Senior Moments

Kuwento ni Celestino Cabal.

Kabebertdey niya lang. 

Mayroon siyang natanggap na regalo na ngayo'y unti-unti niyang binubuksan.

Ika nga ng mga matatanda, "Huli man daw at magaling, maihahabol din." 

Reading this graphic novel by Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria was a stroll down memory lane. I grew up on my kuyas' Filbar's comic book treasures--my favorites included The 'Nam, Power Man and Iron Fist, The Infinity Gauntlet series, Groo, and of course, Tintin.

But the last time I picked up a comic book was back in high school when I started collecting Asterix and Obelix. Now, reading Sixty Six makes me want to get into the joy of reading this genre again.

The illustrations were very spot-on and cinematic, hitting me at gut-level, while the dialogues were crisp and very Filipino. I laughed out loud so many times, though comedy was just a side dish of this visual feast. It had everything--love, action, comedy, drama, and even, kababalaghan.

My favorite part about Sixty Six is that it chose to have a senior citizen as a main character. There's so much focus in our culture (and commercial literature) on the young, and I thought Mang Tino was a refreshing hero. He reminded me of my dad, of my future self--when it's my turn to hand over that senior citizen ID to get my discount in supermarkets and restos.

It's cool to be old. It's cool to have lived your life the best way you can, and contend with creaking joints and gray hair. And best of all, it's cool to be old and have superpowers.

Now, excuse me while I lend this gem of a book to my 16-year-old nephew, who aspires to make a graphic novel of his own.


The Fabulous Baker Girl

One Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista Yao

1 college junior, fired from summer internship
1 secret crush, the cute and flirty type
1 crush's best bud, with a secret of his own

1. In large bowl, mix together college junior and secret crush.
2. Gradually add in crush's best bud.
3. Stir until best bud's secret is revealed.
4. Let mixture rest in a sleepy provincial town.
5. Bake under the blazing summer sun until golden brown (be careful; batter might burn).

Tania's summer is more than she can handle! Her cooking career comes to a screeching halt before it can even take off. Then, best friends Rob and Mateo enter the picture. Can she figure out her feelings for them AND get the internship credits she needs to make it to senior year?

This book was such a fun, light read. Honestly, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but surprise, surprise, I started really getting into it when the main character (MC) left the city and started discovering more about herself.

I liked the MC's voice--it was authentic and honest. Sometimes YA books tend to sound older than their supposed age, but in this case, the author nailed the tone. As the story progressed, I found myself liking the MC more, and gradually, her tone changes. She becomes more observant, more mindful of other people.

There were also a number of times I laughed out loud, especially when MC described the snail's pace of her summer internship in the province. And the most delightful twist of all--how she ended up with the unexpected love interest.

Buy it on Amazon or in bookstores.

Feel-Good Flashback

The Boyfriend Backtrack by Dawn Lanuza

I've been hearing good stuff about this local indie book that I immediately added it to my Kindle. And I'm glad I did. 

The Boyfriend Backtrack was nicely written, even though the story-telling wasn't linear. It involved a series of flashbacks involving the main character and her past brushes with romance. The technique wasn't at all confusing; in fact, it shed light on the character's present dilemma: should she go ahead and marry because she was at the right age? Because her steady boyfriend asked her to? Because it was the next logical step in their relationship?

I loved how the author executed the dialogues. They read so naturally, like I was watching a good rom-com with a little more depth. Another thing I liked about this book was that a love interest's song for the main character was Here comes your Man by the Pixies. Wow, now that's a major flashback. And a really cool one too.

Buy it on Amazon or Smashwords.

Bookish Wish

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with a wish!

The question I was asked to answer was: Which Filipino books for kids do you want to get published?

I've always been a big YA (Young Adult) fan even when I stopped being the target reader for the genre.  One of my first jobs was being a segment producer for the now-defunct tween show called 5 and Up. There, I discovered kindred spirits who were just as badly hung up on YA as I was.

My co-producers and I had an informal book club, exchanging our YA books by Jerry Spinelli, S.E. Hinton, E.L. Konigsburg, and Robert Cormier, among others. September was the highlight of our bookish lives; we all hied off to Megamall for the book fair, where we scored discounted YA books. These books were sort of a shared property--we made sure we didn't buy the same book twice (if we didn't have enough cash) since we'd borrow each other's stuff anyway.

MY POINT IS...there weren't enough local YA books at that time. That's why we gorged on those foreign books with characters that were blonde and blue-eyed, stories that mentioned snow, spring break, and other foreign concepts. But the themes were varied, and they kept us coming back for more.

That's why Janus Silang is such a breakthrough--at least in my opinion.

Here's a fresh, new YA book that wasn't thin, with enough words to make it a full-fledged novel. And it was unabashedly Pinoy, its theme revolving around our supernatural culture. The best part about it was that it was written in Tagalog!

