Initial Thoughts on “Alternative Alamat” from Meann Ortiz

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 22 - 2011

I mentioned that Meann Ortiz of New Worlds was reading “Alternative Alamat” and posting a running commentary as she made her way through the text. Well, Meann has finished the book, and has posted a summary of her impressions, with a full review to follow. Meann gave it 5 stars (although she’s rounding up from 4.5–which, hey, I’ll take any day) and enjoyed all the stories, even if she felt there were similarities in theme and a somewhat somber tone.

I’d encourage readers to look at Meann’s comments during her reading, which you can find in a timeline on the same page as her general impressions, as these go into greater detail about her reactions to specific stories, or lines from the book.

It also amuses me that, like many women before her, she was intrigued by the great hero “Kudaman” (mentioned in my interview with Professor Zialcita), and his, er, giant bird:

The Philippines Graphic Reviews Alternative Alamat

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 21 - 2011

Angelo Ancheta reviews our new anthology, “Alternative Alamat“, in the latest issue (Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012) of the Philippines Graphic. The review is very positive, even though Ancheta wishes that the book was available in hard copy, to better appreciate Mervin Malonzo’s artwork. Ancheta calls the anthology “a treasure trove of Philippine myths and legends reexamined and rendered for modern readers.” The review isn’t available online yet, as of this writing, but he finds T.J. Dimacali’s “Keeper of My Sky” to be “lyrical, heartbreaking” and the stories of David Hontiveros “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan”) and Dean Alfar (“A Door Opens”) to be “ground-breaking, earth-shaking…” He does wonder, however, about the absence of male deities from most of the stories.

Still, I think it’s safe to say he liked it, no? Also, Meann Ortiz of New Worlds is currently reading “Alternative Alamat” and putting up comments  as she progresses. She’s about half way through so far, and you can read her comments either on her Twitter feed or at Goodreads.

So if you haven’t picked up a copy of “Alternative Alamat” yet, why not click on over to Amazon.com or Flipreads.com and snag a copy for yourselves, or for your friends/family. Nothing like waking up on Christmas day to find some mythology under your tree!

Alternative Alamat Interview: Dean Francis Alfar

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 15 - 2011

Alternative Alamat” was released yesterday (go buy a copy at Amazon, iTunes, or Flipreads), but our contributor interviews will still continue. Today’s featured “Alternative Alamat” contributor is a man who should need no introduction (but I’ll give him one anyway), Dean Francis Alfar. Dean is a leading advocate of speculative fiction in the Philippines, and the publisher of the annual “Philippine Speculative Fiction” anthology. His novel “Salamanca” won both the Book Development Association of the Philippines’ Gintong Aklat award, as well as the Grand Prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He has nine more Palancas to his name, two Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Awards, the Philippine Free Press Literary Award, and the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Award. His short fiction has been collected in “The Kite of the Stars and Other Stories”, and been published in venues both national and international, including “The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror”, “Rabid Transit: Menagerie”, “Latitude”, and “The Apex Book of World SF”.

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

My story, set in the reimagined colonial Hinirang, answers the question “What happens when the Spanish colonizers open the door into the Faith system of the native Filipinos?”

Most of the narrative in this story is told through the use of the footnotes. What do you gain, and what do you sacrifice, in using a different format for a story than most readers are used to? When is it worth the risk?

I like to use different forms and structures to tell different kinds of stories.  For this one, I liked the appeal of being able to delve deeper into the usually dry and superficial tone of most encyclopedias or similar resources.  I also broke the convention of the footnote and utilized direct narrative, with complete sequences of quoted text (warts and all).  It is a challenge to read, but I think it is also rewarding.  The loss of the usual narrative flow is worth the discovery of deeper or enhanced text.  But certainly, this manner is not to every reader’s taste – but it falls to us to try something unusual once in a while, for the sake of the story.

