Halloween is just around the corner, and since you’ll most likely be spending the spooky celebration at home, you might as well curl up with a good horror book. Writer, musician, filmmaker and podcaster Wincy Aquino Ong has released his first collection of short fiction entitled Tales For A Rainy Season. If you’re looking for fresh new scares, this might be the reading material for you.
“I’ve always been a fan of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone,” says the 38-year-old. “So I thought to myself: ‘I want to write a book that’s sort of a Pinoy version of The Twilight Zone’—mix in the supernatural with mundane details all Filipinos can relate to, and end the story with a note the reader wasn’t expecting.”
In writing the book, Ong challenged himself to steer clear of what’s been done before in Filipino horror fiction—the aswangs, the white ladies, the tikbalangs that are common fixtures in the genre.
“Apparently, there’s still a lot to be mined in Pinoy horror culture after you’ve gone past the aswangs from Siquijor, the White Lady from Balete Drive, and the Snake Man in Robinsons Galleria,” says Ong. “I looked deeper into the annals of our local folklore and urban legends, these rabbit holes on the Internet, and I found so many obscure gems that a horror writer can easily turn into a short story.”
Tales for a Rainy Season claims it has everything—from Nardong Putik (the gangster who could turn himself invisible by using consecrated mud) to Baguio hippies who practice ritual suicides. One of the stories explores that urban legend of Jose Rizal being the man behind the Whitechapel Murders.
Entitled “The Opthalmologist’s Case,” Ong’s alternate take on the Sherlock-Holmes-meets-Rizal story comes from all the Rizaliana he imbibed from prep to college in Ateneo de Manila. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, one of Ong’s teachers and the director of the 1998 epic on the National Hero, also shared with Ong’s class the wealth of information she discovered while working on the biopic—stuff not usually included in a Rizal class.
One of the pieces of trivia from those classes that’s stayed with Ong is Rizal’s stint as a horror writer. “He wrote one called Junto al Pasig, which is like a Stranger Things adventure tale where a group of kids fight Satan during a Holy Week procession. Truly cool stuff,” says the Tales for A Rainy Season author.
Which brings us back to “The Opthalmologist’s Case.” “I wanted to explore that urban legend that connected Rizal to the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888. Historically speaking, he was there in London when it all happened! And since I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, I couldn’t think of any other detective who could dig up the case...I pictured more as a fugitive movie, where Rizal is on the run from the law, and Sherlock and Watson are on his tail.”
Ong describes the story as an exciting chase through the many corners of 19th century London, and via the story, readers will get a glimpse of the life of an Ilustrado in those times—the boarding houses, their habits and vices, the nightlife in the seedier parts of the city. “More than that, I wrote the story because I wanted to see how the smartest Filipino there ever was can match up to the terrifying mind that is Sherlock Holmes.”
Ong is not exactly a stranger to the horror genre. He is the writer and director behind the 2011 Cinemalaya horror film San Lazaro and 2014’s Overtime under GMA Films. For him, a good horror story should have other things going for it than the scares. A good horror story must also have humor and drama. “Also, it all boils down to the hero of your story and how much you care for him or her,” says the author. “Before you expose your hero to the ghost or the monster, he should be someone you root for and care about.”
Tales for a Rainy Season, now available for download at the Amazon Kindle Store and Kindle Unlimited.