This sapphic anthology will make you tingle

“I lamented the seeming invisibility of the lesbian writer in Philippine literature,” says “Tingle” editor Jhoanna Lynn Cruz

Calling all sapphics! There’s a new lesbian-centric anthology coming out this June. Entitled “Tingle,” it contains 45 works by wlw writers responding to one question: “What makes you tingle as a lesbian?”

If that’s not enticing you already, here’s a note from the anthology’s back-cover blurb: “Here we are taking our stories of women loving women in our own hands and making ourselves visible on our own terms. When the initial thrill of desire is past, the tingle is ultimately the recognition that what we have found cannot remain in the dark—we must love and be loved in the light.”

Representation of queer women is still lacking, especially in this country. Let’s be real: How many local movies about lesbians do you know? I, for one, can count them all with one hand. Last year’s BL boom didn’t necessarily mean more sapphic rep either, and the few shows that went the GL territory were not as supported as their BL counterparts.

I talked to Jhoanna Lynn Cruz, the anthology’s editor, about the making of the anthology and lesbian rep.  

When did the making of this anthology start? Was this a quarantine baby?

I think I’ve always wished there were a lesbian anthology ever since the first Ladlad volume of gay writing came out in 1994. And there was! In 1998, Anvil published “Tibok: Heartbeat of the Filipino Lesbian,” edited by [Anna Leah] Sarabia. But when I gained more experience as a literary writer and editor, I realized that I should put together the lesbian anthology I wanted to read. I lamented the seeming invisibility of the lesbian writer in Philippine literature. On the one hand, I knew we existed, but it seemed like we weren’t! I wrote about this phenomenon in an article, “Passing and the In/Visibility of the Philippine Lesbian Writer” published in the UP Likhaan Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Volume 14.

This desire to put together the anthology was further strengthened by my friends, Shane Carreon, Sol Gadong, Diandra Macarambon, and Roger Garcia over a casual dinner in 2015. I issued the call for submissions in 2016, but it was only in 2018 when the process moved along more purposefully, when Anvil Publishing Inc.’s then general manager Andrea Pasion-Flores offered to publish it. It was supposed to be launched in June 2020, but the pandemic intervened, so “Tingle” is actually the opposite of a “quarantine baby.”  

Can you talk a little bit about the stories included here? Do you have any particular favorites?

I think the most significant aspect of the anthology is who is represented in it, and each one of us who has decided to publish our work in it contributes to its collective triumph. I am so proud to have been able to bring together our “foremothers” and the youngest writers across the country [by letting them write] about what makes them “tingle” as lesbians [and] what electrifies them. We have a provocative new story from Nice Rodriguez whose fiction collection “Throw it to the River,” published in Canada [in 1993], showed the path that could open for all of us here. 

I must also draw attention to an essay written particularly for “Tingle” by Anna Leah Sarabia, which reflects on her past 25 years of fighting for lesbian rights in the Philippines. She asks the hardest questions. Among the younger writers, I have to point out the singular triumph of Meranao writer Diandra-Ditma Macarambon from Marawi, who is coming out in a huge way by allowing us to publish two stories about love between women in a Muslim community. 

Is this a standalone anthology or will this be one of many?

So far it’s standing alone, but our publishing contract is open for a next volume if there’s a demand, which I hope there would be!

I noticed that more and more queer collections by and for queer folk are being released (like the Trans Filipinas anthology and Ligaw-Tingin) in recent years, compared to a dearth of open queer rep (especially WLW rep) just, say, 10 years ago. What do you think has changed?

I write about this in greater detail in my introduction to the anthology, but briefly, I do believe that it’s definitely one of the gains of the LGBTQ Pride movement that more queer creatives have been emboldened to put ourselves and our work out there. Now we are certain that we are a community that needs to be attended to in various ways. For the literary community specifically, though, I think what has changed is the rise of alternative publication venues like self-published chapbooks or zines and independent presses, which have provided us more opportunities than the traditional route. 

When and where can people buy this? Will this also be available to readers overseas?

It’s launching in June, in time for Pride! It will be available in National Bookstores nationwide, as well as in the online shops of Anvil Publishing on Lazada and Shopee. I know the website also ships abroad.


Art by Pammy Orlina

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