THREE BOOKS, THREE REVIEWS, THREE PRAISES!
THE WRITE BOOK!
(WRITE HERE WRITE NOW by AA Patawaran, 2012)
Reviewing books, sometimes can be a “boring” job. In some instances, however, it becomes exhilarating. Allow me to expound on this thought. During my student days, a friend of my mine gave me a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records 1980 Super Edition for my birthday. It was a thick pocketbook with small letters. I browse through the entire book in one sitting. It was fun. As one edition after another came annually, however, it became rote and the excitement of reading it diminished.
I love reading and I love reading different books that give me fun information, like Bernie Smith’s The Joy of Trivia, intriguing discoveries like Rene Noorbergen’s Secret of the Lost Races, soulful inspiration like Og Mandino’s The Greatest Miracle in the World, mind-boggling, ubliquitous and “literary beauty without sense” like Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before, and thought-provoking concepts like Carl Sagan’s Contact that was later made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. Then there is Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundation of Screenwriting, all because it’s one of my frustrations – to write a screenplay. Apart from these, there are novels that intrigue my pineal gland at the center of my brain, like James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Vladimir Navokov’s Lolita, and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Why am I citing these books? Well, because these are the books that get my undivided attention. These are books, at least for me as a reviewer, which get me exhilarated. Another reason is because I’m reviewing AA Patawaran’s Write Here Write Now. If I may borrow Patawaran’s own words: “Write in pictures. With your words, let the reader see not letters, but images.” Very well put! For this is how I discern the good read from those that make me yawn in ennui.
When I penned this review of Patawaran’s book for MOD magazine’s June 2013 issue, I would’ve like to give it a long write-up, but I was constraint by editorial mandate to limit my assessment to no longer than 1,000 words. Hey, I can do it in five words: It is very very good! With this, I could see my editor’s eyebrow rising and shouting “biased!” as she recognizes the similarity in the writing style and method of the author with that of mine. So, there’s a need to expound again.
Let me start with the title of the book, Write Here Write Now: It’s ingenious! Why? Because it’s a book about a writer’s experiences and encounters, his love for writing, his job as a writer, his recounting of the things he wrote, his views of things written, and his encouragement of others to write and “seek their writing muses.”
The author has a “way with words,” which according to the late Alejandro “Tito Anding” R. Roces, whom I considered one of my most distinguished mentors in journalism, “is the ability that excellent writers possess.” To Patawaran, there is no concubinage in the harem of words. The more words you romance each day, the better. In another way to look at it, like Truman Streckfus Persons, better known as Truman Capote, who wrote the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.”
Patawaran is a writer and editor that has the ability to overdose his sentences with loads of commas and gets away with it. In his “Defense of the Serial Comma,” I find no evidence of a wilful suicide of his English grammar. So, unlike Büm Tenorio Jr, I don’t see Patawaran’s writing as “comatose.” On the contrary, it’s alive and kicking!
Although I may not like Patawaran’s comparing of seeming multiple personalities that writers have to Flora Rheta Shreiber’s Sybil, the author indeed has a point. Writers, the good, the very good, and the excellent ones, do have multiple voices in their brains that need to unleash their own words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories. Like the treatment for multiple personality disorder – “to integrate the patient’s various selves,” the writer needs “to bring the more compelling voices (in his mind) in harmony with his desire to write well and tell a good story.”
I’m not also particularly fond of Nicki Minaj’s rap or instant messaging’s jejemon pseudolanguage as mentioned by Patawaran, but again you need to respect the author for his sound argument that a writer need to be flexible to both have fun and blend the Old School with the Generation X.
The only boring part of the book is the chapter “Remembrance of Things Past,” where he wrote an 876-word sentence, finishing it triumphantly with “the period.” This I say only because it’s hard to read that long without breathing! It makes me recall the python-length whatchamacallit English sentences of lawyers I encountered during my legal researcher days with the Task Force on Land Frauds.
