Writeup on new Thesis Focus

by | Sep 15, 2017

The First Idea: Indigenous Filipino Tribes and their Myths

Hi. For the past days, I have a had a couple of ideas. One of the earlier concepts that I was exploring was the culture of Philippines Indigenous tribes through their myth-making and mythical narratives. My idea is to take an indigenous mythical narrative and simulate it as an interactive story via the medium of augmented reality merged with virtual reality, where the audience will enter the story and face stages of decision that will both propel the plot forward and inform him/her of the culture within the myth.

But then I realize that a culture is far more complex than just telling a story. And that for all its rich content and potential for exploration, I was an outsider. All of a sudden, I was in danger of appropriating the culture because my approach was really coming from an outsider’s perspective. I wouldn’t want to retell their stories for them because that would still be filtered by my own biases and my own version of what I want their stories to be.

 

The Second Idea: Filipino Folklore and its Monsters

And so I had to step back a little bit from all the progress I’ve made and see how I can pursue the project without being part of the problem of IP culture being appropriated by modernization and capitalism.

Despite the problems, I knew I didn’t want to depart from discovering more about IP myths, it’s just that I wished to figure out a way of making the process less detached from me.

I still believe in the topic, I just needed a different approach. A friend of mine said, for a Filipino, I sure did find a way to overthink this, as if the myths aren’t mine to share when in fact I grew up with them.

Which got me thinking, are you really an outsider in all this?

  • Two answers: yes, and no
  • I am an outsider in a sense that I don’t know enough and I barely cared about digging deeper until recently.
  • But no, I’m still Filipino, and I can vouch for the experience of this rich oral tradition finding its way to me and my childhood and my bedtime stories.
    • The stories about the folkloric monsters were stories that were told to me orally! At some point in my life, and the life of my friends in the city, the story of the aswang reached us. And if these stories were only thriving in the rural tribes, how is it possible to have reached a little boy who was living the urban life?
    • Isn’t that a signal to me being part of this complex intertwining of cultures in some way?

And so, it’s not a complete departure from your first idea. It’s just that the concept of specifying my research to the folkloric monsters is ultimately an approach that’s from a different angle, an angle that’s more personal, and more widespread for all Filipinos — even reached those who are in the more urbanized areas

 

Characterizing the Myth and the Monsters (Defining terms)

And so from there, I read a bunch of articles about Filipino mythology (in general) and here are their characteristics:

  • They have many characters (heroes and gods and monsters and deities)
  • They explain natural phenomena as caused by something supernatural
  • They are legends that explain origins and the way of the world
  • They describe the relationship of the gods with the humans

 

So very much like the Greek (gods of Olympus) and the European (werewolves and vampires) counterparts right? Not really.

Because Filipino mythology is only up until recently, remained raw as part of the oral tradition

  • this means they were never written down an published to be preserved as books
    • which means they’re very vulnerable to extinction due to a weakening of being passed down to a younger generation who is more interested in the ‘new and modern’ world
    • this means that we don’t have Homer and Virgil who wrote these stories down to be immortalized as written word epics
      • we’re only trying to preserve them in the recent decades, we’re centuries behind in terms of recording!
    • this also means that these stories are not fixed, they are flexible enough to belong to everyone
      • the Philippines is a group of islands
      • if you tour the archipelago, you will find various versions of a singular monster
    • finally, these myths are a hybrid of not only the Filipinos’ versions, but the contribution of Malay, Chinese, and other Asian inspirations
      • is this a case for plagiarism? Not exactly, especially not for literary oral tradition, but it does say a lot about our past and how non-ethnocentric it is
      • it’s hetero-cultural and open to many forms that it’s free and fluid in its versions

 

Conclusion:

  1. Filipino myth is not like the long-established mainstream myth of the West, it’s still on the process of rediscovery and recording.
  2. Filipino myth is pretty kick-ass for being versatile but is also vulnerable to being forgotten.
  3. Filipino myth is my people’s mythology, and so I’m part of this ongoing narrative.

 

Which brings me to:

My motivation – why this is important to me? – how do I enter the picture?

  • Going back to the question: maybe I’m not a complete outsider to all this, maybe there is something more personal I can draw from when talking about these myths and folklore.
    • So I traced it backwards. When did I first learn about these stories? I learned it as a child who needed to be scared by the adults to take caution during nighttime and caution about the dark forests and the “liblib na lugar” of the city.
      • The story of these monsters found me because I was a child who needed to have fear be instilled in him. Isn’t that interesting?
      • That’s the origin, that’s the motivation for these stories. That alone tells me a lot about what my ancestors believed can deter me from danger, can make me respect things (unknown, supernatural things) that are greater than I am.
      • If you explore enough about these stories, it shows how the Filipino ancestors understood the world. How much respect they have for the environment. How sacred they saw the trees (because the kapre might be living there). How much respect they have for rivers (because it’s the tears of some deity)
        • These stories have values in them that inspire a great deal of reflection considering how the Filipinos treat life and the environment nowadays.
      • My ancestors feared the monsters not just for the sake of fear, of making children lose sleep, but also to show the dynamics of power and where humans must limit themselves and see if their ‘innovations’ are still creative or destructive. (casing point: mining and creating dams that flatten tribal lands)
    • And I think I don’t need to be born an IP to show my support of these old stories. They tell so much about the history of a group of people and group of islands that I really care about, and I think that’s enough for me.

 

I improved my ideas for the project from there.

This time, the concept I’m interested in is an exploration of Filipino folklore through its mythological creatures and monsters. I would then conceptualize an interactive medium where the audience can engage the history and story behind said creatures, with the hopes of shedding light into a mostly unknown yet interesting part of Filipino culture.

This is important to me because I hope to invite the modern Filipino to be curious of the history behind these monsters/creatures and extend their curiosity or exploration to where they might find or locate these creatures in today’s society. I will therefore conceptualize a set of AR-enabled figures (toys) of various monsters that, when scanned with the mobile device, tells the story of the creature being focused on.

 

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