On Contributing to the Diversity of Philippine Literature

I’ve always been a lover of genre fiction. Yes, I read the Classics, but as a Filipino, I always made it a point to read literature by fellow Filipinos, wherever in the world they currently reside in. It used to be that the only stories I read by Filipino authors were short stories and essays to be read for class. Now, we have a lot of stories in various genres.

Philippine Genre Fiction: Romance, Crime, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Romance is popular in the Philippines and we proudly have tons of indie Filipino writers who produce a lot of work that they also make available on platforms like Amazon or Kobo. Then, Filipino authors banded together to write crime fiction, which was a genre heralded by F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles (which is getting a film adaptation). Of course, there’s also the comic book industry in the Philippines. Most notable are the paranormal/horror and urban fantasy graphic novels by Budjette Tan, whose Trese stories have influenced my love for the paranormal, urban fantasy, and mystery, as well as reinvigorated my love for Filipino folklores and myths.

I’ve always loved paranormal, horror, urban fantasy, and mystery. Before, I used to imagine such stories with main characters that were largely “white” with just a tiny, tiny hint of Filipino ancestry. At that time, I hadn’t read a lot of urban fantasy stories with protagonists who weren’t white or American. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to read a lot of books now that feature a lot of characters of color and even urban fantasy stories not set in the United States, like Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series set in Singapore.

Detective Inspector Chen series

Detective Inspector Chen by Liz Williams is a paranormal/urban fantasy series set in Singapore

Eventually, I crafted stories that heavily featured characters of Filipino descent and many of the stories I had in mind involved Filipino myths. Today, June 12, we celebrate the 119th Independence Day of the Philippines. I thought I’d list down the stories I’ve been working on that feature Filipino characters:

Fallen From Grace (Book 1 in a currently untitled series)

The main character of this one is Ynaguinid, a Visayan god of war and poison, who would sometimes appear to her warriors as a woman. She is currently hiding in California… until the day she gets attacked by an unknown assailant and becomes a mortal. Ynaguinid meets other deities while she struggles to learn to live as an ordinary, powerless human girl. This one’s a bit campy and is not as heavy as the other stories I’m planning because, Jesus, I need to lighten up.

Visayan gods and goddesses

Deities (and diwata) of the Visayan pantheon from GMA-7’s Indio TV series

Spirit, Bound (Book 1 in the maybe Spirit World Series)

This one is still in the early planning stages and doesn’t have an outline yet, unlike Fallen From Grace. This is a secondary world fantasy, set in an alternate universe of magic. The place where the story happens is a fictional country based on 19th century Philippines, which was still under Spanish colonial rule. The main character is a teenage girl from an indigenous tribe. In this world, there are groups of people with a “spirit” they draw magic/powers from. The girl travels to the city to find her brother and accidentally gets enlisted into the academy of these “spirit binders”. Basically, there will be some politics and war here since the country is struggling to gain independence from colonial rule.

The Occult Society (Book 1)

This is the one I’m really working on and I’ve got everything set, but I’m not yet satisfied so I might change some stuff before publishing it. While the universe here is the same as the one we live in, the paranormal creatures are not hidden. They study, work, and eat with ordinary human beings. The main character is a Filipino college kid named Finn (Delfin) Wess who can see visions of death, a skill he acquired during a horrible massacre that killed his adoptive parents. He’s also a witch, but he keeps that a secret because of the general suspicion and distrust that witches get from other humans and other supernaturals. Eventually, he manages to become part of this social club in college, made of a shinigami, a medium, a human, and a tengu. There’s mystery, murders, love between two stubborn guys, and sweat-inducing world building that I’m trying to polish.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish these quickly and hopefully, there will be a lot more urban fantasy/paranormal books that feature people of color (and different sexualities, please) as main characters or books set in other countries, especially in Asia, Africa, or Latin America.

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