A Review and Author Interview: Bayani (#StrangeLit Darkest Dreams)
This is what happens you allow yourself to unlock your dreams: You may just find the darkness that lurks there. Explore the tragic, the romantic, and the comedic side of our darkness in these stories.
This is one of the final stops of the #StrangeLit Darkest Dreams Blog Tour! The anthology contains ten awesome paranormal/urban fantasy stories from ten equally awesome authors. I personally know the author of In My Dreams, so I know what I’m talking about. But the subject of my review and interview is the story Bayani by Motzie Dapul.
In the year 2050, Patrick “Paquino” Aquino: president of the Philippines, former superhero, and murderer—not necessarily in that order—deals with the consequences of his actions following four years of martial law and the raid that ended a bloody political dynasty in the far north.
With a death sentence looming over his head and a revolution rising against him, he begins to wonder if his bid to save the country, made back when he was the impetuous young bayani Lastikid, is worth dying for.
Habagat Estate, North Luzon, Year 2047
“There’s something going on out there. I can feel it.”
“We’ll be fine if we just stay quiet.”
The steel door began to clang, signaling the eight to stand at attention, as they were taught. Michael released Lucy’s hand, wiping the concerned expression from his face as Juliano Roche Davide entered their shared quarters, the portly man wringing his hands together, a hunted expression on his face and phone blinking active hanging off one ear.
“Shut up, Paulino. Just… I’m not coming back to this godforsaken place, I don’t care what you say, or what he does for that matter. No, I… of course I’m not just abandoning him, for all that he deserves it. He’s my father, I’m not a monster. I’m having Lucifer protect him…yes, his favorite one. I don’t have to listen to your bull, Paulino, take a plane over here if you’re so eager to help him, but I’m done. You won’t see me again, Lino, I’m done.”
The eight stayed silent even as the man wiped his sweaty brow, only half focused as he surveyed the room.
“Lucifer,” he said, and Michael stiffened as Lucifer glanced at him, briefly, before coming forward.
“Right,” Juliano said. “You’re going to stay by my father’s side today, do you understand? Under no circumstances will you leave him, and you will guard him from any harm. Dis ducibus, young man.”
At these words, like the pulling of the trigger, Lucy was lost, leaving only Lucifer behind. Lucifer, who did not look back when the door was once more shut, who glowed with the harsh light that blinded Michael’s eyes.
They did not come back to that room, neither Lucy nor Davide, that day, nor any day hence.
It was later, well into twilight, that anything happened again, and this time, it was a tall man of noble bearing who entered their room, having torn the steel door right off the wall, his expression stony as he surveyed all the young boys before him. Remy, the most frightened of them, keyed up all day from the sounds of conflict from above, shot at him, right at the center of his head, but he didn’t seem at all fazed by the attempt.
He was older, much older, but it was the first time they’d ever met somebody like them. Somebody powerful.
“Hello,” Michael said first, his voice hoarse from disuse.
The man acknowledged him with a nod. “Hello to you as well. What are your names?”
Michael gave him the names they’d been assigned, for they had no other, beyond the ones they made up for themselves. Vaguely he remembered being called Joben, deep in the recesses of his broken memory, but of that life he knew little.
“There’s one more of us,” Michael said afterward. “Luce—Lucifer. We need to find her—I mean, him. I mean…”
The man’s brow furrowed, and he gestured for Michael to walk by him as he left the room with his troops. He didn’t say a word, and Michael felt afraid, but he had to find out what happened to Lucy. He couldn’t do anything rash so long as she wasn’t safe with him, though his hands itched for a weapon, his eyes automatically taking stock of every threat and viable escape routes.
There were soldiers gathered outside the compound—not theirs, though Michael eyed his old tormentors scattered among the fallen men and women, signs of a battle they had not taken part in. He could hear his brothers trailing behind him, the tips of their wings dragging against the ground.
He could feel eyes on him as he was led to a familiar figure, sitting in the open back of a truck, a blanket draped across her shoulders. Beside her sat an older man, late in his forties or more, speaking to her in quiet, gentle tones as she nodded, hanging onto his every word. Even dressed as he was, in the green and dark matching all the others around him, Michael knew he was no soldier.
Long after that day, the faith of every man and woman who survived that raid did not waver, and the hounding press never got wind of their president taking part in the operation, nor what he did to put an end to Huliano Habagat’s reign of terror.
None of the winged supers who emerged from that raid spoke a word to the press either, seven of them, learning the world as they did, pledging service to the man who ordered their freedom in the first place.
All but one, whom Michael had not heard from in years.
With the elections barely a month and a half away, this story is very timely, and this is why I chose this to review. Also, during the #StrangeLit launch back in October, the author, Motzie Dapul made an impression on me with her “reading.” She said something like—this was a work of fiction, because to have a superhero that only wants what really is best for the people and the country as a president is definitely NOT what we currently have and would most likely not have in the near future. Ouch. But it is true.
I was also struck by her posts about LGBTs on social media, and I knew that Motzie was a very interesting person, and I just had to read her story.
The story, Bayani, did not disappoint. It had everything that I could ever hope for—a future where the leader of our land actually had the best interest of the people and the country as his top priority, regardless of what other people say. A leader who would not hesitate to do the hard things himself in order to achieve those objectives. Yet, he is also a leader with a conscience, and he is haunted by the things he had to do for the country. He may be a superhero, but he still has his human side.
