Reading Challenge Item 43:
A book from that takes place in your hometown
I am sitting cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom on top of my Pilates mat, a gigantic cup of lemon and ginger tea by my left knee in a bid to cure myself as quickly as possible from what feels to be the onset of a respiratory infection — you know, the sandpapery throat, the nose alternating between dripping or being blocked. These are not very good signs, especially when one is off for holiday in five days. Where are you off to, you may ask? Well, I am off to escape British winter and bask in the warmer temperatures of Australia and the Philippines.
Which brings us to the topic at hand! I did say I was going to be slightly liberal with some categories from the reading challenge. I am a Filipino, and the following books I am contemplating on reading are all set in the Philippines, although not necessarily from my hometown exclusively. It has to be said that it is quite sad that I have only read two books by Filipino authors, especially since I consider myself a lover of books. One was a whimsical choice (I went to the same school as the author; he was an upperclassman), the other was for my English lit class in university**.
It’s lucky I’m headed to the Philippines, giving me a chance to scour the book stores for whichever book I end up choosing. My four choices are those depicted on the image above, and I have only managed to whittle it down to three (I know, not exactly great). I’m tempted to go for the first book I find, as I remember ten years ago even the big book stores didn’t have a lot of on their shelves written by Filipino authors (excepting the usual school required reading fare). But hey, maybe I’ll be surprised. It’s not exactly an unpleasant dilemma!
**I read Ermita by F. Sionil Jose and it was a striking read. A novel about the continuous search for love and happiness, it left me with quite sad at the end. I highly recommend it.)
One of the first things I researched for this challenge was this hometown category. I tried to stay away from F. Sionil Jose because while he is a good writer, he is quite depressing (I suppose it cannot be helped that our country has a depressing history). Guess I couldn’t really stay away, since he’s on the possible-to-read list.
Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn was the first to come up on Google search. Apparently, it’s been turned to a play too, and has won the American Book Award, and the National Book Award in 1991. Set during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, it is apparently a fast-paced book, and seemingly a collection of short stories from different members of society in the metro. I assume it all ties together somehow.
Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco came up easily on Google search too. I suppose because it won the Man Asian Literary prize in 2008. It is also the most recently published book in my list. From various summaries, the book apparently starts off with a writer Crispin Salvador, found dead in the Hudson River, and his manuscript detailing and exposing the crimes of Filipino ruling families gone. His protégé Miguel goes to the Manila to investigate, and there finds a collection of documents piecing together Salvador’s life, all the way from the time the Spanish ruled the isles. Ilustrado also apparently has a lot of pop culture references.
Po-On or Dusk by F. Sionil Jose is claimed to be the best book out of the five books in his Rosales Saga. It is historical fiction, set during the Spanish occupation part of Philippine history. From reading reviews, expect a story about relationships between family members, the corruption and prejudice in society, and the Philippine revolution from Spanish rule.
Eating Fire and Drinking Water by Arlene J. Chai is another novel set during the Marcos era (martial law really did a number on the country). It is the author’s second book, and reviews say her writing is improved and more certain compared to her first one. It is apparently a story both personal and political, with stories within the story that all comes together, written in first person from the view of the main protagonist, a female news reporter. Martial law and journalism! Not the best match up.