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.

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Movie: El Presidente

"El Presidente"

The story of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Philippine Republic’s President from his initiation in to the Katipunan by Bonifacio himself,victorious battles and eventually his rise to presidency. The film deals also his about his controversial relationship with Andres Bonifacio and his eventual execution.

This film was a complete waste of time and money. Seriously.

I’m not saying I’m all knowing when it comes to Philippine history. I’m not. Being a reader, I might have read more than the regular Filipino, but I am in no way claiming that I’m an expert. But even I know when something is bull. Like El Presidente.

If actor/producer Jeorge Estragan wanted to play the hero people can look up to in a historical film, he should’ve chosen a different hero to make a biopic of. Emilio Aguinaldo is not the cleanest hero, nor is he an innocent leader; pretending otherwise is not just a punch to the gut of our history and public records, but an insult to the numerous teachers who have been teaching Philippine history.

Watching El Presidente, I imagine there was a permanent look of horror affixed on my face throughout the screening. Everything felt wrong. There were instances where my mom (a big Nora Aunor fan who wanted to watch the film for Nora) kept shushing me just so I wouldn’t argue with the film out loud.

I don’t even think they thought this film through. The film felt like a collection of clips put together with the hopes that the viewers are familiar enough (but not too much) with the history of the Philippines that they’d piece things together. There was no narrative flow as things were allowed to happen chronologically, and characters popped in and out with the barest of introductions or explanations.

I humored my mom’s request to watch this film because so many people praised Asiong Salonga from last year’s film festival. I hoped that El Presidente would be half as good (or at least, as entertaining) as Estregan’s entry from last year. This being a Mark Meilly film, I admit that my hopes rose a little.

But El Presidente is pure crap. The only good thing I can say about it is that the cinematography is amazing. The rest? Acting, costumes, props–this movie might have cost a lot to make, but it sure doesn’t look like it.

Movie: Ang Katiwala

"Ang Katiwala"

Ruben loses his job as a carpenter in a small town in Zambales where he lives with his wife Edna and their 10-­‐year old son, Budoy. Desperate to make ends meet, he accepts a job as a caretaker of an abandoned property in Quezon City. Ruben soon finds out that the previous owner of the house is an important figure in the country’s history.

I must say, I’m very conflicted as to what I want to say about Ang Katiwala.

Overall, I liked it. But for the entirety of the film, I kept expecting ghouls or monsters to pop out without a moment’s notice. Which, I feel, detracted a lot from the message the film wants to say.

Ang Katiwala tells the story of a caretaker who just wants to make ends meet. But as he explores the life of Manuel L. Quezon, the previous owner of the house he’s taking care of, he begins to dream. The former president’s life story is full of trials, but he managed to come up on top. He managed to become president, and went on to become instrumental in the country’s fight for true independence. And as Ruben, the caretaker, absorbs the late president’s life story, he thinks that he can overcome his obstacles too. He starts to believe that he too can be as great as Manuel L. Quezon.

But not everyone is destined for greatness. Some of us are just placeholders, waiting for the time when greatness will arrive.

Now, let’s go back to why I kept expecting monsters to pop out:

The film is dark. Not figuratively dark, it’s just dark. And because the main location (the house), is so old and so empty, you can’t help but feel a sense of foreboding. Every movement of shadow made me narrow my eyes, waiting for a spirit to disengage from a furniture, or for a creature to rise from the grounds of the house. And during one of the film’s climactic scenes, I wasn’t alone in thinking that a bad guy wasn’t just a bad guy, but rather, a zombie. Especially with the actor’s shamble.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the visuals. I love the darkness of the film. I just don’t think it suited the film well, as it nudged viewers (me) into feeling the movie was something else than what it was. Then again, what could have been done to change it? Taking away the darkness would also strip the house of the mystery it holds. So it’s a bit problematic, isn’t it?

But these are just my musings. Why don’t you check out the film for yourself?

Ang Katiwala will still screen at the following venues, date and time:
July 26: 9:00PM – Little Theater (CCP)
July 27: 1:30PM – Greenbelt 3 / 6:15PM – MKP (CCP)
July 28: 4:00PM – Trinoma / 9:00PM – Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP)
July 29: 1:30PM – Greenbelt 5

book: pacific rims

"pacific rims" by rafe bartholomewaccording to the time stamp on my inset image, i bought this book last july. and i spent close to two weeks reading the book. does that mean i didn’t like the book? no. it only means i had a harder time than usual reading it.

first of all, i’m not a fan of basketball. the only reason i picked up the book was because i was intrigued as to how the author, a foreigner, sees the philippines. modern-day philippines, and not the philippines in school textbooks. and second, i do take longer when reading non-fiction, than when i read something fictional. i don’t know why.

in the end though, only one thing was important to me. was the book worth buying? yes. and i’m glad i bought it.

