As promised on my previous post, here are my personal picks for horror reads this Halloween season ✨ Filipino edition ✨
While I was perusing our shelves looking for local books of the horror genre, I honestly felt a bit sad because I was hoping there would be a lot more than I remembered. I’ll be sharing at least 6 titles here (some are part of a series) which is not a bad number, really, but I realized I should make more effort to add to our collection moving forward. I am sure there are more out there but the main issue is the accessibility. For full disclosure, some of these books are available for purchase at the online bookstore I co-own, but please believe me that I created this list with sincere intentions. I just really want to share the scary reads that I have loved over the years (and it’s inevitable that it would include books we’re helping sell).
Now, if you ask any Filipino reader for their favorite horror read (or if you search through Google which I did prior to creating this list), there’s a huge chance that they will mention Trese, the popular graphic novel series by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo–but let me tell you right now that I did not include that one here. I love Trese, and I’m really looking forward to its Netflix adaptation, however I don’t really remember it for the horror, but more on the crime thriller/action adventure aspects. I highly recommend it if you are looking for exciting reads with influences of Philippine mythology and other supernatural elements.
So you might be asking right now, what exactly is my criteria for this list? For me it’s all about spine-chilling moments, the shock factor, the brooding but deadly silences, and the delicious discomfort of fear. Without further ado, these are my recommendations for you:
CARNAL: BANAHAW by Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago, BK Pena
A sudden spate of gruesome killings plagues a sleepy mountain town. The locals cower and gossip in hushed tones, sure that the murders are the handiwork of malevolent, otherworldly creatures. The deaths, however, coincide with the long-delayed homecoming of twin brothers – one, the lead singer in a band; and the other, a priest. Is it mere coincidence? Or could the twins have brought with them an unspeakable evil?
I read this one last August for #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy and though it is a short read, it has a lot of impact, especially the dream (nightmare) sequences. It also includes trivia on monsters and spirits in Philippine folklore in certain intermissions. Here’s one of my favorite pages:
where to get it: MERVSTORE.COM
ELLA ARCANGEL series by Julius Villanueva
Ella Arcangel contains episodic stories that is set in a strange community called Barangay Masikap where both humans and monsters struggle for survival in a small portion of the big city. I think that Villanueva’s strength is really in his storytelling. It feels like he can tap into the reader’s deepest fears and bring them to life. Let me share a panel from the first story that got me hooked on this series. Roughly translated, the woman is telling her children that she is not their mother, while wielding a big knife aimed at them.
I talked more about this book and the animated series adaptation here.
where to get it: MERVSTORE.COM
TABI PO series by Mervin Malonzo
The first book of this series won my husband a National Book Award back in 2015. Mixing horror and erotica, Mervin Malonzo’s Tabi po chronicles the main character Elias’ self-discovery as a newborn aswang (evil monsters/spirits in Philippines folklore). Set in Philippine Spanish colonial era, this historical fiction blurs the lines between monster and man. I can truthfully say I would love this series even if I’m not married to its creator. Here’s a peek so you’ll believe me:
where to get it: MERVSTORE.COM and it’s also available to read online here.
JANUS SILANG series by Edgar Calabia Samar
The story begins with an online tournament — the Terra Anima Legion of Anitos (TALA) is a role playing game similar to DOTA and is played by thousands of gamers around the world. In the small town of Balanga, a group of teenage gamers simultaneously and inexplicably die while playing in an internet café. Only one person survives: the eponymous hero Janus. His life will change as he meets new people and supernatural creatures in his journey to find out the truth behind TALA.
This series might be more familiar to most Filipino readers as belonging to the Young Adult (YA) fantasy genre, but to me it’s really more horror fantasy. The opening and ending of the first book is full of stuff nightmares are made of, and it only gets more intense as you continue with the series.
I also hosted a blog tour for the graphic novel adaptation of Janus Silang Book 2. You may read about it here.
where to get it: MERVSTORE.COM | ADARNA
WAKING THE DEAD and Other Horror Stories by Yvette Tan
Fear is only a step away…
A shadow falls. A shape in the window.
A sound at the door. The dead have risen.
This book collects ten short stories of horror, tragedy and the things in between from the terrifying imagination of award-winning fictionist Yvette Tan.
Are you ready to wake the dead?
Don’t ask me for further details, I don’t remember much since I’ve read this so many years ago. I should probably reread this one soon. I might not remember details, but I will never forget the superb writing and getting chills — and sometimes when it comes to horror that’s what matters at the end of the day anyway.
where to get it: ANVIL PUBLISHING
ALL THAT DARKNESS ALLOWS: 13 Tales of Horror and Dread by various authors
The moon takes on an ominous form, threatening mankind as it hangs from the heavens. A woman must confront her past and accept her fate when her dying best friend ask her to inherit an ancient power she might not be ready to handle. An LRT skip train sends passengers to an alternate dimension, where Manila is ridden with strange creature hungry for flesh. A troubled little girl tiptoes around her stern mother after gaining a creepy new playmate. A mysterious all knowing entity manipulates the concept of time, sending a pair of friends on a descent into madness. A young ink aficionado unravels after getting tattoo, possessed by an unknown force that threatens the very fabric of her being.
All these stories and more are part of All That Darkness Allows- a modern horror anthology containing 13 works of speculative fiction from today’s brightest young literary voices and the country’s most prolific author in the genre.
I first encountered this collection at a book event where it was on sale for just PHP20, which is just around USD 0.40. After reading and loving it I saw it again on sale and I bought a dozen to give away to my friends. Even if it was not on sale I would have done the same. It was that good. It’s not perfect in the way that anthologies rarely are, there is always one or two stories that you won’t love but this was at least an 8/10 for me. It even has these artsy creepy black and white photos that is curated to fit the collection (as shown below). I love it and I still feel bad I paid so little for it.
where to get it: SUMMIT BOOKS
That’s it for now. I do have maybe one or two more books on my TBR pile, but going back to what I mentioned before about the challenge of needing more accessibility to Filipino books, I want to clarify that it’s not a problem for the horror genre alone but in most local books. Locally published books are not as easily found in major bookstores here–for reasons that are too complex to discuss in this one post–but it is what it is. If you are like me and you want to explore more Filipino literature, please consider checking out our local independent publishers, too. I talked about them in length here.
I hope you enjoyed this list and if you have any horror recommendations for me (local books or not, or even movies or something you enjoyed in Netflix recently) do let me know in the comments.
Happy weekend! 💗