3

Love, in all its permutations

Posted by Marie on Friday, December 16, 2011 in , , , , , ,
Fourteen Love Stories - Jose Dalisay Jr. & Angelo R. Lacuesta (editors)
Fiction; ISBN 971-542-412-0; Flipside Publishing, University of the Philippines Press; 2004.

"Which is why, perhaps, the love story is a strange affair. As affairs go, there are good ones and bad ones, the ones we forget and the ones we remember, over and over again. But the well-written love story is an enigma, a strange beauty. Like any story, a path is laid out, but like any affair, the outcome of that journey depends on many circumstances. One reads it and wonders how and why it works, why one is unspeakably drawn to an obscure unknown. One relishes it while it is being discovered, uncovered, but knows with absolute certainty it will end."

I'm glad that the editors of Fourteen Love Stories chose to present the stories chronologically because this gave me a chance to appreciate the changing regard of Filipinos on love and relationships over the decades. But in the end, I can't help but group the stories according to what I'd felt about them (not a good way to review a book, I know, but I'm not aiming for a proper critique =P).

The first group are the ones I had appreciated and enjoyed like artworks in a museum. Indeed, I found myself connecting some stories to certain artists: "Dead Stars" is Luna's "Tampuhan", "Midsummer" is a sensual Amorsolo,"Wedding Dance" reminds me of Botong Francisco's murals, "Tanabata's Wife", to Bencab's sculptures, and Polotan's "The Virgin" to a Manansala jeepneyscape.

I very much enjoyed reading this next group because they reminded me of friends or people I know. This lot includes Ford's "Love in the Cornhusks" (reminded me of one of my parent's kasambahay), Gonzales' "Breathe" and de Jesus' "In Her Country" (a college friend), Fres-Felix's "Alma" (my boss' mistress), and Cordero-Fernando's "The Dust Monster" (a book club friend).

Not surprisingly, the two stories I've identified with  the most were those by writers of my generation. Sitoy's "Weight" is about the subtle pressures of life that chips away one's idealism. It also made me miss the Quezon City of my college and post-graduate life, as well as the naive enthusiasm I had then. My favorite story in the anthology is Katigbak's "Passengers". It is a story of love and loss, told through bus rides. I connected with a lot of things: the girl's fondness of commuting in dingy buses, the narrator's horror of being a new driver stuck in the hellroad called EDSA with suicidal bus drivers, Metro Manila bus routes, the 'techno-dreck' which are the official soundtrack of these buses, and even that infinite parallel universe thing.

There were two I couldn't relate that well: Melvin's "A Normal Life" and Villanueva's "How Could You Smile". The latter is a story of infidelity, something I had no personal or familial experience. The former is about a love affair between an older, more sophisticated woman and and a much younger man. I don't really know what to feel about these two stories. Do I sympathize? Or maybe abhor? But I still enjoyed reading them, though with a certain detachment.

Considering that the wealth of Filipino stories written in English spanned eight decades, I’m amazed that the editors, Butch Dalisay & Sarge Lacuesta managed to choose only fourteen stories. That they limited the pick to only those about romantic love probably didn’t help much, as the Filipino is race that is in love with Love – one just have to flip the local channels or browse through the thousands of Pinoy romance pocketbooks to realize that. But chose they did, and they chose well. 

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2

Meme: My Top 10 SPTD Song list

Posted by Marie on Sunday, September 11, 2011 in , , , ,
This started out as a slumber party topic, as far as I remember. What I don't remember is how we came from talking about songs in general, to specifically talking about songs of pain and heartbreak. After that, in a Facebook post, Eunice called them SPTD songs ("Saksak Puso, Tulo ang Dugo", which literally means "Stabbed through the heart, with blood dripping"). Lots of songs had been thrown around sporadically, both online and offline. Then I had this lame-brained idea of each of us contributing our own top ten SPTD songs and compiling them into a CD. With Joko contributing her own list, I guess this is a go. *shrug*

So anyhow, here's my own top ten list of heartaches, breakups, angst and other painful stuff like that, in no order whatsoever:

Insensitive - Jann Arden

I'll Be Okay - Amanda Marshall

Cry Me A River - Justin Timberlake

Much Has Been Said - Bamboo

You Oughta Know - Alanis Morrisette

7 Days in Sunny June - Jamiroquai

You Got To Hide Your Love Away - The Beatles

I Do - Lisa Loeb

Out of Reach - Gabrielle

Just My Imagination - The Temptations

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2

September = MIBF!

