June 12, 2015

Mabuhay! A Blogger Roundtable (2nd Ed.)

Last year, Rachel & I collaborated to celebrate the Filipino culture (both in literature and in our own lives). Putting our cultural heritage in the spotlight is something that is near and dear to both our hearts, particularly because it is so often misrepresented in the media and in literature. So we decided we needed to do it again this year! We're excited to be celebrating Philippine Independence Day with a post each on our blogs. Today, I'm excited to be bringing you another edition of the blogger roundtable! We've asked five Filipino bloggers to share their answers to this question:

Personally, I'd generally like to see more Filipino characters in literature. While there are a few books I've read with Filipino characters, I still want to see more of them in literature, especially in YA. I've read The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and was totally shocked in a good way when I got to the part where the main character met the Filipino girl. It's just so thrilling to read books by foreign authors who have decided to include a teeny-tiny bit of the Filipino culture.

Also, I hope that Filipino literature itself progresses more and more in the future. I've read a few Filipino novels and personally loved some of them, but I know that Filipino authors could show better. Especially in the YA age-group!

I would love reading fantasy stories featuring Filipino characters set in a Philippine setting and in the present time (like Mina V. Esguerra's Interim Goddess of Love Trilogy) because it's great to know more about our culture through the books that I read.

As for contemporary YA, which is very common nowadays, it would be drop-dead awesome if a famous author (say John Green) writes a YA contemporary romance set in the Philippines. The characters could still be American (or Fil-Am!) and maybe the main character would just be visiting his/her relatives in the Philippines, but then he/she meets a Filipino, and they explore the country together.

I myself have been planning to write a YA contemporary romance featuring Filipino characters set in a Philippine setting. I'm going to submit it to an international publisher. If my manuscript gets chosen, it would be an amazing opportunity to promote the country.

I’ve always loved books since I was a kid, but I do realize there are things that I would love to see more when it comes to Philippine literature. Growing up, I think the only locally published books I’ve read were written Bob Ong and Ricky Lee. Most books published today are either Tagalog-translated novels like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, or those lifted from Wattpad. 

I would love to see some revamp in the required readings for students, especially in high school. It’s nice to read the classic Jose Rizal novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, but wouldn’t it be nice to throw in some 21st century literature in the mix? 

I would also love to see more and attend book-related events! This shows appreciation for literature, local or not. Manila International Book Fair is good enough for me but imagine having more events like book conventions and book/author tours. Fun right?

My hopes are still up that all of these are going to happen. I think Filipinos just need to appreciate literature more and realize that literature isn’t dying and that it helps enrich the Philippine culture.

The Filipino diaspora makes up more than 10 million people, which is a little over 10% of the Filipino citizen population. If we expand this diaspora to include second-generation non-citizen Filipinos, then this number is significantly bigger. 

Living abroad more likely leads to mixed marriages, which in turn leads to very ethnically diverse offspring. At the heart of the matter, children from mixed marriages identify with both parents’ ethnicities, even if to varying degrees.

Since I am of such ethnic descent, I naturally would love to see more characters of mixed ethnic descent. I’d like to see them grapple with what it means to claim more than one ethnicity and yet none at all. Of course, I’m particulalry inclined to wish for books that represent characters of mixed Filipino descent. I’d also like to see books about Filipinos abroad.

No matter where I’ve lived and traveled, I’ve met substantial Filipino communities. Someone I knew once joked that you could throw a stone anywhere in the world and would have a good chance of hitting a Filipino. Living abroad is a reality for many Filipinos, so it would be great to see this reality reflected in literature as well.

Living in a country where family ties are hold almost sacred, I want to see more of narratives with close-knit families in literature, but especially in YA, a landscape which seems to be saturated with absent parents and barely-there siblings. I want more Spier families (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Balzer + Bray). Or stories in the vein of Noli Me Tangere, our national hero José Rizal's magnum opus. Or, you know, the rich, sumptuous culinary journey. We, Filipinos, are known for our great love of cooking and eating. And I want to read books with food and culture at the heart of them, possibly set in the Philippine provinces like Pampanga.

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?

Last year's MABUHAY! posts:
[on Alexa Loves Books]
[on Hello, Chelly]


  1. This is a great post!! I would love to see more Filipino characters in books. I just read Julie Kagawa's The Lost Prince and I got really excited that the main character was studying the Filipino martial arts Kali.

  2. I really appreciate and love that you came up with this in honor of the Philippine Independence Day! :)

  3. This was a thing? AHH! What a lovely idea, and here are some more Filipino bloggers to check out.

    Now here's my unpopular opinion. As awesome it would be to read more about Filipinos in books, what makes us so special to be THE people featured in books? I love how there is such a huge awareness of Filipinos not only in the bookish community, but in the world in general as well. But there are a lot of other races out there, and while I would love it if Filipinos were featured more in books, especially considering how many Filipinos there are in the US alone, I'd push for more diversity.

    But I'm saying that out of loyalty for my Chinese heritage. It's frustrating how in YA, Chinese culture is represented so poorly, like in Cinder. It's so rich, with so many stories and a very complex language laden with so much meaning, but Chinese YA doesn't portray it at all. As a Chinese-Filipino reading American books, I would love it the most if diversity was present, and cultures were handled respectfully, whether it was about Filipinos or not.

    And thus, I end my opinion. I'm sorry if it's offensive in any way.

  4. Yes, it was and I'm glad you found more bloggers to check out! I don't think your opinion is offensive at all, by the way. I think it's definitely valid for you to want better Chinese representation as well in books; in general, I want better representation of Asian cultures in books. Since this is an event celebrating the Philippine Independence Day and as a Filipino, that's the reason it's focused on Filipino culture - not because we're extra special or anything like that!

  5. Oh, I love that! I had no idea that was part of Julie's book.


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