An English Major’s Choices: Unforgettable Lines from my Favorite Love Stories in Philippine and Asian Literature

I was an English major in college and I had the privilege of having access to the best collections of Philippine and Asian literature in English thanks in part to the University of the Philippines Main Library at its Diliman campus and in part to my very well-read professors. I have come across some stories I would like to recommend to those who would like to know more about classic Philippine and Asian lit. For starters, here are some quotes from some of my favorite love stories I was introduced to at school:

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1. This Earth of Mankind, a novel by multiawarded Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer (translated by Max Weber)

“My own name… for the time being I need not tell it.” – Minke, an ardent Native admirer of the half-White Annelies

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2. “Dead Stars”, the first Philippine short story in English (written by Paz Marquez Benitez in 1925)

Those six weeks were now so swift–seeming in the memory, yet had they been so deep in the living, so charged with compelling power and sweetness. Because neither the past nor the future had relevance or meaning, he lived only the present, day by day, lived it intensely, with such a willful shutting out of fact as astounded him in his calmer moments.

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3.  “May Day Eve”, a short story written by Nick Joaquin, Philippine National Artist for Literature

“Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be,” – young Agueda

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4. South of the Border, West of the Sun, a novel by Japanese literary giant Haruki Murakami (translated by Philip Gabriel)

“I was always attracted not by some quantifiable, external beauty, but by something deep down, something absolute”

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Now airing: radio advice program “Dear Kuya”

The character of our times today perfectly fit the description of the perilous times forewarned by the Bible when so many would perfectly fit the Bible’s description of men “without natural affection” (2 Timothy 3:3) towards their fellowmen. I do not think I need to mention any more examples of these men “without natural affection” since the newspapers and even TV are already filled with so much disheartening news of crime, betrayals between friends, lovers, and even among family members.

Those who seek a Biblical perspective on relationship matters and societal concerns like gay love, boyfriend-girlfriend relations, marital infidelity, artificial reproduction, and other similar topics today would be bound not to be disappointed by the Biblical wisdom in the advice of Kuya Daniel Razon (program host) and Bro. Eli Soriano (resource person) in the radio advice program “Dear Kuya“. Life stories sent in by letter senders are dramatized by student-scholars from La Verdad Christian College.

“Dear Kuya” airs during weekdays (Philippine Time, GMT +8) from 10 am to 12 nn both on Radio La Verdad 1350 (AM Radio) and untvradio.com  (via webstreaming).

The Perks of Living in the Third World (yup, I Really Meant Perks)

Photo: An improvised boat made at the height of the Habagat flood that paralyzed Metro Manila for days

I have cousins who were raised in the US, and we spent much of our pre-adulthood years during the era pre-Facebook, when “sharing” photos meant not uploading but getting them developed first, then sending them via good old-fashioned snail mail. I remember feeling like I wanted to instantly teleport myself to their country whenever I would see pictures of them playing in the snow. I would later learn though, that landscape utopia in the eyes of many Westerners is not snowland but the tropical beach.

When I was a student in UP, a Filipino-American exchange student interviewed me about my idea of America, because she was required to submit a research paper about Filipino culture upon coming back to her home country. I told her that America for me meant the suburban bliss of the very popular book and TV franschise Sweet Valley, popular about fifteen years ago, thus giving you another idea of our era.

The two lead characters of the Sweet Valley franchise are twin blondes who look so picture-perfect and live an equally picture-perfect life in the suburbs of America. The Fil-Am exchange student looked very surprised and bewildered hearing my answer, as all the UP students she had interviewed had told her also of their view of a utopian America. The one which is formed from reading and watching so many picture-perfect stories set in the US of A. She told me that no, US life is not that perfect, especially for racial “minorities” like her who had grown up in an inland state of the US that is far less racially heterogenous than coastal states like California. My acquaintance at UP had to struggle with growing up having to deal with the condescending attitudes held by some towards the foreign blooded in an almost-homogenously-White part of America.

As for me who has grown up and lived in the Philippines which is a nation that consistently ranks poorly based on international standards of honesty in government and delivery of basic social services, I had and have to endure world-famous NCR Traffic, the lack of fitting job opportunities, floods that come with the threat of Leptospirosis due to very poor management of waste and drainage, as well as the experience of studying in public schools in classrooms with chairs that often serve not for lecture use but as antique rocking chairs. These are of course the consequences of either too much politics or abuse of power. And the classic explanation, graft and corruption.

