I’m switching gears for this post and highlighting a modern writer. I really wanted to include at least one Filipina writer in this series, but I can’t find any suitable ones in the public domain. Luckily, there are several Filipina writers currently active in speculative fiction who have examples of their work online, so I can still share their work with you. I plan to include a few of them in this series.
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a speculative fiction writer from Banaue, Ifugao who currently resides in the Netherlands. She originally trained as a musician, and her first forays into writing were realist, as is the tradition in the Philippines–part of the reason I couldn’t find any suitable works from an earlier period. She began writing speculative fiction in 2005 and was an Octavia Butler Scholar at the Clarion West Writing Workshop. She was also the first Filipina writer to attend Clarion West.
I found a horror piece by her several years ago that struck me enough to write about it: “Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok and their Prey.” It’s inspired by mythical creatures from Filipino folklore, although I think the specific creatures of the story may have been created by Loenen-Ruiz.
The piece, as are most the stories by Loenen-Ruiz that I’ve read, is told in a “collage” format: specific scenes strung together that don’t directly flow one into the other like a linear narrative, but jump back and forth between different facets of the tale, until all the threads come together at the end. Some people may not care for that style, but I’ve always liked it. I like the pleasure of piecing together what’s happening as I read; it’s like unwrapping a gift. I’ve also found that this structure works particularly well for weird fiction, since what the reader imagines between the lines can be more unsettling than anything that a writer might explicitly say.
Loenen-Ruiz’s work spans several different genres, from horror to fairy tale to science fiction; some of it is heavily infused with references to Filipino (particularly Ifugao) culture, and some of it is not. For this post, I’ve picked three pieces that I particularly like, and that are online.
As I wrote previously, “Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok and their Prey” is more a mood piece than a narrative, dark and spooky and gory. I re-read it while preparing for this post and it hit me as hard this time as it did the first time. Rather than repeat myself, you can read my previous post, which also talks a little about the Filipino mythical creatures that inspire it.
- Read “Of the Liwat’ang Yawa, the Litok-litok and their Prey” at the Weird Fiction Review blog here.
“Breaking the Spell” is a fairy tale, or maybe an anti-fairy tale, about an enchanted sleeping princess and how she got there. It has just a touch of Filipino in it (the duende). I like this one a lot. It’s my favorite of the three stories featured here.
- Read “Breaking the Spell” at Lightspeed Magazine here.
“Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan” isn’t exactly a fantasy story (in my opinion), but it’s set in Ifugao, and is themed around the Ifugao myth of Bugan and Kinggawan. It’s a meditation about awakening, and about the changes that have come to that province as outsiders move in.
- Read “Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan” at Fantasy Magazine here.
If you like what you read, there are at least a couple more stories online, and you can find a list of Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s fiction publications here at her blog. Unfortunately, many of the story links are stale, and I think she’s not updated it in a while, as some of the “upcoming” things are already out. However, the list contains information about collections and anthologies that her stories have appeared in, so you can track them down.
Image: Banaue Rice Terraces, Ifugao province. Source: Wikipedia.