Before we meet up with the amazing authors of Visprint this Saturday at Sabado del Libro, we asked them a few questions about their lives as readers and writers, especially here in the Philippines. Check out what they have to say below.
What’s the one book every Pinoy should read?
Alan Navarra: Alan Moore’s Watchmen
Carlo Vergara: Siyempre biased ako. Sana dumami pa ang makapagbasa ng mga libro ni Zaturnnah.
Siege Malvar: The Not Quite Unreal series from Carlos Malvar. It has everything. It’s a wry social commentary, high school drama, and then at the end, there’s a little heist that you won’t know is a heist until the end.
Chuckberry Pascual: Rizal, of course. And if possible, in the original Spanish. (So we all need to study Spanish, yes.)
Edgar Samar: I would like to think of Rizal’s novels as one book in two parts, so, without a doubt, his Noli and Fili. This is kind of redundant because they are already supposedly required readings, but people have grown so averse with what’s required of us that we sometimes expend energies on finding ways to avoid them instead. All I have to say is that I am always in equal awe and despair knowing that I continue to learn a lot from his novels more than from anybody else’s.
Eric Cabahug: “Princess Maryam” because it’s unlike any story about Christian-Muslim relations set in the Philippines (pardon the shameless self-promotion)
Eros Atalia: Noli
Jack Wigley: Ricky Lee’s “Si Tatang at ang Himala ng Ating Panahon.” It’s a complete book, a compendium of essays, stories, personal narratives, memoirs, interviews, and screenplays of a writer who’s in transit with his journey in life as a writer. It offers memorable insights to both readers and writers.
Manix Abrera: Bertong Badtrip!
Mervin Malonzo: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo by Rizal. There’s a reason why it’s a required reading in school. It’s surprising how its message and theme is still relevant in our country today where fear and tyranny from authorities still exist. Tip: treat it as a tragic romance/comedy/revenge novel. You’ll enjoy it more that way instead of looking at it as a school assignment.
What’s your favorite under-rated book?
Alan Navarra: Not sure if it’s under-rated, but one book that helped form my writing style was Samuel Shem’s House of God. Lots of raunchy elements combined with heartbreak and hilarity.
Carlo Vergara: Same as #1
Siege Malvar: Wakasang Wasak by Siege Malvar. I had fun writing it. More people should read it. I’m surprised people aren’t talking about it.
Chuckberry Pascual: Tagalog Bestsellers of the Twentieth Century: A History of the Book in the Philippines by Patricia May Jurilla. It is the first, and so far, the only one of its kind. History and scholarly titles usually get a bad rep, that they are boring and unreadable. Jurilla’s book is definitely not any of those things.
Edgar Samar: All good Filipino literary works are underrated, so in a sea of our underrated works, being a published book is already sadly a recognition. So, I’d say instead that I prefer seeing works by certain authors in book form––such as a poetry book by Fidel Rillo or John Labella, a book of fiction by Mykel Andrada, a book of essays by Jing Panganiban, and a book of critical essays by Jaya Jacobo.
Eric Cabahug: “Patayin sa Kilig si Barbara” because it’s so unapologetically kitschy
Eros Atalia: Hindi book, mga pinoy komiks
Jack Wigley: Lualhati Bautista’s “Gapo” and “Desaparacidos.” Her other works, “Dekada 70” and “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” are more popular, but these two novels are equally moving and they speak about nationhood and the Filipino identity.
Manix Abrera: Kikomachine Komix! XD
Mervin Malonzo: This might seem self-promoting and it is because I am involved in the production but Julius Villanueva’s Ella Arcangel series of comics deserves attention and recognition. It’s a story about a girl mambabarang (witch) who lives in the slums. She single-handedly maintains the balance of life between monsters and humans in her neighborhood while a greater threat from the government is fast approaching. It is originally released by Julius in a multiple-zine format. I involved myself with it as art editor of the collected edition because I love it so much.
What’s the best thing about being a writer in the Philippines?
Alan Navarra: Being a writer in the Philippines means you are at the center of a melting pot of tradition and experimentation. This is a country trying to find its own voice in a hyper-fast world. As creators, I think we should look inward more than out.
Carlo Vergara: Siguro ‘yung medyo maluwag pa ang censorship natin pagdating sa content ng libro, hindi tulad ng ilang ASEAN countries.
Siege Malvar: The language. It’s fun writing in English, and Filipino, and sometimes mixing them up.
