Say hello to my new book, Marahuyo

I was in Boracay when I received the invite to the initial meeting of Pinoy Indie Authors for their second collab. The week before that, Yeyet Soriano sent a message of the prompt and asked if I wanted to join. I kid you not, she got me at the word “aphrodisiac”. Needless to say, I went “hell yeah!” and now here we are and Marahuyo is about to be launched.

What is a tamawo?

I’ve never heard of the tamawo until Yeyet sent me that message. When I read the prompt, I immediately thought of Sehun, Chanyeol, and Mingyu in long white flowing hairs in white shirt and black pants. Here’s how the prompt went:

Tamawo or Tamao is a mythological creature of Philippine mythology. They are believed to be malevolent but extremely handsome with very pale skin to white skin that sparkles under direct sunlight, they also have light colored hair, and fangs. They reside primarily near the sea or any body of water. Their Western counterpart would be the Germanic Elves.

They are said to abduct any human female that catch their eye. They do this for one purpose: to breed with them.

It is also believed that their saliva is some kind of aphrodisiac or has that similar property/ healing property.

So yes, apart from the aphrodisiac, it was something that I would really be having fun writing. Because in our world, the Tamawos are benevolent, loyal, and only recognizes the love that’s true and knows no bounds.

I wanted to write for fun

“Happy writing” is how Kim and I refer to working a manuscript for fun. I write for a living, and therefore, fiction writing has become my refuge. I didn’t want to do too much braining in this book—experience taught me that overthinking about the story I’m writing would lead me nowhere. So I just wrote what came to mind. It became my no-pressure-writing, and no-pressure-writing seemed to worked because it became something to look forward to. And looked forward to it I did, in the evenings when I should be getting ready for bed, in the early hours of the morning when I should be doing my morning walks, and in the idle moments after church on Sundays.

No pressure writing. Who was I kidding? I ended up with a 70,000-word manuscript in conversational Filipino, and Mayumi Cruz said it was a nice story and was decently written and I believe her.

Coming up with the basic things

Sebastian “Ian” Aguirre was conceived in a hotel room in Boracay (thank you, ladies!). The fact that he’s a mythical creature residing primarily near the sea or any body of water lived in my head rent-free while I was in the island. What if the waiter that served my Rum and Coke was a tamawo? What if Ian just murdered a short-haired morena lady and that’s why it rained so hard that evening I was in the bar. What if he actually lived inside the majestic rock formations we saw while we were island hopping? What if I touched that odd-looking stone by the rock walls of Puka Beach and suddenly I was transported to an unknown world? The mythical tamawo is known to be malevolent, my then again, my Ian was the opposite. But what if the tamawos are really like Ian in real life?

Hiraya came after that. Her name felt too common… and not. Plus, I am a daydreamer. I nicknamed her Raia because it sounded like the character names of the Tagalized anime series in the 90s. Jiro and Sheena just came out of nowhere, like they were just waiting all this time to be part of the book I will be writing. And yes, I just had to include a Kpop fan Tita because who doesn’t want that?

The title—Marahuyo—came later, while I was working on the third or fourth chapter. I couldn’t think of anything else that would fit the narrative, except for an epic name of the bar where the magic started to happen.

Learning to unlearn

Thinking about all the possibilities of the story was one thing. Writing them was a completely different story. I didn’t have any experience writing fantasy romance, and my only reference were my favorite Jun Ji Hyun dramas and maybe the Twilight series. But it’s been four years since I last released a book, and I wrote it a few years prior. So, I was hot to hit my keyboard and was prepared to bleed on it.

The initial pages of my manuscript, which were written in haste and excitement, felt dull and ordinary when I read them a few weeks after. I was looking for more magic. I was looking for something that would allow me to go beyond mystical boundaries. The tamawos were mythical creatures believed to reside in bodies of water. But what does their dwelling place exactly look like? Is it underwater or perhaps in an old rainforest canopied with huge, hallow-bodied trees covered in vines? Then, I remembered. “Hey, this is fiction AND fantasy and therefore I can do whatever I want, right?”

I could make my characters fly and apparate and jump to third floor balcony, as long as I’d be able to explain well where they got their magic. I never thought that world-building was as fun and exciting as it was challenging. But of course, I also wanted to make it work in the contemporary world and avoid the suspension of disbelief as much as I could. Again, who was I kidding? There were things in this book that felt scary and could potentially chase my sanity away had they happened to me in real life.

Truth to be told, I just want to give my readers another entertaining book they can turn to after a long day at work, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or even while lounging by the beach or at home. A book that’s not rocket science but pure kilig because that’s what I also want from books sometimes (and the main reason why I switched to Chinese dramas).

I’ll do it again if I could

Marahuyo is the output of awesome collaboration of Pinoy Indie Authors. It’s been a while since I worked with a community and I am thankful to have encountered these amazing people. I was allowed to unleash all my emotions, angsts, frustrations, and creativity. There weren’t any rules to break (just that there are no female tamawo LOL), and I was permitted to be the perky, somewhat blunt, talkative lady in the chatroom (thank you for tolerating me, PIA!). I really had a great time working and being creative with all of you.

To Yumi, Yeyet, Pau, Marigold, Maita, and Fred—cheers and congratulations to us!

And yes, let’s do this again!