Happy Na, Gay Pa by Danton Remoto : A Book Review

danton remotoIt is the newly-launched book written by Danton Remoto, one of the staunchly leading LGBT advocates in the Philippines.

Ever since,  I have always been watching   out for his new books to be published . I know he has something newer, wittier , and wackier  he will share with, particularly something  he wants to educate about among narrow-minded people- not to mention the Church and “moralist” politicians.

As usual, his new book has something to do with what is the real life of the LGBT community.  But there is something   new about the book. At this time, it is written with his Filipino prose. At my first glimpse of it, I thought it was  inferior to his other  award-winning books such as Gaydar,  and Bright, Catholic- and Gay which I gave  5  stars and 4 stars respectively.  Besides, I did not like its book cover; it is too jejune in appearance, appealing  only to   young readers. There  may be a pretext in it which  Danton Remoto , along with his publisher , must have intended.

Most of his  essays are autobiographical , have something to do with his life as a student, the time when he was still in the coffin, err closet as he put it. He wrote how he had a hard time coming out in the open to his family, particularly to his father who was fond of him. But it turned out to be  just the other way around; he was accepted as whoever he was as how he is cordially accepted by his circles of friends. Also, he wrote about his past boyfriends and how he managed to make his relationship with them long-lasting. But what I liked about him is his being a prodigious son, an epitome of a smart gay who can be as promising as men and women in society. In fact, he wrote these essays ingeniuosly and in fashion with the taste of the young readers. In other words, he did not forget to blend his prose with the napapanahong  ( timely )  pop culture. That is why I liked it and now I understood why the book cover seems to be  out of mode for me.

Other half of his essays   deals with the  common issues about gays such as how they are discriminated by society, what precautions  they should do when meeting other guys,  how they are asked derogatory   questions and above all what it is like to be gay in 30’s and 40’s  , elaborated by his own experiences .  He also included   a few essays about the typical  gay hobbies  such as reading men’s magazines and watching  beauty contests.  Furthermore, he discussed some literary writers whose works reflected in their being closet gays. ( So the famous writer  Ernest Hemmingway ‘s sexual orientation turned out to be true after all. ) All the rage to each essay is the related-to-the topic pictures inserted at the end of his essays .

As a matter of fact, I have read some  of the aforesaid essays  from his previous books and newspapers articles. He just edited  and translated some  into Filipino prose. Since he is a certified critically acclaimed writer, no doubt he is still good at writing Filipino essays.

I have noticed that when Danton Remoto publishes a newly  gay-themed book, he includes the articles which have been  featured in his previous books. So for an avid reader like me, I  cannot deny the fact that it let me down to some extent. Without his witty style, especially he wrote them in Filipino, I would not have enjoyed it. Thus, I am telling you, if you are gay who tends to cringe at its  book cover and you do not feel its font size , or you  have been an avid fan of his  that you are not used to its new book transformation, forget it. Buy and include it on your book collections, and most importantly , share it with your friends regardless of their sex and religion. This is what Dan Remoto  has always intended to do ever since he realized that he has what it takes to be a knight for the LGBT community. What are you waiting for? Get on with it! The more the merrier as  the title puts it, “ Happy na, Gay ka Pa.”

Congratulations on your  another new book, Professor Danton Remoto.

By the way, when are you going to finish your first novel? As far as I know  , you were supposed to publish it in March this year.  I cannot wait to read it soon.

The book  is 175 pesos and  available at all National Book Store branches nationwide.

Enjoy reading! ^^

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

Sampler by Gilda Cordero-Fernando: A Book Review

samplerGilda Cordero Fernando is awfully spectacular- ang galling-galing naman nya! I was impressed by her unique writing styles – very Filipino, original, far different from the other satirical essays I have read, full of fun, wacky ideas about our Filipino culture and customs. You could really laugh out loud because you could relate to them. SORRY na lang if you can’t. It might mean you are not FILIPINO after all, or perhaps it is a matter of generation gap. Besides, I wonder if she has a great influence on Bob Ong’s or Lourd de Veyra’s writing styles.How about Jessica Zafra’s ? Their writing styles have little resemblance. Probably, Gilda appears to be older than they are.But for me Gilda Cordero Fernando is exceptional.