At the story’s core is a friendship between three superheroes – Lastikid, Bernardo Carpio and Adarna, and I loved reading about their early years, as well as the later years where one is already President, another one has sworn to (love and) protect him, and another one is running for President in the next elections. There is a particular train of conversation that the three friends had, about the fact that they were more or less immortal, and it struck a chord in me. It goes something like this:
“That’s the nice thing about forever. There are no endings, only pauses.”
Taken in the context of the superheroes’ friendship, it meant that they would always be friends, and that they will always find their way back to each other no matter what happens, even if they do experience “pauses” along the way.
Taken in the context of the country’s situation, there is hope. At least in the story there is. In reality, I’d like to think we are just experiencing a very long pause, and one day, we will all get to see the time when our country can move forward again. This hope is something that reading Motzie’s story brings about.
There are two specific story arcs that Motzie used as her platform to further the awareness and acceptance of the LGBTs in literature. And both are genius, if you ask me. I will let Motzie explain in her own words what motivated her to write those arcs and those characters in the interview further on in this blog.
All in all, I am giving Bayani four stars. It is a great and timely story, with relatable characters, and considering a lot of the characters are not entirely human, but with super powers, the fact that you can still relate to them is a testament to Motzie’s character development and story telling. And speaking of story telling, the way she weaves her narrative made me visualize everything in my mind—the epic fight scenes and all, and even the quiet scenes full of feelings, and it was an awesome experience. Motzie made me think, and think, and think. And she did say in the interview, this was her objective all along, so she succeeded.
INTERVIEW with BAYANI author Motzie Dapul
ysrealm (YS): What are you most passionate about?
Motzie Dapul (MD): Stories. Always.
YS: Where do you want to take your writing? Is this a hobby/part-time thing, or do you intend it to be a career?
MD: I’m definitely looking into a career in writing. I want to be a professional writer, though I’m going into an animation career because I like to push myself and not waste my other talents. I’ll be writing in as varied a number of media as I can.
YS: What do you want people to take away from your story, Bayani?
MD: I just want them to think. That’s what I did when I wrote it; I challenged myself to think of what this country needed most, and how that might go with the problems we face. I won’t challenge people’s legislative and executive politics since other people know more than I do, but I’m an idea girl and these are just my ideas and my hope for my home.
Although I can say for certain that I want people to get used to LGBTs in media. Which is kind of an element, if a small one, in Bayani as a novel.
YS: What do you think sets you apart from other writers?
I’m the kind of writer who really gets into how characters should sound and act. I actually mutter to myself (my friends and family can tell you how often I talk to myself) in the voice, tone, and manner that a character speaks, with the lines they likely would say, to get a feel of who they are. And I like to let that show in my work. Regardless of how fantastical the world might be, I want the characters and relationships to be genuine enough to make people love them and believe in them.
MD: What were you doing when the germ of the story of Bayani came to you?
Trying to figure out which of my many stories would fit the theme best, honestly. And procrastinating on those stories.
YS: Which character do you like the most? Why?
This is a toughie, I love all my children! But Lucy and Ava are young girls full of promise and belief and I love them for that. Neither are naïve but they aren’t jaded, like the youths of today. I also have a soft spot for Cheese, the observer and storyteller.
MD: Which character do you like the least? Why?
Habagat I suppose. Easy answer! He’s basically a representation of the guys who constantly eff this country over and over so he’s the guy to hate. And Paulino of course. What a jerk.
YS: If there was anything in your story that you wished was true in real lie, what would it be and why?
MD: Apart from the super rich leader who could house the poor and improve transportation? Well, this novel was kind of wish fulfillment in itself so that’s a long list.
YS: When you started writing, did you already know Patrick and Boy would have this bond/love story?
MD: It’s been around since the early days of Project Bayani. The thing with Patrick and Boy is that they’re those two friends where one fell in love with the other and the feelings weren’t returned (Boy confessed long ago) , but their bond is pretty much unbreakable and they’ve been friends for decades, trusting each other 100%, so romance is a moot point. It’s the kind of intimacy most romance can’t even begin to touch. They definitely love each other, and even if the feelings are different the amount of love is basically the same.
YS: Why is Lakampati reffered to as S/he?
MD: Lakampati is a hermaphrodite god/goddess and I wanted to retain that dichotomy in her character. S/he’s listed as the most compassionate of all the gods, because s/he’s both and neither male and female, and as someone who’s always been fascinated by gender, s/he’s an old favorite.
YS: It was also mentioned that in her earlier life, Lucy thought she was a boy. Why was this? Or was this part of the manipulation Habagat did?
MD: Lucy is a transgirl. She was referred to as a boy despite her own early realization that she wasn’t, and having a powerful, well-loved and happy transgender character who’d escaped hardship in the limelight was important for me. It also helped to emphasize how little Habagat understood about the humanity of the children he’d wanted for his army, especially his supposed “favorite”, and how barely five minutes of kindness, empathy and understanding from Patrick overrode years of conditioning by Habagat.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Motzie Dapul. Storyteller, writer by passion and artist by trade. Long-time writer and longer-time reader. Lover of Philippine mythology and culture, propagator of LGBT+ literature and media. Every story will have an LGBT+ character, no exceptions.
Former Literary Editor of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s Benildean Press Corps and author of the Project Bayani independent komiks series.
Written works can be found online at mozzarellastories.wordpress.com
Art and animation can be found online at atemozzarella.tumblr.com
LINKS to DARKEST DREAMS
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26869344-strangelit?ac=1&from_search=1&from_nav=true