Bayani by Motzie Dapul
I first heard of Motzie Dapul’s novel during the #StrangeLit launch party, describing the story as “What would happen if Philippine mythological heroes became politicians?”. I was sold. I had to read Bayani if not for that very same reason. I was intrigued at the premise of Philippines in the year 2050 when the likes of “supers” dabbling in politics, specifically Patrick “Paquino” Aquino, or Lastikid in his former life. There were also familiar names like Bernardo Carpio, Adarna, and Lakampati—all familiar mythological personalities with interesting roles to play in the story. Paquino was depicted as the son of a business tycoon, a privileged individual in his own right, but also a man torn by guilt and remorse about his past. He was the president who, in today’s times, did the right thing as expected of his office. But this is the Philippines, the land where the adage “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” is something that happens in the literal sense. I loved Paquino as a flawed character, and I think his actions were justified by the motivations and personal cross he carried.
Dapul didn’t depict the Philippines of 2050 as progressive or high tech country or anything similar in that vein—a decision which I think is authentic to what the country is in its very core. We’re the nation that makes it difficult to instill progress in the material and ideological sense. There was honesty in the author’s words, an honesty that doesn’t patronize or make a parody of the personalities and the situations surrounding the characters. I also loved Dapul’s “layman poetic” prose—it’s not highfalutin, but the imagery was beautiful to read as text; it made me appreciate the story as a wonderful work of literature.
The only thing that set me off was the back and forth flashbacks that sometimes derailed my understanding of certain events. I know it’s there to give perspective, but it took me a while to finish reading because I had to pause and think over what I’ve read to make sure I got the context (or maybe I’m just a super slow reader?). But anyway, I grew to appreciate the other characters as well. I liked Cheese Lacasid and Ava, the intern of Bakunawa Press, even if I knew Cheese was there as a narrator of sorts to fill in the blanks for added context. And there was Bernardo Carpio who Dapul introduced to have special feelings for Paquino (M/M heroes? Why not?).
I can’t help but feel Bayani would look so awesome as a comic/graphic novel. Seeing that the author is also a comic artist, I think that’s not an implausible idea to consider.
After reading Bayani, I’ve got burning questions which the author graciously answered. Check out her responses in the interview.
What was the germ for the idea behind Bayani?
I’d been playing with ideas for my collaboration comic with Patti Ramos, “Project Bayani”, which Bayani was directly based on, and had written a short story for the school’s literary folio with Patrick and Boy in the future, in much the same environment as in Bayani, except Habagat was the Ampatuan family.
Bayani itself was me wanting to expand on that story and a thought experiment on how I’d think the country could improve based on current issues (traffic, politics, etc) and if it were run by a man with a lot of money and unshakable values. It wouldn’t be perfect, and even the best intentions can’t be trusted without transparency.
Bayani is about several mythological beings/heroes taking up government offices, which I think is very timely given that it’s election season in our country. If you were to cast the 5 presidentiables, which Philippine mythological beings would they be and why?
Haha, I don’t know? Don’t quote me on this (I say, as you literally quote me on this)
I’m not familiar with other gods beyond Tagalog ones, but I figure Duterte would be the angry (but not malevolent) sea god Amanikable. Mar could be Idiyanale, goddess of labor, Binay could be Lakambakod, god of fences (building? No comment on the other thing Lakambakod’s known for). Poe could be Diyan Masalanta (goddess of love) or Mayari (moon goddess), Miriam could be Lakambuwi (god of food) or Lakapati (god/dess of fertility and compassion).
You also do illustrations and make your own komiks. How was the transition from visual to textual?
I’ve always been a better writer than artist, ever since childhood I’ve been drawing to supplement my stories. I also grew up on cartoons with amazing stories and I’m an animator, so I’m mired in both visual and literary media, but I’m first and foremost a storyteller, and I’m comfortable with the text based medium.
Are you planning on doing a komiks version of Bayani? What upcoming works should your readers expect?
Funnily enough, it started as a comic (Project Bayani) but I’m converting PB to novels, so vice versa, converting Bayani to a comic, is definitely a possibility.
About the Author
Storyteller, writer by passion and artist by trade. Long-time writer and longer-time reader. Lover of Philippine mythology and culture, propagator of LGBT+ literature and media. Every story will have an LGBT+ character, no exceptions.
Former Literary Editor of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s Benildean Press Corps and author of the Project Bayani independent komiks series.
Thank you to the lovely people of The Bookish Diaries Book Tours for organizing this tour. #StrangeLit Darkest Dreams is available in Buqo for $0.99 / PhP45 for the entire duration of the blog tour, so do get your copy!