Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan: A Book Review

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“We are all powerless in the face of evil. No, no, that’s not true. We are powerless when we wait for other people to act on our behalf. Yes, that’s it. The truly powerful man is the man who stands alone.”

I had never yet read such a mystery/ crime novel in Filipino, so I  must join my fellow  Filipino readers celebrating and heralding  this book  as the first ever Filipino crime novel.

I am even drawing a theoretical conclusion  that its being the first crime novel  could have been  one of the reasons leading the panelists of the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize ,  National Book Award , and Madrigal-Gonzalez Award  to give the award . Nevertheless, I would have mulled over the two reasons if I had been one of those respected panelists: It is well-written and timely and relevant to the present state of the country.

In my book, crime novels are blood-curdling and nerve-racking in my imagination. I can’t stand pages scattered with horrendous, horrible, hideous, and heinous scenes. They are so intense that I could collapse with cardiac arrests as though I were a witness to a crime committed by a killer, trembled with fear that I might be the killer’s next victim. I would say that one of the best examples of such novels   is Native Son by Richard Wright. Read it! I promise you. At the same time, crime novels are   unpredictable, puzzling, and brain-bashing to the extent that they would tax my stamina, and I would be at the end of my wits. But, in the end, you would let go of the breath you would have been holding for a long time. Therefore, Smaller and Smaller Circles, however, did not meet those characteristics or elements I have been borne upon. It is not that extremely arresting in that a faint-hearted would die of it. I would just remember the cliché that curiosity kills the cat. In fact, I did not even give a fig about who the criminal is, nor did I feel that there is a case the sleuths have to resolve. Rather, what I felt were the deeper and compassionate   friendship between Father Saenz and Father Lucero – Could I assume it a bromance if I were malicious? – the dog-eat-dog atmosphere in the National Bureau of Investigation, and  the powerful hierarchy of Catholicism in the Philippines. The crime case is finally emphasized in the climax, but not that revealing as what I had expected. My reaction was just that I nodded in agreement with both Father Lucero’s and Saenz’ final whodunit conclusion. In fact, anyone could guess the identity of the criminal.

Like the other writers in general, it took the author many years to finalize it. The first time she wrote it was in 1996 when she was still in her mid-twenties; the second one was in 2013 when she was in her forties. As a matter of fact, her desire to continue writing it was inspired by her deep-seated anger toward the miserable state of the Philippines due to callousness, complacency, and corruption as she put it in her acknowledgments. Consequently, the book is steeped in simply beautiful   sentences with a profound impact. They are not jaw-breakers to assimilate. There is no such feeling as “stuck in between the lines”. Rather, reading the next lines is unruffled. However, the author may have come to the point that she was at loss for any ideas. I guess it is somewhere in her first book. So, it could be obvious that she may have patched this part with her second part. Nevertheless, it’s neither here nor there since such situation happens to all writers. It is just a matter of creativity.

The most important thing that would lead me, as a panelist, to consider it deserving of those literary prestigious awards above is how the author thought about the characters. The characters represent each unit in society such as the two Jesuits who happened to be liberal and crusader against   hypocrite priests in the Philippine Catholicism, the incorrigible   director of the NBI surrounded by sharks in the institution, the reporter who is hungry for factual information, the poor families of the criminal’s victims: All simply paint the real political, economic, and social state of the Philippines as what the author must want to convey to her readers. Therefore, the recurring themes are pivotal rather than its whodunit concept.

This novel was published in 2002.It has been reprinted four times since the book was, needless to say,  hyped up by the  literary award-giving  bodies, not to mention some  book club sites like Goodreads. No wonder it has still been one of the best-sellers in some prime book stores in the country.

 It occurred to me that:

*Another interesting thing about this novel is that both protagonists are priests and forensic experts by trade. It’s a common perception in the Philippines that priests only say homilies and prayers.

*I didn’t like the ending. I have read and watched it many times.

* Could anyone tell me where in the world psychopaths don’t exist? Hahaha

Rate: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.) 

