Grand Prize: Sandra Ebrada - wrote about Edgar Allan Poe P50,000 — half in cash, half in NBS gift certificates — and a Globe Handyphone.
Second Prize: Giselle Jose - wrote about The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky P30,000 and a Globe Handyphone.
Third prize: Zarri Juevi - wrote about The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. P20,000 and a Globe Handyphone.
Honorable Mention: P5,000 from STAR and P5,000 NBS GCs: 1. Mary Ann Tamayo - wrote about The Great Malayan by Carlos Quirino 2. Sofia Benares - wrote about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 3. Elvie Victonette Razon-Gonzalez - wrote about Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney 4. Katrina Gaw - wrote about the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling 5. Sonia Sygaco - wrote about The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Gusto ko lang ishare.....hindi ko naman siguro kelangan pa ng phd para manalo sa contest na to diba?
FIRST PRIZE WINNER
With Kindred Souls and Edgar Allan Poe By Sandra C. Ebrada (The Philippine Star) Updated January 31, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Sandra C. Ebrada is currently taking up her PhD in Philippine Studies at UP Diliman, entering the worlds of anthropology, literature, and history. She teaches part-time in a university. “I simply love to read.”
It was one of those rainy evenings when one prefers to stay home. As the warm, soft lights threw shadows on the walls, we finished off our enjoyable dinner with bottles of luscious red wine. We — meaning graduate students including myself (struggling through a PhD) and two friends (working on their MAs).
Suddenly one of them, Pat, blurted out, “I love Edgar Allan Poe. I had his books in high school but they were stolen from my locker. I vividly remember the story, ‘The Oval Portrait.’”
“I love him too,” Rob confessed as he took a sip of wine. “It’s his poem, ‘Alone,’ that’s close to my heart.” Then he recited it:
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov’d, I lov’d alone….
Then he looked at me and said, “When I read it, I felt that someone who didn’t know me completely understood me.” Flabbergasted, I could only stare at them after their declarations. I did not know what to say. My heart was thumping fast. All I could think of was here — here were two kindred souls! Two souls sharing in my secret love for Edgar Allan Poe! I stood up and could only hug them in gratitude.
After taking a big gulp of wine, I finally confessed that I, too, have loved Edgar Allan Poe for years! But never have I told anyone this. I was always afraid that people would find me weird. After all, weren’t his stories dark, morbid, always about death? “The Oval Portrait” is about a husband who is a painter, obsessed with painting his wife’s portrait — as she painfully sits through it, yearning for his loving attention from her distant chair. When he finally finishes the portrait with one last stroke, she breathes her last breath. She is dead.
I loved reading “The Cask of Amontillado,” about a drunk man buried alive in a dungeon wall. I loved “The Mask of the Red Death,” where death is spread in the midst of a revelry.
Poe, critics say, is the “personal literary god of adolescents” who savor the horrors and perverted images he illustrates. But I first encountered Poe at the tender age of eight when I watched the movie The House of Usher starring Vincent Price. In the era of black-and-white TV, I remember the last scene when Price, having escaped from the burning mansion, is in the lifeless forest. There, he begins his soliloquy with “In the greenest of our valleys, by good angels tenanted, once a fair and stately palace — radiant palace — reared its head…” and ends it with “And laugh — but smile no more.”
“And laugh — but smile no more.” It was this line that rang in my ears all these years.
Why would a young girl take pleasure in these sinister stories? Unable to explain it myself, I felt no one could understand. I felt so “alone,” just like in Poe’s poem. I believed “I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone” as the rest of the world. So I secretly adored him. The only time I shared my fondness for him was in school where his more popular poems, “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” were read. But I remained mum and held a deeper affection for his tales.
After these confessions of mine, Pat dispensed the last drops of wine into our goblets. Then we stood up, raised a toast to Poe, and reaffirmed our undying devotion to him. As the rain poured again, I wished Poe were there to join us. I’m sure he would ravenously finish off the wine by himself. But I would not care. I would gaze at him with rapt attention, eager to listen to new stories that would come out of his drunken state.
That night of secrets revealed started a frenzy of anything related to Edgar Allan Poe. I started looking through my bookshelves for his book. “It has to be here,” I muttered to myself as I trailed my fingers through each book. Found it! Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. I tenderly held it in my hands and wiped the dust off the cover. It had been years since I opened it. I sat down on the sofa and read again. The pages were yellowed already but the words were just as darkly alive.
And I listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller just to hear Price’s legendary laugh. A few days later, Pat gave me a copy of the film, The House of Usher. “It was in color the whole time? Really?” I remarked in wide-eyed wonder.
And so, after over 30 years, I watched Vincent Price again with delight and listened to his wonderful baritone voice. But alas! The ending was not the ending I remembered in my childhood. It didn’t show his soliloquy. He never said, “And laugh — but smile no more.” He died along with the sinking house!
