Xi Zuq’s Nook welcomes thirteen-year-old Isabel de la Cruz as one of our regular reviewers. A student at the Raya School, she likes to read, write, and draw. For her first assignment, she chose to review a horror fiction anthology.
Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults (University of the Philippines Press, 2013) is a collection of short fiction from new and veteran Filipino authors as curated by award-winning editors Dean Francis Alfar and Kenneth Yu. It’s the first in a series of anthologies for young adult readers; this one on horror, to be followed by other instalments for science fiction, fantasy, and other genres.
Depictive of Young Adult Life
The collection contains stories about things that young adults experience and like, such as car rides, imaginary friends, the way we see ourselves, how we strive for perfection, and, of course, food. My picks for the stories that depict young adult life best, even and maybe because of the horror twist, are Honesty Hour and Dan’s Dreams.
A story about four students obliviously heading home, together one last time, Honesty Hour speaks to college kids who either dream of or actually drive their own cars. From the start, there’s this sense of foreboding with each word hinting at some mystery. Although there are no characters from Filipino mythology (i.e. kapre, mananangal, and the white lady), the story draws on Western legends that are familiar enough to engage me.
As for Dan’s Dreams, I think every student can relate to Dan, the top student at school trying to keep his grades right up there. He lives in a dorm, so the story will look familiar to those who do the same, but that just underscores Dan’s isolation in the midst of his fellow students. End of it all, everything feels familiar, certainly the stress of school, and maybe, also, the horror story that comes along with it.
Hair-Raiser sans the Scary Music
Although the theme of the book is horror, there are still some stories that are less haunting and more mysterious (or downright monsters and ghosts). One of these stories is Education by Ate Flora. Personally, it was a bit more like a childish horror story – the type of story that they tell you as a little child to annoy you; the nostalgic equivalent of monsters under your bed and in your closet. But, again, it is still a well written story.
Besides Honesty Hour (Gabriela Lee), Dan’s Dreams (Eliza Victoria), and Education by Ate Flora (Renelaine Bontol-Pfister), the other stories have ominously opaque titles. Reading these is like watching the start of a real hair-raiser without the scary music. There’s Eat Me (Kally Hiromi R. Arsua), Mommy Agnes (Vince Torres), The Running Girl (Elyss G. Punsalan), The New Teacher (Alexander Osias), Gago’s Got Your Back (Andrew Drilon), Itching to Get Home (Joseph Anthony Montecillo), Lola’s House (Fidelis Tan), A Yellow Brick Road Valentine (Charles Tan), Lucia, the Nightmare Hunter (Kate Osias), Frozen Delight (EK Gonzales), and Misty (Isabel Yap).
Good that the book is an anthology. While reading all the stories in the collection I often had to pause, even stop, because of how powerful the words were. It was like I could actually feel each crunch and bite from the book; each chill that ran through my spine was as startling as the one before. It’s like reading your favourite romance novel where you fall in love with literally everything because of how touching and cheesy the story is. But, instead of feeling those caressing lips on your neck, you feel the excruciating bite of each word. Terrible, that’s what it is – a good kind of terrible that every horror story should be.
Front and back cover images from Philippine Genre Stories.