Neil Gaiman’s right: Leave Philippine myths to Filipino storytellers

Our mythologies have always been sewn into the fabric of our culture. Tales of diwatas and aswangs have mesmerized generations of Filipinos even today. It’s our own culture translated into fiction passed down for centuries.

So when a Filipino fan tweeted prolific American writer Neil Gaiman to take a stab at retelling these tales —the only thing we can ask was “why?”

In a tweet, The Sandman and American Gods author showed his love for Philippine myths and monsters.

The 57-year-old author’s works are heavily influenced by various mythologies, with American Gods pitting deities from different mythologies against each other set in modern America while Norse Mythology, one of his most recent works, contains rewritten tales from, well, Norse myths to make it easier for readers to comprehend.

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Neil’s reminder couldn’t have come at a better time since we’re celebrating Buwan ng Wika. While he confessed his love for manananggals in the same thread, Neil didn’t fail to remind us that we “also have many terrific writers” who can tell our own stories better than he can.

After seeing Neil’s response to the fan, bookworms have since pulled up threads recommending works by local authors that showcase Philippine myths: Arnold Arre’s graphic novel Mythology Class, Dean Alfar’s collection of short stories The Kite of Stars, the Trese comics by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, and Edgar Samar’s young adult series Janus Silang among others:

Neil also shared a transcript of an interview when he visited the country back in 2010 in which he discussed his love for Philippine myths and the works of local authors:

Beyond book recommendations, however, Neil’s interaction with this Filipino fan reflects a sad reality: We aren’t giving enough attention to our own authors and myths. We grow up reading classic Western mythologies but never get to actually explore the colorful, diverse world of our folklore.

Some have chalked it up to colonialism, cultural appropriation, and internalized colonial mentality, even going so far as attributing folklore to an ancestral heritage we need to preserve:

Especially in light of the issues faced by indigenous groups including militarization and displacement of Lumad communities in Mindanao, myths are more than just myths: They are pieces of culture in danger of being lost and destroyed.

It’s a shame that we had to hear it from a foreign writer, but Neil Gaiman is right. We have a lot of great writers and we have the duty to read more about our own stories, our own myths, and our own folklore.

Still from Arnold Arre’s “Mythology Class” Animated Music Video

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