I misjudged the King By Fatima A. De La Cerna (The Philippine Star) Updated December 11, 2011 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Fatima A. de la Cerna, 30, is a mass communication graduate of UP Cebu College. She’s currently a freelance writer, but has experience working as a business correspondent and an EFL editor, among other things. She’s addicted to coffee, books, and films; has a soft spot for monkeys; and is in awe of cats.
It shames me to admit that I was once so busy being a pompous idiot, I refused to give Stephen King the time of day. A big, fat pompous idiot, I tell you. And an ignorant one, too, for I didn’t even bother reading anything he’d written before concluding that he was nothing but a hack who exploits people’s morbid fascination with gore, horror, and violence.
I grew more convinced that I was right about King when I learned that members of the literary-academic community weren’t fond of his work either. Yale University professor and literary critic Harold Bloom, for instance, expressed indignation when the National Book Foundation awarded King the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2003. In a column he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Bloom called King “an immensely inadequate writer” and remarks that, by honoring him, the organization recognizes “nothing but the commercial value of his books, which sell in the millions but do little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat.”
On Writing, Books And Humanity
I got over my prejudice against King last year, after giving in to a friend’s urging me to get a copy of King’s On Writing. I’ve never read a more entertaining, inspiring, and candid book about the craft of and life as a writer. No rhapsodizing about muses or romanticizing loneliness and despair. Only useful tips, humor, and anecdotes that enlighten.
I finished the book in two days despite being swamped with work. I had a hard time putting it down, and upon reaching the last page, I found myself stunned by the realization that I’d been wrong about King. He may have failed to impress Bloom and his ilk, and he may not be in the same league as literary greats like Steinbeck and Faulkner, but he is no hack.
Bloom, of course, has the right to regard King’s work as second-rate. It’s his opinion, just one I now disagree with. After all, what must books do for humanity to deserve recognition? To what lofty goals must they aspire?
Full Dark, No Stars, More Questions
If a book can get readers to ask questions about themselves and the people around them, can it still be described as not doing enough? If it can get them to feel and think, will it finally pass muster?
After On Writing, I decided to try one of his fiction works and chose the novella collection Full Dark, No Stars. To say that it got to me would be an understatement. It’s been weeks since I read it, yet it continues to give me nightmares, still has me asking questions.
How far would you go to protect what you value? How well do you know the people closest to you? How well do they know you? How well do you know yourself?
In “1922,” the first of the four novellas that make up the book, the protagonist goes so far as to commit a crime to protect his way of life. A farmer, Wilfred has no interest in moving to the city and is appalled when his wife suggests selling their farm to do just that. Driven by his love for the land, Wilfred murders his wife with the help of his 14-year-old son. As many are wont to do when they’ve done something wrong, Wilfred denies responsibility by distancing himself from his actions. He explains, “I believe that there is another man inside of every man, a stranger, a Conniving Man. And I believe that by March of 1922 … the Conniving Man inside Farmer Wilfred James had already passed judgment on my wife and decided her fate.”
For Tess in “Big Driver,” justice is what matters and she’s willing to carry out vengeance to get it. A mystery writer, Tess encounters a giant of a man when she experiences car trouble on her way home from a book signing. Raped and left for dead, Tess considers reporting what happened, but then thinks, “What’s in it for me?” As she plots her revenge, Tess is aware that her old self would have called the police. But she is no longer her old self. “It was as if by raping her, the giant had created a new woman.”
The shortest novella in the book, “Fair Extension,” tells the story of Streeter and the deal he makes with an “extension” salesman named Elvid (you don’t need to be a genius to figure that out). With Streeter dying from cancer, Elvid offers him a life extension on the condition that he appoints someone to suffer in his place. As the shrewd salesman puts it, “You have to do the dirty to someone else if the dirty is to be lifted from you.” And do the dirty he does, and not just to anyone but to his best friend Tom.
“A Good Marriage,” the final and, arguably, the best of the four stories, centers on the life of married couple Darcy and Bob Anderson. Together for 27 years and with two grown kids, theirs is a tale of successful relationship. At least that’s what Darcy thinks until she stumbled upon a box in their garage that led to the discovery that her husband is hiding a terrible secret, is living a double life. He is not just a doting spouse, a numismatist, and an accountant; he is also Beadie, the serial killer responsible for the rape, torture, and death of several women.
Bad And Good Writing, You And Me
In the book’s afterword, King writes, “Bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do — to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
To agree with his observation on what makes bad writing (and how can you not?) is to admit that Full Dark, No Stars is what good writing reads like. Wilfred and his wife and son, Tess and her rapist, Streeter and Tom and even Elvid, Darcy and Bob —they’re all real people doing real things. We read about them in the news, work with them in the same company, maybe even live next door to them. They’re the husbands who beat their wives, the addicts who rob their own families, the trusting spouses of adulterers, the business owners who screw their customers. They’re the villains, the wounded, the liars. They’re the people with secrets. They’re us.
Stephen King writes effective horror stories because he writes the truth about you and me, and we know it.
Faithful analogy By Leonard Christian Go Loo (The Philippine Star) Updated December 18, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)
THIS WEEK’S WINNER
MANILA, Philippines - Leonard Christian Go Loo graduated BS Psychology from Ateneo de Manila University last March. He works at the Manila Observatory as project assistant. “A lot of my friends call me kuripot but I am just being practical. I don’t enjoy spending money to buy material things that will eventually gather dust. I prefer to spend them on the things that matter, on experiences. I am what they call a nerd, and I am a proud one at that.”
