This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.
Cupful of Anger,
Bottle Full of Smoke:
The Stories of
Jose V. Montebon Jr.
Silliman Writers Series, 2017
First Sight of Snow
and Other Stories
Encounters Chapbook Series
Et Al Books, 2014
Celebration: An Anthology to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop
Sands and Coral, 2011-2013
Silliman University, 2013
Handulantaw: Celebrating 50 Years of Culture and the Arts in Silliman
Tao Foundation and Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, 2013
Inday Goes About Her Day
Locsin Books, 2012
Beautiful Accidents: Stories
University of the Philippines Press, 2011
Old Movies and Other Stories
National Commission for Culture
and the Arts, 2006
FutureShock Prose: An Anthology of Young Writers and New Literatures
Sands and Coral, 2003
Nominated for Best Anthology
2004 National Book Awards
I'm 15 years old and I read your column weekly. I know you're very knowledgeable about Philippine literature so I thought you the best authority to answer this question:
How come I never see Filipino authors in the Young Adult section of the bookstore -- even Filipino authors who are American citizens, or living in some other country? I've seen very few Filipino authors in other sections of the bookstore, too, aside from the Filipiniana section.
My main concern here is the fact that I haven't encountered many local authors being published by international titles like Scholastic or Harper-Collins (or even not-as-hot publishers like Puffin or Penguin Books). Maybe it's just that I'm ignorant about how publishing really works, but I find it disconcerting that only British or American authors get to share their books with the world. I know our local publishing companies are pretty good, but don't Filipinos want to expand their literary market to other countries? I've always wanted to see a Filipino-written book in someplace like Barnes & Nobles or Borders. Is it that they won't accept manuscripts written by foreign authors, or is it that these foreign authors simply don't try? Or could it be that (gasp) we simply aren't good enough?
Another thing that's been bothering me is the very limited genres that Filipino writers dabble in. I've only recently started liking some Philippine literature (due in great part to the local newspaper writers, and Jessica Zafra), and I've noticed that most books are, well, compilations of some sort. Poetry, or essays, or newspaper articles, or short stories. Aside from the works written by older authors (or those novels penned in Tagalog), I haven't seen too many novels or even chapter books (our children's books are always pretty short). And in the few novels I've seen or heard about, I've noticed that most stories center around the Philippines or Filipinos, and involve rather depressing storylines. This is all right when done in moderation, but practically all local literature I've encountered is like this. I am not exaggerating, because last year for our English class we had to read local novels for our book reports, and all my classmates complained that the stories were too gloomy and complicated. There was always something wrong going on -- adultery, abortion, leaving the country, family complications, hatred, war, death, etc. etc. Also, it's really good to write about one's country, but that shouldn't be the only thing we can write. After all, most of the world cannot relate when we talk about Manila or sisig or basi or carabaos.
I always wonder: Where is the fantasy? The science fiction? The romance (and I don't mean the kind that has a cover ripped off from a print ad)? The drama, suspense, action, horror? Where are all these stories, and how come no Filipinos are writing them? I know Filipinos are talented, and it isn't all that hard to find inspiration. So what's happening?
The thing that really worries me is the future of our local writers. I have dreams of getting a book published someday myself. But is there a chance? Is there a way for aspiring Filipino authors to get published, and to have an audience larger than the limited one that actually goes to the Filipiniana section? It's been bothering me for a long time, and I finally had to ask. I certainly hope I'm not the only one concerned about this.
Your answer would mean a lot to me, and I would definitely appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Milflores Publishing, a small company by industry standards ... has grown phenomenally in five years by taking creative, calculated risks. From our initial four titles in 2000, we now have 58 titles in the bookstores -- a growth rate of 1,450 percent. From sales of 4,260 books in 2000, we expect to sell around 40,000 this year -- a growth rate of close to a thousand percent.
The most important constraint for book publishers at the macro level ... is the widespread poverty in the country... Another important constraint is the mismatch between the books that the best Filipino minds write and the needs and preferences of readers. Most Filipino books are still written in English though most readers prefer books in Filipino. The best Filipino writers still concentrate on writing fiction (novels, short stories, plays) and poetry in English, while nine out of 10 book buyers want information books. Because of class differences in lifestyles and experiences, the content of the best Filipino literature in English is often at odds with what most readers want from fiction, so they turn, instead, to the movies, telenovelas, and romance novels... The small, but affluent, A and B market is fluent in English and should be the natural market for Filipino literature in English by the best writers. Unfortunately, this segment is also highly Westernized and prefers books by foreign authors. Some of them are even unaware that there is now a fairly large body of work by Filipino authors in English....
In more practical terms, Milflores engaged several dozens of the best, award-winning writers to contribute to humorous anthologies on popular topics like shopping malls, insomnia, beauty pageants, being a Noranian, etc. We also published collections of humorous essays by good writers on migration to America, pregnancy, the single life for women, the gay world, etc. We only focused on the popularity of the topic of the books -- we never told our writers what to write and never asked them to simplify anything for the mass market. In fact, we always selected manuscripts where the writer poured everything he/she had into it, for we believe that books with great passion are the best ones, or to paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir, 'In some sense, every good book is a cry for help.'"