Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong

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Chiefly character-driven, Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong takes us to the highs and lows of life in Singapore. We feel a spectrum of emotions throughout the collection as a child deals with a loss of a family member; a movie ticket clerk dines with a wealthy woman he just met; a philanthropist reminisces his journeys in charity work; and a single mother pilfers a pair of pants for his son, among others.

In “Susan’s Certainty,” a story where a woman ventures into introspection brought about by experiencing different forms of art, Wong writes: “All of these things connected with her, releasing a surge of emotional fulfillment […] leaving her dazed and relieved that someone had articulated her private miseries through art.” This seemingly cements Wong’s goal with this collection; he paints the foil of Singapore’s hustle and bustle—a city where individuals dwell with uncertainty, crises, and loneliness.

Wong wrote most of the stories as fictional while some are saliently autobiographical. But, there is noticeable poetry in his fiction in the way it carefully magnifies beautiful, strange, moving, and poignant imagery in the lives of his characters.

[Cover art from Epigram Books.]

Farthest So Far, 2016

One of my goals for last year was to travel to at least one foreign country, and I’m pleased to report that I accomplished it. My four-day stay in Hong Kong with my family was the farthest travel I’ve had so far.

It all started when the music festival Clockenflap released bits of their lineup in the earlier half of 2016. I was feeling pretty confident about flying out of the country, so I asked my sister, a somewhat seasoned international music festival goer, if she was up to it. Seeing us scour for cheap flights online, my brother (IIRC), suggested that the whole family should join. We found ourselves booked for Hong Kong for November.

Continue reading “Farthest So Far, 2016”

The Year That Was: 2016

I’ve decided to spare people from my entry to the annual Facebook essay writing competition and talk about how my 2016 was here on the blog instead.

I was skimming through my wall on Facebook the other day and looking at my posts for 2016, I realized that the first half of the year was pretty much okay.

I took classes on music theory where I met very talented people.

I went to a really nice beach in Batangas with my family.

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I also went to Baguio with my co-workers in January, and flew to Cebu in March to participate in the second installment of the presidential debates because we wrote a paper for the candidates.

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But everything went downhill, I guess, when my dog Katsu died in May. She had a liver problem.

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My dog Taco had a difficult time accepting Katsu’s disappearance, and soon he spiraled into some sort of depression, which consequently affected his health. He caught the deadly distemper bug. He died two days before my birthday.

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It was devastating for me because they were such good dogs (I mean, all dogs are good but), they were equal parts sweet and protective and overall loyal. What’s even more heartbreaking was that both didn’t live up to a year.

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Not a day goes by without mentioning how much I miss them. Sometimes I blame myself for their deaths, and sometimes, I don’t.

Days after Katsu passed away was the national elections and I saw my nation in its most divided state. And a political shitstorm followed, marked by a burial of a dictator, thousands of killings, and a massive spread of hatred and ignorance (and it’s still going on, btw). People I considered friends, and even a few family members fell for that hatred and ignorance and it was just disheartening to hear them speak ill of the rights of others.

My grandma passed away and it broke my heart to see my mother in grief. The family flew to Cebu for her, and on the last night of the wake my brother’s laptop was stolen.

And oh, goals… my god, I only struck off a measly three in my list.

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But 2016 wasn’t all bad.

My dad was home for the latter half of the year and I spent a lot of time with him. On the day after my birthday we went to his hometown and we went to this really nice beach in Sorsogon.

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OMG AAAAAAAAHHHH I DELIVERED A PAPER IN AN ACADEMIC CONFERENCE! It was so surreal because I was so used to working behind the scenes in conferences, in addition to getting rejection letters… I just didn’t expect myself to be the one up on the stage, speaking about something I pulled from my brain! I messed up at the forum after our panel but still! I also got amazing feedback from amazing people. So ayun, di naman pala ako ganun ka-bobo. HAHA.