Minutes before I started writing this essay, I Googled the phrase “church Dan Brown” and read the first three non-Wikipedia results that came up. I perceived a common feeling emanating from all three articles, and it was not a positive one. As you may have guessed, the negative feeling originated from the side of the Catholics (found in the articles) and was directed towards the books (The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) written by Dan Brown, as well as the movies that were based on them.
Being a Catholic who has lived in the Philippines for all my life, and having studied in Catholic schools from elementary through college, I know what it is like to be taught about God and religion. I even had encounters with a fair number of people who are hardcore religious. These people would openly criticize things that are anti-Catholic just like those we regularly see in the news, and Dan Brown’s books are not an exception.
I have read all of Dan Brown’s novels. It is true that Brown presents a lot of controversial things (in the two books mentioned) that I, as a Catholic, can never accept. However, his novels cannot be reduced to something as simple as anti-Catholic. In my own experience, his novel, Angels and Demons, was able to speak to me as a Catholic more than most of the assigned readings I had in my old religion class.
One question at the back of every person’s mind who believes in an all-powerful and all-good God, as well as an arguing point of non-believers is this: If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why is there pain and suffering? If God were really both, then God would prevent us from experiencing pain and suffering. If God does not, then it is either because God cannot (meaning God is not all-powerful) or God chooses not to (meaning God is not all-good).
Brown brings this question up in the novel by having a young Swiss Guard (the official police force of Vatican City) ask a fairly young priest why there seems to be a contradiction in how God is presented in the Bible. God is said to be all-powerful (omnipotent) and at the same time all-good (benevolent). However, there seems to be a contradiction, namely, pain (e.g. man’s starvation, wars, etc.). The young guard proceeds by adding that if God loves us and has the power to change the situation so that we would not have to experience pain, God would do so. He then adds an important question at the end of his spiel, “Wouldn’t He?”
To his surprise, the priest answers, “Would He?”
The young guard then responds by saying that if God loves us, and also has the power to protect us, then God would have to do so. It is either God is all-powerful but uncaring or all-good but unable to help.
The priest replies with a series of questions. First, he asks if the guard has children; the guard answers no. He then asks the guard to imagine having an eight-year-old son, and then asks, “Would you love him?” The guard answers, “Of course.” He then asks if the guard would do everything in his power to prevent pain in his son’s life; the guard answers, “Of course.” He then asks if the guard would let his son skateboard; the guard answers yes, but that he would also tell the child to be careful.
The priest summarizes their short conversation by saying that as a father, the guard would give some good advice and let the child go and make his own mistakes. The priest then asks the guard, “But what if he fell and skinned his knee?” The guard replies by saying that the child would then learn to be more careful.
The young priest answers, “So although you have the power to interfere and prevent your child’s pain, you would choose to show your love by letting him learn his own lessons?”
“Of course. Pain is part of growing up. It’s how we learn.”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the wonderful way Brown presented this analogy so I at least wanted to directly quote the ending of the short conversation presented in his novel. There is nothing more to be added since the idea is already presented very clearly.
As can be seen, Brown masterfully explains how God is both all-powerful and all-good. And yet, these are not the things being highlighted by people who attack Brown’s works. Dan Brown’s novel, Angels & Demons, has at least made this one reader understand his faith more.
This may not be a lot when it comes to talking about the whole novel, but what exactly do we remember from our favorite books and when we try “selling” them to our friends? Don’t we usually just mention that one part, maybe even just that one line from the book which struck us most, which spoke to us? For me, it wasn’t one line, it wasn’t the entire plot, it wasn’t was this analogy.
Never really gone By Frances Alexandra Punzalan Garcia (The Philippine Star) Updated December 25, 2011 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Frances Alexandra Punzalan Garcia is a 16-year-old, fourth-year student at De La Salle Santiago Zobel. She has eight puppies and enjoys sports such as running and fencing. She also plays the drums. “I believe that reading definitely helps a person in discovering life both at its best and at its worst.”
You know that feeling when your path crosses with a stranger’s and you just feel an immediate connection? And in that span of a second or two everything just falls perfectly into place and you know it was meant to be? Well, I’ve felt that, too — with a book.
If it was remotely possible to experience love at first sight with a book, then I’m a victim. You see, I fell in love with a book four years ago. I was in a bookstore, not really searching for anything, when our paths crossed. I think what made me attracted to it was the challenge it presented. It consisted of more than a thousand pages with a font size that almost had me reach for a magnifying glass. Seeing it, I knew it was my destiny to read it.
What do you love about that person? Sometimes it can be the easiest question to answer, sometimes it’s the hardest, but I’ve always noticed the generic answers — “He’s nice and sweet” or “She’s pretty and smart.” Well, I promise to make a less generic expression of why I love Gone with the Wind.
The story of Gone with the Wind is set during the late 1800s in America. What makes it appealing to me is visualizing the difference between life before and life now. You can say that life at the present time is easier with all the technology we have but a part of me seems to yearn for the simplicity of the life before. As much as I enjoy the hustle and bustle of my life, I wouldn’t mind living in that kind of life with its slow pace. The problem with a busy lifestyle is that sometimes you forget to appreciate the smaller things in life but with that kind of life, you take things one step at a time as you see the wonder of your surroundings.