PACIFIC RIMS reads a little like an underdog novel. you are introduced to your main characters, the ‘losers’ so to speak, and then you join their journey to become champions.

rafe bartholomew, the author, spent three years in the philippines to experience first hand the “unlikely love affair” the philippines has with basketball. having lived here all my life, i don’t actually get the “unlikely” part of the love affair. i’ve lived knowing that filipinos love basketball. i’ve never taken a liking to it, because of my ineptitude in sports, but i’ve seen enough of it to know that it’s a very filipino sport.

how so?

basketball is like a short soap-opera. you have heroes, antagonists, powers-that-be, all mixed with talent and chance. it’s a live theater production that people can relate to because it has simple rules. it’s entertainment in its purest form.

and like most popular soap-operas, it’s free to watch on television. and for a price, you can watch the magic live.

reading PACIFIC RIMS, i was amazed to find myself getting sucked into the world of philippine basketball. as i already mentioned, it’s an accepted part of life. i was just never a fan. and i’m not claiming that the book converted me into one. it hasn’t. but for the days that i’ve been reading the book, i felt part of that world.

i guess i should credit that to the author’s way of writing. it’s very inclusive. when you read mr. bartholomew’s accounts, you’re not just reading about his experience. you feel part of the action. also, the book doesn’t romanticize the sport, but you can see just how the author loves it. it comes off in the writing.

the best part? the actual games. i’ve seen a few basketball games, so i remember the exhilaration of watching it live. and the author was able to put that exhilaration into paper. you can really see (and feel) rafe bartholomew’s love for the game through the words. and because of that love, the words transform themselves into an experience you feel while reading his accounts.

and then there are the segues. basketball being an intrinsic part of filipino culture means it touches upon other parts of the filipino psyche. the author touches on some of them in the book as well: from how politics had involved itself in the game, to the integral part it plays in societies–it even has part of a chapter set in the world of entertainment.

the book trailer i’ve seen of PACIFIC RIMS mentioned that it’s not just a book about basketball, it’s a book about the philippines. and i agree. i can also say that it’s one of the most accurate description i’ve seen of the philippines in print. then again, most of the things i’ve read about the country are either praise releases, or condemnations. so i salute rafe bartholomew, a foreigner who is more filipino than most of our celebrities, for writing about the philippines without prejudice and bias.

but before i completely end this post, i just have to mention something. rafe bartholomew’s haunts in the book, ateneo de manila, araneta coliseum, and even his stint in BAKEKANG, a local soap opera, where the places i’ve been to during the same time. his first year in the philippines, when he was researching at the ateneo library, was my last year of school in ateneo; BAKEKANG was one of the first shows i handled during my time as a features writer for a local entertainment website; and as for araneta coliseum? i’ve never been there during pba games, but i’ve been there (and around the area) for so many times because of events i had to cover.

why do i note this? because throughout rafe bartholomew’s three years in the philippines, while he was moving around the same circles i was, i never saw the things he saw. for me, that time was a new chapter in my life, but everything was pretty much same old, same old. but for him, it was a whole different ball game. pun, not intended.

the chamber of ten

"the chamber of ten" by christopher golden and tim lebbonmy first exposure to christopher golden was through media tie-in books of BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL. but it wasn’t until THE LOST SLAYER series that i actually started actively looking for other christopher golden books.

the first book i found was STRANGEWOOD–but it was not the first book of him i’ve read. of course, discounting the fact that i’ve read the media tie-in books. STRANGEWOOD was also my introduction into the harsh life of being a christopher golden fan in the philippines–of how hard it is to look for books by him in this country.

thank goodness for FULLY BOOKED.

of course, that’s a story for another day. for now, i will talk about the latest release from christopher golden and tim lebbon: THE CHAMBER OF TEN.

THE CHAMBER OF TEN is the third book of the HIDDEN CITIES series, but each book stands alone on its own. which is a good thing, since i’ve yet to find a copy of the first book.

a little backgrounder: the HIDDEN CITIES series of books all rely on cities around the world that are rich in culture, and have histories of magic. the first one was set in london, the second in new orleans, and THE CHAMBER OF TEN was set in venice.

i admit to being caught a little off-guard when i started reading this particular book. i guess it’s because i’ve been reading a lot of non-fantasy books lately (and while FEED is fantastical, it was given a biography-like treatment). in any case, the first chapter gave me a bit of a jolt.

one character is a mind-reader. or a psychic. anyway you want to put it, he’s sensitive to psychic links. and the character tries to write it off as something that can be scientifically proven (in the second or third chapter), but you know immediately it’s not science-based. it’s magic.

so that was a little jarring how another character just mentions it in passing in ther first chapter.

that aside though, christopher golden (and tim lebbon) definitely delivers another page-turning adventure.

i’ve always been amazed at how two authors can co-write and produce one good book. GOOD OMENS by neil gaiman and terry pratchett certainly comes to mind when speaking of great books that were collaborated on. and in the two HIDDEN CITIES books i’ve read, i’ve never been able to distinguish between christopher golden and tim lebbon.

granted, i’ve yet to read a book by the latter. but i like to think that i have a grasp of christopher golden’s voice as a writer, having read most of the books he’s published (through thorough combing of many bookstores in the city). so i really admire how the two were able to spin THE CHAMBER OF TEN and make it seem as if only one person was telling the story.

but would i recommend this book? to those who are into mysteries and fantasy, yes. but unlike STRANGEWOOD which i recommended to everyone i know (i still do, actually), i don’t think THE CHAMBER OF TEN is for everyone.