Chuckberry Pascual: I write what is called “literary fiction” and occasionally, “literary criticism.” Books that are labeled as such usually have a very small print run, and it takes some time before copies get sold out. (If they do sell out.)
Edgar Samar: You have at least two languages and more than enough suffering to work with.
Eric Cabahug: We are rich in sources for stories — history, culture, religion, influences
Eros Atalia: Nalaman ko na mas marami pang imortanteng tao kaysa sa writer
Jack Wigley: The best thing is that I write and tell stories for my people about our own personal experience as a race, and as universal human beings. I write about the challenges that plague, embrace, and humor us. We are the only ones who can authentically tell our own stories to the world.
Manix Abrera: Ang dami-dami nating mga weird na kwento, astig na mga paniniwala, at kakaibang mga karanasan na distinctly ours, hehe.
Mervin Malonzo: It is really challenging to be a writer in the Philippines especially if you want to do it full time like me. However, being in the midst of the reading community makes it worth it. I love meeting readers, fellow writers, and comic creators in conventions and events. It is fun to share this passion with people. I do this for them as much as I do it for myself.
What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in the Philippines?
Alan Navarra: I see a lot of pressure to trend or to be highly relatable, which is great for business and exposure, but I feel that we could do some good too if we make things that are unexpected yet insightful. We are living in challenging times and I think the country is ripe for strong and unique voices to be heard.
Carlo Vergara: Dahil ang dami nating isla, ‘yung makaabot ang mga libro natin sa bawa’t sulok ng bansa. Siguro isasama ko na rin ‘yung pagtangkilik ng mga Filipino sa iba’t-ibang genre, at ‘yung higit na pagpapahalaga sa gawang banyaga.
Siege Malvar: The money. I wish we can sell books at a higher price point, and people would still buy them. I don’t think there’s enough book buyers in the Philippines for ordinary writers like me to make a living out of writing books.
Chuckberry Pascual: See #3
Edgar Samar: I am tempted to give my response to #3 as well, but really the challenge has always been on how to make my works more relevant and responsive to the present without losing my sense of what’s important.
Eric Cabahug: Preference of many Pinoy readers for non-Filipino books
Eros Atalia: Same as #3
Jack Wigley: Writing has never been a lucrative career or profession in our country. You have to work other jobs in order to sustain your writing. Also, readership is a challenge in our country.
Manix Abrera: Maraming super gagaling magsulat, kaya challenge ang kung paano ka maiba sa lahat.
Mervin Malonzo: Financial stability! Surprise surprise! Yes, it’s still difficult to make a living out of being an author. You have to have other means of supporting your family. I am still doing it out of sheer determination but it’s really hard work.
What’s your advice to aspiring Filipino writers?
Alan Navarra: Create from your truth and present it in a new way. A way that can only come from your combined experiences, skill, and honest point of view.
Carlo Vergara: Magsulat nang magsulat. Maghanap ng feedback. Sumali sa mga timpalak. Huwag matakot.
Siege Malvar: Stop writing for yourself. There’s enough people doing that, writing fanciful, indulgent, masturbatory stories about their daydreams. Think of stories that people need to read, that would change their lives, that would make them see truth in a new light. There are THOUSANDS of new Wattpad writers every day, indulging themselves in writing stories they want to read. Write stories that challenge the status quo, write stories that will ask questions, that will make people uncomfortable. Read more Siege Malvar.
Chuckberry Pascual: Stop talking about wanting to write, about wanting to have time to write. Start writing.
Edgar Samar: Read as much as you can, always live your life with hope, and never be satisfied with the world where injustice and suffering continue to exist.
Eric Cabahug: Find the humanity in your stories. That’s where you can truly engage readers in a deep, meaningful way.
Eros Atalia: Magbasa lalo na ng gawang pinoy, mangarap o umasa at magtangka… repeat hanggang kaya pa
Jack Wigley: Writing is a skill. And just like any skill like swimming or driving, you get better by practicing more. In order to be a better writer, you have to be a better reader first.
Manix Abrera: Isipin mo kaagad kung paano ka maiiba sa lahat.
- Read a lot
- Finish what you started
- Criticize your work
- Promote your work
Catch these authors at Sabado del Libro this Saturday, August 24, at Top Shelf, Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street! Visit the event page for more details.
Sabado del Libro is part of our Local Lit Fest. Learn more about it at fullybookedonline.com/locallitfest.
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