If the MMDA really has to write Dan Brown a letter, maybe I would volunteer as their ghostwriter and have the chair sign this:
That literature mirrors reality has long been a subject of debate among students of Art, but allow us to read your metaphor against the grain: the representation of Manila in those passages merely conserve a self-serving worldview that some civilizations are heaven, some are hell; some are supreme birthplace of order, some are inferior dump place of chaos; some are cities of gods, some are gates to eternal damnation unless the gods help them.
First of all, understand that I have nothing against Manila being reported as ridden with all sorts of social problems that may give urban planners a brain tumor.
Why Tolentino seems to be so removed from the truth, in his letter, is a puzzle I’d like Robert Langdon to dig. His “entry to -excuse me, I cringe – heaven (?)” is a complete travesty when you look at recent studies and reports (emphases mine):
In the country’s premier city or Metro Manila, an estimated 37% of population or over 4.0 million people live in slums in 2010. By 2050, slum population in Metro Manila alone will have reached over 9 million.- Philippine Institute for Development Studies
“I traveled through the islands. It took me 24 hours to reach Manila. When I got there, I found 16 girls staying in the same small place. Some were as young as 13-years-old,” she said. Maria was trapped and forced to have sex with a number of foreign and Filipino men. - CNN
Breathing has become risky in Metro Manila. The Department of Health (DOH) has warned of a higher incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the summer caused by the worsening air pollution in the metropolis... Most NCDs, such as allergies, acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), cancer and cardiovascular diseases, are attributable to air pollution. - Inquirer
Of course, the Metro Manila Development head is saving his face by telling his own story (well, the “Atty” in his name explains that – no offense to good lawyers). It’s frustrating all the more that he signed it not as head of any other government unit, but the leader of the unit that’s supposed to clean up all the mess that is Metro Manila. Cancer, they say, can be cured by early detection. Isn’t it scary: the head of MMDA thinks all the muck, grime, sex slavery and shit of Metro Manila are “entry to heaven”? I can tolerate people’s twisted versions of reality, but I can’t let this one pass.Read More
Since I come home after work early in the afternoon, siesta time, I would usually take a nap, read a book, walk around MOA (Booksale or Fullybooked or fashion stores), watch BBC/CNN/HBO, or prepare merienda.
Pasta is my pastime because all it takes to cook it is boil the pasta and prepare the sauce. All in about 15 minutes ala Jamie Oliver. Black pitted olives, parmesan cheese, basil leaves, lots of garlic, and Clara Ole sauce are my favorite combination. Not only does the dish serve a holy treat but it gives our place a coffeeshop-ish aroma.
If you are obsessing over pasta, you would also invest in good oil and cheese, that is, splashes of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of mozzarella. It doesn’t really matter for me what meat I put in, whether hotdog for spaghetti, tuna for pesto, or ground pork/beef for bolognese, because I usually like mine puttanesca style – ”whore’s style spaghetti” containing only olives, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs.
When I finished reading a novel called The Food of Love I got all excited experimenting with different pasta: spaghetti, linguine, fusilli, fettucine, rigatoni, and farfalle. The story is set in Italy and I felt like roaming Rome and eating Roman dishes prepared by one of the chef characters. The effect of reading it is unbelievable. A turn on, sensually and gastronomically. I picked up the book at Booksale, because I saw Jamie Oliver’s commentary on the cover: “A fantastic story, you can almost taste the wonderful Italian food.”Read More
Some prefer to nap, usually when it’s an early morning flight; some chat with friends or make last calls before boarding; some connect to the airport WiFi and browse their gadgets; some shop around airport stores or buy some snacks or grab a cup of coffee; some prefer to read. I do all.
Next weekend, I will be leaving Singapore for the Philippines, and I’m already starting to think about which book to carry with me.
The last time I carried a book in bag, the security personnel scanning the bags asked me to take it out. Puzzled me slowly handed it to her while thinking, hmmm, ok, are they perhaps taking seriously the notion that literature can be a dangerous weapon, too? The personnel scanned the leaves quickly then returned it to me; perhaps, they were looking for a different kind of leaves tucked in the leaves?Read More
Believe it or not, instead of reading or writing a review, the first thing I did after reading Ilustrado is add the author on Facebook to look at some of his photos. Whatever happened to my academic dignity and literary principle, the author is dead. (The dead accepted the friend request anyway)
“honesty before glory”
What a shame, too, that only last month did I read Miguel Syjuco’s novel, Ilustrado. Its sarcasm and frankness and brutal honesty and beautiful, sexy language had me at first page. It won handsome awards four years ago–Man Asian Literary Prize and the Palanca Award Grand Prize. Pretty cool awards to put on the cover of your first book, huh. Such awards are like halo on the canonized novel, which has been translated to French, Catalan, Italian, Japanese, German, Czech, Serbian, and Brazilian Portuguese.