Bewildered, I just sat there as the credits rolled. Was I dreaming about his soliloquy the whole time? Was my mind playing tricks on me all these years? Was it so vivid when I read it that I made it come alive by imagining Price emoting it at the end of the movie? Why was it not there? I know deep in my heart he said those words at the end. But I guess now I will forever wonder about it. In the midst of this confusion, I hear Vincent Price whisper to me Edgar Allan Poe’s words,
Passion vs. passivity By Giselle Jose (The Philippine Star) Updated August 29, 2010 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Giselle Jose graduated from Colegio San Agustin, Makati in 2009 with honors. Awarded as one of the Ten Outstanding Students of Makati in 2009, she currently majors in economics at UP-Diliman. She loves reading and writing, having a soft spot for coming-of-age novels and drawing her inspiration from her travels around the world every summer with her family.
There is a certain way a book breathes when you hold it in your hands. It’s as if, resting right there on each page, is a soul waiting to expose itself to whoever’s fortunate enough to pick up that book. And if you’re really lucky and I mean really lucky you will find a book maybe twice or thrice in your life whose breathing is right in sync with yours.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one such book. And this tender breathing that inhaled and exhaled in time with mine held true only for me, back when I first read it, around five years ago, when I was a high school freshman. At the time, I was at a crossroads, and it felt like the street signs, if any, were written in gibberish. It felt like I was being forced to wear shoes 10 sizes too big and walk along a path I wasn’t ready to take. I guess growing up felt that way, especially for a girl like me who thought that all she knew was how to be young.
I can’t remember reading a book as honest as this. It is as though Stephen Chbosky’s pen spilled out only ink splatters of emotions and they calmly assembled themselves into words. And it was like I was not reading words, but bearing the pain, empathizing with the sadness and sharing the happiness they were written with. The words were rife with such pure sincerity and such blinding honesty that only someone real could have produced it. There is so much raw pain behind these letters, which are written in such simple words. And yet, I did not see the characters, the plot and the dialogue as springing from Chbosky’s mind, but from and of themselves.
Written back in 1999 as a series of letters to a stranger, Perks of Being a Wallflower offered me a kindred spirit in its protagonist, Charlie, who has also just begun his first year of high school and is looking for someone to just listen. He relishes the quiet and basks in being unnoticed, while he watches people make mistakes and act impulsively. Not only is he afraid to draw attention to himself, but he is also content with it; he is comfortable with being nothing more than a wallflower. Charlie writes with a sense of detachment mixed with passive desperation as he traverses the scary road of growing up, and he hangs on to the hope that his anonymous friend is out there, reading each letter with sympathy, which in turn might bring him the clarity that he needs. The idea of a person like Charlie both fascinated and frightened me. Until I realized that I was in danger of becoming that person.
“Do you always think this much, Charlie?” “Is that bad?” “Not necessarily. It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.” “Is that bad?” “Yes.”
However, Charlie has one defining quality, which may, from a certain angle, be seen as a deadly flaw: he is completely absent of apathy. He cares too much. He loves too hard. And this comes in conflict with his being a wallflower. How can he act on his raging feelings if he does not feel it is his place to act? But like any teenage boy, he falls in love. Being the wallflower that he is, however, he does nothing for his own happiness, and he lets the girl of his dreams go, as she tells him, “It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder? What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”
At this point, one has to ask, what are the perks of being a wallflower? I saw so much of myself in Charlie. It wasn’t about the romance, but it was about the passion. Charlie had so much of it, and I had so much of it, but there was nowhere for all of it to go; not if I closed myself off and stayed passive. My soul was bursting as I hungrily devoured the book. And then I knew what I had to do.
At the crossroads, I had to wear those shoes, even if they were 10 sizes too big, and I would have to forge my own path. And so I did, and eventually I grew to fit those shoes. From being a timid little girl who was scared to act for fear of rejection or failure, I became a young woman scandalized with the very idea of inaction, of not helping myself realize my potential. The path I took in high school was this: I became more active in organizations, taking on several leadership roles throughout those four years, I joined competitions (sometimes winning them), and I made friends. And I grew up, just as Charlie did by the end of his story, when he decided that it was time to stop sending letters to that anonymous stranger. Perks of Being a Wallflower helped define me throughout my high school years, and even now that I’m a college sophomore. And when I feel a little lost, I like to take out my battered copy and feel the book breathe with me, until I calm down and find my way again.
Lightness, weight and eternal return By Zarri Juevi (The Philippine Star) Updated June 13, 2010 12:00 AMComments (0)
MANILA, Philippines - Zarri Juevi, a passionate student, is a poet in three languages — English, traditional Mandarin and ancient Tagalog — and has been a writer since the age of 11. Her biggest dream is for the Filipinos to return to writing in Baybayin nationally so that the Filipinos would reclaim the exquisitely beautiful pre-colonial identity that it has so seemingly lost.
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?”
Thus embarks the novel of Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, originally written in Czech, translated to French, and now offered to us in English directly from the Czech by translator Michael Henry Heim. The novel is one of the Perennial Classics of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. and is a distinctive international bestseller.Let us revisit the novel’s opening expression, quoted above. Yes, what does this mad myth signify? The idea of everything recurring ad infinitum — eternal return — is a concept that stems from Indian, ancient Egyptian, and Greek philosophies. After its decline with the spread of Christianity, it was resurrected by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century. Eternal return posits that the universe recurs an infinite number of times, wherein humans relive their daily lives for an eternity, wherein the phrase “history repeats itself” is taken in its most literal sense.
