First Language(s): Filipino (Tagalog)
Second Language(s): English
Gershom Mabaquiao is a Filipino writer. He earned his degree in Communication Arts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, where he majored in writing. He writes fiction and nonfiction with themes of sexuality, spirituality, the human psyche, and his experiences as a nonbinary person living with HIV. Most of his works feature mythological elements, especially from his local folklore.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Well, it's more of a book series than a single book. It's the Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke, the source material for Inkheart (2008) starring Brendan Fraser. I started reading the second book, Inkspell, for a book review in class. That was before I found out that books are oftentimes different from the movies they inspired. Anyway, I was hooked by Funke's storytelling and imagination, and I've been drawn to authors of the same caliber ever since.
What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
The sanitized answer: In an hour-long writing exercise for an English class, my teacher recognized me for my unique writing voice and asked me to read my essay in front of the class. When I saw my classmates' wide-eyed expressions and the applause which succeeded the end of the essay reading, I took it as a sign.
The real answer: As a kid, I was a compulsive liar. In anger one time, my mother even told me that I strung lies so intricately, I'd shame Satan himself. So, wanting to be a good Christian kid, I turned to creative writing as an avenue to dispel that "evil spirit." I thought if I was good at making up stories, then maybe I should use that constructively. Instead, the evil spirit and I became friends.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
Being raised in a Christian household in the Philippines, with two pastors as parents, I would say any act that goes against their bigoted Christian mores can be considered both a thrill and an adventure. That includes getting tattoos and piercings, dressing flamboyantly, loving another man, and writing about all of that for the world to read. I get the most excitement disappointing my religious upbringing.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
Music is a great tool to get a writer in the mood. I would even go as far as to say that the right music while writing can supplement the idea or emotion I would like to convey in a specific draft.
A good rock playlist can help when writing a story about teenage angst or a revenge-themed coming-of-age. Some Filipino indie love songs, with their stripped back musicality, help with the romance in the mundanity of a couple's everyday life. Pop gay anthems can get me in the mood when writing a character with a lot of sassy personality.
But then again, music merely helps me to get to my preferred emotional state. Once I've reached it, I usually stop the song and let the character or sensation I've imbibed to do the rest of the writing for me. And for that, I need complete silence.
Issue Spring '23