Books & Art

5 Terrific Filipino Writers With Books on Filipino Folklore

More than one of them is Gaiman-endorsed.
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Internationally renowned fictionist Neil Gaiman professed his love for Philippine folklore on Twitter after he was prodded by a fan, but he also declined a request that he write a book on it, saying that the Philippines has “many terrific writers there who can do a better job of telling those stories than I can.”


The Twitterverse erupted in the internet-equivalent of a round of applause. In fact, one user has taken it upon herself to share her own personal reading list.




On that uplifting note, next time you feel the urge to reread Gaiman's Anansi Boys or American Gods, feel free to pick up a book by any of these award-winning Filipino writers instead. Neil himself has given you his blessing.

Dean Francis Alfar’s work has won him ten Palanca Awards, including one in the grand prize of the “Novel” category for Salamanca. The novel follows the perverse journey of a writer named Gaudencio Rivera, and it explores the line between sorcery and everyday existentialism. To date, Alfar has written tens of books and anthologies, in a similar realm of magic realism. But Alfar is also the editor of the annual publication, Philippine Speculative Fiction. He describes "speculative fiction" as stories which begin with the question, "what if?” The series has since encompassed multiple genres—horror, magical realism, science fiction–making space for stories by Filipinos that may not fit elsewhere.

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Budjette Tan is a comic book writer best known for Trese, with art by KaJo Baldisimo. The main character, Alexandra Trese, is a young detective whose chosen cases always lead her to supernatural circumstances—the case of characters is a quirky assortment of mythical creatures, from the tikbala who keeps making trouble, or the nuno who lives in his manhole and whom Trese never forgets to greet with a “Tabi tabi, po.”

Trese is still ongoing, and you can read the snippets that are uploaded regularly weekly on their Facebook page. Fun fact: Neil Gaiman has his own copies of Trese, and has been communicating his love for Filipino art and writing to our writers since 2011. In one postcard, he tells the makers of Trese that he can’t wait to read it.

 


Arnold Arre is perhaps most well-known for his graphic novel The Mythology Class, published by Nautilus Comics, which follows the adventures of anthropology student Nicole Lacson when she finds herself entering another realm inhabited by mythical creatures. Aside from creatures, the story also features mythical heroes like Lam-ang. His other award-winning work, Trip to Tagaytay, is a more dystopian, futuristic take on the Philippines. 

Fun fact: Neil Gaiman stated once in an interview that he kept “running into” Arre’s art and really wanted to meet him. They ended up meeting in the men’s bathroom. 

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Edgar Samar is the author behind Janus Sílang, a set of four young adult books also published by Adarna House. The first book, Si Janus Sílang at angTinayakna Tábon, introduces the now-beloved protagonist, who finds himself as the only survivor in his internet café to have played the game TALA, and eventually on a quest to end the threat of creatures like the tiyanak, manananggal, and tikbala. The story was adapted into a play just last year, performed by Tanghalang Ateneo, and is on its way to becoming a teleserye on ABS-CBN.

In celebration of #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy, Samar has also shared a list of books that you might have missed from the last century.




Yvette Tan is a fictionist whose work spans from horror and mystery to food. Her book, Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories, dips towards the darker end of the spectrum of folklore: taking the folklore’s classic “monsters” and placing them in Manila, where they could be sitting right next to you. For your reference, she has a very handy crash course on Philippine mythological creatures on her website.

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CORRECTION: 14/08/2018: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the publisher of Arnold Arre's The Mythology Class as Adarna House. It was published by Nautilus Comics.

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Nina Unlay
Nina Unlay is pursuing an MA in Journalism. She used to be the Features Editor of GRID magazine.
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