Indio Bravo: The Life of Jose Rizal

Indio Bravo: The Life of Jose Rizal is written by Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug with Sylvia Mendez Ventura and illustrated by BenCab. It aims to introduce young people to Jose Rizal and provide an intimate narrative about his life. It is published by Tahanan Books for Young Readers. Rizal scholar Ambeth Ocampo, the National Historical Institute, National Centennial Commission, the Spanish and German Embassies of Manila are also credited for their assistance in making the book.

Mom bought our copy when we went to visit Rizal’s house in Dapitan City many years ago. Tahanan Books doesn’t seem to have it on their website. If all else fails, it’s also available on Amazon.


How is it possible to get tearyeyed just by reading the first chapters? Of course I indulged  in reading about Jose’s love life especially his long distance drama with Leonor Rivera. I thought it would take me a week to finish. It’s only 158 pages but I haven’t read in a really really long while (coz life/stress/work). Tamad kaayo ko mubasa. -_-

I just finished it (quicker than I expected). I’m writing this post in a bubble tea cafe that my sister and I frequent. When I read the last few chapters, my tears fell uncontrollably (as in ugly cry T_T). Wo Meimei didn’t know what to do with me. Hehehe.


Study should be a thing of love and joy; the primer not a black book bathed in the tears of childhood, but a friend who is going to reveal wonderful secrets; and the schoolroom not a place of sorrows, but a scene of intellectual refreshment. -from Noli Me Tangere

Most Filipinos know Jose Rizal because he is our national hero but apart from the required course in university, I don’t remember being taught a lot about his life at school. I was lucky to have Sir Nilo Ocampo as my PI 100 professor. He loved Rizal and it was in his class that I started to know a bit more. A recent trip to Madrid also gave me the inspiration to revisit Philippine history. I feel like man, I don’t know a thing. So here I am going back to the past to make sense of the present.

Thank you Jose Rizal. Ok tears again… (T_T)





Book Love: Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Philippine Kitchens Cover

I love a good coffee table book. I savor the feeling of the glossy pages and the heaviness of  the hardbound book in my hands. It’s a visual and tactile feast! They give me joy.


The first time I leafed through the pages of Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa-Dorotan and Remy Dorotan was three years ago. I was perusing the shelves of our city library for just the type of food book. There were many featuring cuisines from France, Spain, Japan but barely anything about the Philippines. So I got very excited when I found this one book that told our culinary stories! Last Christmas, my aunt gave the exact same to our family. Maybe aunts have some sort of ESP.


What I love most about it is the different family recipes the authors gathered from Luzon and Visayas. Being from Mindanao, I was only able to appreciate the diversity of Philippine cuisine when I studied in Quezon City. School trips brought me to different places in the North such as Lucban, Baguio, Pampanga.

Informative and personal, memories of taste are recounted. Native ingredients are reintroduced.


What keeps this book from being truly comprehensive about Philippine Kitchens is the lack of information on Mindanao food. The main focus was Luzon (Ilocos, Zambales, Bicol, Pampanga) and Visayas (Cebu and Bacolod).

Still it is very inspirational. They pose a simple question that garners a multitude of answers worth exploring: What are your food memories?

It is my dream to explore such memories of taste in Mindanao! There will be plenty to unearth and rediscover.

Book Love: Sky Blue After The Rain

Sky Blue After The Rain

I have little patience in so many things even in one I usually love to do: reading.

However, with some books, you are immediately grabbed by the story. I find myself having fun or feeling sad depending on how they go. I enjoy Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s writing. I love reading stories set in different places but there’s nothing like reading Philippine literature.

It could be set in the past or the present. The emotions and thoughts are much closer to home. I feel like I know what the authors are talking about. It adds a different dimension to my reading experience. That or vice versa where having read the book changes how I experience a place or a situation. Sky Blue After The Rain is a collection of such type of short stories.

I particularly liked Patriciang Payatot, The Pink Parasol and The Tree  of the Perfect Plum.  Some stories are relate-able, some just enjoyable to read but all of them encourage introspection. It makes me want to go back to religiously write on my journal again. Props to my sister who bought it! For a non-Filipino reader, it gives you insight on our culture, our every day thoughts and feelings and how we view things without giving you a Social Studies lesson.

It is published by the University of the Philippines Press so it may still be available there, otherwise there’s always Amazon.

Why A Strawberry Daiquiri is Like A Murder Mystery

My favorite TV shows aren’t so popular. At least not among my friends. It’s a good thing because I don’t have to care about them posting spoilers and complaints re: HIMYM, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black and GOT on my social media feed.

