By Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine "HEY, this book is all about me and my sisters," I thought, awe-stricken, after reading the first few chapters of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." Well, how could anybody miss the similarity in the names and temperament of the March sisters and my own siblings? Meg, the eldest sister, is sweet and domesticated, exactly like my Ate who even took up cooking lessons to perfect her sans rival. Jo, that tomboyish and spirited budding writer, is definitely me, with my baptismal name Josefina, my love of books, the penchant for writing poetry in grade school, and the physical scrapes I always got into with my male cousins. Amy, the pretty and vain sister, is my third sibling, whose fair good looks became her main ID. Elizabeth March, the sickly sister, is my fourth sibling, whose severe asthma attacks kept her away from school most of the time. Why, they even have similar names! I must have been in fourth grade when I made this astounding discovery that I had a fictional twin. Only, it didn't feel fictional at that time. After all, this was a real book, a hardbound book with no pictures, only pages of text that marked it as serious reading. It was worlds away from the household staple, the komiks that defined our childhood. We read them all -- Pilipino Komiks, Redondo, Kulafu, Aliwan, Tagalog Klasiks, Wakasan, and those vernacular magazines Liwayway and Bulaklak. These were my parents' favorite reading fare, a comforting habit they took with them to the city where they fled to start life anew after the war. Of peasant stock, they had to stop schooling during the "Japanese time," forced to a hardscrabble existence in the mountains of Central Luzon. Starting over in Tondo in the 1950s wasn't easy, but they had their trove of komiks to turn to after a hard day, where they would cozy up with Mars Ravelo's Dyesebel and Darna and vicariously feel empowered as these characters fought off evil. It was this fantastic world we reveled in as kids, so it was quite refreshing to find out that people didn't need to have a fish tail or fly in a costume to have books written about them, that stories could be about ordinary folk and their everyday life and still sound interesting. "Little Women" made it so. More magically the book told my story, or so I thought, and I made sure to hew closely to the novel's storyline as the years went by. I guess that's how I wound up as a writer. For more books — life-changing, uplifting or plain entertaining — check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Summer Reading Issue this Sunday, March 30.
March 2008 Archives
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine HAVING learned to read from comic books, the SRA series (remember those? The Gold ones were awesome) and the Hardy Boys (all-time favorite: "The Mysterious Caravan"), I always enjoyed reading but was not really passionate about it as a child. My parents, both teachers at one point, loved to read and had books everywhere in the house. We had every encyclopedia imaginable, including a retro science encyclopedia, an antebellum Bible Encyclopedia and our top choice, the full-color and lavishly-illustrated Lexicon. There were many books that had quite an impact on me. Edilberto Tiempo's "To Be Free" helped me discover novels by Filipinos. Nick Joaquin's "Nora Aunor & Other Profiles" wowed me. Comic books were a passion, be it the oversized "Legion of Super-Heroes" I traded a Michael Jackson cassette for, or the unique high jinks of the Gauls in the Asterix books. They still are. But one particularly meaningful gift was a copy of James Clavell's "Whirlwind." I was in high school and the thick paperback was a gift from a friend, one of the school's guidance counselors. It was the first grown-up book I owned (not counting the comic books, which are, I declare, grown-up reading as well. That's my story and I'm sticking to it). I remember feeling all grown up just in the book's presence. I weighed it in my hand and read it as quickly as I could -- which wasn't very fast considering how complex it was. I still have that very book somewhere in my old room, missing a bunch of pages. I can't remember actually having finished that book, but I did read and finished a lot of others. I adore books now, can't help without them, can't sleep without reading one. In fact, just having a book with me when I'm running errands comforts me, a charm against boredom and idleness. For more books — life-changing, uplifting or plain entertaining — check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Summer Reading Issue this Sunday, March 30.
