After reading a couple of speculative fiction novels that incorporate non-European mythology (Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson and Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James), and really wonderful conversations with my editor, I’ve renewed my commitment to incorporating Filipino folk tales and mythology in The Quiet is Loud.
My dad used to read to me from the book on the right, as bedtime stories. The sun and the moon as living things with living bodies. Gods that came down to feast and hunt with you. The invention of the world.
In the daytime, when it was palatable, there were stories of terrible creatures – Manananggal, Tikbalan, Aswang. Creatures like Nuno sa punso, who lives in a mound of earth in the forest, who you could appease by asking permission when you walked over his home – “Tabi tabi po, nuno!” – my brother and I grew up doing this, and to be honest sometimes I still feel a bit guilty when I don’t.
I started to research Filipino folk tales and mythological creatures years ago, when I started the novel. At the time I thought I would use them in a literal sense – as in these creatures really exist in the world – but this idea fell by the wayside as the novel became a little more rooted in our world. However, I’m still going to weave these tales and creatures into the novel, just in a more grounded way.
And I don’t want to limit it to just this novel. The new one I’ve been writing for a few years (still untitled) features Filipino culture as well – even though it’s a science-fantasy story set on a city-ship in space. Being able to include the little bits of Filipinoness that I really love is a way to introduce others to it, and it’s a very important way for me to explore and come closer to understanding my own cultural identity – something I’m still figuring out as a mixed-race person.
I may not have grown up fully immersed in Filipino culture, but I did grow up with Filipino stories, and these days it’s more important than ever for me to make sure stories like these get a wider audience.