Thursday, September 30, 2010

15 Books

Kinagat ko na: pampagising din ng utak at ala-ala

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

1. Ang Kasaysayan at Pamahalaan ng Republika ng Pilipinas, Alberto Abeleda. I was this inquisitive child since Grade 1 who was prone to exploring the halls of National Bookstore branches and randomly picking up books I have no idea what they actually contain. One particular time when I was at an NBS branch in Makati (in the old Glorietta 1 Branch that has sadly now closed), I picked up this particular yellow book with a map of the Philippine Islands which was actually a textbook for high school freshman Philippine History: talking about the history of the Philippines since the pre-colonial era until the then-current Ramos presidency (it had a 1995 copyright). Tucking myself in a corner, of the book shelves, I was actually obsessed with leafing through the images of the different historical people, places and events that I did not notice how my parents were already calling me for about 30 minutes within the textbook area of NBS-Glorietta (akin to the Finding in the Temple perhaps? Damn presumptuous.) It was among the first textbooks I have read from cover-to-cover, in my spare time (and as a Grade School student at that)! From then on, I somewhat became an avid reader of Philippine history books and triggered my interest in government (which probably explains my primary obsession with Philippine History and why I am about to graduate [hopefully] in Political Science). My interest in the book never waned for years that I actually referred to it as my own primary book in Philippine History when I was taking high school freshman Philippine History, if only because the book assigned to us seemed shitty. (My History teacher, Mrs. Meliza Closas, Christine Jennifer A. Dimaliuat, and South Crest School Batch 2007 can attest to this fact).

2. Buhay at Diwa ni Jose Rizal, Alejandro & Medina. Another product of my usual playing around National Book Store, this time in Alabang Town Center, I came across this particular college text book on Jose Rizal’s life and works. Another book which I finished cover-to-cover (albeit with the help of my father reading it to me when I fell ill during the summer break of 1999), it probably is the reason why I am a fervent Rizalist (not religiously though) up to this day, even after being exposed to Leon Ma. Guerrero’s The First Filipino, Gregorio Zaide’s hagiographic accounts, and even Sir Ambeth Ocampo’s deconstructive take on him in Rizal Without the Overcoat. Sometimes, re-reading the book and being exposed to a glorifying account of Rizal’s greatness is still necessary if only to reinforce your pride in being Filipino.

3. Good News Bible. Probably the first Bible I had (and appreciated) when I hit Grade 5, the idea of getting my own Bible actually came to mind when I came across a stray Our Daily Bread booklet my mother left around our house. There was a particular statement wherein it was mentioned that “someone whose Bible is not falling apart is a person whose life is falling apart.” Nakunsensiya by that statement, I persisted in asking my parents into getting me a good Bible, which one (this particularly-large Good News Bible with a leather brown jacket) became my new daily read after finishing assignments. It became my favorite book to go to when I feel depressed and/or angry with school life, and it also became a personal indicator that I was already entering puberty when I found particular passages in Ezekiel arousing my curiosity far more than an elementary student probably should have.

4. Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Jose Rizal. Forced to read expurgated editions of the Noli and Fili (before even hitting junior and senior high school) for a required presentation in freshman Filipino (and which I actually had the same topic, at least the Noli with our then-class president Catherine Lea Posadas), I became far more interested with the depth of the narrative and the supposedly-subversive arguments that Rizal wrote into it (leading me to convince my parents to buy me the unexpurgated, accurate Lacson-Locsin translations). Becoming tired of the supposed “patriotic lodemines” these literature have, it unwittingly drew me into adopting that antagonistic thinking against the Catholic Church (which was possibly reinforced by our family watching the televangelist program Ang Dating Daan at the height of its feud with the Iglesia ni Cristo sect). Even after reading Paul Ricœur’s statement on the need for contextualizing religious texts (against ADD’s espousal of the sola scriptura stance), I still have yet to find any convincing refuting statements against Rizal’s interpretation of the injustices the Spanish Catholic Church and colonial regime, probably reinforcing my persistent religious dilemma up to this day.

5. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas peré. With reading Rizal’s two-novel saga and discovering that he actually read this book as a child, I also made it a point to try reading it myself. Even if what I have up to this day is a censured and expurgated version of it, managing to find the whole text in the net exposed me to the richness of French culture and the exciting world of the literary genre roman-feuilleton. Despite Dumas being supposedly a hack and prone to plagiarism as well as historical revision, I was drawn in to the supernatural, the intrigues and the action that this novel delivers. This novel remains dear to me over the past years that I still fondly remember how I did a comparative analysis of the Noli-Fili saga with The Count for my senior English and got one of the highest grades among the class for it. More than that, buying the book actually led me into beginning my growing personal library, stuffed with Shakespeare and the like.

6. Mga Ibong Mandaragit, Amado V. Hernandez. A book I bought together with Cervantes’ Don Quixote, it opened my eyes to the conflicted history of the post-Liberation era Philippines which was characterized by growing strife and social unrest, hardly the supposed peacetime it seemed to be as I was taught Philippine History in elementary under the benevolent Mr. Eddie B. Ruiz. Feeding my then-growing anti-American sentiment (which came to its peak when I agreed to a proposal by fellow honor student Joselito Alcaraz II to burn an American flag in a Filipino convocation during our batch’s speech choir presentation, which we lost), the book in a way began my partiality to Leftist thinking and desiring to read the texts (or at least summaries) of books by Karl Marx and Mao Tse-tung. That my senior high school writings were already influenced by being exposed to Ateneo de Manila’s Matanglawin (of which I am a proud member over my entire 4 years in the Ateneo) probably hardened my resolve to pursue Political Science (aside from the initial desire of pursuing Law).

