Author: Edited by Paolo Chikiamco
Genre: Filipino Literature, Mythology, Fantasy, Retellings, Anthology
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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 of, and develop a hunger for, those venerable tales.
Alternative Alamat features interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo (“Tabi Po”), a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita. This expanded print edition also includes a short comic from Andrew Drilon, and a new story from Eliza Victoria, set in the same universe as “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St.”
“Sometimes, I feel like there’s a tendency–even amongst Filipinos–to view the Philippines as a footnote on the world stage. Yet’s there’s so much that is unique and beautiful in Philippine culture, if only we would take the time to learn it.”
This pretty much sums up my opinion about this book and Philippine culture in general. I grew up learning about and loving Greek mythology, but know so very little about my own. I could tell you who the Greek gods and goddesses are, what they represent, yet if you asked me about Philippine folklore, I’d only be able to tell you the little I know about Maria Makiling and supernatural beings like the kapre, tikbalang, etc.
Alternative Alamat is a collection of short stories that put a twist to Philippine myths. I’m afraid I can’t identify the twists in some stories, but that’s given me motivation to research and learn more about our folklore. It seems so very diverse and filled with many interesting deities, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them.
I don’t have a favorite story in this collection, they were all equally wondrous and enthralling to me. Stories about gods I’ve never heard of before, a different take on the Maria Makiling I’ve learned about, a supernatural twist on Lapu-Lapu’s triumph against Magellan…how could I ever choose?
To be honest, this book makes me weep over the lack of cultural knowledge so many of us have. It makes me sad to think about our very own alphabet, the alibata, that hardly anyone knows about, and all the things we lost when we were colonized by the Spaniards. But this book also gives me hope, because perhaps, as more and more people read it, we’ll be just a little bit more aware and just a little bit more curious about our own culture, and eventually try to learn more and love our own.