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.)

 

Diary ng Panget (Diary ng Panget #1) by HaveYouSeenThisGirL: A Book Review

diaryngpangetDiary ng Panget ( Diary of an Ugly ). This romantic-comedy novel became so successfully phenomenal that it was eventually adapted for a movie in 2014. In fact, the said movie   did well at the box office and redounded its main casts, Nadine Lustre and James Reid to fame. However, it is just the way around when I checked the feedback of the readers here on Goodreads. Most of them gave it  1  out of 5 stars. Most of their reasons are : first, The concept of the story is  “ obviously tweenie boppe-rish  ” and “ immature” as two  of the  readers put it; second, it is out of reality; third,  it  could symbolize the poor literacy in the Philippines as another reader put it; and finally , the part  they cringed at  is that it is  tattered with poor English grammar.

The concept of the story is said to be “ obviously tweenie boppe-rish” ( or for teenyboppers)  and “ immature” , for the character of Eya appears  to be like a teen-ager. The readers  in their  twenties who  gave it a go or  just the teen-aged  readers who claim to be “mature’    may  expect  her to act her age since she is  in college. In other words, at her age, she is expected to be mature and responsible  as what young adults usually do. How do the readers find her so? The way she speaks? Well,  who knows when and how a person should be  mature at her/his age?

The concept of the story is said to be out of reality. The readers must not have known that this is fiction. If  they do, they should not have read it  in the first place. Kung makapag-comment naman, parang hindi nag-aral ng literature in high school.  In short, this is the pigment of the author’s imagination. On the contrary, sometimes fiction can be drawn based on an author’s personal experiences and observations. Therefore, the concept of the story can happen in real life. So if you are ugly,  you can  choose to have a romantic life.

This book  is said to be symbolizing the poor literacy in the Philippines. Maybe because of   the noticeable  parts that raised the brows of the “grammarian” readers and  thus made them  not giving it a quarter of one star : It  is tattered with  some  English grammar mistakes. For instance,  the author must not  make uncountable nouns countable such as “advices” instead of  “ advice”, “ luggages” instead of  “luggage”, “jewelries” instead of “ jewelry”. Also,  she must  not forget the past tense form whenever she refers to something that happened in the past. Furthermore, she should be careful  about using the words she wants to use in describing situation since we have this” word territory” or ‘polysemy “ in English language. For instance, she  should not be confused about the difference between “ invicible” and “invisible”  when Eya describes herself that  you-know-who ignores her as though she cannot be seen  since she is not much of a good look. Invicible means unconquerable , so  invisible is the accurate word , and I believe this is what Eya means to say. Therefore, the revoltingly   conspicuous grammatical mistakes  must be the primary vortex of the readers’  negative opinions of this book .

On the contrary, dear readers, tell it  to the marines! Put the blame on the publisher taken possession of capitalism. It should have helped the author  be guided by a proof-reader. Look at  the credible  publisher of Bob Ong. If you still remember his book Stainless Longganisa,  there is a part that mentions about his publisher   who was always  sending him messages whenever   his proof-reader  found some mistakes in his writings.  As a  matter of fact, don’t  forget  the fact that the author was still 18  when she wrote it. Besides, she is not that typical of a brilliant writer who knows how to write  as efficiently and fluently  as  a  professional  writer who have obtained a Master’s  Degree in Creative Writing.

Admittedly, I even revolted at it  when I  thought of the same ideas above. I am not typical of a reader at my 20’s who is not supposed to read such genre. My friends even you might find me” baduy” ( of bad taste )  . I am no  longer a teen-ager to read it.  But as one of my friends on Goodreads put it, I have this reading horizon. In other words, I read any kinds of books . Besides, it just so happened that I did not read such  YA in my teen-age life. Now I have this regression or recidivistic habit. Gee!  Kinikilig pa rin ako (laughs)

So in the end, I gave it 3 stars because  not only that  I was giddy and I giggled and laughed  my head off , but I also  want to disabuse the readers of their comment that it does not make sense.

The book makes sense. Do you know why? Forget the negative comments above.  Forget being such an intellectual and intelligentsia.  Do not be a hypocrite. The author  educates us all along about   some moral lessons as usual whenever you read a book.

  • Be strong despite that life is unfair. Eya lost both her parents when she was still young, but she never gives up on her life. She remains tough, cheerful, and positive. So, do dare it is out of reality!
  • Believe in yourself. No matter how much you lack of your physical appearance , do not ever underestimate yourself.  It is not about the physical beauty. It is about  the inner beauty that radiates on the outside.
  • There are some quotes which could awake you to what is LOVE. Ponder over them , and you will bring back to your senses. ^^

Finally, the author, Denny, has the potential to be a good writer.  You have to hand it to her.  How come she is able to write such story which young teen-agers can relate to?  I was even  moved.  Hehehe

I have been reviewing  books since I took an active part in Goodreads in 2013. The longer I am into this passion, the more I come to the realization that books of any   genre  could be good reads. There are books that  do not placate you, so you could decide against giving it 1 star which means you did not like it. However, as I always put it , 1 star does not necessarily mean the book is a crap  contrary to what  Virginia Woolf  put, “Books are the mirrors of the soul.

Denny, the real name of the author , wants to be a writer. She hopes to  produce a novel which she can call her  masterpiece someday, so  this book will be the springboard for  her dream.  I hope that she has taken the negative comments above as constructive criticism.

P.S

A piece of advice: Denny, just be careful with the consistencies of your plots. For instance, I was confused when Eya  is not able to speak English  as fluently as Lory and Chad. Eya is expected to be smart since she is  a scholar of the academy.  Keep it up! ^_^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I 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.)