I had originally planned to write about angels in a critical paper for my undergraduate thesis; however, I needed to contextualize the essay. Unfortunately, there were no angel characters in Philippine Literature written in English – save for metaphors, I suppose. As such, I ended up discussing fantastic characters, a generic class, in local Young Adult literature. Regardless, I finished the critical essay along with my creative output (a novel with angel characters) and bound the pages into my much beloved ticket to graduation.
On the road to graduation, when I was in my Panitikang Pilipino: Maikling Kwento (the local counterpart of Comparative Literature: Short Story), I proposed to write a short story with angel characters. To my disappointment, angels were, as the professor said, too Western. Although I understood his judgment, I was disappointed. Are aswang, manananggal and white lady the only acceptable local fantastic characters? No.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw Uriel: Hekhalot at Filbar’s one weekend. Of course, I immediately bought it.
Uriel: Hekhalot is a 30-page comics written by David Hontiveros and drawn by Michael Urbano. It is set during the Second World War (and after, if I understand it correctly) and is basically an alternate history. Since only book one of four is in my possession, I will not summarize it because there are still lapses to the story. Besides, it is best to read it instead of read about it (unless, of course, it is a critical essay). Although it is a little difficult to appreciate the art, the narration in parentheses is quite annoying, and the German words/terms are jarring, the story itself is interesting. The fantasy elements are its gemstones: the naval forces of the war are angels, the commander of the Nazi Party is a half-enkanto, half-shaddi, and the archangel Uriel rests inside a Filipino boy.
Characters that have foreign origins should never be off-limits to any aspiring writers. Instead, making these characters (or ideas) one’s own is a good challenge. (Here is a shameless self-promotion of a story with angels.)
Here is to more angel characters in Philippine Literature!
Edit: My friend told me to look into Karen Francisco’s Naermyth. Ooh, more angels in local fiction 🙂