7. Don Quixote de la Mancha, Miguel Cervantes. I was actually interested in getting the book after I read Rizal’s allegory El Consejo de los Dioses and saw how it was compared to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Reading the two books that run the entire course of Cervantes’ narrative about a delusional knight, it is practically the thickest book I read from cover to cover, devouring it for the entire summer break of my high school junior year. The details of the narrative are now hazy to me, but it was ultimately one hell of a read for a high school student. Definitely when some college students are even stumped trying to read beyond half of it.

8. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli. Seeing in a footnote in The Count of Monte Cristo about this particular book on politics, I once again sought it in National Bookstore and devoured it within 2-3 days. Being then an Aerospace Cadet of our school, the book’s tackling of leadership and virtue-building appealed to me becoming a leader applying those skills in resource mobilization and human resources. I learned the hard way when I became Corps Commander and Interact Club president how it was not so, running my Cadet Corps and club aground in my forgettable-yet-still-memorable high school senior year. Nowhere did I think that Machiavelli would resurface in my study of the History of Political Theory under good mentor Mr. RR Rañeses; I actually became notorious in class for being unusually active in this part of the course (as well as hazarding a translation job of the book which I never seemed to accomplish up to this day).

9. Closer Than Brothers: Manhood in the Philippine Military Academy, Alfred McCoy. Before I was even familiar with his book An Anarchy of Families, Philippine Social History and his bloody thick Colonial Crucible, I was drawn to the book due to my aforementioned affiliation with the Aerospace Cadets in high school. Reading about the PMA and its history, as well as its dealing with the politics of colonization and the brutalizing era of Martial Law, my resolve to enter the PMA was affirmed at the chance that I will not pass the UPCAT or the ACET. The book actually also reinforced my attempt to reconfigure my detachment’s military culture by importing PMA slang and literature. When I did pass the UPCAT and ACET, my detachment was running aground and graduation near, I thought I would enlist with the ROTC and continue my frustrated military life there. However, being exposed to the full brunt of the Political Science curriculum and ultimately seeing that I am too wimpy for the COCC program changed my weltanschauung and turned me into taking Political Science seriously. And probably, the Philippine military and political science benefitted from it.

10. The Ambeth Ocampo Canon: Rizal Without the Overcoat, Bonifacio’s Bolo, Aguinaldo’s Breakfast, Luna’s Moustache, Meaning and History and Bones of Contention. Name any Ambeth Ocampo book selling in 2006-2007, I have them. Reading Sir Ambeth’s peculiar take on history simply affirmed my love for it and actually influenced my taking AB History as a second choice in my Ateneo application form. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that being exposed to Sir Ambeth’s skeptical take on supposedly-sacrosanct elements of Philippine historiography was the first step in shaping my mind into the student of critical thinking I would be after more than three years of Political Science. Photocopying Looking Back and Mabini’s Ghost in the Rizal Library, but more importantly being his student in Hi 165 during my Junior year was probably an event in my life I will never forget (if only for the mind-warping it dealt me).

11. Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination, Benedict Anderson. Once again picking up a book I had no idea what it was actually about in National Book Store Festival Supermall around my senior year (together with Justice Abraham Sarmiento’s retrial of Andres Bonifacio), this introduced me to anarchist thinking and the history of anarchist movements around the world. That Anderson tried tying it up with the anti-colonial struggles of many Spanish colonies exposed me to my first book employing studies of comparative politics (which sadly I wasn’t able to replicate when I took the course last year) whetted my appetite for Leftist thinking and Philippine history all the more. It actually became a book dear to me that it is the book that immediately comes to mind when one mentions Anderson, not his overly-quoted Imagined Communities. That I am actually planning to write my thesis in my MA in Global Politics as an expansion (and possible rebuttal) of points he made in the book made me appreciate it further.

12. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The most epic reading assignment given to me in my freshman Lit 13 class under Mr. Gino Francis Dizon (an influential teacher and the first who led me to appreciating queer studies [who I suspect owned the very room I now occupy in Torres Bldg.]), it gave me such classical literary gems such as “Today is still Monday”, the accounts of peoples, cultures, revolutions and everything else with the spin of mysticism and erotics. Also, I have never found a literary book with such fantastic last words: “because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on Earth.”

13. Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault. Because life is never the same after Foucault. And, to quote how Mr. RR Rañeses featured it in his own “15 books” list: “the first page did it.” Not to mention the life-changing statements and weltanschauung-altering perspectives you can get from political theory classes, beer/coffee sessions with Rosselle Tugade and Arjan Aguirre, philosophy classes under Fr. Luis S. David, and critical International Relations.

14. The Republic, Plato. Technically the first major reading assigned to me as a Political Science sophomore, this was the start of that era when I have a book that I did not finish cover to cover. (T_T) I wonder how I actually survived managing to write the 1st major paper on the course without having a full grasp of the text, and actually passing it. I usually tried time to time to review it, but it actually dawned on me that I have to begin revisiting it seriously if I would actually become a legitimate faculty member of the Political Science department after my masters.

15. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Roland Barthes. Because the romantic, torpe totoy in me survived despite exposure to liberal thinking, critical thinking and having friends with less-than-demure thoughts. Introduced to me one rainy afternoon in Contemporary Political Theories under Sir RR (when he supposedly had nothing better to lecture), I was drawn in by the fascinating interplay of word, text, meanings and linguistics. Only acquiring it about a few months ago, reading it never fails to make me gush. Venturing into the metaphysical (the closest I have due to the simple reason of never being exposed to Ricœur, Marcel, Scheler, Kant and Sartre in Ph 101-102) as well, it is probably among the reasons why I consistently refer to it in my papers in my Philosophy of Religion course under the legendary Eddieboy Calasanz.

Looking back after reading this list, it actually sounded as much as a short autobiography as it was a list of my books.

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