Street-Bound: Manila on Foot

Another book from ANVIL was Street-Bound: Manila on Foot by Josefina Manahan.

This was a not so random pick. I love to walk. My resume' includes; walking from Monumento to Blumentritt, a sweaty hike from SM North to UP Diliman, several forays from Blumentritt to Recto, leisurely strolls from Blumentritt to Rizal Park(yeah, no prize as to guessing where I live).

The book is well written, and following the author in and around Manila is easy. The narration is pretty straight forward; "turn right at", "now walk straight ahead to", "you should now be at"and the locations are easy to locate in the cute maps included (they look like the maps I scribbled when I began walking in Manila). The recounting of anecdotal reminiscence and the mention of particularly memorable ( to the author) people adds a certain folksy charm to the book.

But sadly...

I had heard that the book was outdated. I did not expect it to be painfully so. In some places the Manila described is so far removed from the Manila now that the author may well be speaking of Manila under the Spanish. In some cases following the author's narration along the major streets of present Manila left me with a distinct sense of "this couldn't be it". Partly, I think the fault lies in the author, at times she was brilliant...she captured a fleeting glimpse...a mood, a sense of places with deep historical significance for people who should have recognized that sense of history. Which just serves to create an expectation that those places may still be there...hidden away.

Sadly, politicians, businessmen, developers (and perhaps to a certain extent...certainly we too) just don't give a damn.

I just know that what little is left of the Manila 10 years ago may be gone 10 years from now. In that case, if you're like me you'd be thinking "I should try and see all of what's left". And so the book accomplishes exactly what the author set out to do...inspire people to walk in and around Manila.

Banana Heart Summer

Banana Heart Summer a novel by Merlinda Bobis is not just's your-lola's-adobo-when-you-don't-expect-it-but-you-kind'a-really-needed-a-pick-me-up good. I'd like to really thank Honey P. for this unexpected 253-page delight and to think, I just randomly picked it up from a pile of free ANVIL books offered during a book meet. Thanks Honey P. and ANVIL.

I don't know if the book is autobiographical but it certainly is a coming-of-age book, but anyway...

The book is a slice in (of?...from?) the life of a Bicolana girl, Nenita and the peculiar goings-on of a (not-so?) typical backwoods barrio during the, I guess mid or late 1960s. Page after delectable page we see life unfold for Nenita and her family, their friends, and neighbors. In every chapter Nenita sees the people around her, their lives, hopes, and dreams. She equates them or draws parallels to them with the wholesome and earthy food of the Filipino countryside, in most she even gives the recipe and instructions on how to prepare them. The truly great thing is that all this fits, the talk about food does not detract or distract from the commonplace quirkiness that is typical (I assure you) of a quiet small town in the probinsya. In and around this is a solid, provoking story of this probinsyana and how she did good and took care of her family.

For me, this book has everything, kumpletos recados 'ika nga, there's just enough tragedy, comedy, wry introspection, cultural observation, intrigue, folksy wisdom, etc. to provoke that sweet sense of nostalgia for something tip-of-the-tongue familiar and very much Filipino.