By Eric S. Caruncho, Staff Writer Sunday Inquirer Magazine IN MY last summer of high school, I worked a part-time job at my tita’s gravel and sand company. It involved long hours of doing nothing more than watching trucks come and go, so I started bringing books to pass the time. I had always been a voracious reader, and regularly scoured the book stores along Recto and Avenida for bargains. I'm dating myself, but in those days when National Book Store held a "cut-price book sale," paperbacks went for one peso each. Among my finds were the Grove Press editions of Henry Miller’s books. At that time, there was still an air of the illicit around Henry Miller's works. They had been banned in the US until a landmark court decision ruled they were literature, not pornography. (This was before the advent of "Deep Throat" and the whole sexual revolution that followed.) Anyway, I started with the first of the series, "Tropic of Cancer," and was immediately hooked by Miller's semi-autobiographical account of his bohemian days in Paris in the early 1930s, living on his wits and managing a ménage a trois with his wife and another female character clearly based on Anais Nin. I quickly devoured the rest of Miller's ouvre: "Tropic of Capricorn," "Sexus," "Plexus," "Nexus," "Black Spring," and "Quiet Days in Clichy." To my delight, when I enrolled in my freshman year of college (as a business major!), I discovered that the university library was well-stocked with Miller's other works (as well as Nin's). I read "The Air Conditioned Nightmare," "Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch" and the rest of the canon. Finally, I came to the last book of Miller's that the library had, which was "The Books In My Life," his loving tribute to the books that he had read and which had made an impact on his life. I tracked down each and every title in his list that the library had, among them Balzac's mystical "Seraphita" and Knut Hamsun's "Hunger." (Miller also had a taste for Franz Werfel -- author of "The Song of Bernadette" -- which I never acquired.) Each book led to others, and by the time I had worked my way through the cycle, I realized that I was on my way to becoming a writer. Much later, a colleague at work -- a published fictionist -- would huff "The dirty old man of literature!" whenever Henry Miller's name came up in conversation. I could only smile. For more books — life-changing, uplifting or plain entertaining — check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine's Summer Reading Issue this Sunday, March 30.
By Leica R. Carpo, Publisher Sunday Inquirer Magazine I COULD say it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby,” Dickens’ “Great Expectations” or even Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” that turned me onto reading. But that would be a lie. I must confess that historical novels were my secret passion and I was a Barbara Cartland girl first and foremost. I fell in love first with the opulent 18th century Regency settings and later with the witty repartee between the spitfire heroines and the handsome cynical heroes. Cartland’s ladies often found themselves living in beautiful windswept Scottish moors, trapped in decadent Moorish kasbahs or bored silly by the London season of whirlwind balls and soirees. The heroines almost always turn out to be long lost daughters of Dukes and Marquis who had to work as governesses to make ends meet or who happened to stow aboard pirate ships disguised as deck hands seeking freedom from wicked guardians and arranged marriages. I don’t remember the exact title of the Regency Romance that made the biggest impact in my life, but the courage of the heroines and the chivalry of the gentlemen in the novels translated into my daily life by making me expect ‘romance and gentlemanly behavior’ from all my future suitors. Moreover this was a secret I shared with my Abuelita (grandmother) who was my main supplier as I was only 10 years old at the time and my mom was still buying me Nancy Drew books. I still remember Abuelita reclining in her chaise lounge near a big picture window overlooking the garden at three in the afternoon enjoying the latest Cartland installment. She believed in taking time to enjoy life, traveling as an integral way to round out one’s education and reading romance novels as every girl’s right of passage. She was from an era when “happily ever afters” was the norm and not just found in books. I no longer read Cartland novels or expect "happily ever afters," but to this day I don’t expect chivalry -- I demand it. From this week on, the intrepid staffers of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine will share their thoughts on all sorts of ideas arising from the week's forthcoming issue of SIM. It is available exclusively on INQUIRER.net and will serve as an appetizer for the Sunday lineup. For more books -- life-changing, uplifting or plain entertaining -- check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Summer Reading Issue this Sunday, March 30.