Posted by Marie on Saturday, September 10, 2011 in , ,
Ah, September. The month that most libruwitres either sings praises of... or curse to the deepest hell. It's the month you've been preparing your wallets for. It's the month of The 32nd Manila International Book Fair!


This year's MIBF is promising to be a very memorable one because of the first ever Filipino Reader's Conference!


Here's the program of activities for the ReaderCon:


1:00 – 1:20 PM Registration

1:20 – 1:30 PM Welcome Remarks

1:30 – 2:00 PM Keynote Speech: No Line on the Horizon: The Merging of Readers and Writers through Social Media
Speaker: Carljoe Javier

2:00 – 3:30 PM Panel Discussion: Putting up and Running a Book Club--for the fun of it!
Panelists:
Gege Sugue (FFP)
Doni A. Oliveros (Goodreads)
Tata Francisco (Ex Libris)
Facilitator: Peter Sandico

3:30 – 4:00 PM Snacks

4:00 – 5:30 PM Panel Discussion: The Why and How of Book Blogging
Panelists:
Tarie Sabido (Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind)
Charles Tan (Bibliophile Stalker)
Chachic Fernandez (Chachic’s Book Nook)
Aldrin Calimlim (Fully Booked. Me)
Sasha Martinez (Sasha & the Silverfish)
Facilitator: Honey de Peralta (Coffeespoons)

5:30 – 6:00 PM Raffles and Socials


As you all know, I'm a member of the Flips Flipping Pages book club (we call ourselves Flippers - we're weird that way, hahaha), so I'll definitely be there for the sheer nerdy fun of socializing with fellow bookworms. I just hope I'll have the chance to wander through the SMX Convention Center exhibition ground. I'll probably won't forgive myself if I don't give in to the book-buying frenzy at least once (okay fine, twice). I've seen the list of exhibitors and schedule of special events, and boy, these lists are long! If you need further information on this week-long event, do check out the MIBF website.

See you there!

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9

My 2011 reading plan

Posted by Marie on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 in , , , ,
I'll probably remember this year as the one when Jose Saramago & Christopher Priest were bitter rivals (in my mind, of course) for my literary affections.


It started when I read Blindness for the March book discussion. It was a painful but satisfying read, and I liked it so much I'd promptly declared it as my best book for 2011.

Photo from Locus Online

But then, a fellow book blogger, FFP member and friend, Peter, who was a bit concerned of my earlier dismissal of NYRB books, lent me Christopher Priest's The Inverted World (thank you so much!). He was convinced that I won't just like the book but love it. And he was right. It was a mind-bending read but it was very, very good.

When my ardor shifted from Saramago to Priest, I thought, this is a bit unfair of me. I can't easily dismiss someone who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. After all, I can't judge an author by reading just one or two of his creations, right? Thus, I made an imaginary contest between the two authors for the most-coveted prize of all: my best author & book for 2011.

So here's the tally & the plan so far (not that I have these books right now, though I do hope I'll acquire/borrow some of them soon):

Jose Saramago
Blindness (read)
Death with Interruptions (read)
The Double
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
Baltasar & Blimuda

Christopher Priest
The Inverted World (read)
The Prestige
The Separation
The Extremes
The Affirmation


I ought to post reviews for these books, no? I'll do that as I go along, I promise. So what do you think, guys and gals? Is best out of five fair enough? Or should I read more?

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0

a test of (bookish) endurance and mettle

Posted by Marie on Monday, March 28, 2011 in , , ,
Well okay, as you know, I'm a member of this book club, Flips Flipping Pages. But I realize I'm nowhere as bookish as many of the other Flippers (that's what we call ourselves), who can read five to ten (or more) books per week, while I can barely finish one in a month. That I shrink at challenges is such an understatement.

But here I am, I'm joining this year's FFP 24-Hour Read-A-Thon.


That it's going to be loads of fun is assured. Man, this is an FFP event. If there's one truth in this life, this is it: there is no such thing as a boring FFP event. Coupled that it's going to be held in my friend Triccie's bookshop, Libreria, the prettiest bookstore in town (I'm honestly not exaggerating) - well, I just hope it's not going to be as wild as the last party held there (two words: Mardi Gras). Besides, people are going need to buckle down and do some serious reading, so think of this as your typical book nerds' slumber party. Without much of the pajamas, pillow fights and even slumbering, of course.

I know I won't read as much books as the top hitters of the club, but gosh! I'm just crossing my fingers I won't embarrass myself in front of my friends. At the very least, I hope I won't go to sleep and snore or God forbid, drool on Triccie's nice couch. :P

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0

Stone Temple Pilots, March 9, 2011, Araneta Coliseum

Posted by Marie on Thursday, March 10, 2011 in , , , , , ,
For posterity's sake, I'm throwing my dignity to the wind.

This blurry video was taken using my phone camera using unsteady arms - not to mention we were in the general admissions section. If you hear some fangirls shrieking, that's just me and my friend Joko. :P


video

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8

too much czgowchwzness spoils the broth

Posted by Marie on Thursday, February 24, 2011 in , , , , , , , ,
Mawrdew Czgowchwz - James McCourt
Fiction; ISBN 0-940-322-97-8; New York Review Books, 1971.

This is a story of an opera diva, impossibly named Mawrdew Czgowchwz (that's 'Mardu Gorgeous' to you) - her debut, rise, semi-fall, comeback, and then finally happy ending. I'd like to say more, but that's all there is to the story.

This is my first NYRB book. Considering that many of my book club friends love NYRB, I hope I won't disappoint them too much if I said that I didn't like it.

Not that isn't not engaging. It is. The cast of characters is also quite lively. And there's the farce too: all those catty and humorous things James McCourt wanted to to say about high society, artsy snobbery and fanaticism, and what-have-you.

It's just that the book is too much: of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and even interjections), of linguistic tricks (yesiree, this is witty, with a capital W), of characters (too many and each too colorful, like a cramped zoo cage full of peacocks).

Let me pick this quote:

"The libretto told (in details as intimate as the knowledge flesh succeeds in gaining of flesh, in metamorphic cunning transparent as windows, in plotted dramatic incident obvious as mirrors, in a denouement as inverted as words beyond mirrors) of the capitulation of twin brother and sister through a whirlwind into salvific madness, of their headlong retreat from this world of causes and effects into that silent, mute, subworld paradise where all affect is abandoned."

Is it really necessary to tax the readers' patience? Do you need to make the readers work hard when all you really want to say is this: 'the libretto is about a twin's descent to madness'?

So anyway, during the course of reading this book, a half-formed suspicion germinated in my mind regarding NYRB's choice of so-called 'classics'. I'd like to be proven wrong, of course; that would mean I need to read at least one or two NYRB books again. Uh huh, my enthusiasm is killing me. -_-

So to those who had read other NYRB books, any suggestion on which ones to get next?

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11

pimpin' my new crib

Posted by Marie on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 in , ,
This blog post is not about books. It mostly contain boring pictures of an empty house. You've been warned.

Last year, I moved out of the city and bought a house in the countryside.

To say that everyone was surprised is a big understatement. You see, I'm a city girl through and through. I know Metro Manila almost like the back of my hand. I never had a province to go to during the summer break. I know how to cross a street filled with vehicles by the time I was seven. By the time I was in elementary, I sometimes go to school without adult supervision via public transportation. And my school was in Tondo, Manila two and a half miles from my home in Valenzuela, near Bulacan.

So anyway, I had always dreamed of having a place of my own, at least someplace to stash all my stuff away. The story of how I got this new house can fill out two or three long blog post, and would probably bore you to tears (actually even *this* post is probably going to bore you tears). I'm just going to show what the place looked like when I first moved in.

The stairs and my uber-mini kitchen from the living room. And since the kitchen is small, I'm going to do my actual cooking in the dirty kitchen at the back of the house:

I have two toilets: one for myself and one for my cat. How cool is that? :)

The partial view of the living room from the top of the stairs.

Second floor: On the left is the room I'm using now as the main (i.e. my) bedroom. On the right is a small room that's supposed to be a guest room but I won't since it's embarrassingly tiny. I'm currently using it as a storage room. In between these two room is the stairs to the attic.


The attic. Which I've now filled with books in their nice new bookshelves. After I solve the problem of making this space less stifling hot during the afternoons, I intend to stay here for the rest of my spinsterish life. Yeah, maybe I'm serious. Or maybe I'm not. Who knows?

The exteriors. This is actually a duplex (if only I have enough funds to take over the other half!). Taken from the space that's supposed to be the garage. It will be filled with a brand new car, hopefully soon.

I dedicate this blog post to Blooey who said I should write something about my new home, sort of like a blog of the (mis)adventures of a "city girl moving to the countryside setting up a house of her own". Oh come on, I'm not anything like Max Skinner (the protagonist of Peter Mayle's A Good Year - I suggest reading the book to know the connection). And I think it's too early to say that the province of Rizal is going to be my personal Provence.

What do you guys think?


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2

walking in the city

Posted by Marie on Thursday, January 20, 2011 in , , ,
Street-Bound: Manila on Foot - Josefina P. Manahan
Non-Fiction, Travel; ISBN 971-27-1135-9; Anvil Publishing, 2001.

(Thank you to Anvil Publishing for my complimentary copy. Thank you to Honeylein de Peralta for coordinating this. :))

(Disclaimer: In this review, I’m going to use the word ‘walk’ in every way possible, in the acceptable form as noun and verb, but also as adjective and adverb. Microsoft Word tells me that it’s grammatically wrong. So sue me.)

In Street-Bound: Manila on Foot, Mrs. Josefina Manahan asserts that Metro Manila is a walkable metropolis. Yes, despite the dust, noise, heat, speeding vehicles, and carbon monoxide poisoning. And indeed, up to a certain point, I agree with her. So lower your eyebrows for a moment, please.

Like Mrs. Manahan, I do walking tours within Metro Manila too: sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone. But many of these are haphazard travels (especially the ones I do by myself), often without plans and often requiring asking for directions. This in particular is why I find Street-Bound pretty useful. She organized the walks in such a way that next time I can go from one spot to the next in a more systematic manner.

But there are also tours in Mrs. Manahan’s book that I haven’t done, mostly because I didn’t have the time, but also because I wasn’t aware of the potential walkability of the place. For every tour entry, she neatly arranged the information into the following: type of tour, duration, sights, what to wear, background, how to get there, the different sights, and the map of the place. There’s also one or two delightful pictures of what one might expect to see in that tour (the maps and pictures were illustrated wonderfully by one Ms. Joanne de Leon – kudos!).

The best walking tour entry in the book (for me anyway) is the Rizal Park walking tour(s). Mrs. Manahan realized that one cannot see everything in just one day so she thoughtfully divided the sights in two tours: the first one is touring the park itself, starting at the Halamanang Pilipino and Philippine relief map from Taft Avenue, all the way to the Quirino Grandstand, to see the famous Manila Bay sunset; the second one is touring the museums dotting the park, from the National Library up to the Museo ng Maynila near Roxas Boulevard. The first one I did a lot with my family when I was a kid; the second one, I’m chagrined to admit, I haven’t done yet but I’m promising to do this year.

(My friends Edrose & Joseph, looking lost in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo when
we did a Quiapo-Binondo walking tour last year.)

Sadly, Street-Bound badly needs to be updated because I believe that some of the tours have become slightly irrelevant. Partly because a lot of tourist spots have deteriorated, disappeared, or changed completely in the past nine years since the book was published (take for example, Greenbelt Park which is barely a park anymore). Some, I think, are a bit redundant; there are new and even old /tours that are better representative of that type (for example, I think Divisoria is a better market tour place than Kamuning Market). Some tours I also believe that would be better grouped together into a single tour – for example, the tours around the Quezon Memorial Circle would have been better done in one go.

So anyway, even if it’s outdated, the book is still pretty handy if you’re going to do walking tours in Metro Manila, just be prepared to be a bit disappointed. It’s probably going to be awesome if they brought it up to date, as well as add more tours. I suggest adding the CCP complex, Chinese Cemetery, Ayala Triangle, Divisoria, and La Mesa Ecopark. Plus, Rizal Park is currently undergoing renovations; better to update the Rizal Park entry in parallel with that. I do urge Anvil to do it soon, as Filipinos, especially the younger generation, are becoming more conscious and appreciative of our glorious but slowly vanishing heritage.


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5

a glimpse of the past, present and future

Posted by Marie on Monday, January 03, 2011 in , , , , ,
Letras y Figuras: Business in Culture, Culture in Business – Jaime C. Laya
Non-Fiction, Culture, History, Slice-of-Life, Filipiniana; ISBN 971-27-1143-9; Anvil Publishing, 2001.

(Thank you to Anvil Publishing for my complimentary copy. Thank you to Honeylein de Peralta for coordinating this. :))

“Ordinary people live through all these grand events, against the broad sweep of history. Their names do not appear in history books, but theirs was the labor (and much of the money) that built churches and convents, roads and public works… With all of these, one can say that a town’s history can be viewed through the eyes of its residents who were players in the events of the past.”

There is not one genre to firmly categorize Jaime Laya’s compilation of essays, Letras y Figuras, except perhaps under that rather too-encompassing word, Filipiniana. While he had roughly organized his articles in six chapters (Times & Places; Rituals & Celebrations; Past & Present; Artists & Craftsmen; Possessions; and People, Words & Numbers), the essays’ topics are very diverse. Many are about history, but there are also some about culture, about places, about people – let’s just say about everything that is Filipino. But some are also autobiographical; there are vignettes about the author’s life, his work, his hobbies, and even his ideas. It’s hard to believe that these multi-faceted pieces were written by a cut-and-dried accountant and businessman (although a very successful one) and, if one believes the blurb, a hobbist that only dabbles on the culture and arts in his spare time.

Although I ought not to, it is difficult to resist comparing his historical essays with my other favorite historian, Ambeth Ocampo. While Ambeth Ocampo writes history with the gossipy pizzazz of a teacher (which he is) that deftly knows how to grab today’s attention-deficient generation away from their cellphones, iPods and laptops, Jaime Laya writes history like a grandfather (the look-at-my-mole grandpa from a Bear Brand commercial in the 80s comes into my mind) who feigns exasperation and finally sits down to weave the stories of a younger, cleaner Philippines to his delighted grandchildren. This translates into the most entertaining and assorted Filipiniana trivia and miscellany I’ve ever read outside of an Ambeth Ocampo book. My favorite one is an entry about how people relieve themselves during the Spanish times and up to the turn of the century - apparently ladies, did the deed, when necessary and hidden under their saya (and need I say, free from any frilly impediments too?), standing up. Gross and tacky, yes, but it’s not something that Agoncillo or Zaide would insert in their texts, so I like it.

The heroes of Mr. Laya’s essays are the ones taken for granted: the common folk unwritten in books, the places and locations now ignored and suffocating in pollution and urban blight, the ordinary people’s rituals, traditions and heritages that are now slowly vanishing. The pieces almost lack the usual dramatis personae – Rizal, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo – except via passing mentions. Mr. Laya did feature known historical art personalities such as Luna, Hidalgo, Amorsolo, as well as a few lesser known artists such as Damian Domingo and Ang Kuikok. It is as expected, considering his work in various cultural, artistic and historical organizations, museums and collections. The pieces about bahay na bato and other traditional houses were delightful, and were begging to be read while touring that new historical resort in Bagac, Bataan (Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is the name, according to Google).


(Image: Malacanang of the North, Paoay, Ilocos Norte)

Indeed, the initial impression I’ve got reading the first chapter is that of a travelogue. His footnotes in his Intramuros and MalacaƱang essays inform us that these are abridged versions of lengthier guidebooks (of which I’m now hunting). The book is best read while traveling - I imagine myself consulting the essay in MalacaƱang, while walking from door to door of that palace (barring rooms unauthorized to the public, of course).

Perhaps Anvil can release two further editions of the book? The first one is an illustrated version, in full color, perhaps into one of those pricey coffee-table books (I’ll probably see it in a bookstore and then sigh in yearning). But the version I’ll appreciate more is of a pocketbook size, as I had decided to include in my new year resolution making time to (re)visit and (re)experience those places and celebrations mentioned in his articles.

His personal essays were the most lyrical. While the piece about his childhood home in Sta. Cruz was very vivid, my favorite is a short one about his wife, titled “A Valentine Story”, as this woke the romantic in me:

“The wind was in her hair, he remembers, as he pointed to the city, the bay and the ocean far below a high ridge. In the flood of his memories are a swan on a quiet pond, a balustraded terrace on a misty hillside, a meadow at dusk moments after a festival of fairies, startled, had fled, scattering millions of little white flowers in their haste. Later, in the chill of the evening, he could not tell where the city lights ended and the stars began.”

Needless to say, I highly recommend you read this book. It is my best book for 2010.


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