Book: Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin

"Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin" by Bob OngMula sa kasumpa-sumpang kahirapan at kalunos-lunos na kaignorantehan sa mundong kanyang kinagisnan, namulat si Marie sa tunay na mukha ng matamis at mapagpakasakit na pag-ibig. Ngunit makakayanan niya ba ang mga hamon ng bukas? Ano ang kanyang magiging kapalaran? Huwag na huwag palalampasin ang mga tagpo ngayong gabi sa telesineseryenobela na kumpleto sa pang-aapi, paghihiganti, impostor, amnesia, kasal at diary!

I think I found my worst book for 2012.

To translate, here’s what the book synopsis says: “from the cursed poverty and pitiful ignorance of the world she grew up in, Marie found the sweet and painful truth about love. But can she face the challenges of tomorrow? What will her fate be? Don’t miss the scenes in tonight’s tele-cine-series-novela that’s complete with maltreatment, impostors, amnesia, a wedding and a diary!”

Doesn’t make sense? It wouldn’t unless you’re familiar with the tropes of soap operas. Yes, of soap operas in general, and not just the ones in the Philippines. Though, I think the point of the book is to satirize the local entertainment industry. And it does exactly that, to an extent. Most of the time though, it read like lazy and haphazard writing.

Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin contains three “stories”, ridiculing three of the more popular genres in the local entertainment scene: the action movies that star politicians in the lead, the horror films filled with characters who react unrealistically, and the romance drama filled with deception and secrets. I’m actually surprised they didn’t go for the fantasy genre too–though, that genre seems to already be in the decline nowadays.

I’ve always seen the good side of every Bob Ong book. But this time, no matter how hard I look, I just can’t find anything good in this book. It’s not exceptionally written, and it treats its readers as if we’re in on the joke. Well, we’re not.

And this isn’t because I’m writing for the industry. My friends know that I’m the first one to point out mistakes–even with my own works. It would be foolish of me to say that there’s no formula being followed–not to mention, I’d be lying too. But stories made for movies and television are more complicated than what is shown in Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin.

The book takes everything bad about the industry, ties them all together, and presents them as truth. Or as semblance of truth. But they forget that there are good things about the telenovela genre too. It provides a temporary escape for those who just want to take a break from real life. And sure, the events don’t always make sense, but it’s not real life. It’s fictional. If people wanted to watch something that happens in real life, they’d watch the news. For escaping reality, you have to veer away from reality.

I’m sure some people enjoyed reading Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin. If you did, good for you. But this one isn’t for me.

book: ang mga kaibigan ni mama susan

"ang mga kaibigan ni mama susan" by bob ongwho would’ve thought that bob ong, whose first four books were oddball compilations of anecdotes that ranged from hilarious to snarky, would turn out to be such a serious writer of prose?

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.

find out what other people are saying about the book:
good reads
simply human
and in tagalog, at alvin galvan’s blog