Book: Si Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu’t Pitong Pusong

"Si Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu't Pitong Pusong"

Bago naglaho si Janus habang naglalaro ng TALA, nakita ni Manong Joey sa utak nito ang hinahanap nilang paraluman.

Sinundo ni Renzo si Mica sa Balanga para protektahan ito sa Angono at dahil may kaugnayan ito sa paralumang nakita ni Manong Joey kay Janus.

Samantala, nasa Kalibutan pa rin sina Manong Isyo para hanapin si Mira na malamang na nakuha ng mga mambabarang. Walang kaalam-alam ang lahat kung nasaan na si Janus hanggang sa makita ni Manong Joey na humihiwalay ang anino ni Renzo sa katawan nito at maaaring matagal na pala itong ginagamit ng Tiyanak!

Two years have passed since the second book off the Janus Silang series was released. Since then, the titular character has appeared in comics form, on stage, and was acquired by a television network to be turned into a soap opera. I don’t know what happens to Janus Silang in the future, but getting turned into a franchise seems to have worked in his favor. At least, novel-wise.

Janus Silang’s third book is the strongest offering from the series yet. Although I have qualms about author Edgar Samar’s decision to dive right into the action, I must say that the pacing in this installment is the most solid it’s been since the title first launched.

The characters all get proper development this time around–especially Mica. She who became almost an afterthought in the second book is given the right spotlight, and is used perfectly to balance the world of the fantastical with the normal. I also have to applaud Samar for Mica’s participation in this book, setting her arc up perfectly–and giving her a satisfying resolution. Well, a satisfying one for this book.

Plot-wise, Pitumpu’t Pitong Pusong has what it’s predecessors don’t: a clear structure of where the characters have come from, where they are going, and where they end up. Twists are used sparingly, making them more effective. And it is clear now that Samar knows where he is taking his story, whereas it seemed like he was just pulling things out of thin air before.

And most importantly, for me, the book doesn’t read like an educational book anymore. Old Tagalog words are still sprinkled throughout the narrative–but they feel more organically woven in, used by characters who understandably speak in a more archaic way. But in general, the words used by the novel are more colloquial. More relatable. Easier to read.

Honestly, when I picked up Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu’t Putong Pusong, it felt like a burden. I bought the book because I wanted to know how the story goes. After all, I do like the premise of the series. But after two books that weren’t as engrossing as I hoped it would be, I sort of lost hope that things would get better with the new book.

I’m glad that I was wrong.

Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu’t Pitong Pusong is the book that I always wanted the series to be. And I am praying that the next installments would keep this quality.

book: para kay b

"para kay b" by ricky leegood day, reader!

if you’re wondering why the blog suddenly took an unannounced hiatus, well, i have two words for you: “work” and “deadlines.” i’m sure most of you are familiar with the two terms and how it can wreak havoc on your social lives–or total lack of one.

for my return to reading and blogging, i figured i should start with a filipino novel–one that has been recommended by many friends and colleagues over the past year: PARA KAY B by mr. ricky lee.

ALAM mo BA ang ibig sabihin ng “CONJURE”? Isa ka bang Capital S? Me quota ang pag-ibig. Sa bawat limang umiibig ay isa lang ang magiging maligaya. Kasama ka ba sa quota?

for my non-filipino readers, this is what the above says: “do you know the meaning of “conjure”? are you a capital s? love has a quota. for every five person who loves, only one of them will end up happy. are you part of the quota?

to tell you the truth, i don’t know what to say about the book. is it because it’s been a while since i last wrote about a book i’ve read? maybe. then again, that didn’t stop me when i started this blog. but i’ve been staring at my screen for two days now and i still have no idea what to write.

i’d love to say that i enjoyed the book, but it took me a week to finish it. which means i didn’t. i did like the book, but the liking didn’t come until the aforementioned two days passed, after i digested everything that i’ve read. so PARA KAY B is something that grows on you. i don’t know if it’s because every single person who recommended the book to me were raving about it, or if it’s because some of the people who gave blurbs were people i highly respect… but i had expectations. and the book didn’t meet it.

i know i keep saying i shouldn’t have high expectations of books i normally wouldn’t pick up, but i can’t help myself.

and after spending two days thinking about why i didn’t like the book came to this realization: i had a hard time connecting with the book’s tone.

PARA KAY B starts of with a serious tone and then becomes conversational; or at least the first three mini love stories did. so it wasn’t until the fourth mini love story that i started to get the hang of reading the book. and by that time, the tone had become much more uniform–it wasn’t too conversational, but it wasn’t that formal either. it was somewhere in the middle. and i finally found the book engaging.

