I’m thinking of what a great thing it is that you’ve done, and of how this could be for most of you the first step in a long and hopefully satisfying journey of writing crime fiction.
But that journey will not be without its difficulties. There will be people who will say your work is “problematic”, who will insist that writing crime fiction in the Philippines is pointless, that you will only be aping Western writers. There will be those who say that you cannot speak for the common Filipino, nor understand either the common Filipino criminal or victim.
There will be those who insist that there is only one way to write crime fiction, or only one way to write like a Filipino, or both. And if you deviate in any way, you are wrong, and your work is unworthy.
I know, because I still find myself on the receiving end of this kind of criticism, nearly two decades after my work began to see print.
So here I am telling you: Just keep writing. And even more important — keep reading, not just IN the genre, but ABOUT the genre. You will find that crime fiction is more fluid than critics or scholars would have you believe. You will find there are many ways to tell a story. You will find that many writers in cultures and societies similar to ours, have found ways to write truthfully about the crime and law enforcement situations in those cultures and societies.
Write truthfully, but remember that you cannot speak for your countrymen, your generation, your class. You can only speak for yourself, about your lived experience, with your understanding of the world. Do not neglect to make that lived experience and that understanding as broad, as deep, as rich as you can make it.
In an essay some years back, the writer Justin Peacock said: “The basic template of the crime novel—a murder or other serious crime that ruptures the social order, which must be restored through bringing the perpetrator to justice—virtually ensures that the material, if approached seriously, will engage the society in which it occurs.”
That’s a lot to ask from crime fiction, on top of it being thrilling and page-turning. But that is how I have always sought to approach my work, and how I hope you might approach yours.
Good luck to all of you, and I look forward to reading you in the years to come.