Si by Bob Ong: A Book Review

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After putting it down in awe, I imagined myself attending a forum held by the Bob Ong Fanatics somewhere in the vacuous universe of   Goodreads, standing before them ,  groping for words to break their silence .

Me: Magandang araw, Bob Ong fanatics! Forgive me for speaking in English although what we will be discussing today is Si  by Bob Ong. Supposedly, the medium of communication should be Filipino. However, we have foreign friends on Goodreads who might feel out of place.

(Clearing my throat)

 Before l share with you my thoughts of Si written by Bob Ong. Let me touch on little information of who Bob Ong is for our foreign friends to have an idea who the good old  man we will be talking about.

If you look him up in the Wikipedia , Bob Ong is the pseudonym of a contemporary Filipino author known for using conversational writing technique to create humorous and reflective depictions of Philippine life. The author’s actual name and identity is unknown.

Despite that his books   have been best-sellers, he has never been known in public. That’s why some documentaries have been made to find out who this Promethean man is.

There are some prominent Filipino writers or TV personalities who have been mistaken for Bob Ong, but all of them  have turned out be different from Bob Ong’s writing styles.

Now, let’s get down to business. My very first impression on Bob Ong’s books was that most of his books were like students’ write-ups for a journal campus.

(One reactionary reader would interrupt.)

Fanatic  1:  With all due respect, … Joey? If I may I address your first name…

Me: Yes, you may.

Fanatic 1: Joey, uh… You seem to being an armchair critic.  You’re being subjective. I believe that  you were still a student at that time. Admit it. You were addicted to his books, weren’t you?

Me: Yes, I am being subjective, so I believe that all reviews on Goodreads are not objective, aren’t they? And  I wasn’t addicted to his books. I happened to read his books because they were being  hyped  up until my friend suggested that I read one of his.  I was such an ignorant and poor reader at that time. I did not have any access to a lot of  best-sellers, especially Philippine ones. All I always read were stories in school textbooks. But when I started to read his other books in university, at that point, I realized that I was sick and tired of them. I wish there were Goodreads already at that time. I could have written my thoughts of them. Besides,  I could have been a hypocrite if I  had insisted  that Bob Ong was my favorite Filipino writer.

Fanatic 1: If so, who was your favorite author?

Me: I’m sorry  we seem to be getting around  the subject. Given that Bob Ong can write whatever  genre s as what others have noticed as what you have ( gesticulating at Fanatic 1) such as conversational, essay, horror, stories that deal with social issues  in the Philippines, but for me, I would say that his works are not on the par with other critically acclaimed  and award winning books. Apparently, his books appear to be intended for money.

Fanatic 1: That’s a cheap shot. I believe that Bob Ong writes such books because he wants to inform, to educate, and to entertain. And of course, in a capitalist country, books have something to do with money. Besides, you can’t deny the fact that because of Bob Ong , young readers are motivated to  read and support our Philippine literature. In fact, as far as I know, because of Bob Ong, many writers now follow his style. In short, he is the beginning of all the writers today such as  Bebang Sy, Genaro Gojo Cruz, Noringai, to name a few. Don’t you think so?

(Provoked by his words  cheap shot)

Me: Exactly. No doubt his other books have never been nominated by National Board of Books Award except this SI. And this has something to do   with what I want to tell you about after reading his Si. Plus, if you don’t mind, let me first finish my review of it instead of heckling me. 

(heaving a sigh)

Fanatic 1:  (irritated) Noted…but NBBA must have the requirements whether a book is eligible or not.

Me: Definitely. Its requirements must be standardized, intended only for books that are considered critically acclaimed.

Anyway, thank you for heeding my request.

After reading Si, I realized that Bob Ong can write something award-winning. In Si, he wrote beautiful Filipino prose. He wrote lyrical , poetic , quixotic sentences. I was impressed. I fell in love again with whoever I pushed downward in the darkest part of my subconscious.  In fact, I enjoyed repeating the passages as if I was chanting a yoga prayer. I was asking myself then if it was Bob Ong who was telling me a story. It seems like he is not the author of this book. Did my friend lend me another book? Yes, it was him. Because somehow, I felt his trademark, the way he collected all the realistic and vicarious information and other people’s experiences to form one conceptualized story although there are some parts  I found “corny” like the ones in his other books.  Most importantly, I fell prey to his creativity. This is his style. He wants to make a twist whenever a reader goes into the climax.  I guess you know what I am talking about if you have read it.

(Another fanatic would   ask me, but calm unlike the other one .)

Fanatic 2: So, why did you give it  4 stars instead of five?

Me: Bo Ong is an experimental and ingenious writer. He always surprises us whenever he has a new book. In this book, obviously, his intention is to surprise us, but that surprise is not natural for me. It is conspicuous that he included such tactic to have a great impact upon me. For instance, I did not know that I should have started reading it from the back. Such clever idea is like a friend of yours who will make a fun of you ,  taking  it back  as a joke , but  you don’t think it is  funny at all. You might snicker, “ Ang corny ha!” By the same token, obviously, there are some parts which appear to have been taken deep impression from TV news, newspapers articles, barbers’ stories, and so on- the style he has been known for.

Fanatic 1: Your standard is so high. Since you appear to be an armchair critic, what should Bob Ong have done?

( I could still feel the ill-feelings he had been harboring.)

Me: I dunno. It is just  my subjective analysis. But I  hope when Bob Ong writes another such novel , I mean something  more critically acclaimed than his other books. He should make it coherent as in his readers seem to be reading a real novel.

Fanatic 1: What do you mean ‘coherent’?

Me: I want to read a novel that I will just follow the stream of the story as if I were just there mingling with them- something I have not seen in his books. 

Fanatic  3: Since 4 stars means I really liked it on Goodreads, what parts of the book that made you really like it?

(It’s another fanatic who would be listening to me all ears, but tend to make faces when I explained something which he could disagree to.)

Me: The deepness of some passages about love. The concept  of the story because it reflects the typical conjugal and familial   life of our parents until they get older. It mirrors the universal fact that parents started to be parents from romantic life until they build a family, how they take care of their children well despite the challenges of life . I can see such situation in my parents and in my friends, and even in myself if I were predestined to build my own.

Fanatic 1: Therefore, you expect something more than that from Bob Ong.

( This time, he would appear to be composing  himself.)

Me: Yes, I am following him now. So, I profusely apologize to you.

Fanatic 2 : Well,  despite your acerbic thoughts, welcome to the club!!!

Fanatics: Welcome to the  Bob Ong Club!!!

( Back to the reality)

Writers  could  build a mass hysteria, gee!

Rating: 4/5 stars ( I really liked.)

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