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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.