Iron Dreams

It’s finally released! The next installment in the Islandpunk saga: “Iron Dreams.”

The T’boli people, whose customs, practices, and crafts feature heavily in this story, need your help. Please follow the link to donate.

The Geek Anthropologist

Written and Illustrated by Jake Ramos,
in affiliation with the Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weavers Association, Inc.


She weaved.

Each new drop of sweat was an indictment. The cords were now too slippery to grip and there were rope burns cutting across her palms. As she inspected her work, she noticed that there were gaps in the weave that were large enough to stick her tongue through. It was miserable.

She wondered how Fingguy did it, or Dulay—how they worked tirelessly for hours in front of their looms, plucking away at each strand with such enviable ease. Only recently had she inherited something resembling her sisters’ talents. Where she was previously lacking in skills, she had recently gained in dreams. She did not believe it at first because the vision was so different from how her sisters described the experience. The woman that appeared in her dreams had short…

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IslandPunk Defined

What is “IslandPunk?”

In the Philippines where I live, there is such a thing as a Jeepney. It is a fascinating contraption made of equal parts sheet metal and nerve. Jeepneys serve as a means of inter-city and intra-city commuting for millions of Filipinos like myself due to its ubiquity and economy.

They were first invented after the Second World War, when American soldiers abandoned a surplus of army jeeps. These then had their cabins extended to accommodate more passengers. A fresh coat of paint and some navigational directions later and the Jeepney was born.

Unfortunately, the Jeepney’s time in the sun may come to pass as ancient engine manifolds and overpopulated city streets have contributed to an increase in air pollution and traffic respectively. The absence of even basic safety features like seatbelts have also made these vehicles a danger to commuters . Efforts have been made to modernise these fleets but it’s difficult to say if these new Jeepneys can actually be called as such.

You see, it is the distinct combination of quaint individuality, haphazard construction, and economy that make the Jeepney what it is. Similar analogs can be seen in other coastal/island nations—the Thailand “Tuktuk” being another take on this design. I’d go further to say that it is all these things and a touch of colonialism that make the Jeepney a great example of “IslandPunk.”

To clarify, IslandPunk is a particular technological aesthetic like “Cyberpunk” or “Steampunk” derived from the following characteristics:

a. Colonial derivation – Technology is often reinvented and coopted in such places due to a largely agrarian economy. This is why people will often see American, Chinese, or Japanese devices being repurposed to fit the specific needs of island states like the Philippines. This is especially the case for developing nations.

b. Sea-focus – While not always the case for every piece of technology, in a place where the sea is easily accessible to most of the population, some consideration has to be made for life on or by the waters.

c. Renewables – With water covering most of the accessible deposits of metals and ores when compared to others nations of similar size, the need to source renewable materials is at a premium.

d. Rust and decay – Proximity to the sea creates a highly humid environment where materials like paint and metals oxidise faster. Technology built here must stand up to the environmental pressures—or be in a constant state of degradation.

These details paint a fairly distinct setting that I seek to touch upon in my stories. I would also like to say, however, that some of my stories may not feature all of these aspects but they are unified by this way of thinking.

Islandpunk is the small sailing Vinta as it siddles next to a large Spanish Galleon ship. Islandpunk is wearing flip-flops at the beach and inside the mall. It is the daubed concrete house without any paint, the stilted wooden shelter by the beach, the water buffalo branded on some cars.

Welcome, dear reader, to IslandPunk. The waters beckon you in.