Taken in 2016. From left: Mina V. Esguerra, Mark Manalang, F. H. Batacan, Yeyet Soriano, and Giselle Maris Bacalla
F.H. Batacan is a writer of crime and mystery, and author of what is acknowledged to be the first Philippine crime novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles. She was also our mentor for the first #HeistClub crime fiction writing workshop. So in this second workshop of sorts, it was our honor and pleasure that she has agreed to give a very brief but memorable message to the authors and readers alike during our formal launch at Tweedle Book Cafe last March 24, 2018. Below is her message as read by host and author Porcupine Strongwill:
Good afternoon to the organizers, to the writers and their families and friends, and everyone else who has come to today’s happy event.
You are all writing — and reading — at a time of great political, economic, and social upheaval.
Many of the things we might have thought constant and non-negotiable just a few years ago are under attack on multiple fronts: human rights, privacy and dignity, the freedom of the press and of expression, the independence of our institutions and branches of government. “Fake news” is one of the buzzwords of our time, and shadowy actors seek to manipulate us, to mine our personal data, to test our values and beliefs for vulnerability. It seems that everywhere we turn, everything is tainted by politics and vested interests, and by double standards that could spell obscene profit for a privileged few, or death for our poorest.
At the last launch, I urged the writers among you to keep writing, and to keep writing truthfully about our society. It may be that fiction is one of the few places left where truth can still be told, and more importantly, still be heard.
So, write for fun. Write to entertain. Write even to make money. But also, write to question. To probe. To expose. To shed light on what the powerful want to keep hidden or forgotten. Or even on what they think they can brazenly pull off and ram down our throats, because that seems to be the order of the day.
You won’t change the world, or overhaul the system, or put anyone in jail who deserves it. But let me remind you of what the writer Andrew Taylor says: “The best crime novels…do not suggest a remedy for crime or reassure us that all in the end will be well; but they can help us to understand our violent society, and they also allow us to hope that evil will not go unpunished.”
I wish you all the very best.
F. H. Batacan