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

Finishing it, haha!  But really, apart from the white heat of insipiration, writing is more work than fun for me.  But the reward upon completion is worth all the stress and late nights.

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

Editing myself has always been my bane.  I tend to gloss over my own errors – lapse of logic, missing words, mistaken attribution – because my mind fills in the blanks even as I read.  It’s different when I edit other authors because I am automatically distant from the text.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

As a young boy, I cut my teeth on the classical myths but eventually found myself wondering if we had anything ourselves.  I wasn’t happy with the watered-down versions I found as a youth.  It was much later, in university, when I had a class with Damiana Eugenio whose work provoked my interest and in turn led me to Maximo Ramos and other sources.

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

During a panel I chaired recently on Philippine Folklore and Mythology, Jun Balde sold me on the myths and legends of the Bicol region.  I’d love to read all of that. [Editor's Note: Here's an audio recording of that panel, Manila International Literary Festival 2011: Of Folklores, Myths and Legends, courtesy of Charles Tan.]

Release Day: Alternative Alamat Now Available

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 14 - 2011

Cover for "Alternative Alamat" by Mervin Malonzo

The day has come!

Alternative Alamat“, our digital anthology of stories inspired by Philippine mythology, is now available for US$4.99 at the following fine establishments:

  • Amazon.com – US$4.99 (note there’s an extra US$2.00 charge for certain non-US territories/accounts, including, unfortunately, the Philippines)
  • Flipreads.com (epub file) – PHP235.00
  • [iTunes and Barnes & Noble/Nook editions to follow]

I hope that by now you’re all excited to get your hands on the book (or, rather, the hardware holding the file), and if so, thank you and what are you waiting for? If you’re still on the fence even after the preview of our contributor and story introductions, and our author interviews (Raissa, Mo, Eliza), then read on (or download the press release here)!

As a celebration of today’s launch, I’d like to give you a glimpse of some of the non-fiction segments of the book, as well as the wonderful artwork of Mervin Malonzo, creator of “Tabi Po“. You’ve already seen the beautiful cover Mervin made for us, but you may not have realized he’s also doing internal artwork as well. Each book is graced with eleven original illustrations by Mervin, where he gives his spin on eleven of the most interesting gods and goddesses of Philippine mythology. I don’t want to give too much away, so here’s a montage-teaser using elements from all eleven pieces:

After the cut: one full sample of Mervin’s interior artwork, the full text of the book’s introduction, and excerpts from my interviews with Professor Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alternative Alamat Interview: Eliza Victoria

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 13 - 2011

Today, I continue my interviews with Alternative Alamat contributors, leading up to the release of the anthology TOMORROW. Today’s author should be a familiar name to any reader of Philippine speculative fiction: Eliza Victoria. Eliza was born in 1986. Her fiction and poetry have received prizes in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards. For additional information, visit her at http://sungazer.wordpress.com.


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

My story concerns a teenage boy who ends up at a pawnshop owned by a woman named Ana – who turns out to be more than a simple pawnshop owner.

Have you ever had something positive result from getting lost or from losing something?

I’ve lost small items every now and then, but they’re of little to no consequence. Their loss didn’t really teach me anything life-altering. I guess the most recent, significant loss I’ve experienced was when my family lost our store to a fire last year. A year has passed and now my parents have stopped renting space and have bought a new store and got the business going again. The positive result? A realization and later a rock-solid belief that my parents are superheroes, that my family can survive anything, that I have no reason to give in so easily to despair.

And I think there was a time when I got lost in Greenhills and I ended up at a stall that sold the most gorgeous cheap shoes. Haha!

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

I don’t write to answer a call for entries. Normally I just write a story whenever I have the idea and the time, and then send it if it fits a certain publication. I didn’t have a story ready when I read Rocket Kapre’s call for entries to Alternative Alamat, but I was tempted to try to write a story that would fit the anthology. Often, before I begin writing, I already know how the story will flow and how it will end. I didn’t know how “Ana’s Little Pawnshop” would end when I started writing it. I wasn’t even quite sure what it was really about! There were just these two characters talking about sold items. So that was fun, trying to figure out where the characters would take me, but it was also difficult because I had no outline.

