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Get Your Goth On For World Goth Day

Those of us who grew up reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” or watching its many cinematic versions will probably be interested enough to trace the book’s roots back to the Victorian Gothic movement. Popularized by Shelley and the circles she ran with (husband Percy Bysshe and his best bud, Lord Byron), the movement was said to be a reaction against stiff Victorian formality and etiquette.  Writers broke the literary rules with counts who were vampires, black ravens who spoke, and, in the case of Ms. Shelley, makeshift, DIY monsters. Combining elements of horror and romance, Goth literature thrived on scenarios that often involved sinister mysteries, family curses, and strange heroines.


Is that You, Yorick?; photo courtesy of Karen Kunawicz


The international community celebrates World Goth Day on May 22, but the holiday came to the Philippines early this year with Wordello 2.0: a gothic poetry reading that ghoulishly swept through the city last May 5.

A portmanteau of ‘word’ and ‘bordello,’ Wordello is a whip of a word-fest that began in 2016 as a fundraising project organized by the Likhaan Creative Writing Foundation—all for the benefit of Creative Writing MA scholars from the University of the Philippines. Through the efforts of President Rhona L. Macasaet and Vice President Chichi F. Lizot, the foundation also aims to organize writing workshops in communities around the country, together with the Library Renewal Partnership headed by Quintin Pastrana.


Goth paraphernalia; photo courtesy of Karen Kunawicz


This year’s Wordello was held at the Goth mansion du jour: Casa Real at the Acacia Estates in Taguig. At more than a hundred years old, the casa is owned by the renowned Tuason clan, and was transplanted from Santa Mesa to Taguig. Guests were treated not just to a poetry reading headlined by greats like Krip Yuson, Gemino Abad, Butch Dalisay, Marne Kilates, RayVi Sunico and Lourd de Veyra, but to a host of other delightfully sinister activities: anthropologist Leo Castro did name inscriptions on bamboo, as well as Baybayin tattooes, and resident Goth doyenne, Karen Kunawicz did oracle card readings.


Victorian Goth Dress on Display at Casa Real; photo courtesy of Karen Kunawicz


On world Goth Day, the Goth scene will get to “celebrate its own being,” per the Official World Goth Day site. We’re not just talking literature, we’re also talking Goth fashion, music and art. For World Goth Day Founder, DJ Cruel Brittania, “it helps bring the community together, show people on the outside how much diversity and beauty can be found in the darkness.” It’s a truth artists and writers know well, which is probably the reason why many of our great books were written on many a dark night.


Goth doyenne Karen Kunawicz; photo courtesy of Karen Kunawicz?