Blog : Europe

Ask Me Anything: Science fiction and the worlds we live in

Ask Me Anything is a series of questions given by my friends and answered by me, Angel! If you have any questions that you would like me to answer, or if you’re just plain curious about me (because I am such a superstar), feel free to send me a message!

Did you read a lot of fantasy and science fiction as a kid? Why do you think authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien appealed to you so much?

I didn’t really start reading fantasy and science fiction as a kid, I actually read a lot of Sweet Valley Kids and Twins when I was young, hehe! I started reading science fiction and fantasy in high school, I think. The first (and most memorable) series that come to mind is The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I consider it fantasy, okay. My brother was the one who introduced me to Rice (and Stephen King, but I didn’t really like his stories), and the enigmatic Lestat. These books and Lestat meant the world to me, they were my escape. I spent a lot of time reading in my top floor attic room, shutting out the overwhelming chaos of the city, and dreaming of other worlds and immortality while watching the sun set from the roof. I dreamt a lot of leading a life like the courageous, hero-centric and ever-emotional Lestat’s. Come to think of it, I think it’s because of him that I have this romantic streak.

Tolkien made a huge impact on me when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. Indeed, I only read the books because I was inspired by the movie and the world it promised. 🙂 It’s full of heart and loyalty, unshakeable wisdom, a lush landscape, and grand magic. And of course, who wouldn’t be attracted to the elves and a journey to the west (= life after death). It also helped that my best friends also loved the books and Middle-Earth as much as I do. We spent a lot of time dreaming about it together, and assigning ourselves our own elven names. Basically, we shared this world together, it was real as it can be for us. After waiting for years, we watched the Return of the King when it came out in the cinema, crying our eyes out together.

One summer, we spent a weekend at a friend’s guest house in Tagaytay. I was reading Ursula Le Guin’s The Earthsea Quartet and was so mesmerized by it. We ended up sharing the book in that weekend and taking turns reading it (and bugging each other to hurry up already and finish that chapter). 🙂

I remember feeling so much for these other worlds, and thinking that the one I live in lacked so much (magic, emotions, depth, colour, meaning). I was a teenager after all, living in a grimy, humid city. I longed so much for another place, I felt it deep in my heart. I reached for it in fantasy and science fiction at first, and later on in Europe.

Do you think this sort of literature had an influence in the creation of your own image of Europe as you grew up?

I don’t think so. Although they both spring from longings and wishes in my heart, fantasy and science fiction is separate from the “Europe” in my head. I feel like Ian Wright’s adventures in Lonely Planet made more of an impact for me (re: my early image of Europe) during my teenage years. 🙂 Also: Amelie Poulain, Prince Andrea of Monaco, “The Invisible Circus” with Cameron Diaz, and countless of cheesy travel books.

The utopian image of Sweden, however, came from a deep love of Swedish indie music. In the end, I even wrote my Master thesis about it: how Swedish indie music affects perceptions of people about Sweden, and how it ultimately influences and contributes to the success of Sweden’s nation branding efforts. Read all about it here.

Last time I saw you we talked about our love for Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood. What other science fiction women writers have you read lately? Does their treatment of gender interest you as a reader?

Jeanette Winterson is not really science fiction, nor fantasy, but her stories embody a fantastical vibe to it and a deep sense of otherworldliness. Perhaps it is “magic realism”, but not really… Anyway, her stories are absolutely beautiful and so intense that they will leave you feeling like you wouldn’t want to leave that “world” anymore. I love how she writes about the emotions of women in her stories, and the poetic tone of her writing. Her words and stories reach a deep part of myself (the ones we usually we don’t have words for, the ones that are screaming to be heard), in a dizzying, magical landscape.

My favourites are The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Please read them, your life will change forever!

 Photo: Tove Jansson

I would also love to read more of Tove Jansson‘s work. I recently read a very compelling article about Tove Jansson’s Moomins and what they mean to Jeanette Winterson and her writing, Jeanette Winterson: The Moomins and Me.