PARA KAY B has an interesting take on five different kinds of love–and how four out of five people will never find true happiness in their relationships. from my understanding, the book’s message is that sometimes a person can (figuratively) blind themselves when it comes to the person they love, and this is why only one out of five people succeeds when falling in love.

but, in my opinion, the book contradicts its claim that “for every five person who loves, only one of them will end up happy.” because out of the five mini love stories it presents, two of them end with a semblance of happiness. that is, if we don’t get into the book’s twist–because aside from completely throwing away the mentioned claim, it also spoils the book for anyone who has yet to read it.

if you want to read it, that is.

so do i recommend the book? for what my opinion is worth, yes, i do. it’s a book that forces you to think. but much like marianne villanueva’s THE LOST LANGUAGE, it’s a book that isn’t for people who just want something light to read. it’s a book you have to give time to, something you have to digest.

but that’s just my opinion. here are a few more from the vast world of the internet to help you decide: knowread/knowrite’s review, kapisanan’s take, and fellow filipino book blogger bookmarked’s reading of the book.

book: rosallea

"rosallea" by gilda olvidadoauthor gilda olvidado has a weird love affair with television; everything she writes gets turned into a television soap series.

i don’t think that’s going to happen with ROSALLEA.

ROSALLEA is a fantasy novel that dwells in the world of witch doctors and shamans, or in filipino term: mangkukulam. the story centers on the title character, rosallea, who discovers that she is of magical descent–and that she is being hailed as the salvation of the good witch doctors.

the main plot of the story is for good to triumph over evil. and with the title character being the “chosen one” that was the story i was expecting to read. instead, the book reads as a very long beginnings story.

i’ve never read miss gilda olvidado’s work before this. i have seen some of her works that had been turned into television soap series (because of work), but none of the scripts were actually written by her. those obviously do not count.

but if ROSALLEA is like her other works, then i don’t think i’ll be picking up another one of her books.

i’m sure there are people who would like ROSALLEA. it’s a book aimed at making you feel good about being good; it’s a black-and-white story of good versus evil; and it’s quite easy to read. but i’m just not one of those people.

my main problem with the book is how it’s written in tagalog–but it’s peppered with pop culture references and english jargons that clash horribly with the chosen setting: a province ruled by shamans. with NAERMYTH, i was able to accept that all the characters were speaking in english, because the whole book was in english. ROSALLEA can’t say the same thing. the business was written completely in tagalog (some of which are rarely used in real life), and the dialogue was a mix of deep tagalog and cannibalized english.

but the reason i can’t get behind the book is simple: i can’t relate to the main character. at all. she’s the perfect daughter, the most amazing student, and the best friend you can never have. she’s perfect. so while reading the book, you don’t feel anything for her. you know she’s going to get out of the whole thing alive, and barely hurt.

working for television, i know that most filipinos have an obsession for that perfect protagonist whose life could break the strongest man. but i don’t think that’s what you need in a book hero. especially one that’s targeted to the young adults, or the children. readers need a hero to emulate, to relate to and look up to. we don’t want a perfect hero. we want one that’s believable.

would i recommend ROSALLEA? at around 400 pesos, i would suggest that you just borrow it from someone who already has a copy. it’s not a must-buy.

movie: shake, rattle and roll xii

shake rattle and roll 12it’s metro manila film festival (mmff) season once again!

every year, i try to watch as many mmff movies as i can. and i always prioritize SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL, the horror franchise that’s been invading christmases since… well, since 2005. or maybe 2004. i’m hazy on the details. have i been successful? no.

but one thing i’ve noticed in the three SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL movies i have seen (in recent years), there’s always one episode that’s outstanding and well made. of, course that’s not discounting the other episodes which were also good. in the first one i saw since the franchise’s reboot, it was “YAYA” with iza calzado and nash aguas. but it had a strong contender with “LRT” that starred keempee de leon, manilyn reynes, eugene domingo and a slew of forgettable young stars.

i wasn’t able to watch the franchise the year after that, but two years ago i attended the premiere night for SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL X–the tenth movie in the franchise. the strongest contender then was “NIEVES: ENGKANTO SLAYER” which starred marian rivera as the title character, and comedian pekto as her husband that all engkantadas (female elves) wanted for themselves. that year, it’s strongest contender was “CLASS PICTURE” which starred jean garcia as a catholic school girl’s worst nightmare: the nun from hell. though, since “NIEVES” is mostly comedy, i guess the best episode should be “CLASS PICTURE.”

this year, i had high hopes for SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL XII. i don’t know why, but i did. i guess it was because i’ve been enjoying watching the movies that i thought this year, they may have three mind-blowing episodes, instead of just two like they always do. now, i’m not saying the episodes these year were not as good as the previous years (i don’t think nothing can beat an evil christmas tree for the worst monster ever), but well– you be the judge.

here’s a breakdown of the three episodes:

MAMANYIKA” capitalizes on the creepy doll device. most everyone knows about the CHILD’S PLAY franchise, but one of the scariest doll story i’ve read about was in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. yes, i said “read” not “seen.” i still haven’t found a copy of it–but i’m sure it’s somewhere out here in the internet.

back to the story, “MAMANYIKA” is about a little girl who finds a doll at a cemetery. having lost her mother, she decides to take it home with her and pretend that it’s her mommy. when it starts talking and telling her “mama loves you,” it’s as if the little girl had found herself a new mother.

the problem is, the doll doesn’t like sharing the girl’s affections. and, logic says, no one likes a doll that comes to life. so that’s the main dilemma of this episode.

still of "punerarya"i don’t know exactly what i didn’t like about this episode. maybe it was the storytelling? maybe it was the acting? the editing? i don’t really know. but it felt lacking in something.

i chalked this off as filler, hoping the following episode would be better.

it was, in a way.