That was before the war, of course. The Civil War is part of Gone with the Wind. The vividness of the accounts really did frighten me because I just couldn’t believe such things had happened and are still happening. What I knew about wars was always what happened in the battlefield but this novel showed me the other side of war — the war back at home. The women, children, and the older people had a war to fight and sometimes, it was even worse. The people left behind had to find food, shelter, clothing, while trying to be strong for their loved ones.
Gone with the Wind made me realize the importance of history as something that I can learn from even if it didn’t happen in my lifetime or in my country.
This book has contributed to the literary world a number of timeless characters. One of them is Katie Scarlett O’Hara, the protagonist of the story. Scarlett is one of those characters that don’t remain in the book — she jumps out of the pages, bursting with life. I would love to be as beautiful as she is described. I would love to be as open-minded and brave as she is. I envy how she can say what she wants but sometimes, I believe that we need a bit of delicadeza. On the other hand, I’m glad that I’m not like her because I’m actually sensitive of what others feel. I’m glad I’m not like her because I can actually read the signs.
I enjoy reading Gone with the Wind over and over again and seeing her grow as a person, celebrating her triumphs and mourning her downfalls. For all her good and bad sides, Scarlett made me love Gone with the Wind.
Another character responsible for my love affair with Gone with the Wind is Rhett Butler. Butler is as manly as a guy can get. A part of me would not approve of having a guy like him as my better half but another part would. With all his charm and his ways, he is deep inside, one of the most loving partners and fathers out there. Rhett opened my eyes, showing me that sometimes, people just create a rough and careless exterior to protect themselves from rejection.
I learned that’s not the way to go. Sometimes, the more open you are the lesser the chance that you will get hurt because you allow yourself to experience both the good and the bad, and experiencing the bad makes you appreciate the better things.
I could write all day about all the characters in Gone with the Wind. No matter how short or long their lines were, Margaret Mitchell made sure that every character had an impact and a special task to teach the reader something new.
From everything I acquired from Gone with the Wind, the most vital lesson is that never in your life should you deprive someone or yourself of loving. We all deserve to love and be loved and we will never truly be satisfied if we have never experienced the giving and taking that accompanies love. Even if the setting of the novel is more than a century ago, the obstacles faced by the characters are the same, especially with relationships. One thing that ruins all kinds of relationships is pride. We need to know when to fight for something and when to let go. This novel, in a way, made me ready for the roller coaster that is called love. I know that nothing can replace the actual experience but this book always comes close in making me feel the ups and downs of living and loving.
Gone with the Wind is not a romance novel, nor is it a historical novel. I don’t think it belongs to any genre because it makes one for itself. It serves as my history book, my self-help book, and my guide to love. I didn’t know that my love could grow any stronger but the more I read Gone with the Wind, the more I fell in love with it.
Gone with the Wind made me feel butterflies and heartbreak for the first time. With words, it made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. It had the power to make me smile, laugh, cry, sob, roll my eyes with a flip of a page.
Until now, my love for Gone with the Wind is going strong because for me it is alive.
The beauty of Les Misérables By Katrina Gaw (The Philippine Star) Updated January 08, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Katrina Gaw, 19, of Quezon City, is a lover of the written word. Kat, a legal management student at Ateneo, spends much of her time reading and writing, and hopes to one day write an acclaimed novel or two. She is also a big fan of musicals, and came to discover Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in this way.
Some books have the ability to reach beyond the era in which they were created; to send a message through the generations so poignant it remains forever relevant. Some have the power to summon a cascade of emotions at once: anger, indignation, happiness and more. Others still give people ideals — ideas so infectious they cannot be erased. These are all merits achieved by Les Misérables, Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, and one of my favorite books.
I’m sure that I am not the only reader who was amazed by the life of Jean Valjean. I first decided to try the novel because I had discovered Broadway, and I wondered how a book could inspire such an acclaimed musical. It was no longer a surprise to me after I read the story myself; it has all the elements of a story that soars and comes alive, so dramatic it can make one break into song, so bewildering and yet so relatable.
By now, the beginning of Les Misérables is familiar to most. Jean Valjean is a convict, sentenced to prison for decades for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s family and then for his attempted escapes. Everybody shuns him, and he develops a hatred for life. He is saved from descending even deeper into this pool of loathing by a bishop, who kindly allows him to stay in his convent for the night when no one else would take him in. Afraid of the sudden hope creeping into his heart, Valjean steals some silver, runs and is caught by guards, but is set free by the bishop. In a line that is now classic, he tells the stunned Valjean, “Never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man… You no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that, with this silver, I am buying for you.” Valjean spends the rest of his life in a constant struggle for righteousness, amidst the backdrop of 19th-century France, where poverty, prostitution, thievery and revolution abound.
Perhaps the main protagonist’s story is hard to believe. Despite the fact that Hugo based the character on an ex-convict of his era, rarely is a life filled with as much drama or action as Valjean’s. However, the painful realities of the society Hugo created are so vivid and lifelike that a hundred years later, they still feel familiar. Valjean encounters, on his journey to goodness, the beautiful but unfortunate Fantine, a single mother forced to become a prostitute to support her daughter; Javert, an investigator so obsessed with black and white that he forgets the shades of gray; and Thernardier, that cruel criminal whose desire for money outweighs even the welfare of his family.