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Falling into the Manhole:A Memoir by John Jack G. Wigley: A Book Review

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A million thanks to my fellow teacher for this book. She decided to give it away to me as a gift since she saw how my eyes popped out of their sockets in excitement upon seeing it displayed on her book shelf. It was just as well that she read it already. I hope the people I am acquainted with will do the same way. (laughs)

This was one of the local books I promised myself to buy , no matter how hard up I was, when I  stumbled upon how the galaxy  of our contemporary local writers including the writers I consider part of the Super Novas of the Philippine literature such as F. Sionil Jose, Gilda Cordero – Fernando, Jessica Hagedorn, Miguel Syjuco, Lualhati Bautista, Ricky Lee, Bob Ong, Jessica Zafra ,Felisa Batacan, Genevive L. Asenjo, Merlinda Bobis, Danton Remoto,Bebang Siy, not to mention the promising ones : Genaro R. Gojo Cruz and Edgar Calabia  Samar, the apples of my eyes, turned out to be stellar, heavenly , and dazzling. Coming to this realization, I found its price  affordable and reasonable. However, I was between the lever of a teeter-totter whether it should be on my list since I could spend 220 pesos on the other books more famous than this, which writer I had never heard of. Sorry po, Professor Wigley. It just happened that I was not aware of your literary stardom.  Doggone it!  I must have been ambivalent about what local book I should have first read. I was surrounded by books I have never read yet, let alone that I was a “pooritang” reader unable to buy astronomical books, especially the best-sellers on the market. No wonder I was exhilarated by receiving this book as a gift.

John Jack G. Wigley’s memoir Falling into the Manhole is a collection of his how’s  before he became a successful  writer and professor , as to how he took to watching movies at movie theaters and was gorgonized  by  his mother’s being  die-hard Noranian ; how he was born and lived  the dilemma of being Amerasian ; how his family and he lived as nomads  moving from one house to different houses in a year ; how he became an avid fan of Madonna who was the instrument for understanding his sexual orientation; how he fell in love with his best friend- the story that I blinked my tears away because I know what it feels like; how he became a “butterfingered”  fast-food chain crew ; how he was proud to be Lea Salonga fan who was the reason why he fell into the manhole;  how he became a theatre actor and had the good chance to stage at CCP;  how he fell in love with Meryl Streep‘s acting style;  how he had the opportunity to go to America on tour and find his  American father, the missing link; how he became a teacher who can be a blooper despite that he is supposed to be superior and infallible;  how he survived Ondoy trauma; how he became one of the best and respected  UST professors; and finally,  how he took care of his mother passionately. All of his anecdotes have inspiring lessons you should learn.

Personally speaking, the book is intended for homosexuals and for those who are inspired to be a successful professor and writer. As a member of the confederation, I experienced to be an avid fan of beauty pageants. In fact, although I didn’t live in the 1980’s, I want to blow my horn  and beat others to it that I know how Chat Silayan  represented the prestigious pageant and presented herself gorgeously. Thanks to YouTube. Like him, I would also wait for its live telecast and take notes of the petite delegates in  the  semifinals.  In fact, I could almost memorize all the yearly winners by heart. It was one of my passionate hobbies in my teen-age life.( laughs)

His memoir reminded me of children’s book writer Genaro Gojo Cruz‘s Connecting the Dots because both their memoirs bear little resemblance to how they became successful in life. Like Wigley, Genaro also persevered to get out of poverty. He  was so determined not to get dumped  by  his abject miseries in life. In fact, both writers lived in a broken family with this desire to be complete by  reminiscing of their fathers . Both of their memoirs also suggest their intellectual humility; they must never imply that  they are gifted writers. Genaro admits that he never excelled in school whereas Wigley knows his  limitation upon academic excellence.

Laying it aside with the other books on my reading table,my spirit that has been bogged down in muddy despair has been sloughed off. I have learned now  how to be a writer more,  how humanity works, and how I should  love  and be passionate about my work as a teacher.Boo-ya!

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

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.)

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

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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.)

 

Tolits by Genaro R. Gojo Cruz : A Book Review

tolitsI am a poor book detective, but I have a mission: to read all Genaro Gojo Cruz’s children’s books. I am afflicted by his “childhood-drama effect” after reading his YA, Connect the Dots o Kung Paano Ko Kinulayan ang Aking Buhay. However, I  do not buy his children’s books; I just have my own copy of his YA. As you know, I scrimp on books I want to treasure for the posterity since I dream of building my very own private library as big as half of my house. Besides, I regret spending 75 pesos because I can spend this amount on two or three books at Book Sale, the famous second-hand book store in the Philippines. I will just  get a book if I can no longer resist myself from it, a best-seller  hyped up by my friends on Goodreads.