I remember hearing Bro. Eli of the program Ang Dating Daan (as promoted on local TV, the TV program is now aired in such continents as Europe and Latin America) say that many Filipinos may be facing a lot of very tough concerns and problems, but the Philippines has far less suicide rates than other economically prosperous nations like Japan. And that though we may face experiences unknown to much richer nationalities (ex. violent house demolition because your address is at such a place as “under-the-bridge”), we have a far more positive outlook in life than those who commit suicide in the midst of the kind of socio-economic prosperity that people who live on less than a dollar a day could only dream of. We are nowhere near the list of the most suicide-prone nations of the world.

While I am of course not proud that my country simply has more than its enough share of self-serving and selfish politicians who are the epitome of oppression and injustice, I just know and feel that my upbringing at home and genuine social values has imparted me with a sense of self respect and dignity no matter how pathetic my nation’s political realities may seem. Because I am a Filipino, I just know that someway, somehow there is a way out of pathetic circumstances and I need not lose my sanity or dignity just because some people consider my country or my race servile, having been colonized thrice and seemingly still colonized even at the present.

Some foreign scholars may view Filipino’s positive outlook as a sociological or anthropological anomaly. But in the language of the common tao who has endured the travails of working far from home, of the real inhabitants of Home Along Da Riles made famous by the hit TV program topbilled by the late Dolphy, it is simply hope. For academicians like me who has never given up on our ideals of scholarship despite the lack of institutional support, and for struggling middle-class parents doing their best to send their kids to school at minimum wages, it is hope.

Mentioned and Hyper-Linked:

Media Milestones:
trailer of Home Along da Riles TV series topbilled by the late Dolphy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVPiuJ1nH9U
2009 Mashable Most Educational to Follow blog of Bro. Eli Soriano, Host of Ang Dating Daan
esoriano.wordpress.com

Growing Up in the 90’s: Home Along Da Riles and Autograph Books

Those who grew up in the 90s learned to  fill out autograph or slam books, years before Facebook profile pages. When some elementary school classmates were asked to fill out the question Who are your friends?, some would write TMTM  (short for Too Many To Mention), perhaps to be safe that no one who might get heartbroken gets left out of one’s Friends list on paper.

In 90s style autograph books, I would write Home Along Da Riles as my favorite TV show. The late comedy king Dolphy  played the lead role of Kevin Cosme as a widow who takes care of his five kids.

Home Along Da Riles also starred Claudine Baretto, Smokey Manaloto, Gio Alvarez and the Quizon brothers Boy2 and Vandolph as Kevin Cosme’s children. Nova Villa plays the role of Kevin’s sister-in-law who is totally deadset on getting Kevin to love him. She would often utter the line “Kevin, kailan tayo magpapakasal?” The cast had a unique chemistry playing a big family living near the train tracks that the viewer is bound to forget the travails of the life of the working class as epitomized by the character of Kevin, who works as a messenger in a recruitment agency. What makes the movie such a family classic is that every episode concludes with clear resolutions where everyone in the family or the community, the jobless tambays SunogBaga gang included, end up helping each other out or eating happily together. Moral lessons are also imparted by Kevin to his children, a part a lot of today’s TV writers and producers could probably find unconventional given the track of popular entertainment nowadays.

Everytime a train would pass the tracks beside the Cosme family house, the house would shake and Dolphy would be seen hanging on to whatever post he could grasp, creating a hilarious scene transition that ends with objects flying in the most unlikely of places.

Cita Astals had fresh vibe as the busy but congenial boss in the recruitment agency where Kevin works as messenger, and Bernardo Bernardo played well the part of a quite-tough-to-please office superior who is also a concerned colleague, way before gay identity in film and fiction was as widely problematized and offered its ideals as today. I remember one particularly special end scene wherein Kevin Cosme’s colleagues at work visited him at his house during a family gathering. Everyone who wanted to share in the celebration potluck style brought ice cream – so there was nothing else left to eat for the hosts and guests. Along comes Steve, the character played by Bernardo Bernardo, proudly declaring that he brought cake. Then they learned that it was ice cream cake. It was a classic Home Along Da Riles episode ending, spelling good old fun and exuding the warmth of Filipino connectivity before texting, social networking and Fil- American Idols’ love-your-own-color ethos enthralled us all.