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(Photo by Andrew Ty)

My family and I went to Hong Kong in November (I’ll blog about this later). I felt the magic of Disneyland! Also I went to my first international music festival where I watched Lucy Rose, Shura, Foals, and The Chemical Brothers.

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One of my closest friends from high school got married! The ceremony was in Australia and we’re not rich kids who can fly there in a snap, but my friends and I felt super happy for her because we know the guy she married really loves her.

I also spent many a tabletop game session with friends! My favorite game for 2016 is Dead of Winter.

I also got to listen to a bunch of really cool songs–I’ve blogged about it here.

There were a lot of challenges at work–this year I got some sort of promotion–but I was able to pull through with the help of my awesome co-workers.

It was also this year that I got to take graduate classes and all I can say is I fracking love learning stuff about art and music. It definitely helps that I have a very interesting bunch of classmates and professors with me in doing that.

Aaaaaand… that’s about it.

Unlike others, I have no big lessons from 2016. I know I have to toughen up, I know I have to be kind always, I know that I have to hydrate regularly.

What I am sure of, though, is that I am still grateful despite the shit I’ve been through.

With that, I say…

Onward! To 2017!

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The Most Important Meal of the Day

It has been months since I last posted and I could not think of any other fitting topic to talk about than breakfast to mark my return to this blog.

Last Sunday, my family and I went on a rather spontaneous trip to Tagaytay after dropping off my sister at work. We initially planned on having breakfast in a nearby McDonald’s, but we couldn’t find available parking space so my aunt suddenly declared, “O tara, Tagaytay.”

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We went to our favorite breakfast places ever, Breakfast at Antonio’s.

This is the Golden Waffle. We always order it. It’s perfect–crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Excellent with butter and a drizzle of Antonio’s burnt syrup.

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This is the bacon roesti (potato pancakes). Breakfast at Antonio’s makes their own bacon, and it has the right amount of fat and salt. The bacon rests on a pile of thin slices of crisp potatoes, while easy eggs and Swiss cheese sit on top of the bacon. The dish comes with a piece of bread (though that particular piece was not freshly baked and was actually quite hard).

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One bite and suddenly everything became all right.

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This is actually how my part of the table looked like, because I still had stuff to read for a report in class the next day. LELZ

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I washed everything down with a cup of really thick hot chocolate.

My parents had rice meals (beef tapa, if I recall correctly); my aunt, eggs benny; and my brother, the corned beef roesti. His roesti had housemade corned beef (so tender), Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.

If I had more money and more space in my stomach, I would’ve ordered their pancakes and omelettes, which also taste amazing.

A great fictional character by the name of Ron Swanson once said: “Why does anybody in the world ever eat anything but breakfast food?” To which an equally great fictional character, Leslie Knope, replied, “People are idiots, Ron.” Such is the value we must give to breakfast–to the point that we call people who don’t like breakfast food idiots, BUT I AM ONLY KIDDING. I think breakfast generally sets the tone for the day and effects of a good beginning may carry over to the rest of the day.

I know of some who skip breakfast because they don’t have time for it. I, on the other hand, always find time to eat breakfast because I don’t feel like myself when I skip it. It just sucks that some can’t really afford to eat in the morning, though I do hope we all find time to sit down to a good breakfast every once in a while.

Cheers to freshly fried rice and eggs done to our liking!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

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Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh | 2013, Touchstone (book cover from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1757164-hyperbole-and-a-half)

(A shorter version of this review is on my Goodreads page.)

I love this book! The stories about the dogs still get me (I’ve read them all before when it was still a blog), and the illustrations are hilariously on point. The prose itself is funny enough to stand by itself, but the inclusion of illustrations (that sometimes tell the story more than the written text) makes the humor more solid. Some illustrations, in fact, can also stand by themselves, as if to form a comic strip. Though I loved it, I rated it 4 out of 5 stars because there were some parts where I found the illustrations more interesting than the prose.

Brosh not only makes good use of hyperbole/exaggeration but is also able to control it and it doesn’t scream at you to force you to laugh. I think it’s what makes the book great.

