Posts Tagged With: books

Time for Cervantes and Sherlock Holmes

I LOVE  reading and I love books. I’ve collected thousands of books since I discovered the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and even Bobbsey Twins in the library of my high school in our little town in Mindanao. Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne Identity” and George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” later followed.

In college, I almost failed my philosophy subjects because of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Yukio Mishima. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Milan Kundera later captured my imagination.

Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson became my bedside companions. Tom Clancy, Graham Greene, Sidney Sheldon, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, lie beside Sionil Jose, Greg Brillantes and Danton Remoto.

There were others that are hidden under my bed with secondhand copies of Penthouse and Playboy.

There were just too many to read. Gone were the days when I can finish a Charles Dickens or a Thomas Mann novel in a week. Of course I have to struggle with textbooks, manuals and other non-fiction works that I collect from Booksale and during the annual book sale of National Bookstore.

This year, with the realization that I need to use glasses to read, I discovered audio books. I went crazy downloading the classics on my iPhone. I have the time and the chance now to enjoy “Don Quixote” and the “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” while commuting to and from the office.

Reading is now only for newly-released books like Paulo Coelho’s “Aleph” and Roy Peter Clark’s “The Glamour of Grammar” and “Help! for Writers.”

Some time ago I worried that I would not be able to read the classics in my lifetime. With technology, however, I am optimistic that there is enough time. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” will have to come after Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” next week.

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‘To a God Unknown’

FEARING that I would get sick, I packed an overnight bag, picked a book without looking at it, drove out of town and checked in a hotel with the intention of sleeping the whole weekend.

I ended up reading John Steinbeck’s “To a God Unknown.” Once again I was captured by the magic of Steinbeck as he did many years ago, during those sleepless summer nights in the barrios, with “The Pearl” and “Of Mice and Men.”

I could not help but think of the farmers camping out near the Presidential Palace last week and the calls of pro-environment groups to care for the environment while enjoying the story of “To a God Unknown.”

Wikipedia offers this summary of the story:

“After receiving a blessing from his dying father, Joseph moves to central California and settles in a valley. Shortly after beginning to build his homestead, he receives a letter from one of his brothers that their father had died, and in that moment Joseph feels that his father’s soul enters the large oak tree by his homesite.

“Joseph’s three brothers subsequently move out to the valley with their families. One day, the brothers come across a pine forest, and in the center is a quiet, circular glade with a stream flowing out of the large rock. Juanito, a ranch-hand, tells them that it is a sacred place to the indios.

“Joseph then marries a school-teacher named Elizabeth. Upon returning to the farm from the wedding, they find that the youngest brother, Benjy, an alcoholic, had been stabbed and killed by Juanito when he discovered him seducing his wife. When they meet later that night at the sacred rock, Juanito asks Joseph to kill him in revenge for his brother, but Joseph refuses.

“One day, Joseph and Elizabeth visit the glade. Elizabeth decides to climb on the mossy rock, when she falls and breaks her neck, dying instantly…. Joseph then lives by the rock and watches the stream dry up. Juanito returns and convinces Joseph to visit the town’s priest to enlist his help in breaking the drought. The priest refuses to pray for rain, saying that his concern is the salvation of human souls.

“Joseph returns to the rock to find the stream dry…. Joseph then climbs to the top of the rock and slits his wrists, watching the blood run into the moss. As he sacrifices himself to some mysterious higher power, he feels the rain begin falling down.”

How many of us would be willing to sacrifice for the rain to fall, or for the farmers to have their lands back?

On my way back to the city, I heard the news that policemen dispersed the protesting farmers at Mendiola and environmentalists issued a statement calling for a stop to the use of plastic bags.

I still feel sick.

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Must-Read Bono

A MUST-READ this election season is Homobono Adaza’s “Presidentiables and Emerging Upheavals.”

Every chapter of the short hardbound work, which unfortunately costs P1,000 a copy, tackles the background of this year’s leading presidential candidates – from Noynoy Aquino to Manny Villar.

In his foreword, Adaza warns that elections in the Philippines are games.

“They are without limits. They mean total war where everything is permissible – guns, gold and goons,” he writes.

“As the cliche goes everything is fair in war and politics up to a point. The permissible limit is not to get caught,” he adds.

But even if one is caught, escape, he said, is possible if one is an ally of a “mindless and corrupt national administration.”

Bono’s investigation into the personal and political history of the candidates is not flattering, something one can expect from a veteran administration critic who refuses to retire.

If one believes Bono, none of the presidential candidates for the May 10 elections is qualified to run the country.

He said that based on the credentials of the “presidentiables,” Filipinos could not hope for meaningful change whoever wins on May 10.

He described the campaign period, which we have witnessed to have been filled with so much mudslinging, as a “period of insanity.”

While the first half of the book delves on the candidates, the second part looks into the prospects after the elections.

Daniel E. Llanto, writing for FilAm Star, writes: “Adaza says what the Philippines needs right now is a leader with a mind to organize a revolutionary government in order to turn it around. He says the late President Cory Aquino had the right idea in 1986, but had gone through the process only halfway.”

Bono wants the entire electoral system overhauled “to serve the best interests of the people.”