Some quotes that I can relate to in the article:

Poetic disorder is how language is made. Only later is it codified. Naming starts as joy. Think of the pleasure a child has in finding words and inventing words and forming sentences that are also shapes. Words are ear and mouth before they are pen and paper. Words run away; you have to catch them.

Machine-made language, the language that comes later, in school and then at work, is useful enough but has no life of its own. The job of the writer is to stay on the side of life. The moving words were what I wanted – then and now.

Moomin-world is wise. The Groke only cares about riches and freezes everything she touches like a refrigerated Midas. The Hemulen collects stamps but falls into despair when his collection is complete – then he is only an owner. Moomins don’t think much of owning things.

On their travels they adopt a small creature with big ears who explains: “I got lost and thought I’d never see the sun again”. This is Dante opening L’Inferno – “Midday through this life of ours I found myself alone in a dark wood.”

We know what that feels like, when the sun goes dark, whether we are a small scared child or a depressed adult.But here are light-up flowers and bowls of sea-pudding and Moominmamma reliably carries a dry pair of socks and stomach powders in her handbag.

Yet sadness is allowed. When Moominmamma falls into despair, everyone else gets gloomier and gloomier dwelling on the sadness in their lives. Perhaps this is Scandinavian, or perhaps it is just a psychic truth, and we try and protect children from what they know anyway – that life is dark as well as lit up.

Bonus question: Which fictional world would you like to live in? 🙂

A photo I took of my friend's cat in Stockholm, 2012.

A cross of Middle-Earth, Narnia and downtown Stockholm. 🙂

This set of questions is brought to you by one of my best friends, Arrate Hidalgo-Sanchez. Arrate is interested in all things science fiction and she writes and translates speculative literature that deals with interesting women. Among other things she likes noodles, rocks, the Northern Lights, silly dance moves and going to the pub with friends and/or books. Arrate does not know where she lives yet but she is having a good time finding out. You can read her brilliant thoughts on her blog, Emerald Grapefruit.

Ask Me Anything: Home, homesickness and Coke rooms

Ask Me Anything is a series of questions given by my friends and answered by me, Angel! If you have any questions that you would like me to answer, or if you’re just plain curious about me (because I am such a superstar), feel free to send me a message!

1/ How do you define home?

I made a blog post about this last year, and I think this is my working definition of “home”:

Home to me for the past years have been a psychological phenomenon, a place where you can be yourself and where you are surrounded with the people that you love and who love you. A place where the most authentic “you” can flourish, and where you have the freedom and the state of mind to create, express and just be yourself. Simply, somewhere where you can be comfortable, happy and true. It is a bit different from the traditional definition of home, which is a more physical and non-flexible entity (and most usually refers to “where you came from”). Mine is a more mobile definition, perhaps a skill I have adapted to to match the currents of my life and/or a truth that I have discovered. I believe that you can be at home anywhere.

In addition: a much older blog post circa 2009, when I was moving around from Sweden, to Spain and to the Philippines, unsure where to go next, but absolutely sure where my heart lies.

what’s on my bedroom wall: a big outline of sweden, made out of blue lace. there’s a map of stockholm: norrmalm and gamla stan and sodermalm. and a map of the tunnelbana, the green and red and blue lines criss-crossing one another. looking at them now, i realized that they don’t mean anything to me anymore.

what makes my heart leap now: the lines of your face, the way you look at me, your words, your touch.

what’s happening now: i’m falling in love with people, instead of places. finding home in a different kind of way.

To sum it up, home is a place where the most authentic “you” can flourish, and/or a place that can be found in certain special people. Since you change, and other people change, homes can change too. TA-DA! What an epiphany!

2/ What is homesickness for you? (For some reason, I think that you don’t really associate homesickness with not being in Manila. Or do you?)

