Welcome to the fifth book report for #BookbedReadsPHLit this 2017! In this challenge, readers must choose one book by a Filipino every month throughout the year. Check out our picks for May below!
1. Strange Natives: The Forgotten Memories of a Forgetful Old Woman by Paolo Herras and Jerico Marte
What I liked: The reason I bought Strange Natives back in April was that the artist behind the booth selling local comic books recommended it, saying it would make me feel empowered as a woman. And that’s what you get even in the first few pages of the story, which centers on Grasya, an ageing woman who sells antiques in a forgotten town in the Philippines.
Much like the furniture and house and town surrounding her, Grasya is filled with a past that can’t seem to set her free (or maybe she’s the one who refuses to let it go) and is constantly bombarded with her memories, both good and bad. It is through these flashbacks that Grasya’s history is revealed, the joys of her childhood and the suffering of her adult years, and in each stage of her life, Grasya is shown as a woman of strength and intelligence, even before she discovered the full extent of her powers.
(Spoiler alert! Highlight text to read.) And those pages portraying Grasya destroying basically a battalion of Japanese soldiers that killed her family was, for lack of a better word, flippin’ awesome.
Though the book is short, I feel like there is so much more to explore in Grasya’s story (Memory in a Doctor Manhattan-ish form; that photo of Grasya and her “friends”) but I’m also already satisfied with how it ended. I wouldn’t mind, however, buying other books related to this universe.
The art, too, is incredible and at times haunting, the black and white lending itself well especially on the more morbid and dramatic scenes. I wish I could say more about the illustration but I don’t have anything else except that it really is beautiful and I wish I had a digital copy of the book so I can better appreciate certain spreads without straining, and possibly ruining, the spine of my paperback from stretching it too much.
tl;dr: Strange Natives is an empowering yet heartbreaking story about a forgetful old woman whose memories will take you to a familiar past that’s seen in a new light. With art as gorgeous and as lush as the story, Strange Natives is sure to leave a lasting impression.—Allana Luta
Get a copy: Komiket (Oct. 14-15), Uno Morato
2. Promdi Heart by Georgette S. Gonzales, Agay Llanera, Chris Mariano, C.P. Santi, Jay E. Tria, Ines Bautista-Yao
What I liked: I started reading romance novels by Filipino authors around 15 (!) years ago, and from what I remember, whenever a story is not in the metro, it is either in a vaguely described province or an obscure town. Promdi Heart is not one of those. This six-story anthology is, as it says right on the title, unapologetically and proudly promdi. It pins the exact provinces on the Philippine map, right where every story happens, and provides vivid and factual portraits of what’s (and who’s) around town. It’s refreshing, stimulating and in a quite profound sense, eye-opening, especially for readers who have yet to explore outside those lively, fast-paced, never-sleeping bubbles in city-based stories. I would recommend this to those who hesitate to read romance, for those who want to travel by page around this beautiful country and finally, for those who still need convincing that, why, yes, romance might just be more fun in the Philippines. (Read our three-part feature series on Promdi Heart here.)
Allow me to share three of my favorite parts from the anthology: (I do have more, but I don’t want to spoil.)
“When I’d related that I had a tree house to play in as a kid, a girl said she thought everybody in Mindanao lived in boats. One guy even asked if we had electricity. Seriously, it made me wonder how they ever passed the university admission exams.”—from Only The Beginning by C.P. Santi
“‘It’s because of the blank space!’ Son burst out.
I shot him an empty gaze.
‘Blank space,’ he repeated patiently. ‘When someone dies, they leave a space. A spot. A vacancy, if you will. The ones that remain hurry to fill it.'”—from One Certain Day by Jay E. Tria
“Life was about reaching the next step, the next goal, the next dream. If I stopped, where would I end up?”—from Back to the Stars by Agay Llanera
tl;dr: If you’ve been wanting to try something local and something romantic, Promdi Heart‘s got you. This romance anthology set in different Philippine provinces is sure to spark the wander&lust in you.—KB Meniado
Get a copy: Amazon