I had fun writing in the teenage boy’s voice. I haven’t used the “I” persona in a long while, so that was a wonderful change. I also loved describing Ana’s shop and all its items. I just hope it’s as fun to read as well.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

I think it’s through this cheap book of myths and legends that I found lying around the house when I was a child. I can’t remember the author or publisher. I saw it as a horror collection. Imagine a child reading about the origin of the pineapple, or how the lizard came to be. Freaky little stories. Most of our legends are stories of tragic transformations, and they mystified me. I loved them.

 

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

I think it’d be interesting to make a movie about Lam-ang or Bernardo Carpio or Mariang Makiling and set it in the present. Or the future, why not? Lam-ang with a robot chicken. That would be awesome.

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

Mariang Makiling, because she’s bad-ass.

Talking Alternative Alamat with Flipside Digital

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 12 - 2011

The new Flipside Blog is throwing the spotlight on Alternative Alamat (out this Wednesday!) and they have an interview I did with Charles Tan. Head here if you’d like to see me talk about the anthology, what gave me the most difficulty when I was putting it together, and why I decided to include non-fiction pieces.

Alternative Alamat Interview: Mo Francisco

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 12 - 2011

Today’s featured Alternative Alamat contributor–part of our run up to the book’s release on December 14–is Mo Francisco. Mo climbs and writes as much as she can. Her stories have come out in the Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, Speculative Fiction IV and other publications. Her story “Jimmie” won 2nd place in the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards in 2009. She has climbed with both the Loyola and the UP Mountaineers.   They have taught her that going days without a shower, sleeping on rocks and suffering limatik bites are worth the trouble when you stand on top of the world with a blanket of clouds below you, music blasting from an iPod and good friends beside you, their glasses raised. She has yet to encounter Maria on her climbs.

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

Conquering Makiling is a coming-of-age story of a city boy. He meets a girl whom he fancies (um, fantasized about) and lets her take him on an adventure in the wilderness of the mythical Mt. Makiling.

You’ve mentioned that you’re a mountain climber. Putting the element of “setting” aside for the moment, has this experience of nature fed into any other aspect of your writing? If so, how so?

Climbing has changed me as a person, so in that sense, I can’t help but be affected (or have my writing become affected) by my love for nature, the great outdoors and the thirst for (physical/emotional) challenges in general.

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

Writing itself is always the fun part! It’s the editing part that’s not so, um, fun.

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

The sex scene (Oops. Spoiler ba?).

I keep imagining what my parents will say. Hi Mom!

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

Generally, through grade school and high school classes.

But I first felt their mystique on my trips to the mountains. There is a superstition that you adhere to – yes, even if you are not at all superstitious- especially when climbing mountains like Mt. Banahaw and (what some call the “devil’s mountain”) Mt. Cristobal.

Somehow these myths come alive, creep into the ‘possible’ when you are out in nature. It’s a whole different world where you are not in your element of TV, Internet, iPods. There’s something uncontrollable, wild and beautiful about nature. Something dangerous about it. That feeling of not being in control, of danger, is exciting, sexy.

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

Bernardo Carpio. Or Malakas at Maganda.

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

Maria Makiling. I think I would like to get to know her even more.

She seems like an interesting woman. Like, if she walked along Ayala Avenue, what kind of woman would she be in modern times?

She is so different from the Maria Clara of Spanish era. I feel she is the Lilith of our mythology.