I felt that this book changed mindsets. It's cool to read something in Tagalog, in a language that we use to converse with our friends. It involved blood, gore, and gaming addiction--issues that are sometimes side stepped in local books for kids.

Kids want something more sophisticated. Something that won't talk down to them. Something that showed them that they're in this cool stage of their lives, and that being Pinoy is something to be celebrated.

So such is my book wish: please--more local YA reads that tackle a host of subjects that will make us feel that being Pinoy is the coolest thing in the world.


The Children's Book Illustrator I Want to Date

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with this somewhat unconventional question:
Which children's book writer or illustrator would you like to date for a day?

Well, I'm going to cheat a bit because the person I would like to spend a day with is a good friend of mine, who happens to be one of the founding members of INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan).

Presenting (drumroll, please) . . . the supertalented ROBERT ALEJANDRO!

He illustrated "Chief Flower Girl" by Marivi Soliven-Blanco, a children's book released in 1998. I trawled the net but I couldn't find the book cover. But if you're curious about his work, just click on his website or enter any Papemelroti store, which houses his designs, along with his sisters'.

Robert and I bonded when we worked in the children's show, Art is-Kool, which aired on GMA 7 from 2003-2004. It may have been a short-lived show, but it was highly successful. I remember helping organize our free art workshops in the mall, and there would be this DELUGE of participants which we weren't prepared for. We also got a lot of fan mail, and the ratings weren't bad for a morning show.

(me, Kuya Robert, and Aldrin)

Including Robert (and excluding the camera crew), our production team consisted of three. While Robert brainstormed his weekly projects (sometimes, minutes before we filmed), my colleague (first it was Marj then it was Aldrin) and I wrote on-the-spot spiels, directed the shots, edited the episode, and helped the network with marketing (Art is-Kool was produced by Probe Productions, Inc., an independent production company) week after week. It was exhausting work--one that people inevitably bonded over.

Now, Robert is constantly busy, and I would very much like to chat with him again. Aside from being one of the most talented people I know, he is also one of the nicest. I think the reason why Art is-Kool was a success was that Robert genuinely loved kids, and recognized the artist in everyone. He insisted on using recycled materials--none of those fancy-shmancy art materials NOT every kid could afford. From these simple things, he created coin banks, puppets, toy cars and other beautiful objects, which I think, are reflections of his kind heart.

So Robert, if you're reading this, mag-date naman tayo!


My Favorite Pinoy Children's Books

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with a post!

I've always loved working for/with children, so I guess it's only natural that even as an adut, I gather inspiration from children's books. And I don't mean just the popular ones from Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss or Sandra Boyton. The local scene is just overflowing with children's books that have touched me in a special way.

Here are some examples (in no particular order)--some of which are my son's favorites as well:

Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit
Author: Rene Villanueva
Illustrator: Ibarra Crisostomo
How can you resist a tongue-in-cheek story about a pig who sacrificed his life by being the first ever lechon? Complete with a reference to Nora Aunor's blockbuster movie, this story is a hit among, not only children, but also adults.

Alamat ng Ampalaya
Author: Augie Rivera
Illustrator: Kora Albano
My son still doesn't like ampalaya, but he loves this book. Through this imaginative tale, we find out how the bitter gourd got its name--and disposition.

Salamat Po!
Author: Russel Molina
Illustrator: Tokwa Peñaflorida
I'm a sucker for children's books that use words sparingly, and this is one of them. I love the authenticity of the young character's voice, and how the story reads like a prayer.

Gusto ko nang lumaki!
Author: Liwliwa Malabed
Illustrator: Domz Agsaway
My son also loves this book; both the illustrations and story were so wacky! I don't think I'll ever get to read the phrase Barbie na nagiging sitaw in another book in this lifetime.

The Girl in a Box
Author: Dang Bagas
Illustrator: Aldy Aguirre
Somber and musical, the tone of the narrative, coupled with the whimsical drawings, packs a punch. No wonder it was chosen as one of 2014's Best Reads at the National Children's Book Awards.

Papel de Liha
Author: Ompong Remigio
Illustrator: Beth Parrocha-Doctolero
Such a simple story with a lot of heart. I read this for the first time when I was an adult, in a bookstore, from cover to cover. After reading it, I bought it, wanting the words to echo within me.


What Helps Me Write

It's hard to get that first (shitty) draft going, and staring at my computer screen while doing that type-delete-pause routine completely drains me. Besides, since my work also involves tapping on my keyboard, I relish the time I spend away from it.

I find that it's easier for me to complete a novella when I first organize my thoughts on paper.

(Sorry for the mirror image--that's what Photobooth coughs out)

I don't edit my thoughts or think about the grammar. I just write and write and write. The day after, I transfer the words on my computer. Sometimes, I don't even have to look at my notes because they're all in my head, and I now have a clearer, more succinct version that flows from my fingertips.

I guess it's because I'd already purged my brain of all unnecessary plot elements that I'm able to get a more accurate feel of what the story is all about.

How about you? What's your technique?