i guess ALAMAT NG GUBAT (literal translation: myth of the forest), his socio-political novella masked as a fable, was a sign. we should expect more amazing books from the guy who started his writing career with A B N K K B S N P L KO (literal translation: wow, i can read now).
with ANG MGA KAIBIGAN NI MAMA SUSAN (literal translation: mama susan’s friends), we get a new format from bob ong: the journal.
most high school and college students here in metro manila are familiar with the journal: a semester/school year-long project from english/filipino teachers who are either punishing us, or want us to become prolific writers.
and that’s where the story of ANG MGA KAIBIGAN NI MAMA SUSAN begins–with a journal our main character (galo) has to fill for his college professor who lost his first journal. and just out of habit, and because he didn’t want to waste the thick notebook he had used for the journal, he decided to continue writing.
my personal experience with the journal project is that it’s hard to fill. we’re supposed to write about our days, but when you’re in school most of the time, what else can you write but how every day was the same as the day before? and it’s not like you can write about your teachers without the fear of having said teacher find out; and then there’s the fear of getting sent to the school councilor if you try to write something out of the box.
galo doesn’t have these fears, obviously. then again, he was able to prove his theory early on that his professor didn’t even read the journals they were submitting. so galo writes about his heartbreak, his financial and domestic problems, etcetera.
it’s only when he decides to return to his province that his journal writing takes a darker turn.
something has happened in his grandmother’s house during the time he had stayed in manila. the house, while still in good condition, seems to have gone back to the past, instead of riding the present wave of technology. after living in the world of cable television and network gaming, galo is trying to enjoy the simple provincial life–and failing.
without anything to do, galo is witness to all the weird things happening inside his grandmother’s house. the unexplained noise, the scary sculptures–and his grandmother’s friends who are freaky in their own right.
ANG MGA KAIBIGAN NI MAMA SUSAN starts out as a fun recollection of the late 90’s, and then takes on the tones of fanaticism and horror as the story goes along. this book is definitely not for the easily-scared.