I don’t necessarily associate homesickness with Manila, because I don’t really feel “at home” there. Although, I DO miss my mother and my friends, and the feeling of being part of a warm, everlasting community and being loved in a particular way, which can only come from someone knowing you for decades and seeing you grow up. I think that is something irreplaceable.  I also miss the food, of course.

Homesickness can be felt anywhere, especially for cosmopolitan people: it can also be closely related to the feeling of “homelessness”, the feeling of disconnection and dislocation. Every cosmopolite can relate to the sentiments evoked by the Kings of Convenience song “Homesick”: Homesick. Because I no longer know where home is. But isn’t that just plain loneliness in the end, when you come to think of it?

The way to combat this nasty feeling is to know and accept and internalize that you are living a different life from the majority, and home cannot just be a simplistic definition, at least not for us (stop comparing yourself to others). Home can be many places all at once, and in the hearts of the many people who love you (spread all over the world!) Get on the computer, write a letter to your best friend, skype with your mom, connect and be less lonely/ homesick!

3/ What happened to the Coke room? (Remember this room under the big Coke sign in Stockholm?)

Photo: Marthin Sühl

Jobelle visited me in Stockholm during the summer of 2010. It was a great time! I remember pointing out to her “my Coca Cola room”: a top floor apartment in the Södermalm district, close to Slussen metro station (my favourite district and favourite metro station). It is my dream apartment. It also felt so personal because I am a Coca Cola addict and a big sucker for romance. Wouldn’t it be the most romantic thing if I ended up living in Sweden, in an apartment in Söder, overlooking Lake Mälaren and the entire city, with a Coca Cola sign as my nightlight?! Ahhh.

Just like how Jay Gatsby had his own personal green light to gaze into, I have my Coke room as the symbol of my Sweden dream. A concrete, yellow-ochre and beige, neon-lit embodiment of my hopes and dreams. Something that is mine to hold on to.

I don’t know what happened to the room nor who occupies it, but I do know that my dream is still there. 🙂

Here are some pictures of me and Jobelle during her fun-filled visit! All photos by Jobelle:

4/ Will it always be Europe for you? (To live, work, grow old?)

I think so! I loved Europe ever since I can remember, and I’m really enjoying myself here. I feel that the authentic me has been given a chance to grow and flourish here. The creative scene is very good (although sometimes I feel like a certain dynamism is lacking) and I like the fact that I don’t need to be scared walking home alone at night or getting mugged while riding public transportation. I like the fact that I ride a bicycle, and so does my boss. Living in the first world leaves a generous amount of space in your head to pursue your dreams and creative endeavours.

But who knows how I will feel about Europe in the future. I mean, the past six years I was clearly convinced that it would always be Sweden. But now I’m living in Holland. Things happen in life and it’s okay to change, it just means I am human and not a robot. Who knows what the future will bring? Being open is the key.

5/ Any new projects (creative, crazy, simple, life plans, etc) that you have in mind? (We never got to do our Manila art scene critique blog!)

Right now, I am busy working with Arts Holland and I am loving every minute of it. However, in a couple of months my contract will end and I will have to find a new job by then. (Offers and job interviews are very welcome! Contact me, potential boss.)

Personal ongoing projects include DJ-ing as Ice Hotel. Life plans: a trip to the Philippines at the end of the year, and a move to Amsterdam is also on the horizon, just need to make it happen!

This set of questions is brought to you by the awesome Jobelle Tayawa. Jobelle is one of my friends from way back (1st grade?!), we rode Tita Nelly’s school bus together even if we were attending different schools. She was wearing a colourful pink and blue uniform, mine’s stark white and maroon. Fast forward to college where we crossed paths again and found a shared love for creativity, artistic endeavours, indie music and general coolness. Jobelle is currently a globe-trotting, motorbike-riding art director and 1/2 of the Bad Ass Co. See her work at

And! She is currently competing for a spot as a luxury hotel tester in Europe! Vote for Team Cool ‘n Poor, and help send Jobelle to Europe (so she can also visit me and we can have amazing adventures again!) Vote here now (and prove that you’re not a robot!)