From the new storytellersBy Ruel S. De Vera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The atmospheric ambition is right there in the title: “Kwentillon [A Million Stories to be Told].” The newest pioneering publication from Summit Media is a gathering of done-in-one-comic-book stories along with short fiction and other features.
Edited by Budjette Tan and Paolo Chikiamco, Kwentillon is an experimental magazine for both the young adult and the speculative fiction market, but in reality, is a showcase for cutting-edge Filipino storytelling.
For the genre fans, there are freshly sharpened interviews with “Kikomachine” cartoonist Manix Abrera and digital artist Chester Ocampo. Andrew Drilon thrills and touches the soul with a new short story, “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man,” which combines comic book fanaticism, 1990s nostalgia, sibling adventures and the nature of creativity.
There are helpful reviews of the latest young adult lit by Chachic Fernandez and Tina Matanguihan, as well as flavorful essays from Tarie Sabido and Anna Sanchez.
The comic-book stories are among the standouts, starting with the “Trese” team of Tan and artist Kajo Baldisimo on “The Last Datu.” In this dark, folkloric fantasy tale, Lawanai, the daughter of the Datu Ira-dama, faces her destiny while fending off malignos and finding out what really happened to her parents.
The key lies in the weapon she inherited, the Dagger of the Datu, a blade that, according to the manananggal, was “pulled from the heart of the fallen star. Cooled on the blood of a woman who had just given birth. Forged by the blind blacksmith.” Cool stuff.
Tan’s knack for reinventing myth into contemporary form is very much on display along with Baldisimo’s intricate line work. It is a treat to see the pair work on an all-out fantasy tale that remains well within Filipino mythos.
Chikiamco and artist Hannah Buena present their e-book “High Society” in print form. Their innovative tale of magical creatures amid the backdrop of the Philippines’ struggle against their Spanish overlords combine both Eastern and Western story conventions, highlighted by Chikiamco’s illusionist reveal and Buena’s manga-meets-Manila art style.
A most fascinating product, writer Timothy Dimacali and illustrator John Bumanlag meld a retro, komiks-realist style with interplanetary sci-fi intrigue in “Sky Gypsies,” a story which details a future where an asteroid belt off Mars can only be mined by one race—the Badjaos, whose unnatural resistance to space and their inherent navigatory skills make them perfect for the task.
Just another work day in space is changed by an unusual find, and the father-and-son team of Mandali and Sanno have decisions to make.
The most delightful find in the first issue of Kwentillon is writer/artist Robert Magnuson’s “Poso Maximo.” Magnuson, who just won a National Children’s Book Award for “The Great Duck and Crocodile Race,” has always had a distinctively whimsical touch, and this is on wonderful display in this story, which is told in an almost wordless format.
Maximo is a “monster tamer” who is now retired and obscure, eking out a living by advertising his monster-taming services on telephone poles. When the story’s unnamed characters discover something freaky rising from the toilet (yep, you read that right), they decide to call on Maximo, who is nothing like what they expected.
Along the same lines, “Poso Maximo” veers into a surprising and fun direction after what seemed to be the climax. There is an unbridled exuberance in Magnuson’s work here, and “Poso Maximo” is excellent entertainment for readers of all ages.
In the editors’ note, Tan and Chikiamco state Kwentillon’s quest: “Kwentillon is about our Present—more specifically, what we think our book shelves could use more of, right now. The young adult market is booming … but what publications exist that specifically cater to them? Kwentillon will find that voice, and more.”
This first issue is impressive, full of accomplished and rising talents, but pretty much containing something for every YA and spec fic fan. Imagine the possibilities of a regular magazine featuring newly-minted comic-book stories and short fiction, all done with a Filipino sensibility, on your shelf every so often.
This is the experiment being done by Summit Media, and Kwentillon is a great idea whose time has come. Just as the old myths are being retold by modern Filipino writers and artists in their own way, so too is Kwentillon the future of YA and spec fic stories made available to the mainstream. Pick up a copy at a newsstand now, and hopefully enough copies of the magazine in the right hands will give Summit the impetus to send another dream catcher like this one off onto the magazine shelves.