, and my geek-ish pursuits tend toward reading books, watching anime, and playing video games, all of which are activities I can indulge in by myself.

But in the world of mass media, particularly genre media, my race ensures that I’m not part of the majority. I know what it feels like to read a story where my country is never mentioned, or watching a movie when the only character that is Filipino is a maid. While I’d wish it were otherwise, I don’t generally view stories created outside of my country to be the venue where I’m going to find plentiful and authentic representations of Filipinos and Philippine culture. As a Filipino writer, I think that’s one of my responsibilities.

But as I mentioned, in the Philippines, I am part of the Dominant Paradigm, the person of Unmarked State (we’ll get to that later). The Philippines is home to many indigenous communities that have often been marginalized by both our local media and popular culture–as a contrast, I live in Metro Manila, “Imperial Manila” as some of our southern brethren call it, who grew up pretending to be part of G.I. Joe or one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, instead of being a Tikbalang or the hero Lam-Ang. And yet, as often as I can, I try to tap into the rich intangible heritage of our indigenous mythologies when I write… and, while I do it out of love and in order to promote those myths, it often scares me out of my mind. When I recently put together “Alternative Alamat“, my greatest fear was that I would be engaging in a form of colonization or appropriation (especially since the anthology is in English). And yet, I know that there are stories that need to be told, even if I’m not a member of the Ifugao, or the Mangyan, or the Tausug.

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Text Your Typhoon Sendong Donations

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 19 - 2011
Image by Carlo Vergara, featuring Zsazsa Zaturnnah

Image by Carlo Vergara, featuring Zsazsa Zaturnnah


Typhoon Sendong ravaged the southern Philippines last weekend, particularly Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, and aid organizations need all the help they can get. You can text or sms your donations to the Philippine Red Cross as follows:

Text RED<space>AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart)

Text DONATE<space>AMOUNT<space>4-digit M-PIN<space>REDCROSS to 2882

You can donate the following denominations:
Globe: 5, 25, 100, 300, 500 or 1000
Smart: 10, 25, 50, 100, 300, 500 or 1000

For in-kind donations, please check or

Charles Tan’s Essay: “Awareness and Bias”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 13 - 2011

Around a week ago, Charles Tan (The Bibliophile Stalker) posted an essay which I believe merits wider discussion/dissemination. The essay is entitled “Awareness and Bias” and here’s an excerpt:

What people need to understand is that everyone will have an agenda  (and I don’t mean to use the term in a negative way, which in itself is an example of baggage associated with language). Mine for example has been the promotion of Philippine speculative fiction, “World SF”, and authors/editors I encounter and admire. If you think this blog is bias-free, you’re mistaken. It’s my particular bias that shapes who my readers are (you can think of it as my target audience). No text (be it fiction, poetry, film, music, games, or any other media) can be entirely divorced from its agenda (although readers, of course, are free to interpret it under their own biases as well). Every story, for example, will have a hierarchy of moral values (and what’s moral in one culture might be a different case in another).

I love speculative fiction but let’s face it: there’s a lot of things wrong with the genre (again, Western-centrism and patriarchy). A lot of it is unconscious.

Expanded Horizons Fundraising Drive (Christmas 2011)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 7 - 2011

The online SF magazine Expanded Horizons is undertaking their holiday fundraising drive, and this time they aim to raise enough funds to pay their authors semi-pro rates nextyear. Expanded Horizons is a quality magazine, but that’s not the only reason it deserves support from Filipinos and from readers of Filipino Fantastic Fiction–Expanded Horizons was founded in order to “increase diversity in the field of speculative fiction, both in the authors who contribute and in the perspectives presented.” This includes a focus on fiction by authors of color, or featuring characters of color. You can read more specifics about their laudable mission here.