It is painful to come to the epiphany that these people still exist amongst us; that misery persists, and even flourishes. In one part of the novel, Eponine describes living under a bridge, starving, and wanting to drown herself in the nearby river. She then thinks, “No, it’s too cold.” The idea that she could think of no better reason to live than the fact that the waters are too icy to guarantee a peaceful death is disturbing. And yet in days when storms rage throughout Metro Manila I imagine the people who live under the bridge in EDSA, sick from the fumes, clothing soaked and clinging to their skin, I imagine there are those who know the torrent of those kinds of emotions well.
On the way home one day, a sight overwhelmed me — children, chasing one another in the streets, using the immobile cars as hiding posts. They had a mischievous charm to them; they reminded me of Gavroche, the street urchin, saving other lost boys from dying of hunger in the alleys of Paris and joining the big ones as they loaded their rifles and set about with their revolutions.
One of the kids came up to my car window and rapped the glass with his paper cup. I ignored him at first, as most do in that situation. He pressed his nose to the glass, and as I turned for a quick glance I was reminded that even in Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, poverty is a disease that plagues societies. The boy was much too thin. His face was covered in grime. His clothes were tattered; he wore no shoes. I imagined little Cosette, abused and neglected in the home of the cruel Thernardiers, her small arms straining to carry a bucket of water in a dark forest; I remembered those two young brothers, wandering the streets, begging for scraps, never to be seen or heard from again. I quickly took out my wallet and let the boy have a P10 coin. “Salamat po,” he said as he walked back towards his friends. Suddenly he was just a child again. I looked on as the traffic lights turned green and we sped away.
Does Les Misérables offer a solution to the societal problems that we face? Does it point towards a light at the end of a tunnel? The novel does not have an easy fix for the state of humanity, and it is clear why — Jose Rizal once called these troubles the “cancer of society,” and every time I pass the crowded streets and see beggars tapping at car windows, I remember that diseases spread, multiply and infect, to a point where containment becomes near impossible. The book does, however, go back to the basics in a beautiful way and attempts at answers, as seen in Valjean’s life. Making a better world is about action; it is eradication of ignorance. It is welfare for the poor, and compassion for the misunderstood.
Wherever people choose to listen to the wailing in the streets, to the students who rise up and ask for justice, for liberty, for fraternity, to the words of wise old bishops and kind ex-convicts, wherever one remembers to ask why, there is hope. It grows and it is nourished; like a virus, it comes alive. As time marches on, I hope that this novel and its message is not forgotten; that it continues to inspire in the hearts of the willing the idea that misery is not the only infection that spreads; that there, too, is love, and dreams, and passion. One day, this cure may just penetrate the very core of the issues of our society. Who knows? Perhaps only hope will bring us there.
Ramblings, rants, ruminations and more By Marivic C. Faicol (The Philippine Star) Updated January 15, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Marivic C. Faicol handles reading classes in the Grade School Department of San Beda College Alabang where she has been employed for the past 23 years , serving in various capacities as reading and language coordinator and as grade school vice principal. She graduated from UP Diliman and us now finishing her thesis at DLSU Manila, leading to a graduate degree in Educational Leadership and Management.
For the longest time, I had yearned to share my innermost thoughts on some of the noteworthy books I have had the Fortune of reading via “My Favorite Book” and yet for one reason or another, stopped short of mailing an entry. Call it a stroke of luck but little did I know that one book would invariably cross my path — one that embodies the principles and ideals that I hold dear to my heart and one that would be most worthy of writing about.
Given as a Christmas present by my sister-in-law, I eagerly scanned the book (a collection of essays) penned by Earnest Tan, whose earlier works like Through a Dark Tunnel : Midlife Chronicles and Of Angels, Butterflies and Clowns: Rediscovering Faith I thoroughly enjoyed for their wit, honesty and depth. This particular book marks his return to inspirational writing after continuously churning out “scholarly” resource materials. What makes it a most interesting read is the author’s poignant and realistic take on the many facets of life such as finding one’s center and spirituality and also of commitment, abuse, forgiveness and reconciliation. All these just so the reader is able to “shine like light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” as he strives to find life’s meaning and his role in it.
As an educator for more than two decades, how could I not be moved by his personal account of how two of his teachers in the elementary grades made a significant impact on his transition from a reclusive loser to the successful speaker that he is now. All because these teachers cared enough to see the real Earnest that was painfully hiding beneath that lonely boy’s demeanor—a boy who shunned all overtures of friendship and who would be by his lonesome self even during break time when kids would boisterously run out of the classroom.
And while I may not be the most outstanding teacher in terms of visual aids and lesson plan preparation, I take heart in knowing that just like Earnest’s two teachers, I expend efforts in touching the lives of my students, even more those who are ostracized, bullied and unrecognized. It does not really take that much — a sincere smile, an encouraging comment, a tap on the shoulder, a kind word—any of these can create optimism and joy in a child’s heart.
