The Philippines as a story setting

Stephen King has Maine. Dean Koontz has California. Writers tend to favor locations and cultures they’re familiar with, even if they mask this by invented names. For me, I have the Philippines. My stories are usually set in the Manila region, which makes it easy to visualize the goings-on of my plots, and I hope this makes the events clearer to the reader.

The Philippines is a strange mix of East and West, in terms of language, values, diets, and many other things. Most Filipinos have a grasp of English, which may explain why so many Filipinos are capable of working abroad in whatever capacity.

I can imagine that for foreigners, there is a uniqueness to the Philippine experience, both positive and negative. To me, it’s simply home. I have many frustrations about the way people think, and this often makes me feel like an alien. But then, I have a lot in common that I take for granted, most especially the language. I still wouldn’t know how to translate the word ‘naman’ in a way that justifies its meaning in Filipinos’ minds. When talking to people from elsewhere, I have to hold my tongue in order not to add ‘naman’ at the end of every other sentence.

And the curses. ‘Fuck’ and ‘shit’ just don’t compare.

While it’s not my intention to do so, I do hope that readers from other countries do appreciate the local flavor I inject into my stories.


My story ‘God and Milia’ is a good example of my use of Filipino expressions. The four-parter is found in Dumbest President Ever: 23 tales of Politica (Amazon link).

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