The rise of the Filipino romance in English | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

AUTHORS Agay Llanera, Chrissie Peria, Mina V. Esguerra and Jay E. Tria ALANAH TORRALBA
AUTHORS Agay Llanera, Chrissie Peria, Mina V. Esguerra and Jay E. Tria ALANAH TORRALBA
AUTHORS Agay Llanera, Chrissie Peria, Mina V. Esguerra and Jay E. Tria ALANAH TORRALBA

THE FILIPINO romance is turning over a new page. The word “romance” in Philippine publishing has always been identified with the romance in Filipino, those thin, inexpensive books with covers featuring men and women who bear just the vaguest resemblance to celebrities.

These extremely popular books are passed around for reading and part of a busy multimillion peso industry.

But the Filipino romance in Filipino has company. Looking nothing like their Filipino counterparts, the Filipino romances in English are laid out differently, larger, thicker and more expensive. They also represent a movement that has been agitating for recognition for over a decade.

Today, more romances in English are being published and made available to Filipino readers than ever before. At the heart of this revolution is Mina V. Esguerra, who is currently working on her 24th romance. Esguerra is the brains behind #romanceclass, a group who are doing their mightiest to popularize the romance in English.

Esguerra points to the genre’s beginnings to the Summit Books of the early 2000s, naming writer and editor Tara FT Sering as the progenitor of the romance in English.

Sering remembers that chick lit was experiencing its own boom at that time, and Summit had decided to try and enter that market. “There was room for books written by Filipinos in this genre,” she says. “Something that would capture the life experiences of this core audience of women in the Philippines more accurately. I was really excited about that and where it could go.”

Sering wrote what she considered a sample and it was distributed free with Cosmopolitan in 2002. That book, “Getting Better,” could easily be considered the first Filipino romance in English.

Sering, as editor of Summit Books, would preside over a line of chick lit titles—many of them qualifying as romances in English—through those years. Sering herself would write two such novels, including “Almost Married,” the sequel to “Getting Better.”

Sering remembers the response being enthusiastic. “It was refreshing I supposed because at that time, there weren’t many books in this genre published locally. These books were written in English, yes, but the stories distinctively Filipino.” Sering defines their books’ ethos as: “’Who’s that girl?’ It was about what she was doing with her life, her attitude toward it, and then the romantic situations follows. So they were a lot to do with self-definition in one’s 20s and 30s, of which romantic relationships were a big part of.”

Summit Books has continued to publish chick lit books to the present in its Modern Fiction line.

To be continued

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