A FANTASTICAL anthology exploring the nuances of Filipino culture, Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 2 (Kestrel IMC. 2006) is a compilation of short stories featuring the works of various amateur and veteran writers, edited by celebrated fictionist, Dean Francis Alfar. Alfar also edited the first volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction published in 2005, and has written The Kite of Stars and Other Stories, as well as the 2005 Palanca grand prize novel, Salamanca.

Speculative fiction is the general term used to describe stories that are categorized as fantasy, science fiction, horror, surrealism, and magical realism. Some stories in the book cite references to literary figures such as Lam-ang and Doña Victorina, and even places such as Quiapo and Ilog Pasig—making the reader more aware of his cultural roots.

For example, Tan’s depiction of the Pasig River in “The Child Abandoned” is very different from what it is now, as evidenced in the lines, “The river no longer smelled rank, but now had a sweet scent that brought a smile and peace of mind to all that caught its scent.”

While some writers use real places, others ingeniously crafted their own realms, as in Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’ “Borealis,” which is set in the make-believe planet Borealis, threatened by a cosmic serpent.

Some stories are merely slices of life presenting unusual situations. As Alfar puts it, speculative fiction “deals with observations of the human condition…but offers the experience through a different lens.”

An example of this is his story, “Six from Downtown,” comprising of six stories within a story, all revolving around places: a wet market selling mermaids, a music teacher who vanishes along the University Belt without a trace, and a writer who tosses word cutouts to water and soy sauce, hoping for the “text to simmer” right after walking out from the restaurant where he and his writer friends talked about their latest projects.

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Mythical creatures also abound in this collection. Mia Tijam’s “Waiting for Agua de Mayos” is about a bayawak-turned-dragon who meets with a girl during the first rain every after summer, while Jonathan Jimena Siason’s “Re-Genesis,” narrates the final battle between good and evil: “There is always something despite all the good that these beings have done, that they are always bound to fail to fix.”

There are also historical and futuristic stories, as in Russell Geronimo’s “The Sign of the Cross,” which takes place in 1836, when friars do not know what to do with a demon in flesh, causing uproar in the society. Michael Co’s “Waiting for Victory” tells the story of two marine officers who are supposed to change the present by going back to the future, since “small changes in the past can create repercussions for the future.”

The collection is very fresh and inviting to both young and adult readers. It blurs the boundaries between genres, thus tapping an even more diverse literary landscape. Although deviating from the tradition of “social realism,” the book still manages to verbalize the Filipinos’ reality through unreality. Indeed, this anthology can make one speculate about good things yet to come in the world of Philippine fiction.


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