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Monday, March 27, 2023

#BookReview Tablay: A Futuristic Glimpse of the Philippines

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Paul Tena
Paul Tena is an alumnus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Politixxx Today and he also traverses into fiction writing in his spare time. Sometimes he goes by his pen name JPE Tena. His debut novel, The Lore Kingdom, was named an Honorable Mention in 2021 Lampara Prize. For more information, you may reach him via tenajpe@gmail.com.

The story takes the Filipino readers’ imagination to a foreseeable future. Admittedly, there are only few local stories that have the ability to take us to a different dimension of sorts. We often look for foreign stories – be it in books or flicks – to have a taste of what it means to live in a society packed with advanced technology. For that reason, Tablay offers a different perspective on how we can see ourselves with futuristic elements such as fascinating robots and unspeakable creatures.

The Plot

The story is set sometime in the 2100s or a hundred and so years from now. We are enticed to travel with the main protagonist named Anya who lives in a high-tech version of Manila. She is a daughter of the esteemed General Armin Valerio who happens to be a respected and decorated warrior in his own right.

The story revolves around the protagonists’ pursuit to quell the main antagonists who take the form of robotic versions of folklore characters we referred to as Aswangs. These creatures that bring terror to the walled city of New Intramuros will be crushed through operation Tablay– the event inspired the title of the story.

The story took a turn when operation Tablay which is headed by Anya’s father proved to be unsuccessful. This prompted Anya to endeavor to redeem her father’s honor by fighting the menace brought by the Aswangs.

As the storytelling progresses, the different dimensions of Anya’s character begin to unfold. The reader will start to invest in her rise and development. Every flip through the chapters of this novella will become a rollercoaster of emotion. The exciting twist and turns will leave the readers in awe. For now, I will not spill more details to give the prospective readers more excitement.

As the imagination of the readers wanders, they will definitely see that stories like this can actually happen in the Philippines.

Personal Judgment

The best thing about this story is that it is not just your typical speculative fiction whose main selling point is its techno-futuristic world-building. The novella is also not confined within the battle between good and evil trope. Underneath the glitz and glamour of its own world, the story resonates a deeper message rooted in the human experience. At its core, the story highlights the values that we hold dearly as humans.

Needless to say, the well-written novella is gripping enough to force you to leaf through the pages until the end.

As points of improvement, I cannot help but notice the excessive use of exclamation marks. Also, since the story is short, I am looking forward to reading more details. Perhaps, there can be an expansive version or sequel soon. Still, the story in itself is unique and can compete in the international stage. In my book, the exciting concept deserves more attention and probably a movie or series adaptation.


Another unique treat that impressed me as a reader is the packaging of the ordered book. Once you buy a copy, there will be an envelope that is inspired by the story. I find this as a great marketing strategy employed by the writer which also sparked my excitement even before reading. It shows creativity beyond the four corners of the story in itself. On top of it all, this creates a personal connection between the writer and the reader.  

Final Words

Overall, I’d like to commend the author, Katrina F. Olan, for highlighting our dying culture, local folklore and ghost stories. Though futuristic, we see the roots of Philippine culture enshrined in every page of her novel. The characters also reflect our shared experiences as people. This novel proves that we don’t need to look elsewhere to have a taste of a promising – not to mention – an exhilarating future that is set in our own land. Finally, I highly recommend this book especially to teens and young adults who want to see our culture in a futuristic light. I’m also looking forward for more stories from the talented author that stems from the story of Tablay.

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