Friday, May 2, 2014


There's a call to post and write about why #WeNeedDiverseBooks from May 1 to 3. I watched this hashtag for a long number of hours, just figuring out how to respond and join, based on how I write and who I write for. And then this tweet made it all fall into place:

So that actually captures right there what my writing journey and mission has been. #WeNeedDiverseBooks because:

- Sometimes I still see a comment about my books not being "Filipino" or "exotic" enough, because they happen to be set in a city, with modern urban conveniences, that could be set in any other city, because cities tend to have that quality.
- Some people still find it "inauthentic" that my Filipino characters speak English in dialogue, never mind that English is an official language, is used in signs and in daily commerce, and many Filipinos speak it every day, without difficulty, without baggage, and without having studied in another country.
- Some people can suspend disbelief about supernatural/paranormal/mythological elements in a regular school setting, provided it is not in their own country, because if it were happening in their country then it can only happen in this way or this way and I should know 'cause I'm from here.
- "Shallow" is still used casually to describe books that follow a woman's life and her decisions.
- There's a lot of denial over what Filipino women know and should know about sex and being responsible for their sexuality.

This is heavy stuff. It's hard for any writer to have all of this hanging over her head, so even though this is all there, I just write. I just write anyway, the stories I want to, and they're usually fun and light reads. But I hope that they've contributed to the diversity of books out there, because all I'm trying to do is show how things are different, and the same.

I'm so thankful to the readers who get this. If you started out skeptical and then eventually got it, yay. If I didn't get to convince you at all, maybe I can refer you to other people who might?


  1. #WeNeedDiverseBooks because there is still a lot to learn about different cultures and different races. Each has a thousand stories to tell, which people in highly developed countries rarely hear. The stories of, about, for and by Juan, Jan and Dian, may seemed awkward to those who are used to reading about John, Johnny and Jane. What they don’t realised is that for Juan, Jan and Dian, the stories of, about, for and by John, Johnny and Jane were awkward for them as well. There is a growing need to understand each other. Simply put #WeNeedDiverseBooks because we are already living in a world where geographical, physical and cultural borders are being eaten by the so-called globalisation.

  2. I appreciate you dropping by to comment, Manuela!

  3. I get the part about Filipino characters speaking in English because I experience a period of adjustment when my brain tries to reconcile the language and the character every time I read those kinds of stories. That doesn't mean it's "inauthentic", though. The way I see it, English is just the language that you use to tell the story. The behavior of the character is probably more important.

    Conversely, I also have to adjust when I read Filipino translations of English books. I blogged about my reactions to "The Hunger Games" and also to "Takipsilim" and "Fifty Shades". To put it bluntly, it was quite a mindf*ck. LOL.

    About the whole "it is not Filipino enough", I understand those comments. I've made the same comments over Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles books because, while it may largely be set in an Alternate China, I still don't feel like I'm in another world when I read them. And she has an Asian character, but there is nothing to distinguish him as Asian apart from his looks and his name.

    But I personally think that stories should not necessarily be "exotic" to be "Filipino", especially for stories like yours. They probably need just a bit more world-building to make people feel they are actually in Manila or something. "Exotifying" (whut, haha!) the stories might just perpetuate stereotypes. Anyway, sometimes that also depends on the intent and the kind of story the writer would like to tell, right? Sometimes you just focus only on the "feels", and sometimes you need to world-build to be believable.

    I do think that we need diverse books. But I hope that writers will always serve the story before the audience first. Writers must not try to write in diversity just for diversity's sake. But if they do write it in, then they must commit to portray it as authentically as possible.

    As you said, it's heavy stuff! :)

    1. Writers must not try to write in diversity just for diversity's sake.

      When I started out, I just wanted more books that I like to read, but written by Pinoys. So I tried to write some. And I support those who do too. I hesitate to put any other kind of pressure or expectation on anyone else! It's hard enough to get people to finish writing a book as it is. :)

  4. Well, to be honest the first time I read a Filipino (English written) book was strange but after a few pages I actually enjoyed it, and I wouldn't call it "inauthentic" it feels more exotic for me actually to read it because as you said, Filipino characters who speaks English.

    And when it comes to readers comment, I think it all depends because as a writer we just have to accept that not every reader will like our work. They find it shallow, so be it. The most important I think is that we enjoy writing and that someone else like to read our work, so like you I just write, and write, after all there are books that made millions, but I can't understand what's so fantastic about, when free wattpad stories are way better.

    1. I think it's getting easier na for Pinoys to read books about Pinoys that are in English. But I take note of people who react about the difficulty finding it "real" because it says something about the reader and their background or their expectations.