Actually, the book is a compendium of her well-selected works she has written since 1960’s. It is composed of her essays, short stories, columns, speeches, and lectures. Gee, although some were written in between 1960’s and 1980’s , for I’m batang 90’s , I could be familiar with them, more so Gilda’s writing styles are very hilarious. She even made me chuckle on the bus to my work or during the office meeting. Yes, I did even read it during the office meeting out of sense of decorum. (laughs) The book is indeed absorbing.

The book is more interesting because each topic has its own photo which she must have chosen herself, including his paintings she is proud of , for she painted them auto didactically, without attending any formal schools.

Apparently, she must have first done a thorough research and had interviews with a close think-tank of hers before she formed her out-of-this –world ideas.

Envious of her writing styles, after reading it, I learned from Gilda Cordero Fernando that writers could be whatsoever they desire to be: They could be ORIG.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Connect the Dots o Kung Paano Ko Kinulayan ang Aking Buhay by Genaro R. Gojo Cruz: A Book Review

IMG_20130115_203929It is my first time to have bought a book  written in Filipino at National Book Store despite that I find  its price ( 175 pesos )  pretty expensive  compared to the  books in Book Sale.  Usually, one of the reasons , aside from the fact that I am a certified bibliophile and bookworm, why  I  prefer to buy books written in English  is  to enhance  my English skills in  my profession and desire to be a good writer  alike .  Eventually, without regret, I fell in love with   it ; its  essays  and stories are  solemnly  and deeply written  like   a deep well stored with the water that had never been fetched by time. Thus,  it is  realistic,  audacious;  and above all,  heart-rending .

I was impressed and moved by Genaro Gojo Cruz’ s “innocent” determination to pull through all the miserable  things he had experienced , by how he managed to support and finish  his studies , by how he filled  his  vacuous self  despite  that he came from a broken family. Besides, I liked   his pesky innocence, typical of a boy bothered by this complicated world . You can relate to him if you really come from a poor family. While reading it, I remembered Frank McCourt’s trilogy  ( Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man ) , ones of my all-time favorite books. Their life stories   have somehow complete resemblance.

Gojo Cruz has received Palanca Award twice for  his exceptional skills in writing children stories. I should not give him any shadows of  a doubt ; I liked his  writing styles. He  sounds as though  your  new friend telling you some stories- not just that they are  stories but meaningful and inspiring. I bet my life  that you would not get tired of him. In fact, I have this condition that he renders me unmoved in the air .  Then, I tend to blurt out, “Encore, I want to  read his other books more! “ ( Overwhelmed )

As a  matter of  fact, I had hung back twice whether I  had to buy and read it or not  because its paperback designs  and  color are not that appealing to me . ( Well,  I did not mind it is  a YA after all.) It just looks like a children book. I just thought that I  would have just wasted  my money  contrary to what the superannuated  cliché goes, “ Don’t judge the  cover of a book.” In the end, this book turned out to be worth reading; it has something to do with the author’s life.

If I am not mistaken,  the pretext why  the  book cover’s color is  orange  is that it was once his  moniker ,  which is the  anagram of his name Genaro, whenever he traded names with his friends; whereas, the jeepney drawn in the middle part  was his father’s .