Although Gojo Cruz is now one of my favorite children’s books writers, I still put him into a pigeonhole, on the list of the books I want to hoard and display in my library someday. So, what I am trying to rationalize  is that I drop into National Book Store branches   to check upon   some of his works and read them privately. (One time, I was even caught by a clerk burying myself in a book I held for  more than 30 minutes, so I was blocked by the guard at the exit area  to check my bag for SOP. Come on, guard, I was not born yesterday. SOP stands  for Security Operation Procedure. What an acronym! ) Luckily,  I have read seven of them  at different NBS branches such as:

  1. Ang Batang May Maraming Maraming Bahay
  2. Mahabang-Mahabang-Mahaba
  3. Ang Aking Photo Album
  4. Noong Nakaraang Taon
  5. Bunsoy
  6. Saling Pusa
  7. Anluwagi

Why do I appear so addicted to  reading Genaro Gojo Cruz’s  children’s  books?  You can understand me if you start reading his  first YA I mentioned above.  I noticed that   same reaction from another fan on Goodreads. In his YA, Genaro told  a story about  a boy, himself , who cried  deep inside for the poverty and being “incomplete”  in his life. So, through reading his children’s books, you can penetrate the depth of the story as if they have been drawn from deep experiences. You may not burst into tears , but you can feel  the burning  sensation  smarting in the deepest part of your heart that  you cannot even  pour it out. It just moves there around  without cease until they appease for goods.

The   only problem is his books are always out of stock. They may be best-sellers. If so, I am happy for Mr. Gojo Cruz.  His books are indeed worth reading. Thus, I have a hard time finding his other books. I drop into from one book store to another since there are three malls adjacent to another near  our place. Gee, you may now find  me idiosyncratic. Yes, I am a walking dead -bookworm zombie moving from one mall to another clockwise. I have no compunction for this. 🙂

After a fairly long time, tadaaa!!! I  have found one of his books, TOLITS. I found it at another NBS branch nearer our place where I had never thought of  dropping by , for  I do not like its ambiance.

Little did I  know that TOLITS is a match stick. I thought that it was a character of a young boy because we moniker   someone like that here in the Philippines. Besides, I have understood that  a young boy is also called TOLITS because he is scrawny. So, the story turns out to be about a scrawny   young boy match stick who is curious about why his parents and other relatives try to hide him underneath them once the window is opened by   big fingers.

The story is a little bit disturbing. Perhaps, I detached myself from the reality, or I am   more used to reading Gojo Cruz’s   books which reflect in the real mirror of life and  permeate  through my heart.  Besides, I have still been confounded   at how I can relate his story to other situation and even squeeze its  moral lesson out of me. Nevertheless, Gojo Cruz has proved his skills in being a   children’s raconteur  in this story once again. A match, full of sticks,  is enough to materialize his   imagination. Besides, I liked the fact that reading it did not give me any clues of what the story is all about.   As usual, his common trademark   at the end of the story is a tear-jerker although it is not that as emotionally penetrating as his Ang Batang May Maraming Maraming Bahay.  .

It is now my 8th Genaro Gojo Cruz’s children’s books. I am now  more  driven to hunt his other books. I am going to gallivant like  a madman  at another  National Book Store outlets if the need arises. So, my next missions are:

  1. Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas
  2. Ang Malaking Kahon ng Sorpresa
  3. Pitong Angel
  4. Hello, Tatay!
  5. Ang Aking Pamilya
  6. Ang Bahaghari
  7. Maghapon Namin ni Nanay
  8. Malaking-Malaking Bahay
  9. Si Nanay Mining at ang Tatlong Kuting
  10. Ang Lumang Aparador ni Lola
  11. Ang Asul na Kariton
  12. Ang Kamisetang Dilaw

 And his  newest  ones: Pwede Na Ba Akong Mag-alaga ng Kuting?  which was published last year and Gaano Ba Kalayo ang Paaralan? which he launched last Saturday at SM North EDSA. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend  his launching and book signing  because it was too late when I found it out on his Facebook status. Besides, my copy of his YA was not with me.

I admit that after reading TOLITS, I have now this desire to buy all Gojo Cruz’s books I have read already. I should not just  read them. I want to share them with my younger sister and young nephews and nieces and keep them for the posterity. (sighs) I wish I did not have to   scrimp and save for  books that make my mouth water whenever I see and touch them at NBS.

Book Title: TOLITS:  

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.)

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The presents I received during the X-mas party