ISLA,” the second episode is about a mysterious young man who lives by himself in an island. by choice. according to him, he will stay in the island until he completes his promise–which he doesn’t reveal.

and then we have three happy-go-lucky friends who decides to take their vacation at the island. and they start talking about soul mates and destinies–and the female lead decides to go traipsing in the woods alone. smart move.

female lead decides to try finding out who her soul mate–who, of course, turns out to be the mysterious young man. but something also decides in making her the new queen of the under realm. and at this point, i figure that this episode was just an exercise in futility.

the premise of the episode was sound actually. the reason why my synopsis of the events are so lackluster is because i really disliked how the episode was made. it’s the classic story of persephone and hades, with an added filipino flavor. but when the only one likable character in the cast is the male lead’s sounding board–there must be something wrong with the casting, right?

near the end of the episode, i found myself cheering for the monster to kill off the main characters.

by the end of the second story, i found myself wondering what happened to the franchise. it was getting better. i mean, sure it was getting the effect it wanted: people were screaming inside the theater. but it was just cheap scares! that is, until “PUNERARYA” started.

it’s true what they say about saving the best for last. “PUNERARYA,” in my opinion, is one of the most well-written and well-made horror stories ever. and i think it now holds top position in my top five SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL episodes.

PUNERARYA” centers on a teacher who takes on the job of being tutor to two special children. the children’s father is the owner of a funeral parlor, and the family lives just behind their business. everything seems a little weird inside the family home and the funeral parlor, but the teacher thinks she’ll get used to it.

that is, until she discovers that her youngest charge is being maltreated. when he is forbidden to tell her more about the abuse he’s getting, he decides to tell her the family’s secret through hide-and-seek. but what the teacher discovers about the family is something she might not be able to handle. and it’s not something the family would like anyone else to find out about.

nothing is what it seems in this last episode of SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL XII. this is the kind of film you get when you have a very well-written story, and you partner it with an amazing production team. everything is planted. nothing is forgotten.

you will be screaming your lungs out.

PUNERARYA” alone is worth the admission price.

book: cat’s trail

"cat's trail" by elmer and maria cornelia damasoback in high school, a couple of my friends discovered CULTURE CRASH. it was a monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) comic book that featured four stories from four different writers: ONE DAY ISANG DIWA, PASIG, SOLSTICE BUTTERFLY and CAT’S TRAIL.

of the four titles, my favorite shifted from ONE DAY ISANG DIWA and CAT’S TRAIL whenever a new issue would come out. eventually though, CAT’S TRAIL became my sole favorite until the comic book stopped coming out. issue #15.5.

i experienced many firsts through CULTURE CRASH: my first comic collection, my first conventions–and the first time i really thought i wanted to get into the storytelling business. i had my passion for television even back then, but CULTURE CRASH afforded me that dream that storytelling as a career is something tangible.

i even had my first (and only, actually) comic coloring lesson from the guys of CULTURE CRASH!

around three years after the comic books stopped publishing, one of the four original guys (j.i.o. who created SOLSTICE BUTTERFLY) became my office mate–the husband of my boss, in fact. and around four years later, i rediscover CAT’S TRAIL!

CAT’S TRAIL tells the story of one airee colette. a petty thief by day, and a big-time thief at night, airee has a reputation in the land of tiyera as the best of the best. but no one actually knows where airee comes from–and why she looks so different from the people of tiyera. not even airee herself. well, no one except polaris, airee’s constant companion.

in the CULTURE CRASH comics, airee’s life takes a turn for the interesting when she meets the unassuming butler. butler is the type people bully–even by the bullied. so airee is surprised at the boy’s lightning fast reflexes, and his knowledge of the lands of memeria (the world where tiyera is).

but that’s all history now. with CULTURE CRASH gone, CAT’S TRAIL has a fresh new start with CAT’S TRAIL REWIND and CAT’S TRAIL SPOTLIGHT.

CAT’S TRAIL REWIND retells the stories that were once published in CULTURE CRASH, but the stories have been (or will be) reworked to fit into the grander scheme of things. eventually, it will move on to where the story first stopped. as for CAT’S TRAIL SPOTLIGHT, it’s a novelization written by the creator’s spouse that expands on the characters’ back stories.

for fans of filipino-made stories, do check out CAT’S TRAIL REWIND and CAT’S TRAIL SPOTLIGHT.

and to celebrate the rebirth of my once favorite comic series, i will be holding a giveaway competition. just leave a comment in this post that you want to win a copy of CAT’S TRAIL REWIND issues 1 and 2, as well as a copy of CAT’S TRAIL SPOTLIGHT. that’s all you have to do. a winner will then be randomly selected.

to those who are joining, a fair warning: the two comic issues and the novelization are all written in tagalog.

winner will be announced on january 4.

for more information about CAT’S TRAIL, log on to cat’s trail rewind.