 If you are a book critic, you might be of the opinion that Genaro  may have intended  to  write  it with  “ paawa ( self-pity ) effect  just to be on the market and  see if  it would be  going  like  hotcakes.  (In fact, this may-have-been idea did the tricks ; the book seems to have been flying off the shelves since it was launched last year.  I can no longer see a large stack   in National Book  Store branches .  ) But in my humble opinion, Genaro is so brave that he was able to narrate his personal life  , especially since he is now a well-liked university professor  ( not that I know  of  ). It is not   so easy  that  you have to muster enough courage to share your bitter feelings you may be harboring for a long time and memories with others at all.  He must have intended  to do so but to inspire others , notably those children out there who have been dreaming of a prosperous life far from the  miserable  reality they are going through  as what happened to him.

I like Genaro’s philosophy that poverty is a downright hindrance to finishing your studies and dreams. It is downright wrong to believe that it is not at all. If so, how? The answer is simple :  follow  Genaro’s  principles of practicality. Besides, I agree to his another belief  that IQ has nothing to do with a student’s capability to succeed; we all can reach our  potential. You just have to be hard-working, persevere, and determined. Do not give up. Get a life as you know it is a matter of choice.

 On reading it, I may be now enamored with Gojo Cruz. ( Blushing) I am now kicking to buy and read other Filipino books more . Of course, I include his as one of the books I will follow enthusiastically.

P.S.

On the verge of finishing it , Genaro happened to be my formerly  university classmate’s uncle. My classmate’s middle initial is also Gojo Cruz. I was thrilled by this fact more when I remember   him  so proud to tell us about his uncle repeatedly. As a matter of fact, I have been to their place in Bulacan where Genaro  grew up. Apart from that, I stayed in the place with my classmates for a project in Sociology for a few days. There I  saw the places as  well as his little house plus private library  Genaro  mentioned in his book. However, I barely saw the well; it must be the artificial well  beside my classmate’s house where I washed my hands. What a small world! Now I have understood  my classmate’s personality. It runs in the family! kkk ^^

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It is amazing. )

Bulosan: An Introduction With Selections by Carlos Bulosan: A Book Review

IMG_20130110_034754Carlos Bulosan caught my interest when I found out  his autobiography, America is in the Heart, in a National Book Store branch. This  book won the National Book Award in the Philippines. It was deserving of the award because  it is a novel  that the Philippines should treasure until the next generations. It is the epitome of the revolutionary books that  made a big difference in society such as Richard Wright’s Native Son, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by  Harriet Beecher. It is pregnant with heart-breaking stories  to which you might relate starting from his early childhood  until how  he managed to survive  in America. Besides, Bulosan’s writing skills  especially in  such a novel is an example of the cliché a diamond  in the rough that you would make yourself stare into the space and  finally ask how he did it ! He had never been educated before he went to America at his early teens. He was the archetype of a person who had changed  a great deal out of self-discipline and dogged determination , his willingness to transform himself into someone new. He could not have done it without his bitter, heart-breaking, abominable, gruesome , and miserable life in the USA as an immigrant who had   also dreamed of American life. Thereafter, in awe, with my jaws dropped as though I had wanted to do a somersault , bursting with excitement that I was eager to share it with my acquaintances ( but alas, most of my friends  do not have the same batty interest except my friends on Goodreads.), I said in a whisper that I would doubtless  rate it 5 out of 5 stars. 5 stars is equivalent to 100 %. In adjectives,  amazing, excellent, superb,  and impressive.

Automatically, I included his other works on my list that I would love to read more. Fortunately, I got the chance to buy  it  at  a reduced price ( 10 pesos ) when the National Book Store near my house was selling some local books on sale . In the end, it did not let me down. In fact, after reading in this book his some short stories, poems, essays, and correspondence, I  admire Mr. Bulosan more- he was an exceptional  writer.  I wish he had been brought into the world later than in the 1950’s; he could be paralleled with  the apogees  of the contemporary writers such as F. Sionil Jose , Nick Joaquin, Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario, et al. Then, I would be a Bulosonian. (laughs)

E. San Juan, Jr. , the director of the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, compiled the selections of Bulosan’s  stories, poems, essays, and correspondence. He may be an avid Bulosonian too. ^^

