Book: Leche


After thirteen years of living in the U.S., Vince returns to his birthplace, the Philippines. As Vince ventures into the heat and chaos of the city, he encounters a motley cast of characters, including a renegade nun, a political film director, arrogant hustlers, and the country’s spotlight-driven First Daughter. Haunted by his childhood memories and a troubled family history, Vince unravels the turmoil, beauty, and despair of a life caught between a fractured past and a precarious future.

It’s Filipino Friday time! And I was really hoping I’d be writing about a book that I’d be recommending wholeheartedly. I’m not. Obviously.

A bit of background. I found Leche while browsing in National Bookstore. I wasn’t really looking for any particular title at the time, I just wanted new books because my pile at home was dwindling. And then I saw Leche. It was a novel about a Filipino heading back to the Philippines after being raised in Hawaii.

Interesting? I didn’t really know. That’s all I knew coming into this book. Well, that and the fact that this is not locally produced. A printing press in the United States believed enough in this book to publish it.

Unfortunately, I can’t see whatever it is that publishers saw.

I mean, sure, Leche is very easy reading. It took me three days to finish the whole thing. And that’s while commuting! But there’s a difference between easy-reading and engaging.

Though, yes, Leche was very engaging at first. Even with its heightened version of reality. It was when the timeline become wonky that the book lost me.

Here’s a bit of backgrounder: Leche is set in the early 90’s. Cory Aquino is still president, and Kris Aquino is the darling of the media. But author Linmark thought it would be interesting to compress the 1990s to the 2000s of the Philippines and present it as Leche.

Instead of making cute (though odd) romantic-comedy films like Pido Dida and Magic to Win, Kris Aquino was already known as the Massacre Queen, hosting talk shows where she’s the one who’s doing the most talking, and is already broadcasting her secrets to the world.

Imelda Marcos is a megalomaniac who cuckolded her husband in revenge against his infidelity.

And Metro Manila is filled to the brim with closeted homosexuals, who all convene in a place called Leche.

Now, I don’t really mind heightened reality. Used correctly, it can be a very powerful tool in opening the eyes of the public. But at which point is heightened reality a form of satire, and at which point does it become too much that it’s just–wrong?

That’s my problem with Leche. I might not be the smartest reader, but I’m a reader nonetheless. Books are supposed to enrich (if not entertain); but at this end of the book, I’m left wondering if what I read was tongue-in-cheek or crass. If it was an attempt at a wake-up call, or the writings of a disillusioned ex-local.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that if one doesn’t understand something, then that something must be good. But I’m not saying that my views on this book is the be all and end all. Which is why it’s important to see what other people have said about the book–

You Fight Like Anna Rice!
Kirkus Reviews
Bakit Why?

What I wrote is my opinion. Just my opinion.

But if you’re looking for something easy to read, then why not pick up Leche. And then make your own mind up and then tell me what you thought about it.

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