In my comparative literature classes, Ilustrado was always mentioned as a classic postcolonial example (or a text that problematizes identity/nationhood and power struggle). I really had no time to read it; almost all my subjects in masters were in PhD level, and I was forever stressed out as I keep up with my classmates (and I could come up with 10 more excuses).
But that’s the truth. I was always working on my “novels” of papers.
Sometimes though, reading a novel for pleasure is better than reading it for a literature class (especially comparative literature classes). So, somehow, there is less regret in reading Syjuco’s novel after I left the academe. And, there is so much pleasure reading him now that I am usually away from the Philippines–putting things into perspective.Read More
Do you also get curious whenever your country is mentioned in a foreign film or book? Of course, we’re interested in how ‘the others’ see us.
When I saw White Tiger on the shelves of Bookay Ukay, I thought it’s the famous 2008 award-winning Indian novel by Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger). It wasn’t. Published in 1992 in Singapore, it’s another novel of the same title, setting is Asia (Hong Kong in 1989), but the author is not Asian.
My pre-judgment is that, the novel is going to be an orientalist read. When you say something is orientalist, stereotypical images of East-West are perpetuated in a work of art, and usually, in this binary opposition, the East looks mystified, irrational, a reproduction and struggling copycat of the superior, developed West. Orientalism boxes all notions of “Asian” into one homogenous pre-determined identity. To say that one culture is weird or mystical may be orientalist because this image is viewed from the eyes of somebody who has set his own culture as the standard to which everything else is measured.
Is it racism? We could say that it’s a form of racism in literature.
So let’s see.
Hong Kong crime reporter, Nick Pinder, is the Times‘ star reporter who establishes a relationship with a serial killer who “executes” individuals with social and political crimes to humanity. This is instant fame for the hard-core journalist because he seems to be the official mouthpiece of the infamous killer dubbed the “White Tiger.”Read More
Last month, my friends Raymond, CJ and I went on a sinful food trip in Quezon City and visited Bookay Ukay (popular store of pre-owned books) at Teacher’s Village near UP Diliman.
Not so many books are on display–a disappointment from high expectation from the raves I heard. But I managed to pluck two books from the shelves. One is Rebecca Wells’ famous novel-turned movie, which I bought because 1.) I always see it in book sales and stores; 2.) it’s a New York Times Best Seller; 3.) It’s only 20 pesos. The other is White Tiger.
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood made me want to sip bourbon, smoke with my girl friends, swim naked in a lake, drive a vintage car across the country, go on a solitary trip far far away, travel with luxury suitcases, cook cream dory fish fillet, speak in English in French accent, get married in a sunflower field.
Also, the story itself is a friendly reminder that’s it’s okay and normal to be crazy.
Forty-year old theater director old Siddalee Walker is not in good terms with her (literally) crazy darling of a mother, Vivi. This is because of a controversial New York Times article about Vivi’s child abuse on her kids, including Sidda. But as one continues to read, forgiveness is within reach as Vivi’s life from her childhood days in Louisiana during the Great Depression, till her mental collapse during the World War, and her charming friendship with 3 other equally amazing ladies (Teensy, Caro and Necie), are all narrated through the memoir that Vivi sent to Sidda.
Every chapter is a fun read. Especially the ending part when I was moved to tears because of some silly emotions I couldn’t trample when Sidda was about to end the long-standing drama between her and vivacious Vivi Dahlin.
It’s interesting to read a story, too, about the U.S. growers in Louisiana because in my work, I only get to read about them through serious statistics, and it’s my first time to read a literary work that mentions the rotation of the crop in farmlands depending on what is valuable to the farmers. It was funny to read that Sidda’s father chose sunflowers one time, over the more profitable cotton, which they used to plant throughout the season and for so many years. Turns out that this foregrounding of some sort planted a nice, warm, sunny, flowery setting for a celebration of love.
If anything, the novel inspires readers to take a chance on life and all its facking complexities–of not giving up easily, of being a strong person in spite of all the ridiculously difficult times one is trapped in, of laughing out loud in a warm summery day with friends, or cuddling together in a cold night over a cup of coffee, of putting up with one another despite each other’s insanity (imagined or clinical).