Tan also poses an interesting insight on reconciling our polarities as we enter midlife. He recalls a reversal of roles for an adviser, one whom he remembers as having a penchant for enjoying the luxuries and pleasures of life and yet, as their paths crossed many years later for a reunion, surprisingly preferred the more “serious” faith sharing rather than a rowdy get-together. As we approach midlife, we become aware of the invitation to come to terms with the polarities within ourselves. If we had been too reckless and fun-loving in our younger years, then life asks us to assume a deeper look into our essence and purpose. On the other hand, if we had been overly rigid and one-track minded as we were entering adulthood, then it would be good to loosen up and enjoy the simple thrills that make life much more colorful and exciting. What is essential in the mind of the author is that we take cognizance of how life draws us to the other end of the spectrum to ensure our sense of balance and wholeness.
So many of the topics covered certainly struck a raw nerve in me. I could go on and on as I could say a mouthful on the other stark realities he presents in his essays. Earnest’s book will definitely be one of those that I will keep within arm’s reach and not relegated to the dusty insides of my book shelves. And on occasions when I feel spent and burnt out, a walk amongst its pages shall bring me right back on track as I strive to carry out my multiple roles as wife, mother, teacher and friend and where my rants and grumblings will magically transform into nuggets of learning.
Skeletons on my bookshelf By Penzer Baterna (The Philippine Star) Updated January 22, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Penzer R. Baterna, 22, is a content developer from Iloilo City. He graduated with a degree in Journalism at West Visayas State University. Aside from reading and writing, he is interested in film, photography, politics and blogging.
As a kid I remember dreaming of a huge library full of good books. I loved reading, but neither of my parents realized that. Of course, they did buy me good fairytale collections and children’s stories but never did they realize I wanted more.
Every Christmas, I hoped to receive a good book, but I had toys from my godparents and picture frames from my school Christmas party instead. No books. No stories to read. So I just filled my fantasy of reading good stories by writing some — although most of them weren’t that good.
When I went to college, I started saving for good books. Stephen King is my favorite author. Maybe because my first good read was his Pet Sematary, which I borrowed from a friend when we were in fifth grade. Then I read Carrie and my fascination for King started and grew really great. I already have 27 different titles from the guy.
One of my favorites from King is Dolores Claiborne. A story of motherly love caught in a roller coaster suspense-filled psychodrama. It is about Dolores and her struggle to make the investigators believe that she didn’t kill her employer. She really did not, but throughout the interrogation, she confessed one thing she had done in the past — kill her husband. The book is dark but, believe it or not, it made me see the truth behind the cliché on what a good mother can do for her children. Dolores Claiborne made me more appreciative of little things moms do. And I guess it reinforced my love for my mom more — mushy and gay as it may sound.
Reality check though, not all moms are like Dolores. Some seem to ignore their being a mother and force their children to do things. I once heard a conversation between a driver and his friend in the front seat of a jeepney about a mom pimping her own daughter. If eavesdropping is a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence now. If the story is true, I wonder where the motherly heart of that person went. She should read Dolores Claiborne and be touched by it.
Books really fascinate me, and I hope not to miss reading a good one. So I collect and read.
Recently I finished reading the newly launched Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata by master storyteller Ricky Lee. Just imagine a gay manananggal who has alter egos saving the Philippines. The manananggal represents us — our diversity, our differences. And despite these differences we need to do something to unite and save the country from filth and greed.
Another book from a Filipino writer that I really love is Kislap by award-winning author Abdon Abalde Jr. The book is a collection of short stories of exactly or not more than 150 words. It has become my icebreaker from monotonous routine. When I feel bored, I’ll get it from the shelf, flip it, say stop, and read the story from the page it has stopped. Sometimes, I reread the entire book.
Filipino writers are marvels in their own ways. But, as I see it, a lot of us are more into foreign writers, staying blind to how beautiful Filipino literature is.
Yes, a lot prefer foreign books but one genre of Filipino literature that is hugely followed by readers is humor.
The first Filipino book I had was Eros Atalia’s Peksman Nagsisinungaling Ako. I bought it out of curiosity. The title interests me so as the man with bulging gums raising his right hand and promising that he is lying on the cover. Ironic as the cover is — the irony continues as I flip from page to page. What I like about the book is that it also contains a collection of short stories that offers glimpses of life, especially in this country. I loved Atalia’s writing, which led me to buy his other books.
Bob Ong is another Filipino author who is well-loved by avid readers. I read his books before Atalia’s but never owned one. When I started collecting books by Filipino authors I also started buying his books, which are cool, sarcastic and truthful.
Bob Ong has good books, but I wonder why he remains anonymous until now. Such anonymity reminds me of Richard Bachman, a writer from New York who died in 1985. I’ve read his The Regulators, which according to reports, the manuscript was discovered by his wife in the attic of their residence after he died of cancer — which they identified as “cancer of pseudonyms.” The day Bachman died is the birth of the person behind him — Stephen King. It is not shocking, after all, since the two have similarities in the way they write. So maybe I’ll be laughing and rolling when one day I’ll find out that Atalia and Bob Ong are the same person. Forgive me if I’m wrong, just my two cents.
Books by Filipino writers are good reads. See Jessica Zafra’s Twisted series.
Books are really fascinating as they contain fragments of us, of people around us and of reality. And really, my parents did not notice my fascination for books until they saw them grow in numbers. And here’s more that they should know: When they thought I was studying late at night when I was in high school and college, I wasn’t. Most of the time I was doing two things: reading a book borrowed from my friends or writing something to read. Now the thought that I was studying hard in my room saved me from doing chores on weekends, too — just taking out some skeletons in my bookshelf!
The Philippines was not discovered in 1521 By Madelline Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated January 29, 2012 12:00 AMComments (1)
MANILA, Philippines - Madelline Romero holds a degree in Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines. She works for an NGO.
Teresa, recently graduated from high school, is at a friend’s birthday party. She gets introduced to Pavlo, a Ukrainian and a guest of a friend, who’s in the country for a brief holiday. They exchange pleasantries, and they get to talking about the best tourist destinations in the country. And then Pavlo asks: Does the Philippines have a very long history? To which Teresa replies, “We were discovered in 1521 by your fellow European, Ferdinand Magellan. Soon after, the Spanish Period which lasted 300 years began. Followed by the American Period from 1898 until the beginning of the Japanese Period, which lasted until the end of World War II.”
Teresa is not a real person, but a representative of every Filipino student into whose head the above mentioned version of Philippine history had been drilled all throughout primary and secondary education. And that is precisely the attitude — thoughtless and cavalier – towards our history which Carmen Guerrero Nakpil in Heroes and Villains wants us to realize and — she insists — change.
For Nakpil, proper appreciation of our correct history is fundamental to our sense of national identity, which has often been beleaguered with crisis and confusion. And that is where the problem lies: what is the real story of the coming about of the Philippine nation? Not those told and written by colonialists and colonialist-influenced “historians,” Nakpil seems to say, which is to say, not the version found in our history books and taught to us in school. Those that had been branded “heroes” and “villains” by this biased and inaccurate version of history might not have been in the proper category, after all, after thorough research and study of old records and documents.
Was Legaspi a bearer of governance system, thus civilization (hero), to Maynila when he “won a battle over a creek, claimed conquest and Spanish sovereignty over the city of Maynila, the island of Luzon and the entire archipelago, naming them the New Castilla and bestowing a city charter with municipal councillors, a plan for a plaza , two grand houses and 150 smaller houses and a project for the distribution of land” on June 24, 1571 (Manila City’s Foundation Day)? Or was he a mere terrorist (villain) whose attacks disturbed the orderly life and governance and economic systems of those then living under the rule of three Muslim kinglets: Raja Matanda, Raha Sulayman, and Raha Lakandula?
Was America an ally (hero) in the young Philippine nation’s fight for independence from Spain, or an opportunistic and double-faced enemy (villain) that took Philippines from Spain (as if it was still hers to give) in a sham battle on August 13, 1898, thereby “strangling at birth the infant Philippine nation.”
Was Macario Sakay a mere bandit (villain) that terrorized the countryside, or a real patriot (hero) who, together with his 4,000 troops, continued the fight for independence from America until his death by hanging for the trumped-up crimes of robbery in band, murder, rape, summary executions, arson, kidnapping.
Reading Heroes and Villains is like watching a telenovela: each episode in the short essays tells of stories with all the hooking intrigues and engaging drama and action, all told in witty — if sometimes, sardonic — and concise prose. You get awed and sometimes pleasantly surprised by the revelations that unfold. And in the end, you understand yourself better because the story, after all, is about you and your identity as Filipino.
So who is the Filipino?
The Filipino inhabits the land called the Philippines — a name reported back to the Spanish court in mid-16th century by a Spanish government official — Ruy Lopez de Villalobos — who “tried to make up for his failures (he never landed in the islands for fear of suffering the same fate as Magellan) by currying favor with the offspring — Don Felipe or Philip II — of his principals.” Contrary to what is popularly taught in school, the land was not “discovered” — as if nobody had known of its existence until then — by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
The Filipino is a descendant of Malayo-Polynesian people from the Asian mainland, who migrated to this land as early as 13,000 B.C. “The Malays were the ancestors of today’s Filipinos, who became Tagalog, Bisaya, Pampango, Bicolano, Ilocano, organized into fiefdoms under kinglets called datu.” Towards the end of the 15th century, another group of people from Sabah, Brunei, Johore, Malacca — ancestors of people in Southern and Central Mindanao — came. As early as the 6th century, our islands and their inhabitants were well-known to the large, rich world of Chinese emperors and scholars and Arab traders, and by 1000 AD., “our shores were regular ports of call in the trade with China, then the most powerful nation on earth.”
I will not romanticize the supposed uncorrupted pre-colonial qualities and morals of the Filipino, nor the idyllic pre-Hispanic past, which many of us are not even aware of (mainly because we weren’t taught that in school). The confusion and insecurity stem from the historic inability to forge a solid national identity before the onslaught of foreign influences. Unlike our Asian neighbors — China, India, Japan, Korea — which can lean against their sturdy wall of recognized collective legacy and identity forged centuries after centuries and generation after generation, the Filipino reeled from a battery of foreign onslaught, and found that there was no formed national identity to lean back on and that would have made him stand his ground.
The Filipino today is a product of centuries of colonization — Spanish, American — and, unfortunately, an even longer mental conditioning through propagandist scholarship and storytelling, that has left him ignorant of his true story, and worse, in perpetual awe of his former colonial masters.
If there is one thing that Heroes and Villains tells me, it is to know the real story of your people, and only then will you break away from ludicrous and counterproductive notions that you had been fed since you were little. Only then will you get bits and pieces about yourself that you didn’t even know existed. And maybe someday — the Spanish last name and American accent notwithstanding — you will know what to say — and with confidence and certainty — the next time you’re asked Who is the Filipino?
