June 11, 2014

Mabuhay! A Blogger Roundtable

Rachel & I are hosting this event to celebrate Filipino culture, both as it ties into our lives and into literature. You can check out the introduction post, as well as the one on Hello Chelly about our personal experiences as Filipinos.

Today, I'm pleased to be able to welcome a few fellow Filipino book bloggers onto the blog! We wanted to get some of our kababayans (countrymen) involved in this event, and decided that the simplest, most relevant way was to ask them to answer this question: 

Personally, I'd love to see more Filipino characters! It'd be great to have a main character who happens to be Filipino, instead of one of the more common Asian cultures. But I wouldn't mind a great side character or two who was pure Filipino either! 

Another thing I'd particularly like to see more of is fantasy and YA. I've read a lot of Filipino contemporary and chick lit, especially back when I was still living in the Philippines. I haven't quite read anything in the YA age range that I can recall, nor have I encountered a real high fantasy novel. I do think that the Filipino culture would make an interesting background against which to set a book, as well as a great foundation for any fictional world in a fiction novel.

And last, but not least, a Filipino setting! We have some beautiful (and very enchanting) places in our country, and I think they'd make a wonderful setting for a story. (You'll have to tune back in tomorrow to see my mini-tour of the places I've been in the Philippines!)

I read a lot of YA, and because of that, I would love to see more well-written Filipino YA novels. This means YA novels either partially set in the Philippines or those that have Filipino characters. I think it would be great if the Philippine YA market would develop similar to how Australian YA has grown in the past couple of years, with so many Australian books being published in the US and the UK. YA resonates with a lot of readers all over the world, and I think it would be wonderful if they could read about what life is like for Filipino teens.

I would like to see more emphasis on Filipino characters in general. A book that I distinctly remember having a Filipino secondary character is Skinny by Donna Cooner. Being so surprised and excited at the same time, I tweeted it out and the author even replied back saying her husband is Filipino! I love that. I love that she gets to include part of her family in her books. And even better, I love being able to identify a character as Filipino.

One more wish I would like to see is seeing the Filipino culture through the eyes of a newcomer, or maybe someone who is Filipino, but is born in America. There is just so much an author can do and say and hopefully, one day, I will get to see some Tagalog words in a book. 

Lastly, I've been following Melissa de la Cruz's books and she has one book titled Fresh Off the Boat, and it's about a Filipino teenager. I'm so excited to read it and see how it compares to other books.

To answer your question: I'd love to see more Filipino characters in literature, especially in YA. I know of very few books that do have them (although have not yet had the chance to read any) and I think that's quite unfortunate, because Filipinos would make for such quirky characters - festive, fun, familial, friendly. 

Also, food-loving! We Filipinos love eating and are all foodies at heart. We adore all kinds of cuisines but most especially ours! Filipino food is eclectic and delicious. I'd love to see them be mentioned or featured in literature. 

Mostly though, I think it would be nice just to see the awesomeness of Filipinos and our culture be appreciated through books once in a while.

I want to see more young adult novels written by Filipino authors. Filipinos are very talented writers! They are creative and very genuine and their voices deserve the chance to be heard internationally. I'd love to read YA novels set in the Philippines. The Philippines has a very rich culture, and beautiful places like Coron, Palawan and Batanes, which I think YA readers would fall in love with. Lastly, I'd like to read YA novels with Filipino characters that speak Filipino/Tagalog. It would be so awesome to see our language in fiction books published abroad and people all over the world will learn about it. They might even be interested in studying our language.

As a Filipino, I'm honestly disappointed with literature in our country. I mean, yes, a lot of Filipinos read books. (Have you seen the book signings???) (Alexa's Note: I actually have, and it's incredible!) BUT there's still some sort of prejudice or discrimination when it comes to Filipino authors. Granted, I'm guilty of that. I don't really go to the book signings of Filipino authors, but I'm hoping to remedy that this year.

Anyway, like I said, it's disappointing how we don't support our own blood. We're willing to spend thousands and thousands of pesos to get the latest New York Times bestseller or John Green's boxed set, but we can't even set aside a few hundred for a book by a Filipino author. It's not really our fault since we grew up thinking that the only Filipino literature we had were the ones we had to dissect and study in school (works by Lualhati Bautista, Bob Ong, and of course, Jose Rizal). But I think that with more and more books from the West resonating and impacting the youth, there's a chance to change this misguided perception of Filipino literature.

A few suggestions:

- Contemporary YA written by Filipinos. Sort of like taking Wattpad books to a higher level (nationally). 
- More Filipinos in Western YA. There are a lot of Filipinos in the States (Alexa's Note: TRUE.), so why do we always have to be the weird kid in the back of the classroom or a sidekick that dies early on in a novel? Little brown brothers can be hot enough to be the protagonist too, y'know!

There are so many things I would like to see! I want books that are your typical contemporary YA romance and the main character - s/he just happens to be Filipino. I want more books that are coming-of-age stories about American-born Filipinos and about those who have migrated here from the Philippines. I want dystopians, ghost stories, fantasies and retellings that borrow ideas from Filipino culture. Because let me tell you, we are a superstitious bunch and we have a lot of stories to be shared.

There just aren't enough Filipino characters (main or secondary) or enough Filipino authors that get the kind of recognition they deserve. I want more of it all and I really hope that one day we get that!

YOUR TURN: If you're Filipino, what would you like to see more of in Philippine literature? And if you're not, would you be interested in reading about a Filipino character or a book featuring Filipino culture?


  1. As a Filipino, I am really looking forward to more contemporary in the Fil lit. Also, it would be really cool for paranormal books that are based of aswangs, mananaggals etc. Diverse in YA is such a great thing and I am really looking forward for more of it. I like our heroes's works in general like Aguinaldo's poems, Rizal's novels, etc etc. I hope the Fil literature will grow more in our society. Sad to say but I feel as if the Fil authors are very underrated in the country itself.

  2. I'm not Filipino, but I'm married to a pogi pinoy! I'm interested in Filipino culture and have already learned some basic Tagalog phrases... And I've even cooked my first Filipino dish (Chicken Adobo). Plus, I've read three novels by Filipino author Jessica Hagedorn and have also recently acquired a novel titled The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven... So, yes, reading books with leading characters that are Filipino and/or about Filipino culture is something I'm interested already.

  3. Thanks for letting me be a part of this! Yay for Filipino fiction!

  4. Wow thank you so much Alexa! I am a Filipino Blogger and I def appreciate this a lot. Thank you for considering it :) My fellow Filipinos will love you!


  5. Wow! I couldn't agree more with all of your wonderful insights! Of course, I would like to see more Filipino characters in the YA category! And I think it should begin with us. I mean someone has to write that story right now! I've been meaning to write one but the story hasn't come yet but I know it would be YA! LOL

  6. I would love love love to see more Filipino characters in YA! Reading has always been my window to cultures different from my own, and I love when an author includes his/her own cultures in books (or even when an author who is not a part of that culture has studied and researched it well). It feels like a glimpse into their everyday lives, and I'm always SO intrigued by how it may be different from my own. Excellent discussion, ladies!

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