My only criticism, perhaps, is the myriad citations of books and authors, and the countless enumerations of items in his paragraphs to display the use of the serial comma, but it only goes to show that he is a bookworm of some sort, like the late Ernie Baron of “Knowledge Power” fame, who must have devoured through the pages of thousands of books.
This book is a “must” read for aspiring writers who wants to make “adjectives sing” and avoid the “lavish rape of adverbs.” There are also great tips for storytellers, novelists, scriptwriters, interviewers, and even Accountancy students who can’t form a simple sentence in English. Heck, even auditors, engineers (me included), neurosurgeons, politicians (especially them), store clerks, and wrestlers, and yes even a washed-up actress or a deranged senator, can pick up a useful item or two in this book.
o O o
[This is the unedited review (updated) I originally submitted to MOD. The edited version was published on the June 2013 issue of the magazine.]
COMPARISONS IN POETRY
(DUNGOL by Rebecca T. Añonuevo, 2018)
When I first got hold of this book from the author herself, award-winning writer and poet, Rebecca T. Añonuevo, the first feeling that came to me was intrigue. Yes, intrigue. Intrigue about the title. Intrigue about reviewing her book. And maybe goosebumps, too.
What is Dungol? I immediately asked myself, fast-browsing through the pages of the book. “Dungol” in my initial impression means hardheadedness! It reminds me of a Marvel superhero character, the Hulk, so much immeasurable brute force, immovable if met with resistance, and yet when offered a gentle hand, you’ll find gentleness in return.
In the course of reading the book, I'm learning Hiligaynon, a couple of Cebuano and Ilokano and an Arab words. A little dialect shock but I got the flow. I did some research and discovered Dungol can mean both “stubborn” and “naughty” and, when prefixed, kadungol, the “hardheadedness” becomes “Uncontrollable,” “irrepressible,” and “determined.” Very nice!
The poems are clearly descriptive and in general written in Filipino, but to better appreciate their messages, a reader who is not well-versed with dialects like Hiligaynon needs to know the meaning of the words she used to title them. One, however, don’t need to be a polyglot to understand her poetry. Just the mere meaning, so that your thoughts can dance with the verses, and know what she wants to express.
In this regard, I thought, rather than making the usual review, I’ll let you glimpse on the ardor and passion of Añonuevo’s kind of poetry.
I cannot help but admire the courage of the author to reject (Ginasikway) the evils prevailing during the Yellow Regime (the time when the first half of the verses in the book were written); to say it aloud seeking tranquility (Kalinungan) in a society full of violence and terrorism; in a pond (Sa Punong) full of social injustices and human scruples; calculating (Kuwentahon) the numerical difference between public service and corruption, between benevolence and greed, in the country’s educational infrastructure.
The author has an ingenuity for writing verses about comparisons of seemingly incomparable things. Imagine a hammock (Aboy-aboy) to describe the simplicity and innocence of life; a cat (Kuring), black as it is and traditionally ominous, it’s movement symbolic of life’s bridges and crossroads; a scratch (Garas) compared to the sound of words, the gesture of people and the history of society; the plague (pisti), which is – truthfully – the menace of drugs, like rats breeding everywhere and thriving, and so hard to exterminate and; of all the nasty things imaginable, a painful boil (Uyapos), mistaken for embrace (as in the Tagalog word “yapos”), but literally and literarily described, with a merciless prod to remove from existence – Requiem aeternam dona eis (“Eternal rest grant unto them”).
Like Ginhalad, when it is a proper noun, it pertains to a deity of old, in this case the diyos ng liwanag (god of light). Uncapitalized, it means “to sacrifice” or “to make an offering.” When the two meanings are intertwined, you get poetic entreaty for immediate guidance and prayer for deliverance against the glare of temptation and avarice.
