Alternative Alamat Interview: Celestine Trinidad

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 27 - 2011

Alternative Alamat” is now available from Amazon.com, Flipreads.com, 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.

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.]

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.

Kevin Libranda Talks Novus Karma and Aporia

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 2 - 2011

You may recognize Kevin Libranda’s art style from his work on Aporia for Mangaholix. This year, he launched Novus Karma, a manga-style story set in Manila, which is published at MangaMagazine.net.I caught up with him via email to talk about past, present, and future projects.


Hello Kevin! How would you describe Novus Karma to a prospective reader? Do you believe it will appeal to fans of your work on Aporia?

Hi! How would I describe NK…I guess it’s sort of like a mix of the TV series Heroes and the anime Ah! My Goddess. I feel that it has a deeper backstory since it’s sci-fi/fantasy. It can be a bit confusing at first, but I promise that the plot, when compared with that of my other stories, will only get better and better–especially the climax and ending. That’s all I can say. :)

Now as for the fans of Aporia, I’m not sure if they’ll like NK. Aporia is purely a fantasy/adventure, and my target audience for it are Filipino children 13 years old and below. If I can talk about Aporia for a moment, while it’s true that there’s a huge amount of characters introduced over just 7 chapters, I believe that Pinoy fans can still appreciate and understand it, given that the characters and setting are based on Filipino folklore/mythology (except for the Aegis, which I’ve taken from Greek mythology). NK was made for a more mature audience: its theme is darker, plus there’s a touch of gore and a little nudity. XD

How did the comic end up with MangaMagazine.net?

After leaving my old job, I immediately started looking for a new one. It took me a couple of months though, so while waiting and basically bumming around, I used my free time to conceptualize NK. That was when I met a fellow DA artist who was working for MM.net. I read his work and I got interested, so I decided to apply at MM.net, too. They asked for the usual requirements: sample pages, character designs… Lucky for me, they liked the general story of NK, so I got accepted.

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Filipino Bibliophile Podcast: Interview with Paolo Chikiamco

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 19 - 2011

You know you’ve moved up in the world of speculative fiction when Charles Tan sits you down for an interview. After all, for years he’s been interviewing the likes of  RA Salvatore, Tim PrattEllen Datlow and Catherynne M. Valente on his personal blog as well as the official blogs for the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards. So I was more than happy to sit down with him this week for his new “Filipino Bibliophile” podcast. We spoke about Alternative Alamat, High Society, Rocket Kapre, and slush reading for Fantasy Magazine–Charles has a more comprehensive list of topics on the episode page, either at his blog, or at the podcast site.

Thanks to Charles for the opportunity, and for once again finding new ways to promote Filipino authors. Do check out the first episode of his podcast, where he has an interview (two interviews really) with Eisner-award nominated komikero Gerry Alanguilan.

Supermaker: Andrew Drilon Interview

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 17 - 2011

Andrew Drilon (“Pericos Tao“) is one of the most respected komiks creators in the country today. His latest mini-comic, “Supermaker” has garnered praise from creators such as Chris Roberson and Jeff Lemire. He talks about the inspiration for the comic here, but I still wanted to know more. I asked the always busy Andrew if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about “Supermaker” and he graciously agreed:


So… I take it you come from the “characters have a life of their own” school of thought?

 

Sometimes. Well, really, they’re all fictional constructs, but my feeling is that the act of creation is really a conversation with oneself, so some of the creator’s internal logic bleeds into the characters. You can play around with archetypes or create well-rounded personalities, but with each line/panel/image you set down, you’re building rules for them which have to be followed (or subverted with good reason). 

So yeah, I feel that once that “rule set” is established, you can extend it forwards and backwards with your imagination, giving the impression of a life outside the actual story, which allows for things like sequels and fan fiction. However I do like the thought that they exist somewhere in the second dimension, living lives outside our purview. It’s a romantic idea that I tend to obsess over.

You mentioned in your journal entry that “Supermaker” was originally a longer work, but you decided to make it shorter. How long was it, originally? What sort of cuts did you make?

It was originally designed to run in monthly 8-page installments for three years. The first “season” would have been a year, clocking in at around 96 pages, with the whole thing running to almost 300 pages. I had a ton of ideas for it–the overall stylistic theme being rampant references to (and reflections on) all the superhero comics I grew up reading—all anchored in this “real” cartoonist’s story. I wanted to do a “Supreme” or “End League”-style work, which usually starts out being derivative of other stories but evolves into own thing. I love Barth and Borges and Burroughs, and I think there are lots of ways to do metafiction comics that we haven’t seen before. In the end, though, I decided to just cut out the body and leave the heart of it–that sentiment expressed in those 8 pages, which I think is the most important aspect of the story.

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Trese 4 Launch Videos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 11 - 2011

So last Saturday’s book launch of Trese volume 4, “Last Seen After Midnight” was a smashing success. Not every Trese fan could be there of course, which is why I’m uploading the question and answer portion of the event. After all, how else is the world going to know the rift running through the middle of Trese fandom: should Alexandra ever get a romantic interest? Budjette and Kajo also address fan influence on the storylines, a Zsazsa Zaturnnah crossover (make it happen!) and when book 5 will be coming out.

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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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