Alternative Alamat Interview: Raissa Rivera Falgui

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 8 - 2011

I’ll be doing a series of short interviews with my Alternative Alamat contributors. Today’s author is Raissa Rivera Falgui. Raissa is a writer of fiction for both children and adults. She has won several awards, including first place for Futuristic Fiction in the 2002 Palanca Awards and second place for short story for children in the 2002 and 2006 Palancas. A member of Kuwentista ng Mga Tsikiting (Kuting), her most recent published stories are for young people, in Tahanan Books’ The Night Monkeys and UP Press’s Bagets Anthology. She graduated from UP with a degree in Art Studies and is currently working towards an MA in Creative Writing. Over the years, she has worked in various institutions, as English teacher, writer, or editor. Among the most recent jobs she has had was one that required her to write about places she has never visited, including Mt. Malindig in Marinduque. Currently her main job, which she does not plan to give up, is looking after her daughter. She is married to an Ateneo English teacher, Joel Falgui.

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

The story is about a sorceress, known in folklore as Maria of Malindig. I changed the name to Maryam, which is more appropriate to pre-Hispanic times, when the story is set. She is so powerful and imperious that she intimidates men, and she becomes determined to use her magic to win the man she loves.

What was your impression of the Maria Malindig myth upon first reading? How did you decide which aspects to keep and which to re-imagine in your own version?

I knew it was “the one” as soon as I read it, and I had already gone through much of Damiana Eugenio’s volume. I was fascinated by Maria of Malindig’s dominatrix quality, and intrigued by the love story. I felt it begged explaining why such a strong woman so desperately needed the love of a man to complete her. It was hardly in keeping with the image of a powerful sorceress queen. I also decided to do away with the element of religious defiance, where she curses the gods and is punished. I found that too didactic and thought her hubris actually stood out more without her falling back on gods.

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

The nature of the queen’s magic is barely described in the original, so I had fun coming up with the details. Imagining how people in the past lived is always fun for me, and I actually referred to The Governor General’s Kitchen to get an idea of what they might have eaten. If encouraged I may actually produce that feast someday! And the love scenes, but they were also difficult.

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

I had some trouble with Pangkikog’s character, making him both an attractive, sympathetic man but still domineering enough to insist on his way. It was difficult getting the dynamics of the relationship between Maryam and Pangkikog just right. It was necessary that they have a power struggle while still being drawn to each other. Their dialog with all its accompanying gestures went through a lot of revisions.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

I’ve been reading myths since childhood.

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

I’d love to see my version of the Malindig myth come to life in a movie, of course. I’d love to see a lot of myths adapted into film in the style of Jim Henson’s Storyteller series, especially the ones of the sky-maiden and of the first man and woman who came out of bamboos.

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

I’ve always liked Mariang Makiling. I love strong female characters.

Alternative Alamat: Cover, Release Date, Story Introductions

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 1 - 2011

Cover for "Alternative Alamat" by Mervin Malonzo

 

EDIT: Alternative Alamat is out now on Amazon and Flipreads!

On December 14, 2011, “Alternative Alamat“–our anthology of stories inspired by Philippine mythology–will be released on Amazon.com, Flipreads.com, and the iTunes store. This anthology has been more than a year in the making, and it is near and dear to my heart, so any help spreading the word would be greatly appreciated. I’m excited, not the least of which because of the excellent cover art provided by Mervin Malonzo (creator of “Tabi Po“, who also provides the interior illustrations), and because I believe we’re attempting something that hasn’t been done before, in the context of Philippine mythology.

Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

“Alternative Alamat” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

If you are a book blogger or book reviewer and would like to review/feature Alternative Alamat, please do contact me at rocketkapre[at]g mail. To give you a sneak peek of what to expect from the anthology, after the cut I’ve included the introductions for each of the eleven stories, which also serve as the bios for each of the contributors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alternative Alamat

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 1 - 2011

Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

“Alternative Alamat” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

[Page still under construction - some details/links to be added later.]

TAG CLOUD

Sponsors

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.

Photos

PSF6_P1020212PSF6_P1020211PSF6_P1020193PSF6_P1020190