There’s one title, Lubag, which has a couple of meanings both in Tagalog and Bisaya. To the Tagalogs, it pertains to “calm” and also “the lowering of the sail,” while in the Bisayan counterpart, it means “distortion” in one hand and “twist of fate” on the other. When you read each paragraph of this poem, the sense of the different meanings becomes tangential, overwhelming and seeking grace like an (un)bearable lightness of being.
The title Dungol, as I mentioned earlier, can also mean “naughty,” so does one poem titled Nalibogan. No, it most certainly does not contained lustful thoughts, but rather the cries of the “confused.” For while the Tagalog word libog means “lust,” in the Bisayan dialect it translates to “confusion.” Written barely two years into President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, here again is another comparison, this time the two sides of an argument, which has already polluted the world of social media: President Duterte’s war on drugs and the alleged “collateral damages” that it brought. While some noisily accused the president of the so-called extra-judicial killing, there’s still another question less noisy but real, two actually: “What about the many who have died, families ruined, because of drugs?” and “What about the deaths incurred on the side of law enforcement to fight this menace?” The author laid that out, too – in poetry!
Incidentally, libog can also mean “desire” whether it be of the flesh, or of the intellectual or adventurous kind. As such, another comparison: The “desire” of the yellow opposition and the pedophile-filled church to ruin the president using the propaganda of e-j-k which initially “confused” the people, and yet the “desire” to rid society of the menace removed the confusion, and the people overwhelmingly approve of it as established by the surveys (Reviewer’s opinion).
Of course, one will always have a favorite, and mine is Dumduma, which in Hiligaynon means “memory” and in Ilokano, “diversity.” Here the author injects her own memories of love with the on-going peace talk at the time she wrote the poem. She equates “memories” of real, passionate, experiences with that of many attempts to seek peace between two “diverse” ideology, both tired and heart-broken, and yet unwilling to yield.
It wouldn’t be complete without a poem having the book title itself – Dungol. Oh I love this! Inspiring amidst the tandem of stubborness and fear, with a tinge of naughtiness – “Sa kalaliman ng gabi, nakabalot ako ng kumot, ang kamay mo sa aking balakang. Walang dahilan, hindi dahilan ang ulan, ang lamig, ang pagod.” (In the depth of night, I’m heavily sheathed, your hand in my waist. There’s no reservation, not the rain, or cold, or fatigue.) Wow! Apart from this, the poem inhales and exhales the determination to reach the quest, the peak, the ecstacy of it (dungol can also be equated to the Tagalog lunggati).
I mentioned but a sample of the 76 poems inside the book. It has a lot more of the unusual poetic titles with unique free verses that only Rebecca T. Añonuevo could put across to the would-be perusers. How about a poem on the cracking of an egg, or related to the 2009 Indie film Yanggaw (literally “affliction”), or titled X and Zombi? To those, who are reading this review, it’s your time to be intrigued.
THE NEED TO EXPOSE
(THE DARK SIDE OF CATHOLICISM by Armando Ang, 2005)
First of all, I was baptized a Catholic, the only one in my immediate family. My dad is a Baptist, my mom as many in our family belong to the Pentecostal Faith. Further into our family, there are also Seven Day Adventist and Inglesia Ni Cristo followers, but I’m among the very few who was baptized a Catholic. I kept asking this question to my mom and my aunt when they were still alive, my dad having passed away when I was very young. They couldn’t answer me satifactorily.
One more thing, I graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, the first and premier Catholic University in the Philippines and Asia. It was, however, during my stay and schooling inside this Catholic university that I was awakened spiritually. Yes, during our Theology class, for three years under a very charismatic teacher, Ms. Belen Pereras.
I first got to read the Bible when I was in high school, but it was during college that I got deep into scriptural teachings. After reading the entire Bible a couple of times, I found myself in a quandary. I found myself in a religion that is very much in conflict with GOD’s laws and our Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings. So, I went to ask Ms. Pereras about it. “Why do the priests, in particular, and the Catholic Church, in general, espouse a doctrine that is in conflict with Bibical wisdom?” She, hesitantly, perhaps not wanting to offend the religion and the clergy for which she belongs, did not answer me directly. Her indirect answer, however, was clear enough: “Who would you rather believe, the words of GOD or the doctrines of men?” Since then, I imbued myself to seek the truth. I read the Bible over and over again and, together with reliable sources of relevant information, I am enlightened. I unequivocally renounced my Catholic faith.
