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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Future of the Book Conference 2010: Day Two Videos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 20 - 2010


The first Future of the Book conference was held last week at the UP-Ayala Technohub in Quezon City (here’s a great overview of the conference at Coffeespoons), which brought together publishers, writers, teachers, readers – and yes, even lawyers – to discuss the changing aspects of publishing throughout the world, and in the Philippines in particular. I was there on the second day, to talk about how independent publishers can thrive in the digital age, and I managed to take videos of a few of the other speakers as well.

A few caveats though: First, the latter half of the footage of Charles Tan’s talk has atrocious video quality – my Vado is quirky that way apparently – but the audio is still good, so I uploaded it because it was a great talk, and you can at least still listen to it (or indulge in Max Headroom nostalgia by watching it).

The second caveat is that because of time constraints, a few of the speeches had to be rushed or cut short. After the videos, I’ll have the full text of my speech and links to a few others.

I’d like to congratulate the conference organizers for a successful conference, and I hope we can all work together to maximize the benefits of this new world of publishing for all interested parties. But I swear to God, the next time I hear someone say Filipinos don’t have a reading culture, I’m shoving a textbook up his ass…

And now, the videos!

First up is Charles Tan, (Bibliophile Stalker) prolific blogger and Philippine Spec Fic advocate, on the topic of the consumer experience in the age of ebooks.

More after the cut

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Art Fantastic: Interview with Benjo Camay

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 26 - 2010

There’s no better complement to a Spec Fic story than some good fantasy or science-fiction artwork. CG Pintor is an organization of Filipino digital painters, co-founded by Usok #1 cover artist Kevin Lapeña, and now and then we’ll do interviews with some of their members. Today we speak with Benjo Camay (The-Hand on deviantart), who contributed a piece to the illustrated edition of Usok #1, namely the art for “The Coming of the Anak-Araw” by Celestine Trinidad.


What’s the first thing you remember drawing?

I remember that I when I was 4 years old I’d always draw a scuba diver thrusting a knife unto a shark’s body.

Uhm. Why? Did you have a deep hatred of sharks or something?

Actually, I don’t really know why I did that when I was a kid… maybe sharks are just so cool to draw?

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Art Fantastic: Interview with Tey Bartolome

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 12 - 2010

There’s no better complement to a Spec Fic story than some good fantasy or science-fiction artwork. CG Pintor is an organization of Filipino digital painters, co-founded by Usok #1 cover artist Kevin Lapeña, and now and then we’ll do interviews with some of their members. Today we speak with Tey Bartolome (teygraphy on deviantart), who will be contributing a piece to a soon-to-be-released illustrated edition of Usok #1. In fact, let’s show you his take on “The Child Abandoned” by Yvette Tan:

Neat huh? So let’s learn a bit more about the artist behind the digital brush.

What’s the first thing you remember drawing (that wasn’t a requirement for school or anything)?

I used to be a big fan of Dragonball Z and the very first drawing I made was a stick drawing of Goku, way back when I was little.

How did you get started as an artist?

I’ve loved drawing since I was a kid. My parents used to give me crayons and coloring books. I gave so much time over to drawing that I forgot how to be like a normal kid. Instead, I’d develop my skills by doodling in my textbooks and notebooks–I’m still doing that now. When I was in school, I established a name for myself amongst my classmates and professors, who usually tapped me for activities that required drawing.

I had to stop drawing earlier in my college life because I was taking an engineering course instead of fine arts. Later on, I realized that I needed to pursue my dreams. I shifted to a multimedia-arts-related course and there I met my friends who helped me further build up my skills in drawing.

Right now I’m still in college and I’m happy that I have the time to pursue my art, either drawing or studying how to draw. When the mood hits me, I do quick sketches to apply the lessons as I’ve learned.

