Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hollywood Monsters

As a writer, it's a little hard for me to integrate the Western concept of horror with Philippine culture. My theory is that even though horror is based on the emotion of fear, I figure what Westerners would find scary wouldn't register on our cultural radar. Maybe it's because our fears are more cultural-based and/or economic-based?

However, the best stories for me are caught in the middle, i.e. the interstitial stuff where you can find some interesting facets of the collision between fiction, imagination and humanity. So that's why I write this particular type of stories.

With that question in mind, I thought of some issues surrounding Hollywood monsters if they started rampaging on our dear shores:

1. George Romero's zombies

If Americans would be able to defend themselves during a zombie apocalypse because of the proliferation of guns, all Filipinos would have to do would be to lock themselves up in their homes. I mean, have you seen the security measures Filipinos implement against burglars and intruders? Concrete walls, spiked (or glass-littered) fences, triple-locked doors, barred windows-- hell, you could say that Filipinos have been preparing for the zombie uprising since day 1.

Admittedly, these home security measures are limited mostly to upper to middle class homes given they don't really believe in good neighborly appearances like non- or low wooden fences bushes to distinguish their properties from others. In the highly-commercialized areas, condos are already guarded by security firms armed with shotguns and handguns. And if you're lucky enough, there are a couple of politicos (or their mistresses) living in the building so that you've got bodyguards ready to implement emergency measures with a shotgun.

That leaves us with the poor: what would happen to them during a zombie apocalpyse? The worst-case scenario I can come up with is somewhat similar to South Africa as imagined by Max Brooks' World War Z. Left on their own (governmental help in this country always being two steps behind in any emergency), there would probably be panic and rioting in the streets.

But then again, I've always figured zombiehood as an economic fear that's appropriate to this country given that 80 percent of the Philippine population live below the poverty line. How's that for an 'us-against-them' mentality?

2. Werewolves

Actually, there's some overlap between the Western werewolves and the local 'black dogs' though the latter are considered more as aswang shapeshifters rather than actual shapeshifters. Think of witches that change shapes rather than lycanthropes and you get the general idea.

Unfortunately, that's where the problem of having werewolves in this country crops up: we're a nation that sees nothing wrong with eating dogs, for crying out loud. That's why Jessica Hagedorn even had a book called Dogeaters, remember? You seriously think a werewolf can last that long wandering around the streets of Manila? One wrong move with a group of neighborhood toughies drinking at a street corner and boom! you're instant pulutan.

And given the magical nature of werewolves, I wouldn't care to risk the Pinoys' penchant for agimats or magic talismans against them. (Not that I care to volunteer to be a test subject.)

3. Vampires

Whether it's the 'shiny' vampires of Twilight or the sweaty ones of True Blood, the Filipino reading public shares the world's fascination with vampires (given 'twas stocks of Twilight that set off The Great Book Blockade of 2009).

Ironically, I would think vampires would be a good fit here in the Philippines given Filipinos' fixation on the light-skinned (mind, I said light, not 'sparkly'). From the Americans to the current flava of Koreans, the thin and pale-skinned bloodsuckers would draw eyes wherever they go at night on the streets of Metro Manila.

And as the culture of the twilit-world of call centers expands and grows, there will now be two metro scenes in imperial Manila: one in the day and one night. This is perfect for vampires. Unfortunately, that means they'll also be limited to the urban centers of the country. In the rural areas, it's nice and dark but people there are more accustomed to things that go bump in the night. Especially if they happen to like viscera and go flying around with bat-wings.

So if ever there happens to be a proliferation of vampires in the countryside, I'm sure people from the provinces will be more than willing to go around with stakes as well as the usual handful of salt in their pockets.

4. Aliens

Huh. I've always thought Filipinos aren't firm believers in aliens the way Americans do. Maybe it's because we're not as scientifically-inclined as they are? As such, we don't have stories of alien abduction or crop circles in our storytelling.

Some stories that we do have veer towards the mystical as they involve local cults who are waiting for aliens to rescue them. But this will only happen at "holy" sites like Mt. Makiling and only to some far-away place where a resurrected national hero like Jose Rizal will be there to meet them. It's either that or the aliens will come and make the Philippines the new Jerusalem where Jesus Christ will be come down from the heavens together with a whole crew of saints, martyrs and national heroes.

It would be damn ironic then, wouldn't it, if the aliens turn out to be the chest-bursters type? But that's life for you. (Yes, our collective socio-cultural-religious minds are a messy stewing pot when it comes to things like redemption. That's what you get for being repressed by Spain and the Catholic Church for x-number of years.)

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