Most of Bulosan’s selections are the reflections on his pent-up anger and frustration for the hellish life not only did he lead   but also among his countrymen in the Philippines and abroad notably in the USA under the American colonialism. In his some short stories , the themes have something to do with how to make life better in America. In Be American, for example, Consorcio , uneducated , made a lot of effort to achieve his aspirations by working his butt off  at any cost. He even desired  to educate himself. Likewise, in The Romance of Magno Rubio, Magno , the protagonist , symbolizes himself as how he is enamored of  his white correspondent believing that she loves him and  no sooner will marry him than he gives her all things she needs . However, in the long run, both the main protagonists would realize that to be an “ Americano” as Consorcio put  it is a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’. In fact,  in The Times of Our Lives  paints the portrait of  how  the Filipino community  was  not united  in protecting their labor rights.  Some were  practical considering that they were intellectuals and  influential. ( This part could have been a lampoon at that time. ) In this case , there was an instance that a hard-up Filipino would be at the end of his tether  just the like of Cesar Terso in The Thief . In order to finish his medical studies, he stole money ; then, paid  it back by helping the destitute Filipino when he became rich , but he was suspicious of being into  illegal business  .

Bulosan also expressed in his As Long as the Grass Shall Grow  his desires to be educated  so that he could get ahead of life . Just the same, Filipinos were subject to discrimination, as a matter of course. In Homecoming, on the other hand, the last part among the short stories, is bizarre but heart-breaking. Bulosan expressed how his brother Marciano was so hapless to meet his family back from America after many years that he could not bear with the effect of his downright failure. Gee!

Among the short stories, I won’t forget about the letter his brother  had sent to his father which he kept many years  because  no one in their family then was not able to read nor understand English.

While reading all the short stories, the only voice  I could feel was Bulosan’s . I believe that he projected all the pains he had harbored on those characters, much more on the tones of the sentences.

Bulosan’s poems and essays  are also impressive .Every line  is peppered with anger, pity, hunger, pains, fear, desire- and hopes, love, determination.

His correspondence motivated me to continue my habit before: to write  a diary again. I have got an idea of what writing styles I should do. ( I hope so. I wish I had 48 hours a day. )

If you want to read it, I recommend that you first read his America is in the Heart. Eventually, you will understand why most of Bulosan’s stories, poems, and essays are so heart-rending that you might end up finding him a bad-ass  “ socialist” and “ idealist”. Bulosan went through a life paralleled with the life of  people living in a hell-hole slum such as the modernly filthy scenes in Baseco, Tondo , in Payatas or as the  ones you see in some poor places  in India, especially the life as an immigrant in America where at that time Filipinos were almost treated like Black Americans. On this account, in the end, Bulosan was like a dormant Krakatau volcano on the brink of exterminating the face of America and its adjacent ally, the Philippines,  by  letting the  lava of his literary pieces  wreak havoc on their fields of  consciousness. And somehow they did.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Bright, Catholic–and Gay by Danton Remoto: A Book Review

IMG_20130107_230230Bright, Catholic- and Gay is   the title of one of Danton Remoto’s essays he compiled  in this book. It aptly describes  all the themes  of his essays . As a matter of fact,the essay is about Raymond Alikpala ,  the author of the controversial book Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet published by Maverick House in 2012 . Its original title was God Loves Bakla( Bakla means gay) . Danton Remoto reviewed the book  that  Alikpala is such a bright  person   and on  how he entered a  Jesuit seminary until he was expelled after  his homosexual activity was found out. But there is  a better reason why , among the articles Remoto compiled in this book, he chose Bright, Catholic- and Gay as the title .  If you dissect the title holistically,  Bright  could refer to the fact that everyone , along with gays, could be colorful  in any aspects. Catholic  may  stand for  the prelate  perception about homosexuality. The Dash (-) before the word gay as you learned from English Writing Composition is also used to indicate a short pause ; Danton Remoto  wants to imply that he as the representative of the confederation still braves out of  getting   the word  “gay” in edgewise as part of society as what he has been advocating  since LADLAD , an LGBT non-organization, was founded, or since the time when he  shattered the Philippine society under its delusional teachings  with his gay literature.

