Alternative Alamat edited by Paolo Chikiamco (2011)
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” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, tips for online and offline research, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.
Alternative Alamat a fascinating read. I gained more knowledge about certain mythological figures (e.g. Maria Makiling, Tungkung Langit, Alunsina, Bernardo Carpio), but I feel like it’s just the beginning. There’s so much more to explore and retell.
Stories that stood out to me in particular are
-“The Alipin’s Tale” – a mythological retelling of Lapu Lapu’s fate and the changes after the Battle of Mactan. It is told like a folktale from the POV of his alipin (servant) and it concludes with a ballsy ending that’s like a punch in the gut. I also give it props for incorporating the intersection of race and class.
-“Keeper of My Sky” – the post-creation story of Tungkung Langit and Alunsina. This is one of the most bittersweet stories I’ve ever read. It’s simultaneously intimate and epic, both about the fate of two people and of the universe. If you’re prone to moisture in the eyes, maybe you shouldn’t read this in public.
-“Offerings to Aman Sinaya” – about a fishing village, their way of life, and their struggle to survive in the present day. It has moments of joy when young members master their birthright, but also of anguish as they continue to feel the negative impact of industrialization.
There’s also bonus content in the appendix: a list of notable Filipino deities and the region their stories originate from, interviews with two professors (specializing in folklore and anthropology, respectively) and a list of additional resources on Filipino mythology.
As a whole, this is not what I’d consider to be an uplifting or an escapist read. It raises more questions than answers, because many of these stories touch on contemporary issues that we don’t have an answer to yet. It’s unique and thought-provoking, but I’d recommend reading something lighter in alternation with this book when it gets too heavy.
This anthology is a rare gem, and it’s wonderful that it’s available as an ebook. I’d recommend it for those who are curious about Filipino mythology, or interested in mythology and folktales in general.
You might like this if you like…
Mythology and folktales; Philippine speculative fiction; short story anthologies; an intelligent read that is bittersweet, but rewarding
Posted on August 3, 2013, in 5 stars, Alternate History, Alternative Alamat, Contemporary and Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Folktales and Mythology, kapre, maria makiling, Paolo Chikiamco, Short Stories and Novellas and tagged Filipino, folktales, mythology, Phlippines, planes of existence, scenery porn, virgin power. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.