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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

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Saturday, March 28, 2015


By Miguel Syjuco
321 pages, Novel

I started out this book with high hopes of finishing it because it was written by a Filipino immigrant in Canada and while I was starting it, the story comes to my province in the Philippines and even mentions about the Cinco de Noviembre, a local historical event. Also, I want to know till the end because it was meant to be a storytelling on "a rich and dramatic saga of four generations, tracing one hundred and fifty years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans and the Filipinos themselves." On top of that, it is a winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and the local Palanca Awards among others.

Here are the why's I liked it that I came to 153rd page and then fell out of love.... At first, I was entertained because of the fictionalized names which stood for some Philippine's politicians, businessmen and others as well as some it has some realistic storytelling of the dark side of Manila with the floods, the violence and poverty and also I was genuinely pleased reading Bacolod and vicinity in a novel.

At first, I was not bothered by the author's style of citing vignettes from different writings of Crispin Salvador as well as those of the fictionalized Miguel Syjuco in the story to tell his story. In addition to those vignettes (or supposed passages from the book of Salvador), the author would tell the present event in the life of his fictionalized self and quote some blogs. Then, he would insert the jokes Filipinos are fond to tell. While I was not lost in this puzzle-fitting rhapsodic style of his storytelling and found the insertion as more of reflection of our culture as a people, I was annoyed in the long run. The jokes were not funny anymore and some were disconnected that I can't get the author's goal with them anymore. Then the development of the story dragged and I likened the experience of reading this book to watching Filipino melodramas which I am not so fond about but accept that most Filipinos do. I am no longer interested to know what happened to the characters in the book because I finally felt that the author wasted my precious minutes of reading time.

However, at the back of my mind, I am curious how the story would develop till the end because New Yorker was cited at the back cover to say that it "develops into an ambitious exploration of cultural identity, ambition and artistic purpose." But novels should entertain and captivate so that a reader will gravitate to the story and see it through the end. I felt guilty not reading this book in full as I had committed myself to do. In the meantime, it will be in the shelf until I am ready to give it a second chance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

An Ode to my hometown La Carlota

I love my hometown. Small-bodied she may be,
but the Mangkasanons (A native of La Carlota
named after folk hero Mangkas or Mantas)
live in her crown a million varied lives
from OFWs to public servants to tillers of the land
to sugarcane mill laborers to fruit-and-vegetable peddlers and more.
From valleys to mountains, their last names may vary
but their faces are almost always familiar
regardless which part they come from:
“Mangkasanon indi bugalon”
(A Mangkasanon is not a snob).

I love that her small body is landlocked
(probably the reason why she has the Bureau of Plant Industry in her bosom)
so unlike all other cities of Negros Occidental that stretch beside the seas.
I love that her arteries are sugarcane fields
plus the fields that produce the staples
from rice to cassava to corn and sweet potatoes.
For her seafoods – fish, oyster and seaweed –
she has the nearby towns of Hinigaran and Valladolid.
For her vegetables – cucumber, carrot, and cabbage –
she has the not-so-far oriental city of Canlaon
(Where ranges of Mount Kanlaon begin)
For her fresh meats – mutton, beef and carabeef –
she has the neighboring municipality of Moises Padilla.
All these bounties within her arm's reach
on top of her own tilapia and milkfish in the ponds,
malunggay, kulitis and lupo in her yards and fields,
and various farm animals in her backyards.

I love that she is a warm home rather than a busy city.
Her water is light and sweet, it being sourced from her belly in Masulog Spring
which also fills the cool pools of Hill Top Resort in Brgy. Haguimit.
One need not own or live in a hacienda to taste her fresh fruits:
indian mango, guava, star apple, atis, banana and many more;
they can be bought on Saturdays, the town's market day
or from the neighbor's freshly picked display.
In her navel, she kept a few banks and a number of bakeshops,
which sell, among many varieties, pandesal,
kuwakoy, biak na bato, ensaymada and piaya.
And after she provides food for the body,
she also supplies the food for the soul.
In her vast lap, she has the Roman Catholics,
Aglipayan, Iglesia Ni Cristo and many more faiths than one's fingers.
Her warmth is so welcoming that in her folds,
Chinese-descent (and surely more race) like me assimilated so well
that I and my ancestors did not experience alienation.

Her children lived and continues to live in the fold of the sugar central
and now place their stakes in biomass and solar energy.
With a folding knee, she asks that her verdant forest in Brgy. San Miguel
will multiply rather than die.
She also asks that her land will all be distributed as the program nears end
and all her landed children to contribute to the program's promise of abundance.
Despite her seemingly simple aspirations,
I love her thriving spirit which extends to her children.
She may have stood up for a long time with only one drab public library,
and a lone city college (no university yet),
which does well in criminology, midwifery and agriculture
but she has gathered in her feet many professionals schooled everywhere.

Yes, my La Carlota, my hometown is a small community
but like her Pasalamat Festival's unique drumbeats,
she will live on with a strong heartbeat
that will someday be heard by the country and the world.

*An Ode to my hometown La Carlota is a poem inspired
after reading an anthology edited by Ruel De Vera called
"Writing home: nineteen writers remember their hometowns"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

La Passeggiata

In my new Sunday's best,
I want you to observe me
do the subtle hand sway
as I walk along the bulb-lit alleys.
I want your eyes to pursue me.

In my new leather stilettos,
I want you to anticipate me
do the lightest steps
as I near the historic center.
I want your gaze to trail me.

In my newly bought scent,
I want you to witness me
do the gentlest stroll
along the streets of this old Italian town.
I want your mind to follow me.

With my hand-held gelato,
I want your buds to share it with me
while we do the laziest strides
together towards the piazza.
Come quick, keep up with me.

Gerlie M. Uy Copyright 2015.
*This poem is inspired after reading Under the Tuscan Sky
and It happened in Italy. Click on the links to check out my reviews on this book.