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Historical inspiration for my fantasy novel: Pre-colonial Philippines

Seeker of the Lost Song is a historically-inspired fantasy novel merging medieval Finnish & pre-colonial Filipino elements, and I wanted to share two elements of Filipino history I included.

Dulang, a low table

One of my favourite tidbits from my research is that pre-colonial Filipinos ate at a low table, sitting on the floor. Part of me worries that readers will think “Hey you stole that from Japan!” – but Filipinos did it too. I’m excited for the chance to show my people at their own low table, eating rice with their hands.

A Filipino family eating in a carinderia, José Honorato Lozano

The balangay boat

Another pre-colonial Filipino element I included in the book was a balangay, an ancient Filipino boat that’s recently come back into the public consciousness, with ancient boats being excavated and working replicas made. A quote from this article in STARweek, from one of the people who worked to rebuild the balangay, really resonated with me:

“It is very sad because we are a maritime people. We should be gifted and natural in the waters but colonialization robbed us of that consciousness. I am doing this to help rekindle that spirit.”

The balangay that appears in my novel has a double outrigger (something that always feels so Filipino to me), but essentially it’s a larger version of the sketch below. And I have to admit, the scenes on the balangay did stir something in me. Something ancient and ancestral, perhaps?

Sketch of a Filipino balangay boat by Rey A Santiago of the National Museum

Seeker’s as-yet-unnamed sequel also features elements of pre-colonial Filipino history, but more on that at another time. Suffice it to say I’m enjoying this opportunity to learn more about the history of my people and use it in a fantasy setting!



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