The long journey to faith By Carmela Ann U. Santos (The Philippine Star) Updated February 12, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Carmela Ann U. Santos (“Mel”) of Paranaque City is a journalism graduate of Centro Escolar University-Mendiola. She has worked for MIAA as a writer and dreams of writing her own book someday. She enjoys books by Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Max Lucado, C.S. Lewis, and “lately, I discovered Mitch Albom.” If not a writer, she would be a teacher.
It wasn’t my first time to read a book about faith.
Being born and raised as a Protestant, I was introduced to the word “faith” quite early on, but finding true meaning in the word did not happen as fast — until I underwent major spinal surgery in high school and began to establish a personal relationship with the Lord. When I reached college, The Purpose-Driven Life became my instrument of change, causing my life to take a full turn, from being me-centered to God-centered. Now, 25 years later, it was the same word I saw — not inside a church, but in a book store. I ran across a book titled Have a Little Faith. Again it wasn’t my first time to read a book about faith, but it was the first to read what Mitch Albom had to say about it. So, with faith that the book would open another window of light in my life, I began to escape from my world to his.
It’s a story of two individuals living in two different worlds, embracing two different faiths: Henry Covington and Albert Lewis. From his real-life encounters with each of them, Albom was taken on an unusual journey that made him stop and thinl for a while. There he found a beautiful lesson, one that only proves a divine spark lies in each of us, and that spark may one day save the world.
It all started when Mitch was asked by his rabbi, Reb Lewis, to write his eulogy. It was a question that later on led Mitch to do face-to-face meetings with the Reb and to ask more questions about his life and what he thought about it. These questions were supposed to help Mitch in his eulogy project, but the answers served an even greater purpose than that. Little did he know that he was actually starting a journey to a certain kind of belief.
Mitch: People are so flawed. They ignore ritual, they ignore faith — they even ignore you. Don’t you get tired of trying?
Reb: Mitch, that’s what faith is. If they (people) spit in your face, you say it must be raining. But you still come back tomorrow.
* * *
Mitch: When bad things happen to good people, does it ever weaken your belief in God?
Reb: I cannot waver. It is far more comforting to know that God listened and said no, than to think that nobody’s out there.
* * *
Mitch: Why does man kill man?
Reb: One thing God gave us is free will, freedom to choose. He gave us everything needed to build a beautiful world, if we choose wisely.
* * *
Mitch: The secret of happiness?
Reb: Be grateful. Be satisfied. That’s it.
On the other side of the world was Henry. Raised in a poor community as a boy, his family didn’t figure much in his life. When Henry was five years old, his mother was sent to jail after fighting with her husband, and just a few years later, his father died. At the age of 10, in a small Bible camp, Henry accepted Jesus as his personal savior. Like what happened to me, that first encounter with the word “faith” and Jesus wasn’t the kind of faith that Henry knew from inside out. It was something he heard and accepted in his heart without understanding what it was, and thus without knowing what comes next. Two years later, his mother blurted out a prediction that Henry was going to be a preacher one day. At that time, Henry knew no other direction than his present life — cigarettes, alcohol, women and drugs. “A preacher? Do you know how much of this stuff I’m smoking?” he said.
It isn’t about how you started, the book tells us, but how you end up in the race. You can start down the right path — as someone who religiously follows rituals and puts beliefs into action — or down the wrong path — as someone who follows his own rules and breaks the rest. Either way, none of the paths you took in the beginning will ultimately define the kind of race you run in full. Winners are crowned at the finish line, not at the start. Just the same with life and our journey of faith — it will only make sense when we’ve reached the end.
Mitch thought it would be a two- or three-week journey of taking down notes, recording conversations and taking photos. But the eulogy assigment took eight years, and he never started with it while Reb Lewis was still alive. It was only after a phone call eight years later that he faced the inevitable task of sharing with a congregation the memories he had of the rabbi, a man who left such an impact on his life and, eventually, in the lives of his readers through this book. During those eight years, Henry also reached an ending and waved goodbye. Not to the world that Reb Lewis left behind, but to his own world of chaos, emotional struggles, and addictions. Most of Henry’s teenage and adult life was spent in prison. When he married, he literally found a partner in crime. He and his wife both became addicts, specializing in the drug-dealing business. But as the case with any lost soul, they reached a point where they took a long look and asked, “Where is God?” The next day, Henry and his wife decided to go and find Him. The old Henry died, and as a new one emerged, his mother’s prediction came to life: Henry became a preacher. As Mitch was writing a eulogy for Reb Albert Lewis, Pastor Henry Covington is leading the congregation of the I Am My Brother’s Keeper Church, a church that started as a deteriorating old room with a huge hole in the ceiling; but inside that pitiful structure, lives are being made whole again.
“In some ways we have a hole in our roof, a gap through which tears fall and bad events blow like harsh wind. We feel vulnerable, we worry about what storm will strike next. But with a little faith in God, things can be fixed and they can truly change, because at that moment, you could not believe otherwise.”
Faith. We sometimes tend to regard it as just a word. But now we learn that life without it is not life at all.
