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.)



Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang ( Si Janus Silang # 2 ) by Edgar Calabia Samar: A Book Review

janus-silang-book-2Edgar Calabia Samar won the 34th Philippine National Book Awards  in 2015 for his book one , Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon , which I  lavished  with 5 stars, the highest rating on Goodreads.  If he is given another chance to be nominated for this year, I am pretty sure that he will gain the back-to-back victory. (Ang taray! ) If I had  a reputed name in the Philippine literature, I would  beat the drum for him. Or if I were one of the judges, I would campaign or lobby my fellow judges above-board for him to win. Just it is magically and terrifically beautiful! Mr. Samar is incredible!  Believe you me!

I did not expect this book two to be better than the book one. It is deeper, stuffier, and more creative- the abnormally mitosis product of his wild imagination. Besides, he galvanized all the neurons inside my body; I have found in this one how skilled in writing such a story Mr. Samar is. Marvelous! First, he mixes his story with the contemporary issues which every young adult  can relate to like the super typhoon Yolanda that killed thousands of people. Timely and relevant.That is why   he mentions on the first pages of his book that some situations were based on real life. Second, as usual, his trademark for using some characters based on Philippine folklores and myths. So if you are one of those students bored with studying Philippine literature, you might brush up on it again. Cool! Even I did take a fancy for it; I have learned  the lessons I had never learned by heart in school.

On the other hand, since it is now my book two, I have pretty noticed  Mr. Samar’s style of settings and conflicts and resolution. The pace of the story goes from the part that there is a mixture of suspense, thrill and awe to the heart-breaking part where the characters, which he must have predicted that his audience will be attached to, should sacrifice to die .The impact? It happened to me! I was totally devastated and annoyed at the author; then, I peevishly muttered under  my breath why he always intends to do so. Likewise, although I can guess some inconspicuous   inconsistencies, he may have intended to make the supporting character of Mang Joey, the leading  bagani, appear to be  foolishl. A bagani who is expected to be omnipotent turns out to be a pipsqueak. Well, as a rule, this kind of character is banal in novels. Thus, I cannot blot out of my mind the idea that Mr. Samar may have come to the point that he ran out of ideas ,unknowing how to get off the hook.  Just I am analyzing ,and I am now paralyzed as what the cliché goes!

The good thing is that the story is a very complicated case. Dude, how did Mr. Samar connect all the scenarios from the book one with the book two? The book one, on the one hand, is the revelation that there are mythical Philippine creatures beyond our imagination-creatures I had never heard of unless you know a lot of Philippine literature. So some words are so “nakakadugo ng ilong”. The book two, on the other hand, is like opening a Pandora’s box where the other covey of mythical creatures clambers out until they are on the loose. The upshot of it is that you had better find a safe hideout protected with sanyang. Gee, otherwise, it is going to be like a walking-dead scene. Besides, it is a challenge for a writer to create anothe scenarios which should be relevant to the book one. In this case, Mr. Samar is indeed creative and genius. Ikaw na!

One of the things I had not been able to do as a voracious reader is reading a book series just the like of Harry Potter by J.K Rowling and Lord of the Ring by J. L Tolkien … During that time, I still was not active on Goodreads. Besides, if I like to read them , although I appear to be a late reader, I still cannot afford them; they can still percolate my purses. Yay! Nevertheless, there is one thing I will for sure follow up with: Si Janus Silang, a very Filipino fiction created by our very own writer Edgar Calabia Samar.

Good luck, Mr. Samar. I am now your avid  fan, so I am planning to read your other works.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Si Janus Sílang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon (Janus Sílang #1) by Edgar Calabia Samar: A Book Review

Hey, folks. It’s been a long time. Although I am an avowed atheist, I still want to greet you all a belated Merry Christmas.

The good thing is I had a decent time to be left to my reading during the Christmas break.  I got the crack to read the two books written by my fellow Filipino writer, Edgar Calabia Samar. I received these two from our monito’t monita during our company’s Christmas party. As usual, books are my wishes whenever we have this kind of occasion; otherwise, I tend to have   a bland face . As long as possible, all I want to receive on special days is just books, books, books! I love books. ^__^

22011229I have read a great deal of positive feedback about this. My fellow blogger reviewed that it is likened to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring series of  Britain or to anything else out there considered world-class. Someone on Goodreads shouts out to the world that it is “ang lupet! ” . Also, someone  outspoken   professed that he is willing to die, ignoring the fact that the “Tiyanak” might  come out to bite out  his throat and stomach; he insisted on giving it 5 stars on Goodreads  no matter what you find fault with this.  As a matter of fact, with a special mention to Manix Abrera, the master mind of KikoMachine, reviewed that   this is one of the most frightening and hair-raising stories he has ever read. He also added that there were the moments that he would turn back because his hair would stand on end in fear that something might have been sneaking behind him. Ok. I am not against their opinions. I totally agree. Whoa! I belong to you folks.

If you are Filipino, I highly recommend you read it. Give it a try.  I promise you will like it as well as end up appreciating our very own fiction. First, it is not that cringingly old-fashioned or “baduy “. Do not be mindful of what some “anglicized” hubris put that reading local books makes a dull head of you. They must not even have a reliably scientific term paper to claim so. Rather, you can relate to it, especially if you like playing online  games . Besides, the author’s writing style is unique and  not that super slang nor super archaic. It is balanced. I may suggest it an oxymoron of informality and formality. Thus, anyone can read it regardless of your age, sex, religion, or whatsoever. In the end, you will put the feather on your cap I bet.  Alas, it has not been translated yet for foreign readers   as what happened to his   short-listed one  for Asian Man Literary Prize ,  Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog after it was catapulted to fame.

I muttered under my breath   while reading it that for sure, young -adult readers who are addicted to playing computer games, needless to say the now-defunct , if I am not mistaken, DOTA ( Defense of the Ancient ), will  really like it. Besides, it reminded me of  my another university classmate who , aside from that he is a closet bookworm because he never brags about reading a lot, is known for  addiction to DOTA. I will share it with him once I meet him. I guess he is aware of it.

Granted that it deals with online computer games, and that I do not like reading   books more on fantasy since I believe in scientific reasons, I still enjoyed it   a whole lot. In fact, I got interested in it because the author   conceptualized a very Filipino game. Instead, he created the characters out of famous Filipino myths and legends  such as dwende, nuno, aswang, mambabarang, manananggal, tiyanak, bagani , pusong, diwata, and so forth. With these settings, I can totally relate to the story since I have learned all of them. So I got a thrill out of it. My hair stood on end. I was nervous, worried, angry until I burst into tears when the protagonist’s mother died. Shit! It was Christmas when I was reading it.

As the climax of the story goes, I am amazed at Edgar Calabia Samar’s writing skills more. It is wonder how he is able to incorporate the Filipino life and his fondness  for Philippine literary figures into such a story. Besides, obviously I can surmise, he makes sure that every angle of the story is consistent to each other without any plot holes about which a reader will be very cynical.  And I admit to overlooking   some of them just this book is rather remarkable- a tour de force. Period.

For my foreign folks, the center of the story is the Tala which means star . The main characters have to find it (Tala )through an online game, so the melodramatic game  will  be over. However, since the story is pretty interesting, I do not have the foggiest idea when the author will finish it. Of course, it is understood that he will capitalize on its fame. Besides, he must still have a large panoply of ideas  running into his head.

Up next , my review of its part two: Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal – Mambabarang.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)


The presents I received during the X-mas party

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. )