My kind of shows are murder mysteries especially period ones. I love Bones, Sherlock, Murdoch Mysteries and Hercule Poirot series. There’s just something about the protagonists in these stories: their intelligence, their powers of observation and their quirky personalities. Perhaps the quirkiest is Mr. Hercule Poirot. He is described as a short Frenchman Belgian with a distinct mustache and an egg shaped face. Watching the episodes is fun but reading the books prove to be even better. My mom bought a wack of them at a thrift store. A steal at 25 cents each! A wonderful steal! Can you tell I am as giddy as a child with candy?

image from

I’ve said before that short stories are a good introduction to an author if reading novels feel too cumbersome. In my opinion, mystery novels are amazing solutions to boredom and the need to finish a book. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries aren’t so long, less than 300 pages of a standard sized paperbound. I’d flip page after page excited to find out who the culprit was. Reading should be fun. We’ll occasionally pick up Dante’s Inferno, Marquez’s Memories of a Melancholy Whore or what have you. But really, I’d much rather read these mysteries. I mean if we weren’t trying to impress anyone, wouldn’t we order strawberry daiquiris all the time?*

*a guy from a daiquiri tutorial video said this and i can’t find his video anymore!

June Challenge: Read One Chapter Daily

The book I chose to read this month is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I find that it is most relevant to what I am doing, trying to keep a resolution for the entire year. Through this book, I learned:

  • To stop being apologetic about who I am. This means feeling okay about loving romantic Korean TV series or not having to pretend to enjoy beer. This also means not having to worry about enjoying the same music as some friends enjoy.
  • That it is my duty to myself and to others to pursue happiness. I knew this subconsciously even then. I knew that if I was cranky and full of self-loathing that I wouldn’t be able to be as kind to others as I ought to be.
  • My productivity greatly matters to me and my self-esteem. I know I start this downward spiral if I feel that I haven’t done anything during the day. I feel irritated and annoyed at myself for not working enough. Knowing that, I should strive each and every day not to be busy but to be productive.
  • I should set a time to withdraw and when to spend time with others. Being alone makes me happy. I love spending time with myself eating or cooking at home, reading a book, writing. Yet I’m aware that I should make more time to connect with friends. I’ve been planning to send them postcards for over a year now and I’ve never done it. To think, dropping of the mail is so easy here.
  •  Voice my appreciation more. I’d like to be less critical and less worried about what people think of me. In the book, the author did mention that critical and negative people appear more intellectual but I am past that phase of wanting to be viewed as intellectual. I never was but I know I’m smart. I don’t think I’ve ever praised myself for that. To voice out my appreciation to myself and to other people, that will be a refreshing change.

This month’s challenge was greatly beneficial to me. I can’t wait for next month where I have to force myself to read one blog in Italian daily but I’m sure it will make my upcoming trip so much worth it. Til the next challenge!

Curious About Chile

More than six years ago, I was in the General References Section of our University’s library most likely passing the time, I don’t quite remember. But I do recall that I picked up a travel guide about Chile. I did not know a lot about the country except that it was in South America. It was also around this time that I learned from Literature class that Pablo Neruda did not only write love poems, ones we often dreamily read in high school, but also wrote political ones. After browsing the guidebook, I decided that I would one day go to Chile.
Yesterday, September 11 Vancouver time, I was in the public library browsing business books. A woman announced through the intercom that there was a free event starting in a few minutes. A certain mother and daughter from Chile would read from the books they authored. I decided to sit in. The room was already full and a presentation was already being shown: quotes from Salvador Allende, photographs of laborers protesting, photographs of the Desaparecidos (victims of forced disappearances). 
In the two hour event, I came to know about Carmen Aguirre, Carmen Rodriguez and their beloved Chile. Iturns out, September 11 was the anniversary of the military coup in Chile in 1973 wherein (letting Wikipedia take over here):
“The U.S.-backed junta was composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (police force) and the Army, though Augusto Pinochet eventually arose to supreme power within a year after the coup, formally assuming the presidency in late 1974. Pinochet later assumed power and ended Allende’s elected Popular Unity government, instigating a campaign of terror on its supporters, including the murder of former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Before Pinochet’s rule, Chile had for decades been hailed as a beacon of democracy and political stability in a South America plagued by military juntas and Caudillismo.”
It’s quite freakish how September seems to be a month for evil dictators (ok, that’s just me noticing the details and being weird). For those who may not be familiar, Philippine Martial Law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. He was also supported by US imperialists. Later on, during the EDSA revolution in February 1986, he would receive a call from the US Sen. Laxalt to “cut and cut cleanly”.
I almost felt Carmen Rodriguez’s character’s fear and pain when she read a the part of her book when the protagonist was longing to be home and safe in Canada.  I felt goosebumps when Carmen Aguirre read an excerpt of her book Something Fierce: The Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. It was about her life in the resistance, that and how it was being a teenager at the same time. Hmmm… sounds like something some of our parents or someone they know may have experienced in the martial law years. That is one book I have yet to read and must read this year! 

