It has always been clear to me that no matter how far I get in terms of reading, whatever continent or nation I stumble upon, I will always go back to reading Philippine Literature. Aside from the fact that I can authentically relate to it, I should say that we really do have more than a handful of fantastic writers within our shores. Fortunately, I have recently found a book that can proudly stand as an evidence to my opinion.
Manila Noir aims to paint the town red, but it achieved more than that. It literally showered our image of Manila with spooky deaths, eerie crimes and even normal conversation gone completely outrageous. Sure enough, deaths and crimes are not new in terms of short stories, but the fact that these events can be happening right under your nose, well that is an entirely different story. If you are a Manileño and you have been utterly comfortable living in your city, well you would most likely rethink about that once you read Manila Noir. And if you are someone who wants to move to the city, well Manila is not as fabulous as how you think it is.
To make it clear, Manila Noir does not make Manila a resounding place of terror. It does not make it seem that you will die sooner or later once you step inside its realm. The book simply reveals what Manila really looks like, it just so happens that it is naturally as disturbing as your horror flicks. It is even backed up with some historical and real-life happenings that most Filipinos are actually very much aware of.
As how it goes, Manila Noir proves that our reality is creepier than your make-believe horror.
The short story anthology consists of fifteen wonderfully made masterpieces from different Filipino writers. I can definitely say that I was completely objective and had no bias while reading their works as most of them were new to me. Even Jessica Hagedorn, as much as I am really embarrassed about it. I had been hearing so much about her, but I have not read a single word from her, before Manila Noir. It is really hard for me to pick my top 3 short stories as they are distinctly different from one another in their own ways. I figured giving them some awards is the most fitting way to do it.
Most Ironic Award: Satan Has Already Bought U by Lourd De Veyra
SHABU stands for Satan Has Already Bought U (and even measured you by grams). The thing about this story is that it is completely... awkward. You have two people sharing a stick while talking about its negative side effects to the entire society. And to top all of that, the ending showed the two of them being completely sold out to Satan.
Creepiest Award: Broken Glass by Sabina Murray
I always had this idea that the innocent eyes point of view gives a surreal effect to any story. I did not know though, that it is different for horror. When a spooky story is told by a kid, you would either want to save him or just stop reading and save yourself. Broken Glass tells the story of an innocent middle-class girl who followed a trail leading to a murder with the help of what could be the creepiest neighborhood ever told to men.
Smartest Storytelling Award: The Unintended by Gina Apostol
To those who doubt the intelligence of Filipinos in terms of writing, let yourself be punched by The Unintended. Not only is it filled with history, conspiracy and all, but it is also highly insightful and at times witty. It is one story you can brag about if ever you (think you have) understood.
These three are just morsels compared to the total grandness of Manila Noir. Each and every story, in spite of their differences, contributed harmoniously to the beauty of the anthology. All the fifteen stories were able to create what could be the most creative picture of Manila. Manila did not fall short in pegging on the reputation of the Noir franchise. Or better yet, has even set the bar high.
Manila Noir is nominated as Best Fiction Anthology for the Filipino Readers' Choice Awards 2014! The awarding will happen this 4th Filipino Readers' Conference on November 14, 2014 at Bayanihan Center, Mandaluyong City.
* Sponsored by Anvil Publishing Inc. in line with the 4th Filipino ReaderCon.