January 9, 2012

Alternative Alamat

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by Various Authors, edited by Paolo Chikiamco

Reading Alternative Alamat was like hurtling through time back to high school, back when I was first introduced to Lam-ang, Bernardo Carpio, and Maria Sinukuan. Of course, stories about important creatures of Philippine folklore such as the tikbalang, kapre and manananggal were told to me by my older cousins at a very young age, and I've been friends with Maria Makiling ever since my family's very first trip to the nearby town of Los Banos, where Mount Makiling looms proud and majestic from a distance,
and which form I always attempt to decipher as a supine woman's
profile.  And so to these creatures, as well as to deities and other
beings of magic and enchantment, I need not be acquainted any further.

Imagine, however, reading tales about these very same creatures but in a very different context. Different, but clever. Brilliant.

I've always loved retellings. My favorite retelling of all is Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples - you'll have to read it to find out why. :P  I appreciate retellings because they offer a fresh and unique take on familiar, homegrown stories, and because I also appreciate the creativity and imagination involved in their formation. And compendiums, I love them, too. I love the fact that I can pick one up, flip the pages and choose a story, read it, and not at all feel obliged to finish everything, knowing that I can always go back to it whenever the mood strikes.

So. A compendium of retellings. Filipino retellings. Sounds good to me. ;)



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But what can be expected from this particular anthology? Well, imagine the elusive Maria Makiling appearing as a chic, corporate careerwoman who totes BlackBerrys and sashays around the city
with close-in security, or as a teenage temptress who lures young men into giving up and living out their fantasies. Imagine the page in Philippine history with Lapu-Lapu in the frontlines defeating the Spanish conquerors led by Magellan being altered considerably; Lapu-Lapu, whose victory is suddenly attributed not to his courage and might, but to the supposedly voluptuous diwatas led by none other than (obviously my favorite) Maria Makiling. Alunsina, Maria Sinukuan, Bakunawa, Amansinaya, and countless other bathalas and pagan deities --- they take the spotlight in this anthology of alternative tales, each retelling even better and more engaging than the last.

Much as I would love to write down my thoughts on each individual story, however, I fear that I do not have the luxury of time to do so. Suffice it to say, though, that as I went through this compendium, I was filled with wonder and fascination at the richness of Philippine folklore, and admiration, at the same time, for the geniuses who were responsible for the crafting of each story. The familiarity of the characters and settings will put you right where you should be comfortable, and while a unique twist to the original tale may surprise you somewhere along the way, you will continue feeling right at ease because you know that a part of the story is yours to claim.

So, would I recommend this book? Absolutely. There's a certain high to reading something you can call proudly your own, even though you had no actual part in its execution. I would love for you to share in that feeling. :)

My copy: A Christmas gift from Tina. Thank you so much! :D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

3 comments:

Tina said...

I'm so glad you loved it. :)

Monique said...

Me, too! And I'm so glad you gifted me with it, otherwise I'd be missing out. :)

Valerie said...

Now I really want to buy a copy of that e-book. By any chance, do you know if they will ever release a book?