The event ended with a question and answer. The last question was from an Ecuadorian-Canadian teenage girl. She asked what the authors thought about her generation and what they would say as the young generation seem to be self-centered and preoccupied with all things except history and such causes. 
Carmen Aguirre said that she was in fact hopeful for the youth:
 ” We do live in a consumer society where you are what you buy. I don’t know but I do feel hopeful of the youth here. I am very inspired by the Idle No More Movement which is youth-based, women based. I’m inspired by the Occupy Movement, by the Student Movement of Quebec. So I think there’s a lot going on and the mainstream media will do anything and everything in its power to pretend that nothing’s going on…When we look at alternative media we do realize that there’s so much going on in Canada and it’s not just that you are what you buy.”
I sincerely wish events like this be organized in high schools and libraries in the Philippines, as many have been disappointed by the younger generation’s (my generation still!) apathy and lack of knowledge about our history. People have this thing called collective amnesia, maybe that’s what happened to the older generation but let’s not go there. I just know that it’s time these stories are told but also in a way to make young people listen.
In any case, I’m still looking forward to someday going to Chile even more so now with these stories in my heart and mind.

Book List: Pre-teen and High School Years

I have been wanting to write about the books that were part of my growing up. Finally, I mustered up the will to do so thanks to Honey who just informed me that she found one of the books we read more than 10 years ago! So here’s a not-so-complete list of books that were part of my tween and early teen years:
The Love Hunt
This is the book that Honey and I went gaga over back in 6th grade. When she told me she found it, I was reminded of our twelve year old selves gushing over nerdy but handsome Andy Chevalier. It’s my first chick lit and it was ridden with stereotypes such as the popular jock, the nerdy biology genius and the popularity conscious but sweet high school girl. We followed the protagonist Erika’s love life and it introduced us to the world of teenage love and flirting. Honey says, it made us swoon over nerds! Which reminds me, we’ve been friends for so long!

The Chronicles of Narnia
This book set came with soap scented towels, bottles of Herbal Essence shampoo and a stash of assorted chocolate bars. In other words, it came in a balikbayan box. My aunt always sent books with clothes and toiletries from the US. The set itself is old and housed in a wonderfully illustrated box exactly like the one pictured here. Reading the entire series would span years. I began with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in 4th grade, and finished the series in college. I also didn’t read it in order which didn’t matter because once I was in their world, I was lost, happy and ready for any adventure.



To Kill A Mockingbird                
This has got to be the most nostalgic and loveliest coming-of-age book. But then again, how many have I read anyway? It’s a classic and a required reading for most American schools. It’s told from the eyes of a child, Scout, growing up in the South. It shows the lightness and happiness of childhood and the seriousness of oppression and racial injustice. 


The Harry Potter Series

I don’t think there is a need for explanation regarding this series. Let’s just say that books that have magic, friendship and love will always make for a great reading experience.

Sweet’s Folly
Sweet’s Folly is about this young lady who marries her best friend’s brother for convenience. She realizes though that she is actually in love with him. So while she pines for her husband, she also feels guilty for “imprisoning” him in their marriage. Again, it’s a template romance novel but I love the characters and you can really feel the tension between them. This book has kilig written all over it! The lesson is nothing new. Be honest with your feelings. Swallow your pride and just profess that love. The worse thing that can happen is the person won’t love you back while there’s always the possibility that he actually does! I’m currently reading a mystery by the same author under a different penname, Ellen Pall.



Legend was the first sexy romance novel I read. While the boys in junior high school were busy discovering and sharing their porn cd’s, the girls were being introduced to Jude Deveraux novels. We  would suppress giggles while passing these paperbacks in class, safely hidden behind our academic books. Everyone knew which pages had the steamy scenes. So here we see where the misunderstanding begins. Women expect to be wooed, kissed, seduced and treated the way leading men treat the heroines of these stories. Men on the other hand sometimes get confused when to be sweet, gentle, sensitive and when to apply what they learned from raunchy flicks.

The Matisse Stories

My very close friend, Janelle and I once bought books by the kilo from the local university’s library warehouse. I think that was what I thought it was. One of those books was AS Byatt’s The Matisse Stories which I plunked into our pile because of its cover. I had not heard of her then but became engrossed with the collection. Later on, I would prefer to read short stories over novels. I found that they made good introductions to authors I wanted to read but was too hesitant or lazy to commit time to a full novel. For instance, while reading 100 Years of Solitude may be threateningly cumbersome, Marquez’s Strange Pilgrims might easily give one a sense of his writings in the instant gratification of short stories.

The Little Prince

You can read The Little Prince at ten or eighty and still find something meaningful. There are just too many quotable quotes from this book. Apart from the delightful illustrations, this is on my list because I enjoyed our class discussions about what we learned from the wise little prince and I also missed a bus stop when I reread it some months ago.

There’s not a single book by a Filipino author here but that deserves another entry. I only began to discover local literature in college which, for me, could be a bad sign. Are Filipino high school kids missing out on the wealth of Philippine Literature? I hope not!

Still, library access is probably one of the best things a kid (or any person) could have!