by KB Meniado
It’s a bad day for Ben. After years of earnest work, he’s been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator. Name tarnished and bridges burned, he steps into what he thinks is a shuttle ride home, and accidentally joins a tour of his own city.
It was supposed to be a good day for Naya. Her passion is traveling, her hobby is discovering cool things to see and do, and taking people on tours of Metro Manila is her only job right now. An extra person at the last minute isn’t ideal, especially if the person is a former colleague and the subject of the day’s hottest political trash fire. But work is work, and she decides to let him stay in the tour.
WHAT I LIKED
I’ve read Mina V. Esguerra’s books at various stages in my life, and every time, it feels like “omg has this author been stalking me, how could she have known?!” (She isn’t but then again who knows?) Her stories often hit home, and reading them is like a constant throwback, making me relive certain moments and reawakening feelings of the past.
This one, I’ve long been excited about, because principled government worker + passionate dream chaser (in the form of a travel guide), and I’m so happy to report that it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ve been in both shoes and it’s kind of surreal and impressive how accurately the conflicts and emotions are portrayed in the story. I think I may have highlighted 80% of the book because of things—things I agreed with, things I wished I was able to do, things I hope I’d be able to achieve.
If you read a mix of regret and hopefulness in that previous sentence, you didn’t read wrong. As I’ve said, I’ve been a Ben. I know how it feels like to believe in the ideal of helping bring good change and of activating what a pure heart of service can do. However, like in any kind of work, there’s always a catch. A thousand fishing nets, if I may say so. When you keep on getting caught, it becomes toxic. You find that you slowly lose your self in the name of cooperation and compliance, and no matter how much you want to stay, you make a decision to up and leave.
“And I know I should be saving more, and earning more, and doing all those adult things but I also can’t be bothered to kiss ass anymore.” (Chapter 7)
“Stop killing compassion in people. Hell, stop killing passion in people.” (Chapter 19)
That is how I became a Naya. It’s a save-yourself kind of thing. (Remember ‘bayan o sarili?’ from the film Heneral Luna?) Like her, I got fed up and left to pursue something else somewhere else. Not that bad days don’t come anymore (without them, where is the excitement), but there’s a refreshing kind of freedom and fulfillment when there is a level of security and control in terms of decision-making and management. This is what I saw in the way Naya and her ‘See This Manila’ tours was portrayed, showing how there are truly countless ways on how one can still bring the good to other people.
“You of all people should know that the strength to get up in the morning and face another trash day might be coming from knowing that there are still regular people who do great things and it helps to remind others that these people exist because we hurt them twice by being ignorant of their existence. Right?” (Chapter 4)
Just as she brought it for Ben* (which you’ll find out how when you read the book, and trust me, you must get a copy). It’s a little funny because they ~date~ for only less than a week in total and at intervals at that (once in every few months, etc.), but their connection was already almost insurmountable. (Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated place because most of their scenes together might make you combust.) The author played the concept of timing in their romance (and their issues) so well, and that reminded me that when things are meant to happen, they will, no matter the time frame or the circumstances. Ben and Naya were able to do good things when they were apart, and they were also able to build good moments when they were together—for each other and for other people. If that doesn’t sound like one of the best romances you’ve heard of…
“I want to spend the good days and bad days with you.” (Chapter 20)
*He sure did things for Naya, too, but this is just to highlight that in this story, and in all the other author’s books, you will find strong female characters that bring significant contribution.
What Kind of Day by Mina V. Esguerra, the first in the Six 32 Central series (a new one!), is a romance novel that follows two people in their 30s tackling the good and the bad in terms of self-preservation, integrity and work ethics. If you’re looking for something that will make you fall in love, have more faith in humanity and inspire you to try to make every day good all at the same time, this one is very much highly recommended.
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BONUS! Some book-inspired questions I asked Mina to answer. Feel free to answer them yourself in the comments section below. Enjoy!
He pulled one earbud off. ‘Yeah?’
Yeah? He was just going to yeah his way out of this? The nerve.” (Chapter 1)
You’re having a bad day and so you do a Ben—step into a tour van by accident. Who would you pick as your fellow passengers and where do you think would you all go?
So I think I’m at a stage in my life where I really just want to meet people because we’re going to go out to eat. If I were having a bad day I would love it if I walked into a van that happened to have my “buffet friends,” as in friends who would go to a buffet meal when asked, and… we would head to Spiral at Sofitel and just stay there. At dinner, so it still counts as a tourist thing because bay sunset!
“I will be quiet as a mouse.” “I don’t like mice.” “I will be as quiet as your favorite quiet thing.” (Chapter 1)
Describe your most favorite quiet thing without naming it?
A gentle hum and a room cooling.
“‘Was it an end-of-contract thing?’
She could tell him to mind his own business and join the rest. But instead: ‘No, not an end-of-contract thing. I walked into the office and yelled “I fucking quit I am done with you all!” And then…that was it.’” (Chapter 7)
Was there ever an instance you rage-quit like Naya, or maybe just quit in general? How did it go? What pushed you to do so?
One time, years ago, I really wanted to. Her “resignation speech” was something I’d thought of doing, because the person I reported to liked to yell and I thought it would be funny if I actually yelled back? But I didn’t do it that way, and instead waited, and chose my words carefully. That was the proper thing to do at the time, but not as satisfying. This is why I write fiction, maybe.
“‘Don’t yawn, because this is not boring, and maybe you’ll sit up straighter in class when you realize that history is being made every day.'” (Chapter 9)
Share a memorable experience at a historical place?
On my first trip to New York, I went to The Immigration Museum at Ellis Island and I had a moment. It was the actual complex of buildings where they processed immigrants in the early 20th century, and it’s an experience. You see where people lined up, the luggage they brought, and you step out of the building and can practically imagine what they saw when they started their new lives. It really resonated with me as someone from an immigrant family, and reminded me of history being not just the big moments but also what happens every day, big decisions by regular people that maybe affects only their own lives or their families but will change someone’s destiny decades, a century later.
[I] also felt that strongly in Bacolod, visiting ancestral homes like Balay Negrense and looking at their family trees or looking at their family history books there. History is personal and every day and also connected to larger things.
“‘It happens. You bond during a tour and become best friends, become more than that, you think you’ve met the best person by chance in the strangest place, you promise to keep in touch. And you don’t, but that’s okay. It happens.'” (Chapter 10)
If you could have a travel fling with anyone right now, who would you choose it to be and where and how would you spend your one/first day together?
Chris Evans. We’ll talk about politics for a little bit, or I’ll just watch him tweet. I think we’ll be in Puerto Princesa on day one. Please stop me from planning Days 2 to 7.
“‘You shouldn’t be emailing people at three a.m.’
‘Are you kidding me? Only true friends do that. Trusted confidantes. You’re in my circle of trust, is what that means.'” (Chapter 13)
Name the top three things you’d possibly be emailing your own circle of trust at 3 a.m.?
I can and probably have messaged people really late/early because I needed a ride, forgot something important, or (most often) I just had an idea that I really really needed to share at that moment or I’d forget it.
“One didn’t ‘hang out’ in government agencies for the fun of it—they were places that sucked you in for hours just because.” (Chapter 15)
If you could work in a government office for a day, which one would you pick and what do you think your position would be?
There’s a seminar given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development that you’re required to attend before they give you a marriage license at your city hall, and I want to facilitate THAT for a day. The one I attended was memorable because it involved a “newlywed game” of sorts, designed to get the couples discussing very specific social situations like what you would do if you discovered later that you had difficulty conceiving, or how long you would let an in-law live in your home. This is a seminar that’s probably skipped by those marrying in churches because their churches will have alternative faith-based seminars, but anyway, this is what everyone else has to attend. Super fascinating and I’d do that for a day, haha!
“I’m frankly taken aback by you, you’re like a unicorn in government. And not in a bad way—I think you do what you can, and you’re not above mistakes, but you seem to be willing to fix things.” (Chapter 20)
We all know a few unicorns! Share some of yours (not necessarily in government)—people other people should check out?
I am such an admirer of people who make things, and I was thinking of them when I wrote this story. Definitely look up Janus Aragones Zate and Shai San Jose (read our feature about Shai here), whose art I added to the book itself. C.P. Santi (read our feature about C.P. here) not just because of her work as a romance author but also her career in architecture and conservation of our heritage structures and art. Nash Tysmans, who works in communities and tells fascinating, difficult stories. Hannah Reyes Morales, documentary photographer, also a storyteller. Gio Gahol, stage actor and choreographer and director and #romanceclass inspiration. But there are so many! (Which means, not really a unicorn, or there really as so many if you know where they are.) I love meeting people who are into things. They remind me of the good we can do. ☁