Expanded Horizons has published many stories/poems by Filipino authors, including Eliza Victoria, Kristine Ong Muslim, Katya Oliva-Llego, Anne Abad, Catherine Batac Walder, and Mia Tijam. A well funded Expanded Horizons can only benefit Filipino authors in search of markets for their fiction. To highlight the support that Expanded Horizons gives Filipino authors, here’s a hyperlinked list of all of the Filipino-written stories/poems they’ve published to date:

Technoteapot: A Gothic and Steampunk Tea Party

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 5 - 2011

I met a pair of striking young ladies at this year’s Komikon. These were the ladies of Spidersilk Productions, and they turned out to not only be interested in steampunk, but were all set to have a steampunk themed exhibit as well: Technoteapot: A Gothic and Steampunk Tea Party. This is the first steampunk event I’ve personally heard of that would take place in Metro Manila, so if you’re interested in the genre, do drop by from December 8-10. There will also be guest artists such as Koi Carreon (“Marco’s Delivery Service“) and the rest of Ravencage Studios there as well, displaying new steampunk artwork. Event details are as follows:

Art Exhibit Featurning the Works of
Dione D’Souza | Maku Felix | Isobel Francisco

With the Special Participation of Dokissaten Maid & Butler Café
Featuring the Live Performance of Similarobjects
and DR. SKETCHY’S Anti-Art School Manila

December 8-10, 2011
2F LRI Design Plaza, Makati City
Festivities begin at 6PM

For a schedule of performances and more details, go here.

3rd San Pablo City Comics Festival

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 28 - 2011


For those in the San Pablo area, the 3rd San Pablo City Comics Festival will be held this Saturday, December 3, 2011, from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM at the Ultimart Mall,
San Pablo City, Laguna. You can see the programme of activities here, and the Facebook page here. Gerry Alanguilan also has an informative post about the upcoming convention over at his blog.

Ateneo Press Christmas Book Sale 2011

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 25 - 2011

I’m a bit late on this, but I’d like to remind everyone that the annual Christmas sale of Ateneo de Manila University Press is ongoing:

Date:      November 15 to December 14, 2011

Time:      8 A.M. to 12 noon, 1 to 6 P.M., Monday to Thursday
8 A.M. to 12 noon, 1 to 5 P.M., Friday

Venue:     Ateneo Press Bookshop, G/F Bellarmine Hall, Ateneo Campus, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

All titles will be sold at less 10 to 50 percent.

Reservations for copies and requests for price lists may be made at 02-426-5984 (landline) or A listing of books is also available at

Coffee, tea and Christmas cookies come free with browsing. Happy book shopping!


This is a good time to mention that Ateneo Press publishes some amazing books, including “Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities” (here’s a review), an excellent overview of the diversity of our oral traditions by Professor Herminia Meñez Coben–who graciously allowed me to interview her for Alternative Alamat–as well as “Kathang-Isip“, a book of speculative fiction in Filipino, which I think may only be available at the Ateneo Press store (I haven’t seen it anywhere else). The deals during this sale are usually much better than those given during the Manila International Book Fair, so if you’ve had your eye on an Ateneo Press title, now’s the time to get it.

Call for Submissions: Dracoraptor Anthology

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2011

Australia-based Filipino Jason Banico has announced a call for submissions,  seeking short fiction from Filipino authors for his “Dracoraptor” anthology.

Dracoraptor is a fictional dragon dinosaur and is featured in its own site at

Submissions must be:

1. speculative fiction of any of the following genre: science fiction, cryptofiction, historical fiction, horror, and alternative history.

2. depicting the Dracoraptor realistically based on characteristics detailed on the Dracoraptor site. For instance, the creature must spit acid and only in self-defense, and does not breathe fire.

3. written in English

The following settings are encouraged:

1. prehistoric (ex. Clan of the Cave Bear)
2. ancient (Homeric epics)
3. Asian (Chinese / Japanese)
4. age of discovery
5. Victorian-era
6. colonial Philippines
7. modern (ex. King Kong)
8. near future

All submissions should be in Rich Text Format (without fancy formatting) and emailed to jason at banico dot com dot au, with the subject line “Dracoraptor submission”.

The deadline for submission is March 30, 2012.

There is no direct compensation for submission. Selected stories will be posted in the site and released in an e-book anthology. Revenue share is offered to authors whose stories appear in the e-book.

Jason is also looking for people who may be interested in co-editing the anthology with him – send any interested queries to the address mentioned above.



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.