I was struck by this idea of eternal return and took it into Philippine contextualization. In my mind, I envisioned the rope-bound Jose Rizal as he twisted to face the Spanish firing squad happening a million times throughout history. From this perspective, would a Filipino such as I still magnify this man as a national emblem, heroically “turning his other cheek,” or does he merely become a prisoner absorbing a million Spanish bullets with the stubbornness of his human pride?
Had Lapu-Lapu vanquished Magellan a thousand times at the shores of Mactan, would historians still consider the successful aversion of Spanish colonial power by the early Filipinos as being simply fortuitous?
How about an overlooked rape-murder case that happened behind a factory in a remote barangay? If that hapless event recurred ad infinitum, would the blood spilt that cold night still remain unworthy of remark in the history books of the Philippines?
I came to realize that the idea of eternal return, suggesting the amalgamation of a glut ball of infinite recurrences in eternity, has a completely altered meaning, significance, and fortuity from the first singular wisp of that event.
Life happens but once. Yet, the German adage states: “What happens but once might as well not have happened at all.” Putting the two together — life might as well not have happened at all. Life is a sketch for nothing. There is no trial and error. There is only an actor going on stage cold, unrehearsed. The spotlight switches on; the actor instinctively rummages the stage like a mad puppet, begs in his heart for meaning, but still cannot find it.
Kundera says, “Life that happens only once carries no weight.”
Hence, we experience the unbearable lightness of being.
Kundera merges his astutely philosophical mind with his talent for storytelling. Weaved into the main fabric of the novel is Kundera’s authorial voice mulling over the contentions of lightness versus weight. At the outset, Kundera admits that he cannot decide which is positive and which is negative: lightness or weight. The book instead explores both sides in the intertwining lives of Tomas the surgeon, Tereza the former-waitress, Sabrina the painter, Franz the professor, and Karenin the dog, through vivid and sensual accounts of bed scenes, political upheavals, dreams, travels, letters, etcetera, exhibited with the persisting theme of European literary, musical, cultural elements such as Beethoven’s symphonies, Tolstoy’s novels, and Kafka’s thoughts.
As a reader, I felt strong human connections with Kundera’s characters because they seemed to be extensions of the author himself. They were thought experiments of what Kundera might have been like as this or that person. And that highly interested the schizophrenic-potential side of me. (Just joking.)
In one of Kundera’s imaginative philosophical dissertations, he discussed the world of Kitsch. Kitsch was the world wherein shit did not exist. It was utopia. But obviously, you and I live in a world opposite to Kitsch. We live in dirty reality. We live in the Philippines. This is anti-Kitsch land. We have shit here.
In this country, there are disheveled children begging in the streets, humans living in garbage dumps like enlarged worms, gray pollution clouds sputtering into the air, sparkly prostitution bars, fraudulent government officials, broken families, floods, disease, hunger, clogged sewage, and the Pasig River.
We don’t like this world of anti-Kitsch. It is unbearable. But the Filipinos must cope with it through the two sides of the unbearable coin.
You know what that is: nonsensical songs blasting on the radio, charity-TV-shows poking fun at their contestants in dire attempts at humor, radio programs where the DJ keeps laughing for no reason, tells lewd jokes, and overall displays a degenerated mind, gambling with feathered birds, sniffing rugby in paper bags — the gamut of forget-your-problems-or-laugh-at-them Filipino culture.
Here is the other side of the Filipino battle against anti-Kitsch: shouting, literally and figuratively. We scream and we scream through music, journalism, art, theater, film, and so on — we scream just like that naked Tereza in bed with Tomas.
Kundera writes: “It was no sigh, no moan; it was a real scream… The scream was not an expression of sensuality. Sensuality is the total mobilization of the senses: an individual observes his partner intently, straining to catch every sound. But her scream aimed at crippling the senses, preventing all seeing and hearing.”
Isn’t that what we are doing: crippling our senses? Laughter is not the best medicine for this country’s ailments. Forgetting won’t help. (Kundera also has books called The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and one called The Joke. How pertinent!)
Let’s take our hands off our eyes. Let’s face the pain.
Must we live through eternal return to feel the consequences of momentary flight from our problems? Must history repeat itself a million times before we spot the futility of shutting our eyes and screaming wildly in the face of a million bullets? Will a thousand obstinately dignified Rizals demonstrate the boldness with which we ought to face the enemies of poverty, corruption, and ignorance? Would a billion assassinated Ninoy Aquinos equal the innate value of each living Filipino person?
The Filipino does carry weight, whether he recurs for eternity or whether this lifetime is his only shot. One drop of Filipino blood. One Filipino scream. One Filipino life. One foreign novel to prod us. Those are enough.
We do not need eternal return. We need to awaken to unbearable reality.