At the end of the novel, I just dreamed of having a quiet tea or coffee time with my friends, and continue enjoying this short life, so that someday, we can be proud talking about the crazy days we’ve conquered with pizzazz, and share to our kids the divine secrets of being beautiful persons.Read More
Okay, let it be said that I liked 1Q84 because I enjoy the strange and the extraordinary in the everyday life. This is just one of the reasons for recommending this novel to my friends.
Another reason is, I love the ending. I was prepared for something Murakami-ish (perplexing), but its ending was concrete and the effect is like that of a beautiful dream that you want to experience more.
But first, let’s talk about the reading experience.
what’s it like
I read 1Q84 in the time when I was mostly alone in a room in Singapore. After my work, I would read a chapter or two for two weeks. Reading a novel makes me forget about the loneliness of solitude. It doesn’t even matter if the boyfriend is miles away (ok, I’m just joking, Mike). Tengo and Aomame [ah-oh-ma-me, or green peas in Japanese], both 30 years old, are two main characters who, despite people around them, are alone in this world and who are used to solitude. The novel tells the story of these two, one after another: a chapter about Aomame first, then Tengo, then back to her, then him, etc.
Reading it is like following the lives of two separate persons–one is a Math teacher who writes a novel, the other a professional hired killer, so the three-book novel is like a tome of hundred stories and anecdotes tied together in 925 pages.
The last part of the third book was a rather tough read because I was rushing to get to the end. I actually sat for long hours at Starbucks till closing time and finished the whole thing at the MRT from end to end to end. I didn’t get off the train till I knew what happened.
enter the surreal
Before one reads Murakami, an amount of preparation is necessary. One needs to recognize the fact that he likes to play with what we call surreal, if not magical real. Also, expect that his works are not fond of explaining what happened; they’re not interested in the Why of Things. In a way, it’s exciting because it allows the readers to supply the reasons with imagination, but sometimes, it can be rather frustrating.
In the novel, one signal of the surreal is the appearance of two moons. This world that has the moons is what Aomame calls the “1Q84″ as opposed to the world she knows that year of 1984 in Tokyo. Suddenly she’s in that other world, and we could only guess why or how.
Another obvious surreal stuff in the story is the “Little People” in the novellete of a ten-year old (!) dyslexic (!) girl called Fuka-Eri. These all-knowing Little People are like the counterpart of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984, which inspired this novel’s title. But if you’re not into fantasy creatures, be happy, this novel is not quite about the Little People. It’s more of a love story than a political allegory.
If there’s one surreal part I like about the novel, it’s the mysterious way of cash finding its way both to Tengo and Aomame. They’re both brimming with money. It’s really fun reading about the lifestyle of these strangers who are suddenly given some wealth, yet both have no materialistic drives whatsoever. I mean, if that cold cash were handed to me, I would’ve spent it in expensive shoes and clothes and… wait, Aomame does have expensive brands. In fact, I tend to pause whenever a luxury brand name is dropped. One thing that particularly interested me is the bag of Aomame’s policewoman friend–it’s Gucci. How many policewomen in Tokyo carry a Gucci bag? Aside from Gucci, I remember Aomame’s Salvatore Ferragamo heels and Tengo’s Hush Puppies.Read More
Let’s start with a love quote:
“You may have to live the rest of your life alone, never being joined with the one person you love in the world. Don’t you find that scary?” (Ayumi) Aomame stared at the red wine in her glass. “Maybe I do,” she said. “But at least I have someone I love.” (191)
Here is a quote for us, travellers:
“I’ve had that kind of experience myself: I’m looking at a map and I see someplace that makes me think, ‘I absolutely have to go to this place, no matter what.’ And most of the time, for some reason, the place is far away and hard to get to. I feel this overwhelming desire to know what kind of scenery the place has, or what people are doing there… It’s curiosity in the purest sense.” (258-9)
Next. Some people have told me that my indifference is driving them crazy, and I find this quote here as the perfect sermon for me:
“…you are neither an angel nor a god. … pure, unadulterated feelings are dangerous in their own way. It is no easy feat for a flesh-and-blood human being to go on living with such feelings. That is why it is necessary for you to fasten your feelings to the earh–firmly, like attaching an anchor to a balloon.” Dowager to Aomame (185)
“I loved to read; I loved to listen to music; and I love cats. Those three things. So, even though I was an only kid, I could be happy because I knew what I loved. Those three things haven’t changed from my childhood. I know what I love, still, now. That’s a confidence. If you don’t know what you love, you are lost.”
just finished reading haruki murakami’s latest novel, the 925-page “1Q84,” and this is my initial reaction: