Books with Pinoy Touch

A lunchbreak stroll at WalterMart gave me the opportunity of coming across a store selling second-hand books. While looking for a good title, a small black paperback caught my attention. It was Joseph Gangemi’s INAMORATA. It is a story set in the 1920’s and the characters were historical and familiar (which included the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). This mystery become more interesting as the story goes on. Martin Finch, an ivy-league school graduate, leads to quest in finding the ultimate proof of the existence of the spiritual world. His group found Mina Crawley; the rest of the book carries on with several ‘spirit quests’ that were a little frightening. Interestingly, the butler of Mina’s house was a Filipino, and whenever he speaks, Tagalog words would come out of his mouth. I am not sure if Gangemi has a Filipino blood running through his veins but from the looks of it, he knows my language. Although I am happy for a fact that the author used Tagalog, but again, the Filipino was portrayed as a ‘butler,’ (more like a domestic helper). Good thing it wasn’t a “the butler did it” story. Inamorata is the Italian word meaning ‘a woman whom one is in love with.’ From the title itself, one can guess that there is a love angle. I finished the book in one reading because of my interest in these mystery-type stories. It is a good book.

If one wants to visit the 1980’s during the time of the Marcos era in the Philippines, the critically-acclaimed DOGEATERS by Jessica Hagedorn is one of the best books to read. This novel-turned-play is a classic bestseller that directly narrates what is happening during the Martial Law regime. The true culture of the Filipinos were shown in vivid form. Although I was bombarded with so many characters (I blame myself for the lack of focus. haha!) the book filled with a mixture of prose, narrations and songs made me think and imagine how colorful Filipino life is (although set in the 80’s, tradition never changed that much). Social stratification in the Philippines is recounted side by side with Filipino religiousness. The story was mainly narrated by Rio Gonzaga, a ‘balikbayan’ from California. Other characters included those who reminded me of the Marcos era – the officers, the society people, and the shoe icon herself, former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It was entitled ‘Dogeaters’ because Filipinos eat dogs (well, I haven’t tasted one, but I am aware that it is really served). Any Pinoy reading this Hagedorn’s masterpiece will surely feel ‘at home.’

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