As a rule  being  an LGBT  rights advocate , most of Danton Remoto’s essays are latently  couched in  social prejudice against homosexuality, how the confederation is still the subject of discrimination because of  “wrong education”. One of them is on how LADLAD party list then was declared a” nuisance candidate” by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), labeling  its members “abnormal” and “immoral”. Another one is on  how smart-Alec politicians and critics still think of homosexuality as a “mental disorder”. Poor them! They still have stuck in a time warp like the troglodytes.  By the same token, who can’t forget Jan-jan( not his real name) , the Cebuano  homosexual who had been the butt of jokes and jeers  because of the  video that went viral around the social media a few years ago? The video was about the  irresponsible doctors  and nurses who recorded- for fun  or  probably for gay joke-the perfume canister they removed from Jan-jan’s rectum .  Tsk tsk tsk As Danton Remoto put it, they are  ones who are  sick.

Danton Remoto also wrote  that the confederation has the  normal ability as do men and women.  If I put it on my own word, Remoto  seemingly  wants to tell us that  society would not be studded with stars and diamonds without them. Gays could stand out in literature. They could be competent in any fields such as in education, information technology, law, entertainment, and even in building a family. Try to exterminate them on the face of the earth, your deep concerns about evil will still remain.  Gee! Life could be like in the Dark Ages.

One of the big impediment to homosexual freedom in society is the ridiculous  , illogical, ironic, and paradoxical teachings of the church. Danton Remoto discussed that the church restraints a homosexual from its right to freedom of expression, bourn upon the idea that being gay is a sin. You go to hell  if you are gay. To cap it all off   is the insistence that  it is ok to be homosexual unless he does not engage in a homosexual activity including same-sex marriage!  Wake up, snotty people!

In effect, this book is just a compilation of some of well-selected Danton Remoto’s essays and articles after his Gaydar. All the essays are worth reading and interesting since they primarily  deals with the same concept- homosexuality in the Philippines. And of course I can relate to  the topics  if it weren’t Danton Remoto’s impressive and witty writing styles , typical of a gay writer who uses a gay lingo.

Another thing why I liked about this book is its paperback picture  of  two Davids holding hands with their wings flapping. In fact, I would blush when I brought it out on the bus to work. It could raise the homophobic   passengers’ brows, for they are malicious and ignorant to boot. Fudge! I am a product of the social pressure.

Danton Remoto will go down in the Philippine history and literature – actually he  has  done it- as one of the contemporary writers whose  revolutionary vision  is to make a big difference in society. He  has been exerting a  lot of effort to completely  break the horrendous  illusions of the Philippines about homosexuality by means  of using his godsend writing talent. And for whom I am thankful  because if the Universe had not let him be brought to the world, society would  remain in the darkness.

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

Gaydar by Danton Remoto: A Book Review

gaydarThe word   GAYDAR  is the blend  of “gay” and “radar”. Radar as  you   learned from your  science book  is a scientific method of finding position of things such as missiles   by sending out radio waves.  In other words, figuratively speaking, GAYDAR as defined in the book  is  the innate ability to spot another gay man no matter how hard he tries to hide his being gay. In this way, a gaydar associating with straight-acting men or paminta in Filipino after  drawing off his radio waves will  break the news under his breath  that  a very Adonis  man women slobber over   turns out to be  part of  the confederation. Yaaayy!

