MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The concept of aswangs dates back to the 16th century, during the Spanish colonization. Their first mention was in an excerpt from Juan de Plasencia’s Customs of the Tagalogs, where the term “osuang” is synonymous with “sorcerer”. In the Visayan Islands, aswangs were also known to fly and eat the flesh of men (Clark, 2019). Fast forward to the ‘80s and ‘90s, movie producers made series after series of films featuring aswangs, thus quickly becoming a favorite pastime for kids and adults who need a jumpscare or two.
Stories of these viscera-suckers not only existed as Halloween fodder but from a sociological standpoint, they were used to keep children out of the streets at night. At some point, they lost their appeal thanks to fake-looking CGI. Fortunately, what special effects could not render, the imagination could capture.
A child’s imagination, especially, is the ideal playground for the newest aswang-themed literary masterpiece, Gimo Jr. and the Aswang Clan.
Podcast producer and marketing wiz Andrew Jalbuena Pasaporte’s debut novel tells the story of Danny, a regular kid who goes to school, loves his parents, and lives in the quiet and unassuming suburbs of Pinetown. He has a best friend named Eddie and has a crush on their school’s resident mean girl, Mary.
On his 13th birthday, however, things suddenly change, taking Danny completely by surprise and unraveling the sinister secrets their seemingly small and harmless suburban town keeps. To his chagrin and amazement, Danny has received a gift that offers him two equally challenging possibilities: to find out the evil mystery looming over Pinetown and its residents, or to become the instrument of evil that would plunge the town into chaos.
Anyone who has read the Janus Silang series, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter might recognize some themes and supernatural elements in Gimo Jr. and the Aswang Clan, but this middle-grade novel is definitely not a dead ringer for them. Andrew does a great job of deviating from the usual “strange and eerie barrio vibes” that are becoming tedious to read or listen to. The literary community needs something fresh and fun but is also very Pinoy.
Get to know Danny, Eddie, and Mary by grabbing a copy of Gimo Jr. and the Aswang Clan at the Philippine Book Fair, June 02 to 04, at the World Trade Center. Free bookmarks and postcards will be available for the first 15 buyers, while teachers and librarians who wish to include the book in their roster will get a mini-teaching guide for free.
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