"These well-written stories show how the fantastical tales of our culture's mythology can shape our world in ways we don't even realise"

(Review from Manila Times)

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Fully Booked (Lazada and Shopee)

Negros Museum (available only on-site)

Why I wrote "Song"

Why did I write this book? I wish I could say I am an aspiring mythographer.  There are some people who spend their whole working lives searching and documenting old myths, legends, and folktales. Think Brothers Grimm and their faily tales.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those.  Instead, the idea came by serendipity--I casually met a couple of field researchers whilst on a trip to Negros.  They claimed there were old stories they had heard whilst at work and wished they could document them--all they needed were some funding. 

With more or less 15 stories completed, I was surprised to find them quite interesting.  They were short, easy to read, and straightforward--perfect reading primers! The social campaign closest to my heart has been to encourage Filipinos to discover the joy of reading!

This campaign started several years ago when I discovered most Filipinos cannot read.   There is a regular worldwie survey of student capabilities in three basic fields--math, science, and reading. The most recent one was in 2018, participated in by some 600,000 fifteen-year-old students coming from 79 countries.  The Filipinos scored second to the lowest in maths, second to the lowest in science, (only ahead of the Dominican Republic) and lowest in reading! Again, second to the lowest in maths, second to the lowest in science, and lowest in reading. The texting capital of the world cannot read! 

Perhaps as significantly, I feel that we have a wrong attitude towards education. We think that as long as we go to school, even failed schools, we are educated.  We see parents scrounge for every centavo just to be able to send their children to school.  The Department of Education is notorious for underfunding schools, and there is hardly any training for teachers.

Reading will help us think more critically. Critical thinkers become more discriminating voters. Discriminating voters can usher in better governance. Good governance will in turn give us a better educational system.  So, give me someone who reads and I will give you a person who thinks!

For the more sophisticated readers, I noted there are a number of well-researched academic papers about various topics but they hardly reach a broader audience.  I therefore want to bridge this gap between academic literature and the more popular articles found in travel magazines and comic books.  Hence, the latter part of the book is a basic discussion on  the broad relevance of these stories and what they mean for our daily lives.

"An engaging memoir of finding yourself and realizing that the place you had run from is now the place you're looking for."

(Review from Troubador)

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Negros Museum (available only on-site)

Why I wrote "Turtles"

Why did I write the book? The reason is, I honestly feel I have something to say—if only because I am at least twice the age, if not more, of most of my readers. In my years of wandering, I have observed a lot, experienced a lot, and want my readers to know that I think the Philippines is as good a place to stay as any. This is the country I come from and this is where I want to stay.

Having said that, everyone also knows that this place is not perfect. I write that when I was young, I wanted to run away. There were so many ills in Philippine society then, as now. And I thought I didn’t fit! My temperament and values didn’t fit my surroundings—the culture of the place where I had to operate. So, run away I did—for some 40 odd years! I became a cultural refugee.

Now here I am, over 70 years old and I am back, this time for good. Who knows, perhaps I can get a fresh look at things, and contribute to society by documenting what I see, and suggesting how Filipinos can use their strengths and ameliorate their weaknesses.

And also, at long last, I feel comfortable here. Because when I compare where I have been, and what I have seen, I find out there is no ideal place. Your home is where you make it.

Who are the Filipinos? Most Filipinos I know are very much “people” people. Because of this obssession in relationships, they find it difficult to focus on non-personal things—ideas, systems, rules, procedures. I still smile whenever I hear someone say, "Si Facebook," or "Si PLDT, as though they were people.  Problems are addressed not through impersonal systems and procedures but through a kakilala (who you know) syndrome, but one-off solutions also preclude productivity when satisfying services and goods cannot be replicated.

Then, there is my kababayans' great sensuality, coupled with their creative talents.  The Philippines is famous for good food, good entertainment, good performing arts. Good fun for a gregarious and extroverted people! Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, we also want to be rich, and we feel ourselves under-achieving. This breeds insecurity—a bit of criticism from more productive foreigners, and we are on a war path.  Amongst ourselves, however, the tendency is to whine and gripe.

So, the purpose of this book is to hold a mirror before us. To ask us to be aware of  ourselves but also to accept ourselves:  to know that we may be lacking in certain virtues, but that we have other ones that compensate for these shortcomings. We are warm, charming, humorous, and compassionate.

We should make use of these virtues because they are not common virtues. In my wanderings, I have found my host cultures frequently wanting. In fact, the richest peoples are also often the loneliest. Did you know that the UK last year appointed a Minister for Loneliness with full cabinet rank?

Most importantly, we must listen to our critics and learn from them—their industry, their professionalism, their resilience, their use of time for productive endeavors.

There is much to learn from each other.

Messages from readers:

"Loved reading your memoir. Opened it to the last third, then first third, then finally finished it. You accomplished what you set out to do. You express yourself in a seemingly facile, but clear way. Loved the way you articulated in clear language the zeitgeist of our country and the countries you lived in for many years. I am enriched for having read it. Where may I buy more copies locally?" Josefina Laurel

"This well written introduction excites me to read your Turtles. I just have to ask my son to assist me on how to buy your book through Amazon." Herminio Liwanag


Estelita Ignacio

28.10.2022 01:32

How I wish to read and have them. I was thinking of getting it when I go to Fully Booked but this pandemic has limited my movements.

Terry Guppy


13.04.2020 21:33