Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy reviewed on the Manila Bulletin

Milflores' latest fiction anthology, Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy, was recently reviewed on the Manila Bulletin. The full review follows:

The unending carnival at the end of the rabbit hole
by Marah S.D. Ruiz

Be like Alice and fall into the rabbit hole.

Get acquainted with vampire call center agents, a beautiful daughter of a star of the night sky and a knife with an undying passion for its lady master. And the door to this unending carnival? This book.

“Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy” is edited by one of the most prominent figures of contemporary Philippine literature, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo and is published by Milfores Publishing, Inc. It features 20 stories from genres such as fantasy, sci-fi and horror which have yet to be part of the Philippine literary canon. Written by today’s young and promising writers, most of these stories have a fresh and contemporary feel, while others stuck to the traditional sense of the local color story but added their own new style to it.

This anthology has 20 different narratives, each with a unique style. Bringing them all together is a certain mode of defamiliarization which is present in most of the stories. First, they lure us in with familiar settings or seemingly stock characters, and then they ruthlessly pounce on us with shocking images and playful twists in the plot.

Local color

A local color story is set in the province and revolves mainly on rural life. This kind of story figures greatly in Philippine literature. An example of this in the anthology is the novel excerpt “Monkey Watching” by Maria Romina M. Gonzalez. Here, a playboy farmer tries to seduce an arbularyo’s daughter. Another local color story is Ana Felicia C. Sanchez’ “MartinĂ©s” where an urbanite visits his father’s province. “The Sugilanon of Epifania’s Heartbreak” by Ian Rosales Casocot is also local color story. This revolves around Epifania and her quest to win the heart of the one she desires. All three of these stories are set in the countryside. They also share a similarity in their imagery as fruit trees, rice or corn fields, riverbanks, dirt roads and many other rustic elements are presented to the reader. Aside from that, a clear rural sentiment pervades these stories. This is seen in the conservative dynamics between the men and women, the faith in the albularyo and the regard for nature as reflected by the characters.

Contemporary elements

Many of these stories make use of modern-day elements to give a present-day effect. In Marivi Soliven Blanco’s “Manananggrrrl”, a talk show motif is used to unravel the story of a manananggal convicted for murder. A clear allusion to Oprah Winfrey and her very popular talk show, Wicca Watch is hosted by a powerful witch named Aviva and has an audience of witches and ghouls. Another contemporary element in this story is the obsession with beauty and fitness as the main character is a Yoga and Pilates instructor. There is also a mention of the popular online video site YouTube and the ultra fast transfer of information.

Contemporary settings also make these stories feel like they happened or could happen within our lifetime. Familiar places make these stories seem more plausible. “Graveyard Shift” by Andrea L. Peterson takes advantage of the current boom in the call center industry in the Philippines to present a tale of vampires who take on this nocturnal kind of employment. Karl R. de Mesa’s “Some Kind of Noir” takes place in a cheap motel, Carljoe Javier’s “The Sniffles” in a boarding house and Jose Claudio B. Guerrero’s “A Tidy Little Tale” in a quiet little subdivision. The familiarity of these settings make these stories hit closer to home.

Suspension of disbelief

As these stories have many fantastic elements, we let our sense of logic take a break and ignore the red light that signals us that this is not part of what is real or scientific. In “The Stranded Star” by Nikki Alfar, it was mentioned that the other women in the town did their sewing by the light of the mother star’s beauty. Now this could pass off as a metaphor for the extent and greatness of her looks or even a device of magic realism. But in this case, this is to be taken literally. She is a star of the night sky after all! And I don’t mean that as a metaphor either. She really is a star that came down from the sky.

Sam Echavez’ “A Secret Affair with Basti Artadi” definitely requires the reader to suspend disbelief. This story may well have been the most farfetched one in the whole anthology, even more farfetched than those about ghosts and encantos, as it is about a person who lives and breathes even to this day. Although the story follows a logical sequence, it is still considered fantastic as it reflects how a fan imagines her idol, as well as how she imagines herself meeting him. It is still ultimately fantasy and fiction as it is possible for these ordinary events to exist, but they simply don’t exist. Another noteworthy element of this story is that it can be categorized as fan fiction and is one of the first, if not the pioneer, to actually come out on print.

With the eclectic mix of these stories, you will feel like you had tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare or played croquet with the Queen of Hearts and her court.

So fall into the rabbit hole with “Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy” and wake up after the weirdest dream. Or give in to the seduction and stay in the realm of bright-eyed rock stars, olive-skinned girls and unmotivated but noble princes.
via Manila Bulletin Online

Posted on April 26, 2008