Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan by Bob Ong: A Book Review


The first book written by Bob Ong  that led me to the portal of his idiosyncrasies is Bakit Baliktad Magbasa Ng Libro Ang Mga Pilipino?  I was impressed by his ways of writing out his ideas or opinions in a conversational way. Reading it was like an editorial article full of facts but funny, intended not only for young but also old adults . Besides, I sensed his  hidden blaze of nationalism. Amused, I borrowed Macarthur from my cousin who happened to be his avid reader. After that, I was magnetized again because the theme is not that as deeply  and humorously academic and journalistic as the former one but, instead, it is a simple story that young readers may never forget because it reflects the social problem with illegal drug. The story is so worth remembering. No wonder when you ask a young avid fan about which Bob Ong books his/ her favorite is. I bet my boots that it is one of them. And please, count me in. The  very thought of the sachet of  crystal meth floating  in the pooped bowl  repulses me!

I was in university when I got the opportunity to read another Bob Ong book. Another Bob Ong fan lent me some of his other works. I got the good chance of reading Stainless Longganisa . But I admit that I found it pretty boring. It is just a story of how a writer struggles with completing his book or having it published.  If it is so, why did Bob Ong make it more complicated with his satirical dramas?  He could have just written it in the other way around. But who am I to cast aspersion on his writing style? Walang basagan ng trip.This is his trademark.

I was disappointed more after reading his other books such as Ang Paboritong Libro ni Hudas  and Kapitan Sino .  They almost have the same pattern. The situation is like all Bob Ong has to do is to strike up a witty conversation with me ,with his satirical sentiments and dramas. Thereafter, I got sick and tired of Bob Ong. Nakakasawa na. I promised myself then that I would not read another Bob Ong books.

I tried to read another Bob Ong when  friends of mine  gave me an intriguing  idea of Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan . My friends said that it is a scary one. HmmmAnother friend tampered with my febrile imagination claiming that she could not sleep it off. After burying myself in it for the whole night, yes!  My friends did not prove me wrong. I was horrified. Somehow, it scared me so witless that I would it put down when I did not want to read what would happen next. I did not want to picture how the scenes look like. Then, my hair stood on end when I patched all the puzzling parts together. Gee, that’s why?  A typical reaction when you have come to understand everything. Who won’t forget the scene when the grandma who is supposed to be dead gets up from its bed to approach Galo, the protagonist? Who regretted reading the Latin phrases at the end of his each diary? How about the secret room in where the human –sized saints are kept ?

The story is clearly manipulating because Bob Ong intended to play our imagination. All the settings are mixed. He intended to lead us in some parts which turn out to  be the  linchpin of the  horror. For instance, Galo also makes us  read the Latin phrases he reads out of curiosity. Even though I didn’t understand the words, I still kept on reading them. But , in the end, I deeply regretted doing so. You should not read them if I were you. It is a warning. Plus, the twins, Jezel and Niko .Potek,I thought they were just ‘saling pusa’.

I was first confused with some information with which Bob Ong padded in the story. For instance, the date of the setting is in 1998. But MTB, a famous noon-time show ,was not aired in that year yet. Another thing is a high-tech computer. As far as I know, high-tech computers were unveiled in the 2000’s. There are some more happened in the 2000’s Bob Ong played back in the 1990’s. Thus, I inferred that Bob Ong loves to scrabble all the things that happened from different generations.

My friend speculates that Bob Ong may have written it off the cuff. He may have dabbled in writing it in a corner without any specific theme on his mind. So, his publisher may have ignored it and still seen its potential to give his readers the creeps knowing that he has established a name in the market.  Or she may have meant to say that the story begins with Galo’s “nega moments”; then, all of a sudden, it segues into a horror part. Thus, the book appears to be inscrutable because she is not sure what Bob Ong may want to imply in this book since all his books appear to have satirical meanings. But apparently, one of the insinuations could be that anyone can have a Cinderella life. Of course not! Galo does not have a Princess Charming.( laughs)

Somehow, there are good points in the story that caught my interest aside from the “katatakutan” moments. I liked the philosophical conversations between  Mama Susan and Galo although I find them obscure and irrelevant to whatever Bob Ong wants to preach to us. Besides, if it were not Mama Susan’s revelation about Galo’s past , I would really have demoted Bob Ong to all  wannabe writers (like me)  by giving it one  out of 5 stars on Goodreads.  Fiddlesticks! I wish I read books literally.

As a matter of fact, after reading it, I don’t want to give it a try again nor flip through its pages  given that I found it not that really scary . Perhaps, I just don’t want to read the Latin phrases anymore. Gee, it is the impact on me!

Warning: Please, don’t read the Latin phrases.  Just skip them.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)



Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1) by Ransom Riggs : A Book Review

peregrineI buried myself in this book before All Saints’ Day, before all departed buried in cemeteries woke from their long deep sleep. But I was aware that there were invisible entities prowling in my pitch dark room with indescribably cold temperature; that there was someone with red eyes in black,sneaking a peek over my shoulder. But the most hair-raising part was when I heard a soft but hot whisper closing to my right ear, “ WHAT…ARE …YOU…READING…? My hair stood on end. I jumped to my feet and turned the light on. Shit! Who’s that?

I wish you were not a fraidy-cat . It’s just a corny introduction!

When I was in high school , my cousin and I were so fond of reading horror stories. We would borrow from our friends the famous book which could be bought in National Book Store , The Philippine Ghost Stories. I think it is still available in that book store. Also, we would fain watch such stories documented by then the most-awaited TV program, Magandang Gabi Bayan by Noli De Castro before or during  All Saints’ Day. However, I lost my interest in them when I started to study psychology. I don’t believe in entities anymore since I was weaned on science . But I can’t hold back my desire to shatter my curiosity whenever I know of new Stephen King’s best-selling horror books. Thanks to his book On Writing. This book inclined me to read horror stories again.