The inclusion of screen caps of the goose video was so funny that I laughed out really ugly laughs. It didn’t help that I was in a clinic when I was reading it.

If you’re looking for a quick and funny read, this is it, this is the book that you need. It also makes for a great gift for someone who’s into David Sedaris. I find their senses of humor almost on the same plane.

#Marupok on Spotify

Greetings! It has been a while! Anyway, a couple of months ago I badly wanted to escape office work (hehe) so I created a playlist and called it #Marupok (frail). Truth is, I wasn’t even feeling sad that time, just really, really, ridiculously bored. I figured these are the songs one could listen to post-breakup/when longing for someone. After all, studies have shown that listening to sad songs when sad could actually be a form of self-medication.

Happy healing, I guess.

EDIT: So the Spotify embed code’s not working. 😦 Here is a link to the playlist: http://bit.ly/marupokplaylist

  1. Gabe Bondoc – Fickle
  2. Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter
  3. The Perishers – Pills
  4. Kate Walsh – Your Song
  5. Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You
  6. How to Dress Well – Face Again
  7. Kings of Convenience – I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From
  8. Maude – Habol
  9. Charlie Lim – Knots
  10. Tahiti 80 – Easy
  11. Up Dharma Down – Sana
  12. The xx – Angels
  13. Michael Andrews, Gary Jules – Mad World
  14. Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
  15. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
  16. William Fitzsimmons – Just Not Each Other
  17. The Album Leaf – Always For You
  18. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
  19. The xx – Fiction
  20. Teddy Geiger – Try Too Hard
  21. Friendly Fires – Strobe
  22. Amy Winehouse – Love is a Losing Game
  23. The Weepies – World Spins Madly On

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl | 1990, Random House Vintage Books (book cover from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/394689.Tales_of_the_Unexpected)

This afternoon’s thunderstorm caused intermittent brownouts in my office today, and soon enough it became a full-fledged brownout that lasted for an hour.  I was left with nothing to do while waiting for my brother to pick me up from work, so I finished reading Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors–he’s one of the many people whose work motivated me to write.

Tales of the Unexpected is the first ebook I’ve finished reading in my new smartphone. I used the app Aldiko, which is a pretty nice reading app. The only drawback is the limitation of features–there were so many passages I wanted to highlight but I couldn’t because I have to upgrade to the premium version of the app for that certain feature. iBooks is still the best reading app for me.

I immediately noted down my critique after swiping to the last page of the ebook through my phone’s Quick Notes app. I didn’t bother rewriting them here into a nice, coherent review anymore because I’m a colossal bag of lazy bones.

  1. The stories in this collection reminds me a lot of O. Henry’s.
  2. There’s no doubt about Dahl’s writing prowess.
  3. But it gets tiring to read too. Until now, I’ve never bothered to finish reading my collection of O. Henry stories because I know that I will be surprised in every story.
  4. First, a disclaimer: I haven’t read other reviews for this book. But it didn’t quite exceed my expectations. When an author decides to switch flavors–in this case, when a known children’s literature writer ventures into writing books for an older audience, it’s not always well-received. It reminds me of how people reacted to The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.
  5. But it’s weird that I immensely enjoyed The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, another short story collection by Dahl that is also for older readers. I first read it in grade school and if my memory serves me right, I borrowed it twice from my school’s library.
  6. The women in these stories are so kawawa (pitiful). The wives, especially. Take for example Louisa from “Edward the Conqueror,” the last story in the collection. She was trying to convince his husband, Edward, that getting this certain cat is the most exciting thing that has happened to her recently. And how did Edward react? By telling her to go make her dinner. Good grief.
  7. Some subjects and topics in the book are too… foreign for my taste. There was a story about an auction–see, I can’t recall the title! And it really, really, really bored me.
  8. My favorites from this bunch of stories are “Galloping Foxley,””Royal Jelly,” and “Nunc Dimittis.”