My  university  gay friend   introduced me to Danton Remoto’s Ladlad : An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing.   The book is a collection of  different stories and poems written by different gay writers including his own oeuvres. In fact, some were written  in Filipino. Most of the articles are erotic in language, so  my reaction then since it was my first time to read such genre was some kinda prudish  pursing my lips and arching my brows. I thought that reading such  book is balderdash;  it’s raunchy. So I did not like reading it much, especially I had no any ideas of his literary styles.  But over time, I realized why Remoto , along with his award-winning  co-author J. Neil C. Garcia, published  such LAMBDA-Literary- Award-winning piece . Danton Remoto then was an active LGBT advocate.  Thus, I had a rude awakening as though I had  come out of my made-in-narra  closet.

This  is a compilation  of  Danton Remoto’s  personal essays which were published in  The Philippine Star  from 1997 and 1999. He wrote about his  growing up  as a student abroad , with his family  and friends , and  his advocacy for the LGBT community. In effect,  all of his essays are seethed in the same theme: life of being  a gay in the Philippines.  Also, he  even wrote  about the  dilemmas   such as the political circus and irresponsible journalism with which he had faced  when he was still an advocate of LGBT.

I appreciated Danton Remoto’s writing styles now. As one of his commentators  put before, he writes with substance. Most of his articles cling to reality, which knock the day light  out of an idealistic reader, notably the clerics for an example.  He associates his ideas with the social issues  in metaphorical forms-typical of  Philippine writing. You can relate to what he is trying to drive at such as mentioning some  Philippine culture to justify his   conspicuous advocacy. In addition, I am envious of   his beautiful prose and clarity of writing.  He really knows his stuff which   must have given   him a credible name  in the modern Philippine literature.

Some writers are like crusaders . They  put their  talent for writing  , although  such skill can be learned, to good  use ,  especially to  making a big difference in society. For instance, black writers   in the past just the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe,  Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, not to mention one of my favorite contemporary writers, Toni Morison  , et al used their writing skills as their  weapons to express their suppressible  and dormant desires to  revolt against the culture of  racial  discrimination.  In terms of  crusade against putrid perception about homosexuality, the only one popped into my mind was Oscar Wilde. Alas, he ended up in jail, for the society at that time was too vast to engulf him.  As the history serves and  since I have not been familiar with  famous Philippine writers yet, Danton Remoto , along with J. Neil C. Garcia , is the only openly gay writer who has the audacity  to do so  using his  flamboyantly decorated  saber of writing.

A salute to you, Professor Danton Remoto! ^^

Rating : 5/ 5 stars

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: A Book Review

kingCarrie , Bags of Bones, The Shining, The Dark Tower, you name it- I always turn my back on them whenever I spot them at my stomping ground. I guess Stephen King’s are not my cup of coffee. I had the conception that writing gothic novels is intended to scare out of readers’ wit. Nevertheless, after reading On Writing, I want to make a stab at his works.

On Writing is all about King’s writing experiences, especially how he developed his skills in writing fictions. Also, the last three parts deal with his tips on how to write effectively. Furthermore, King narrates the underlying inspiration he drew writing some of his masterpieces- the travails he went through before completing them.

Reading this book could be a springboard for starting his works despite the fact that it has some spoilers. But for me, I don’t mind since they could arouse my curiosity more. However, I SUGGEST YOU READ HIS NOVELS FIRST; you could get absorbed in his literary discussions.

I find Stephen King’s writing styles witty. I do not feel the atmosphere of intellectual hubris within his sentences. I feel his informality addressing the readers. There is connection between readers and him although he tries to write William Strunk’s writing principles, the author of the best-selling book, The Elements of Styles. This kind of attitude in writing, in my opinion, is very crucial. It may be the reason why his books are hit.

Stephen King has also, therefore, what it takes to be a best-selling nonfiction writer even though he insists that writing a fiction is his ideal of a heaven.

All Rooty! Starting next year, I will include King’s on my list. There may be something I could take a pleasure in.

Trivia: Amy Tan, author of the best-selling novel The Joy’s Club , gave King the idea of writing this book. ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars