There are a lot of voids to be filled in the world of modern Filipino literature. It’s not that there is a lack of demand. In fact, there are a lot of Filipino readers, and they continuously seek variety in the genre of their reads. One such void is in the case of LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) literature, the scarcity of which reflects much of the governing culture of the conservative here in our country.
But, as they say, change is coming, and with the passing of time, we see less of the discrimination, oppresion, and hate for those who have chosen to define their gender as such. There is still a long way to go, for sure, but there certainly have been steps, albeit little, to pave the way for more representation. And the world of literature is no exception.
Agay Llanera’s Another Word for Happy attempts to fill the void in LGBT Filipino YA literature, and it not only succeeds in doing so. It does so with flying colors – a whole rainbow of it. This novella about coming out undoubtably charms with its relatable characters and masterful storytelling.
We enter the world of Caleb Salve, a promising young pianist who struggles with a secret he’s been keeping for years. He’s gay, but in a world of judgment, bullying, and discrimination, he is forced to keep this truth to himself, living in constant fear of what society will think of him, of how they will treat him. But everything changes when he finds love for the first time as he is whisked into the colorful and poetic world of Franco De Leon.
At its core, Another Word for Happy is a simple story about a young man growing up, but it is with Llanera’s memorable set of characters, excellent storytelling technique, and the poetry – oh my gosh, the poetry – that makes this title stand out. The fact that it features both classical music and spoken word poetry, and utilizes both as excellent character development devices, already made me like the book. “Earth and Pluto” (not the official title, but yeah… haha!) and “Come Out” are perfect. Just perfect. I have no words for how amazing these pieces are.
I was brought to tears, to say the least. The message Another Word for Happy so honestly tries to get across is pure, and it resonates beautifully through Llanera’s words.
Love. Family. Acceptance. Truth.
Here’s one for your favorites shelf, friends. A great read!
*Featured quote card made by @jessuiabbie*
DOCTOR’S ORDERS: This beautifully-written novella is a must-read! It’s definitely a rare gem especially in today’s array of modern Filipino literature. Readers will not be disappointed.
Watch out for: lyrical poetry ( I love, love, love “Earth and Pluto” and “Come Out”, classical music, and tear-jerking moments that will show how, in the end, no matter who we are, all we want is to love and be loved in return.