Book: Heroes and Villains

"Heroes and Villains"

‘Heroes and Villains’ offers 17 racy, true stories about remarkable people who lived and interacted and did extraordinary things in the Philippines

There’s Enrique, Magellan’s slave, who stayed in the boat while Lapu-Lapu killed his master. And Philip II of Spain, after whom we were named, who married five wives without having to cut anyone’s head off. And the Hero of Makati, Pio Isidro del Pilar, farm boy from Culi-Culi, arrested and left for dead by the Spanish police, an early Katipunero who rose to become general of the Revolutionary Armyy and the Filipino Republic, traveling scandalously with a pretty mistress.

The stories may read like a tale of adventure or a gossip column, but they’re fully documented and supported by historical facts.

It does read like a gossip column, and the stories are supported by historical facts. But then again, for years and years, we’ve been taught falsified history by teachers and professors that were also supported by historical facts. Not that I’m discounting what Carmen Guerrero Nakpil has written. I’m just saying that, since none of us lived during the time these events happened, none of us can actually claim what really happened and what didn’t.

But that’s beside the point.

Heroes and Villains is mostly a fast read, mainly because of its gossip column type of writing. Which is genius, because masking history with gossip is one surefire way of people intrigued. If this was by design, I have to say that author Nakpil is a genius.

Unfortunately, not all of the stories are as juicy. And most of the stale stories appear near the end, which makes the read a bit disappointing (and boring) as the book winds down. I know the articles were presented in chronological order–arranged by when they happened–but I must wonder if it would have been had the author decided to jump around time, so the duds didn’t have to come one right after the other.

The last three articles were particularly sleep-inducing. The last one, the seventeenth “true story” especially so because it reads like a recap of the other sixteen stories.

That said, Heroes and Villains is still a must read. Especially if you’re looking for something that would help you remember our history. Gossip lasts longer than lectures, and Heroes and Villains provide gossip-like information with great style.

Book: Lost and Found, and other essays

"Lost and Found" by Rica Bolipata-SantosIn 2005, Rica Bolipata-Santos lost her father, suffered from her son’s worsening condition, and discovered salvation in writing. In 2007, she won the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award for her first collection of essays. According to the judges, her ‘provocative and well-shaped essays’ were ‘luminous, little narratives.’

In Lost and Found, Bolipata-Santos continues traveling the terrain of the mundane and domestic, still unafraid to find gravitas in the tiniest of experiences. In these twenty-six articles she wrote from 2005-2009 for the Philippine Star, Bolipata-Santos trains her eye on everyday things, using words to transform the ordinary into something revelatory.

First, a disclaimer: Ma’am Rica was my college professor for Modern Drama—that alone was reason for me to buy this book. And because of that, I’m going to be a little biased in talking about this book—because while it’s not something I like to read, I’ve enjoyed it immensely because I love Ma’am Rica’s mode of teaching with anecdotes from her life, and reading her words is the next best thing.

Lost and Found, and other essays is a collection of articles Ma’am Rica wrote for the Philippine Star. This information is a bit redundant, as you’ve already read the bit from the book’s blurb I posted, but I thought it was worth repeating, as it is what it is. There is no overarching theme that I can discern while reading the articles—though, you do see where Ma’am Rica’s interests lie in the topics she chose to write about: motherhood, family, personality and being who she is. But that’s not exactly and overarching theme is it?

While most collection of essays or stories, or whatnots, usually need a binding theme, this one doesn’t. Then again, anthologies usually collect works from different authors, and they’re usually geared for a certain audience. . . I don’t think Lost and Found is geared towards one. This book is, in my opinion, geared for the general public’s consumption. If the general public were interested in reading non-romance, non-Tagalog books.

Overall, and without bias, the book is a great way to pass the time, or as a way to get your mind off the other things in one’s life. And with bias, I think the book is an amazing collection of things that make Ma’am Rica who she is: a combination of wit, warmth and love. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve met her in person, and have spent four months as her student (and more, as a student who was hoping to get her again as a professor for another class), but I’ve always found Ma’am Rica’s words to be just as exuberant as who she is in person.

Ma’am Rica is one of the reasons why I’m still writing blogs. It’s become one of my goals to write the way she does: letting who I am infuse the words I write, and letting my voice carry in a medium full of other voices wanting to be heard. I do think I still have a long way to go though.

Instead of my usual links to other blog posts about the book, I’m going to end this particular post with my favorite Ma’am Rica quote; something she tells us, her students, as we leave her class: “be good, be brave, be safe.”