Most Filipinos don’t know that the Philippine’s national hero Jose Rizal had quite a few connections to Singapore. In fact in 1896, Rizal’s friends urged him to save himself by remaining here, but sadly, it was not to be…
Thank you to the Philippine Embassy in Singapore and Penguin Random House Southeast Asia for hosting today’s celebration of Jose Rizal’s life, writing and his connection to Singapore. Chargé d’ Affaires (and author) Dr. Emmanuel R. Fernandez, his wife Alice and Penguin authors Noelle De Jesus, Migs Bravo Dutt, Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta and Sarge Lacuesta, as well as yours truly, read excerpts from our national hero’s poetry, letters and novels
Afterwards, I moderated a lively panel that discussed Rizal’s influence on Filipino writers, writing from the diaspora versus from the homeland, speculations about a hypothetical third novel, and other interesting topics. If host and cultural attaché Rosellie L. Bantay had not gently reminded us of the time, we would have probably talked for the whole afternoon.
Thanks to Patricia Mulles for the photos below.
Special thanks to Penguin publisher Nora Nazarene Abu Bakar for inviting me! Have a meaningful Rizal Day!
Reading-Dialogue across the Sea between Get Luckier Sg/Phil writers
This Poetry Festival Singapore will take place from July 29 to August 10 this year in various locations across the island. Please join us this 30 July for a special event “Reading-Dialogue across the Sea” between Get Luckier Sg/Phil authors, with Singapore-based writers Paul Jerusalem, Migs Bravo-Dutt, Victor Ocampo, Reah Maac, Cathy Candano and Filipino poets Wilson Lee Flores, Wendell Capili, Jo Em Antonio, Cristina Montes, Mariela Lansang with spoken word poet LKN as host (and Cathy Candano as technology expert). The recording will be done from 8pm onwards. Stay tuned for the announcement of the online broadcast.
Get Luckier – An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings II (Editors Migs Bravo Dutt, Claire Betita de Guzman, Aaron Lee Soon Yong and Eric Tinsay Valles) is the sequel to the much-loved original Get Lucky from six years ago. It features writing that illustrate how technology, the pandemic and other current events have impacted the fellowship between Singaporeans and Filipinos.
In 2018 I wrote a near-future science fiction story called “As If We Could Dream Forever” which appeared in Vol. 17 issue of the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore. The work was set in a city where people surrendered their conscious selves to a corporation’s Artificial Intelligence during working hours. In exchange they got a high salary and the AI developed them into the best possible workers they could be. I had meant it to be a cautionary tale, to inspire horror, but I was the one horrified when I found out that most of my readers actually wanted to live that kind of regimented, automated life.
“The Easiest Way to Solve a Problem” is another short story set in the same near-future version of Singapore. It appears in the e-anthology Get Luckier (Singapore: Squircle Line Press, 2022), edited by Migs Bravo Dutt, Claire Betita de Guzman, Aaron Lee Soon Yong, and Eric Tinsay Valles. This anthology was made possible with support from the Singapore National Arts Council, Philippine National Bank and LBC Express.
Mrs. Mercy Maalala, 33 years old, trained nano-engineer, and a proud Batangueño from Lian, Batangas, begins her employment at Singapore by almost drowning in a vat of microscopic machines. The living computers link her to the Automatic City’s Artificial Intelligence grid which she has agreed to surrender her conscious mind and body for 9 hours every day, five days a week. A strict Non-Disclosure Agreement keeps her from remembering what she did, save for a superficial security log provided to her at the end of every day.
As an expatriate Filipino working in the technology space, I wanted to explore how much imminent future technologies could affect the lives of ordinary Filipinos. Moreover, I wanted to share the experience of Pinoy professionals working overseas, including our dreams, hopes and fears that sometimes don’t quite fit with either the normal OFW or the usual immigrant experience.
Why should Filipinos (or anyone for that matter) read and write Science Fiction? With the publication of Fausto J. Galauran’s Doktor Kuba in 1933, the Philippines actually has the oldest written Science Fiction tradition in Southeast Asia. Despite an early start, the country has had comparatively few serious Science Fiction works in any medium. This is problematic as nothing shapes the vision for a country’s future like Science Fiction does. As historian Yuval Noah Harari has said: “Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”