Why we should be curious about 'special' people By Helena Beatrice Cabrera (The Philippine Star) Updated February 19, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Helena Beatrice Cabrera, 15, is currently a sophomore at Saint Pedro Poveda College. She’s labeled the “quiet girl” in class, but opens up when she’s comfortable with people. She enjoys playing badminton and squash, hanging at the mall, and reading books like The Hunger Games and Perks of Being A Wallflowe
Have you ever thought about why autistic people were called “special”? Have you ever wondered what goes on in their thoughts?
I barely read books that are not related to romance since I would think it would bore me and I’d end up not finishing it. My mom was the one who introduced me to this book and encouraged me to read it. I was hesitant at first but was intrigued by its cover: plain but very unusual for a typical book. As I read the short but interesting summary, I was convinced this was no ordinary book. The use of strong language and adult situations made it an eye-opening work. It has a unique plot that is told in the first person. It vividly explains what goes on in the mind of a special person and how beautiful that mind is.
Written by Mark Haddon, a British novelist and poet, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time made him well known. In the same year, he won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, among the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary awards. Then in 2004, he won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book. So, I told myself, maybe it was worth reading, as more than two million copies were sold.
Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is different from other teens. He is autistic, yet he has memorized all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057. (One twist in the book is that the pages are all listed as prime numbers.)
He lives with his dad and his pet rat, Toby, in Swindon, England. He does not fancy the color yellow and brown. He wants to take the A-level exams in math and go to the university and become a scientist someday. Never does he talk to other strangers or visit his fellow neighbors on his street until the day he starts writing a real-life murder mystery book — not about a human, but a dog. He found the dead poodle, named Wellington, with a garden fork sticking out of its body behind his neighbor’s house.
As Christopher investigates Wellington’s death, he’s exposed to a world of different people and places, and comes across dark secrets that his father kept hidden. His father, Ed, discovers Christopher’s diary and confiscates it. While searching for it, Christopher finds letters that his mother, Judy, wrote to him, dated after her supposed death. Ed told him earlier that his mother had died and so he is totally shocked by the news. Ed admits he lied and explains that he was the one who killed Wellington, blinded by his anger towards their neighbor, Mrs. Shears.
Mrs. Shears and Ed were caught in a vulnerable situation. This happened when their spouses, Mr. Shears and Judy, left them and lived together in London. How complicated can it get? As humans, we may want to just vent everything to someone who understands or has had similar experiences already. The neighbors really got along with each other, which later evolved into a brief fling. However, they had a huge fight when Ed felt that Mrs. Shears valued her pet poodle more than he. So, to get back at her, he killed her dog.
Christopher loses his trust in his father and starts to fear that he may kill him next so he decides to run away. He later on finds himself on a new quest: to locate his mother (by riding the train alone), who is also currently living with Mr. Shears in London. It is during this tough journey that Christopher reveals how he thinks and how he detaches himself from the outside world. Although he has a brilliant mind, he can’t relate to the people around him and covers his ears to escape the noise. In this world, one cannot isolate oneself; one cannot learn something new without asking. As a reader, I felt that Christopher’s helplessness and frustration on the train were overwhelming. His extraordinary abilities would have helped him, had he opened his mind and world to other people.
At the end of the book Christopher’s father says, “Just… thank you. I am very proud of you, Christopher. Very proud. I’m sure you did really well.” His father said this after his son took his A-level math test. He was the one who was there for him from the very start and took care of him as a single parent for two years. Unlike Judy who gave up on Christopher due to her impatient personality (and his condition), Ed endured his tantrums and frustrations. However, Judy’s guilt was so heavy that she made up by writing letters to Christopher. She eventually left Mr. Shears and lived with Christopher. These scenarios made me think of my own parents, who would always love and support me in whatever I do.
I asked my mom why this book had so much significance for her. She said that she read this book when she was pregnant with my baby brother, Rafaelo. I am the eldest, with two younger siblings. My mom, who is a natural-born worrier, thought she was too old to bear a child. When she had me and Anton (second child), she was not yet in her 30s. She was already 36 when she was pregnant with Rafaelo. According to her, she was still strong, healthy and in her prime. She had a lot of apprehensions though, like complications in childbirth that can result in having a “special” child. Reading this book added to her worries. I was only seven at that time and I could not understand why she would go to Mass every Wednesday to pray a novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help. This, on top of the Sunday service that we regularly attended as a family. I thought that maybe Mom wanted an insurance to go to heaven someday. However, after reading this book and remembering my mom’s qualms, now I understand why. She told me that in her prayers, she said if God chose to give her a special child, she would accept His will. She prayed for strength and endurance so that she would not give up on the child and instead love him endlessly and unconditionally. When Rafaelo was born in November of 2003, she was totally relieved. He passed all the newborn tests (physical, eyesight, hearing tests and all the rest). She said that parents should love their children for what they are. She told me that I make her proud every day. I may not be the perfect daughter, but she assured me that her love for my siblings and me is infinite.
By the way, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time never mentions the word “autism.” I give the author much credit for taking the reader inside the point of view of an autistic person. It gives a peek at what is happening through his thoughts and a world all his own. Autism, as envisioned by the author, is not a disease but a gift, and very few are blessed with it and therefore “special.” To say that special people have learning disabilities is stupid, according to Christopher. This is because everyone has learning difficulties. I agree with him 100 percent. I salute all parents who take care of their children and face the daily challenges of parenting. Nobody is perfect but, in their eyes and in God’s, we all are.