Aware that Riggs intended to scare readers out of their wits, but I was not. Nevertheless, I was impressed by three things: his PROSE , his concept of the story, and his creative way of delivering the story.

The most commendable thing about this book is Ransom Riggs’s prose- very clean and qualitative. I enjoyed reading as every sentence is well-written. So, I could understand the sentences very clearly. Also, I liked the words he used in describing the situations- good enough to make me as a non-native reader imagine the scenes.

I may not have watched nor read all kinds of horror stories just the likes of Stephen King’s , but I would say that Riggs’s coming up with this kind of story is what is so-called the figment of an author’s imagination. Imagine , peculiar children could be used in characters as ghosts or frightening entities. (I wish societies of peculiar children would not take an umbrage at this concept.)

There is a plot I can bet where the author himself drew the story from and changed its fact. For instance, the experiment of the Hollows in Siberia that caused the vast explosion leading to mutation among them. Could that be the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl?

Another commendable element of this book is its annoying pictures- annoying because the pictures were faked! Only young readers could be fascinated by this trick. If so, why was I impressed? I was impressed because this is what I really want to do whenever I want to imagine the things I read in the books that are beyond my imagination. Just in the story, although Riggs narrated well with his beautiful prose , but since the creatures described are fictitious or made by the author’s imagination, I still had the nosy attitude to take a look at their real description in the pictures. As I was reading the author’s description, I was so excited to turn the next page where I could see the picture. In fact, there were times that I would feel nervous about doing so in fear that the next picture would scare me stiff. (sighs!)

The only parts that lost its originality as well as taxed my excitement or the thrills and chills in the story are:

1. The character who appears to be a friend of the protagonist turns out to be the archenemy. It is an old style.
2. The moments when all the characters fight one another , especially at the light house. What a boring and corny part! 
3. As usual the leader of the clan who is expected to be powerful turns out to be a loser. Pooh, another poor imitation! 

Whoa, Pardon me, Mr. Riggs! It’s just as well that you wrote it beautifully, but you failed to scare the living day light out of me. I was just tensed. Hehehe  As a matter of fact, I would still fain read your sequel, Hollow City. I want to know more about Hollows and wights. ^^


Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde : A Book Review

dorianA young, naive, shy man at 17 ,with finely-curved scarlet lips, frank blue eyes,crisp gold hair – this is how Dorian is hardly depicted in the novel.I may not be able to completely imagine how strikingly handsome he is, but based on how the painter, Basil Hallward, who appears to be a closet gay, is fond of and devoted to him is,well, I may fall in love with him too.Everyone could be a cradle-robber.(laughs) But despite his oomph, I were bound to stay away from him; he gives me the creeps. He is unpredictable. He reminds me of the psychopath in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Gee! For the life of me!

What makes the novel more interesting is that the characters’ dialogs are replete with polemic ideas. I have almost dogeared the book by highlighting the negative and positive points of Lord Henry particularly his ala Socrates feministic view. Shit on him! If he were such a real persona, I would rebutt him a lot. (laughs)
(But I think Lord Henry may be the smbolic archetype of the narrow-minded society at that time.)

The story for me is typical of a real novel.The beginning tells the emptiness of the protagonist ,its climax and ending narrates the cause and effect of his vainglory. In comparison with the famous writers in this modern century, they have different styles of how to circulate the plots. Besides, the good thing is Oscar Wilde peppered the story with witty words. However, since I am not much cognizant of the ancient literature, I could not relate to the figures and symbols namedropped in illustrating Dorian Gray’s obsession about beauty. I had to adverse myself to looking the archaic words up in a thick dictionary or in the Internet. ( Anyway,this is the essence of reading classics.)So reading the climax was like trudging through the mud, towards the flat , dry land of exciting denouement.

To understand Dorian Gray in the context of psychology, he is spectered by his bad childhood. Orphaned and repulsed by his grandfather, he has low-self esteem. Instilled in by Lord Henry’s philosophy and Basil Halwaark’s portrait of himself, he becomes vain about his looks. He wishes that the painting get along in years,for he loathes to get wrinkles himself . Beauty becomes his moral.For instance, he falls in love with a beautiful actress. He is crazy not only about her physical beauty, but also about her stellar performance on stage. But eventually, he will break up with her as she performs poorly. Vainglorious he is, he will not consider what his heart dictates to him. Rather, he will do as what his moral standard is- aesthetics. Unknowing to the consequences of his evil deeds, the painting turns out to have a soul;it will alter whenever he makes something immortal. It is a matter of Karma. As he wishes, the painting will become hideously ugly. But deep-rooted, he will be indifferent. He will become involved in orgies and other worldly activities. But since life is a matter of choice, Dorian Gray will have a deep realization, he wants to change. In fact, I was moved and I became empathic with him when he says,” I want to escape, go away, and forget.” Oh, poor Dorian Gray. He’s lost. As the banal saying goes,”Old habits die hard.” Whatever he does,whereever he goes, he will still be recidivistic, life has a moral consequence. As the introduction takes claims, ” There is always a price to be paid for uniquitous and self-indulgent behavior. ” It is a lesson we must keep in mind.

While reading this book, an idea bubbled into the chamber of my mind: It is human indeed that one who sets what is good or bad. But for sure, more or less the believers would rant and rave against my insight . As Lord Henry himself puts it,” It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue .” kkk

Before I read it , I was moved by the quotes – which must come from Wilde’s – about the concept of the novel, which I liked a lot.

The artist is the creator of beautiful things .
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

Oh, nice one. I remembered the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars