Making this year’s reading list was a bit tough, if only because our reading lives somehow mirror our real lives. So many things have happened this year that, once again, hitting the books became necessary to cope up with the mad plot lines of the real world.
This year yielded around 83 books, and choosing ten of the best of them this year is to somewhat do an injustice to a lot of them. Of special note is the 80-volume Penguin Little Black Classics, which should make for an amazing gift this season for any book lover (although a lot of them are things a book lover probably already read). Plus, it’s a really beautiful thing to look at.
So without further ado, here are the ten best things I’ve read this year.
The place where Halal Guys BGC will be in used to be my favorite window in Bonifacio High Street.
Fully Booked’s shelves always had bestsellers, with a few unique finds here and there. Come October, they brought out the fake cobwebs and plaster skulls and the origami bats, and the window was filled with horror fiction novels. Come December, the window was dressed in tinsel and Christmas trimmings, with the year’s best novels on display.
Every now and then, that window announced a sale on books: on those days, I would leave the store with as many books as I can carry. And before I leave, the display facing away from the window offers me more choices: perhaps things I’ve ignored, or things that I’ve always wanted but never really found in the back shelves of Fiction A-Z.
It’s a window that beckoned me to fill my own shelves. But now, that window’s gone.
Note: So apparently, my last blog entry, The Crimson Stain, went “viral.” Now that idea, if you know me well enough, is sort of ironic (given how much I don’t like the word, and I’m really timid IRL). But it kinda warms the cold, cold heart to know that a lively discussion was fostered, and for the most part the discussion was quite civil. And quite a lot of you agreed with me.
And quite a lot of you requested for the thing to be translated (or written) in Filipino.
Now I’m not a particularly good translator (unless you talk about lyrics, although if you follow me on Instagram you probably have an idea how I prefer to translate things), and my command of Filipino is quite wonky at best, but I’ll try to take a crack at translating the blog entry myself.
And thanks so much, everyone. Many thanks, in particular, to Raissa Robles for pointing a lot of important details out to me (details that, regrettably, I missed out on. My apologies.).
Here it is. Pardon the imperfections.
That’s not a scarlet terno that Imee Marcos is wearing. Rather, it stands for the mountains where Macliing Dulag was killed. His blood ran down the slopes of the Cordillera in much the same way he wanted the Chico River to flow. To his dying breath—and years thereafter—Dulag fought against the hydroelectric power that threatened the survival of his people, in the hands of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.
That’s not Imee Marcos gracefully crossing her well-formed, tanned legs. Emmanuel Lacaba’s legs were found in the same way, tied and chained, as his corpse was dragged to an unmarked grave. In 1976, Lacaba was captured with a pregnant 18-year-old comrade in the underground, and was shot with a .45 caliber bullet not once, but twice. His crime was to write literature in opposition to a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.
That’s not a tasteful bodice that highlights Imee Marcos’s ample curves. That bodice conceals how forces of the constabulary killed Edgar Jopson in 1982. He was found alive in Davao, but was still executed. It took nine bullets to murder Edjop: chest wounds, arm wounds, leg wounds. This son of a grocer became another statistic in a very long list of human rights abuses in the 70s and 80s, and personally earned the ire of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.
Those are not the features of Imee Marcos, carefully airbrushed. Those were the walls put up along the routes whenever any foreign dignitary or visitor passed by to visit Malacañang Palace. Entire edifices were built around the Philippines to celebrate and commemorate the “New Society,” all the while those displaced are kept hidden from view. For one cannot be seen poor and starving when guests come by to entertain—and be entertained by—a dictator named Imelda Marcos.
The night is only a sort of carbon paper
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole—
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon’s rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.
Sleep carries with it its horrors.
The gnashing of teeth, the tremors I’ve carried through adulthood, and the abrupt cycles between sleeping and being awake. It’s never Neverland; but ever since the gnashing became harder, the tremors became shakier, and the hours of sleep have shortened, I’ve somehow thrown the body clock out the window.
Insomnia’s kind of strange.
When you come to think about it, Mar Roxas probably has one of the most impressive résumés among candidates on the road to the 2016 elections. Roxas is the scion of two powerful families in both politics and industry (lest we forget that Mar is the son of a Senator and the grandson of a former President, and is also the grandson of the man who built the Araneta real estate empire). He’s an Ivy League graduate: he is an economist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent years as a financial hotshot in New York, making a name for himself in the world of capital and investments. He’s a former Congressman, a former Senator (garnering the most votes for any candidate in a national election, at that), and held three different Cabinet positions under three different administrations.
While other prospective candidates have to blow smoke (like, say, turning the Philippines “into Makati”) to curry favor among the people and win their votes this early (at least one had to figuratively/literally blow someone’s rocks off), Roxas is—on paper—the most qualified. One may even say that he’s destined to be President: a man born and bred to be in Malacañang. Rightly or wrongly, Roxas has a very clear advantage among others through his position of privilege.
… I’m not even sure. Photo from Oras Na, Roxas Na
The problem is, that’s not exactly how Roxas is packaged. And as it turns out, it’s a really big problem.
When I was a kid, my teachers put much stock on clean and neat handwriting. Since kindergarten, the Writing subject wasn’t about composition or sentence construction, but the finer points of print and cursive. An entire hour of school was devoted to the Writing class: direct and indirect ovals, parallel lines, and the cursive form of letters. “Writing well” wasn’t just about one’s grasp of prose, but one’s grasp of the pen. “Learning how to write” was just that: learning how to write.
Our teachers taught us the difference between D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser cursive (mine’s a cross between the two), but the importance of it. The Writing assignment was quite brutal by today’s standards: an entire notebook was filled with nothing but cursive forms and shapes, with painstaking effort given to headers and descenders under threat of pain (usually from a wooden footrule).
But like prayer responses and the Litany, it’s something most of us carried through adulthood. Today, I still maintain neat—although shaky—cursive handwriting, for no real reason other than it being there.
At least for now, I think so.
And the music came back with the carnival, the music you’ve heard as far back as you can remember, ever since you were little, that’s always playing somewhere, in some corner of the city, in little country towns… the carnival meant to delude the weekend crowd.
– Louis Ferdinand Céline, “Journey to the End of the Night”
Above is an audio clip of Felix Manalo: the founder and first Executive Minister of Iglesia ni Cristo. For over a hundred years, the Church he founded has become an important symbol of Filipino faith, and has become (rightly or wrongly) an important voice in a country largely governed and influenced by God’s Word. Manalo and the INC may have their critics (and the events over the past few days may have added to that), but it’s hard to deny Manalo’s understanding and grasp of rhetoric.
To his followers, Manalo was the last messenger of God in these last days. Manalo told stories to his flock, and reminded them of the Word. More importantly, Manalo was used to the crucible of debate: in fact, he thrived in it. In a country with so many religions that claim to preach the true Word of God, it is a testament to the INC’s talent for persuasion that today, it’s the third-largest religious denomination in the Philippines.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago: for reasons that still aren’t clear to people like myself, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo blocked off an entire section of EDSA, and held a rally to “protect religious freedom.” Or uphold the unity of Iglesia ni Cristo. Or whatever it was that they were there for.
And this brings me to quite a few things about persuasion.
A few weeks ago, Star Cinema released a teaser trailer for what could be a sequel to “One More Chance.” This time, Popoy (in a pair of ill-fitting slippers) and Basha (with her fascinating choices in haircuts) do get married, fight, and invoke some of the “hugot” lines that made the original movie endure over the years.
It’s kind of hard to believe (and for those keeping tabs on age, difficult to accept) that “One More Chance” (directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina) turns eight years old this year. For all intents and purposes, the film has become a “classic:” a term usually reserved for really old movies that pioneered cinema. Despite its age, the film has experienced a resurrection of sorts not seen since Jolina-Marvin spring notebooks and Rico-Claudine posters: not only is the film showing again in a limited release, but it has also inspired a novel. People (usually my age) still take to Twitter to announce that “One More Chance” is showing in some Pinoy movie channel.
Surely we understand the appeal of this film eight years ago: John Lloyd Cruz stood for the “tunay na lalake” trope, while Bea Alonzo represented the feelings of so many women who desire independence. In a way, it articulated the emotional milieu of a generation. But again, that was eight years ago: could “One More Chance” still stand the test of time after so many love teams, tandems, and movies that overtly sell and dispense with “hugot?”
So I took out my copy and, with a mind more open than that required for network marketing opportunities, watched it again.