“The key to a Philippines where people can live as human beings and Filipinos can be worthy of their race is the organization of a revolutionary government through peaceful methods within the context of our Constitution,” Bono writes.

Llanto reports: “The new Constitution, Adaza proposes, must include political and social reforms, provisions as such no term extension; no dynasty until the ninth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity; free education from the elementary to the university for the poor and the middle class in the public school system; free hospitalization, medicines and medical attendance for the poor and the middle class in the public health system.

“He also cites the need for a living wage and profit-sharing for labor in industry and agriculture; subsidy for farmers, inventors, artists and the talented; a truly independent foreign policy; and a shift to the parliamentary and federal system.
“Without a new Constitution and these provisions in it, all hell will likely break loose in the country.”

If only to know more the background of those wanting to become president, Bono’s book is a must read. For those wanting to agitate themselves into action, the book will surely keep you all night.

The book is available at Salidumay Arts and Crafts on the second floor of Monterey Meat Shop, Visayas Avenue, Quezon City.

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‘Soldiers for Peace’

THERE’S another kind of war being waged in Mindanao. It’s not the war we see on television. It’s not the war of “Rambo” or President Gloria Arroyo. It’s a war that’s seldom covered by the media. It’s a war being fought by a different kind of soldiers.

Today, a collection of their stories will be launched by the nongovernment group Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. They call their book “Soldiers for Peace: A Collection of Peacebuilding Stories in Mindanao.”

The book tells the stories of soldiers who applied in their areas of operations the lessons they learned in “OP Kors!”

“OP Kors!” is a comprehensive peace-building course that, among others, aims at enhancing capacities of peace-builders in Mindanao. It aims at developing and multiplying champions of peace in various sectors.

The collection also documents the personal stories of “transformation” of soldiers from warriors to peace-builders and conflict managers. (I wonder if “OP Kors!” will ever be implemented in the Rizal area where 43 health workers were arrested by the military.)

The stories narrate the personal journey and sacrifices of soldiers who actively and sometimes reluctantly change their mindsets to understand the root causes of conflicts in their areas of operations, especially in Mindanao.

My friend, Ayi Hernandez, said that with the newfound understanding of the conflict, coupled with enhanced conflict analysis skills and armed with peaceful approaches to resolve the conflict, the soldiers shared stories of how a sitio, a barangay, a family underwent transformation.

The personal transformation of the “warriors” highlights stories that make the book an inspiration to all peace-builders not only in Mindanao but in other conflict areas.

What’s more inspiring is that the book is a brainchild of two people who came from different walks of life: Ayi Hernandez, an activist and executive director of Balay Mindanao, and Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer of the Eastern Mindanao Command and who used to be the commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Hernandez and Ferrer became classmates at the “Bridging Leadership Program” of the Asian Institute of Management. “OP Kors!” is part of the peace education component of the Peace Building Program of Balay Mindanao.

The book of stories will be launched before the Peace Policy Forum at the Ateneo de Manila today. The forum will be attended by military, civil society, government and church leaders from Mindanao.

The forum will tackle issues on “workable peace policies and peace interventions” in the Armed Forces. Joining Hernandez and Ferrer is Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales who is expected to talk about how peace education among soldiers and how it can help improve conflict management strategies and help reduce violence.


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Books and music

I only got three books from this year’s National Book Fair last Saturday.

I bought the latest edition of Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat” from PowerBooks although I haven’t finished reading the book’s “Release 2.0.”

Now I’m in Chapter 2 of “Release 3.0.”

I also got a discounted copy of John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man,” which I haven’t read although I know a friend of mine has a hardbound copy since last year.

Thanks to Father Toots of the Carmelites, I got my “review copy” of “Fired from Within,” a book that tackles the “spirituality of the social movement.” (I’m excited to immediately plunge myself into reading it.)

I missed a lot of things (and people) in this year’s fair. As expected, the big book shops and publishing houses dominated the five-day event. There were few giveaways. Time and NewsWeek were not even distributing free copies this year. (At least when I was there on Saturday.)

A lecture on the writings of Virgilio Almario was still “standing room only.” I had to stay outside the door of the lecture room to listen to snippets of wisdom from the speakers. Rio Alma of course was there later in the afternoon to speak before the students who were brought (by the busloads) by their teachers.

There were no more familiar faces unlike before. I saw a party-list representative, a political opposition spokesman, one or two young writers, and hundreds of children and students, some wearing their school uniform, ushered by their teachers.

I missed the freebies, the small publishing houses offering cheap, sometimes second-hand books, friends and colleagues who used to congregate at the fair during its weekend run.

On Sunday, I dropped by my favorite mall on the corner of EDSA and North Avenue in Quezon City. I chanced upon Jose Marie Chan who was on a rare mall tour for his latest album (the first in six years) “Love Letters and Other Souvenirs.”

I had to buy the CD for a seat to listen to the songwriter/singer of “Christmas in Our Hearts,” a song that became my favorite since I first heard it the first time several years ago. The CD of the song is one of the best Christmas gifts of all time I got. (Baduy na kung baduy, a dear friend gave it to me last Christmas.)

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