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Tabi Tabi Po in San Francisco

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 17 - 2009

The sting of neglecting to cover an awesome event such as “Tabi Tabi Po” (a “group exhibition that explores the rich and colorful creatures of Filipino Folklore through Urban Contemporary art”) is only somewhat mitigated by the fact that I don’t think I could have managed the commute to, er, San Francisco (at the 1:AM Gallery) in time (the exhibit took place from November 13 to December 12). Still, if I were anywhere near California, it seems like it would almost certainly have been worth the trip–the one advantage to stumbling upon the exhibit at this late stage is that there’s plenty of content online at the official blog, including the companion documentary below:

Tabi Tabi Po Companion Documentary: An Exploration of Filipino Folklore Creatures from James Garcia on Vimeo.

You can find more clips at the site, including a trailer, a shadow play, and a MyxTV feature. There is also a link on site to the artwork they have on sale, for which a portion of the proceeds will be used for typhoon relief.


Many thanks to the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc. blog for allowing me to discover such an awesome event.

Interview with Kevin Lapeña

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 17 - 2009

Kevin Lapeña is the artist behind the awesome cover for Usok # 1 and he took some time to answer some of our questions, and shed some light on the process behind his art, both in general and with regard to the cover of Usok’s maiden issue.

So, tell me, when you were a little kid, were you the type who’d take a bunch of crayons and draw on the walls and floors?

Never! I was taught early on that drawings belong on paper (or whatever is the proper canvas), and not on walls, floors or furniture! (I was given tons of scratch paper to work with.)

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START HERE: Sketch-A-Thon

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 26 - 2009

We’ve already mentioned START HERE–a project collecting artworks inspired by Typhoon Ondoy relief efforts that aims, in turn, to inspire others to help in rebuilding the Philippines–on the site before, and they’ve recently announced (via their newly refurbished site) that they will be having a one day free Sketch-a-Thon on on November 15, 2009, from 10am-7pm at The Forum, 4th Floor, Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.

From the site:

The START HERE Sketch-a-thon is open to anyone who wants to share their visions of hope, creation and rebuilding through drawing and doodles. All drawings generated that day will be scanned and included in the START HERE online exhibit.

Professional artists will also be on location to accept commissions and money raised from that will also be donated to the survivors of the typhoons. Other donations and pledges will also be accepted throughout the day.

Start Here: Artists vs Ondoy

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 30 - 2009

Over at twitter, I discovered a new project being proposed for artists who are looking for some way to use their talents to aid in the relief effort: START HERE.  Please spread the word.

[Note: The group seems to be soliciting visual art--for those wordsmiths and prose masters out there, stay tuned. I'm working on something.]

From the site: START HERE is a collection of artwork inspired by Typhoon Ondoy relief efforts that aims, in turn, to inspire others to help in rebuilding the Philippines. The hope is that we can eventually set up an exhibit where we can sell the artworks with the proceeds donated to Ondoy relief efforts, rebuilding programs and calamity risk management programs.

What follows is the group’s call to action:

Dear artists,

If you’ve got the talent but don’t know what to create for START HERE, read on.

Don’t think of the tragedy that happened on September 26 2009 in the Philippines because of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). Instead, think of what we can do to help rebuild the communities that were severely affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding.

Think of all the people who have come together to bring hope to the survivors. Let this be our inspiration. Let’s also inspire hope and initiative in others by doing what we do best, through art!

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on this entry or send an e-mail to And don’t forget to tell everyone you know!

Thank you,

8″ x 8″
300 dpi

your full name (or names if it’s a collaboration)
title of the artwork
a short description of the artwork
contact number
e-mail address

November 26, 2009


Fantastic Filipinos on Deviantart

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 30 - 2009

If I’d had access to deviantart and a scanner in my high school days, I think it might have taken me more than four years to graduate: the heady mix of art, peer review and community (with a smattering of e-commerce opportunities) could have jealously devoured my time, free and otherwise.

It can be tough to find Filipino artists, so I thought I’d list a few of my favorites, as compiled from posts on the Bahay Talinhaga blog here and here.

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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.