Why am I mentioning these? Well, because I’m reviewing Armando Ang’s book The Dark Side of Catholicism and my change of faith is very much relevant.
The focus of this review will not be about whether the author is telling the truth or that he is right or wrong, but more on how the contents were written, and if the contents have merits. It is, however, my personal decision, and opinion, to say if I agree or disagree on certain aspects of the contents and to give comments on them.
It took me more than a year to read and review this “updated edition” (423 pages including preface, but excluding the indices). I browsed it once and I already read it twice. To be thorough and to maintain my reputation as a researcher myself, I also looked into some of his references. Most of his references, I have already encountered before.
From the predominance of biblical quotes and citations, it is clearly understood that the author is well-verse in the Scriptures – a biblical Christian, quite rare now-a-days.
The author’s Prepace and Preface to this Edition, are well-meant. He even wrote a letter on the first page addressed to “My Friends in Christ,” which most presumably include Catholics. He wrote “Nothing in the book is written against the Catholics. On the contrary it is meant to enlighten them.” Well, in my reading, nothing perhaps against the Catholic believers as a whole, but with the revelations of scandals, conspiracies and corruptions, this book lambasts the Catholic church hierarchy with the full force of detailed proofs and well-research documents.
Armando Ang dissected the many flawed dogma of the Catholics church such as the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the made-up dogmas about Mary and the Marian cult miracles, the scruples and schisms inside the Catholic church, the extra unbiblical sacraments and the pagan traditions it adopted, with precision using as his knives the written Scriptures and factual, historical and extant referential documents. Added features of this book are the chapters on “Clergy Sexual Abuse,” “The Murder of Pope John Paul I,” and “The Antichrist.”
I would probably rate the three added chapters as the most intriguing. Yet, as I’ve said, defended by thorough research and factual references, one cannot help but agree on its merit.
As I went through chapter after chapter of this book, I begin to admire the patience, resourcefulness and dedication of the author. It’s full of lengthy discourse, complete with citations, footnotes and sidebars where they are needed. I’m an author myself and I know the difficulty of compiling information and laying them down in accordance to a desired concept. This book, in my opinion, is a real hard job to accomplish.
The author made sure that it would be easy to read with the dissertation following a very fluid pattern. The chapters are well separated. Each chapter has a main subject and the sub-topics are clearly defined. While the author, being true to his word, didn’t say anything against the Catholic church, his research – the compilation of the treatises he puts forward in the book – did all the talking.
The book succesfully debunks the glorification of the Virgin Mary and exposes the many conspiracies to propagate it. It details the many scandals committed by the leaders of the Catholic church trashing the claim of infallibility of the popes. The book even reveals aspects of the church defending “child sexual abuse” with “technical theological terms” and protecting convicted pedophile priests. On the same manner, it also reveals that aside from “allowing child abusing priests to remain in the position of spiritual leadership, they have been covering up the fact that they have allowed homosexuals to remain in the priesthood.” Subsequently, seminaries became the breeding ground of homosexual practices. Clearly, the book points out, the many dark. evil and unbiblical arguments and deeds behind Catholicism.
This is a terrific read for former Catholics, for Catholics who are in doubt of their faith, for Catholics who are searching for the truth, and for the new breed that call themselves “Christian Catholics.”
The only drawback, perhaps, that I can think of, as per experience reviewing books, is the ennui that goes with perusing such a long compilation. However, for one who is truly seeking to find and know the truth, no reading, no matter how long can be boring. My suggestion is to read them by the chapter, and read them only when you are up to it.