My 2016 Great-Reads List

BORACAY 2017 (1)        Reading is one of the most rewarding thing ever invented. It is amazing how one can stay in a corner and be in a world of wonder as soon as the first few pages unfold. Last year, I challenged myself to read books despite my busy schedule. So here are my great reads of 2016…

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is a classic story of a young scientist who inadvertently created a monster. He thought his discovery, to bring an inanimate body back to life, will bring about scientific advances but little did he know that it just turned out to be a terrifying idea.

I have watched a Frankenstein movie before, and back in the day I just thought it is your ordinary horror story. It never really didn’t sink into me. Having read it now, I realize that the creation turned to be a monster because of his lack of ‘belongingness’ – it was lost and confused, didn’t know exactly who or what it was. I think he was just craving for attention and inclusion which he didn’t find in his exploration.

This is true to real life — oftentimes we misjudge people for being the monsters that they are but have we ever tried to analyze what made them that way? There are factors in their existence that shaped them into who they are. This is a crucial thought. This goes to show that to everyone we meet and brush elbows everyday, let us treat them with kindness.

As to Victor Frankenstein’s quest for accomplishment, this is also one thing we can relate into. I believe everyone has his dreams and goals in life. Everyone wants to achieve them as it brings about a sense of pride and fulfillment. But as you can see in this book, his creation was a disaster. In life, sometimes the very desire we have, are the ones to break us. Maybe not the end product itself because who would think of a bad objective. But it is the process of making these goals into reality that oftentimes lead people astray. Many stories have been told about people climbing into the ladder of success by evil ways. Therefore, it is right to check our motives as we work into the completion of our dreams.

And oh, isn’t it amazing that this novel was written by a 19-year old girl in 1818? When I was 19, not so long ago, I only remember having a hard time doing my reflection paper. Hahaha!

2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This a story set in the 19th century about an underprivileged but loving family. Four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March were motivated by their mother to act like “little women” as they share their days together when their father was sent off to war.

I find the plot slow, but it keeps you reading because of Jo’s character. I personally like her because she loves literature! She likes both reading and writing and she has this wit and adventurous spirit.

There is a point in Jo’s life that she is afraid of the idea of romance and marriage as she thinks it would just separate her from her parents and sisters. How cute! But of course later on she realizes that “romantic love has its place, even though it changes the relationships you already have”.

I find the theme of family and togetherness being highlighted in this book. It reflects how families are closely knitted, undergo through some hardships, not to mention disagreements and “skirmishes” but still chose to stay…forever.

And do you know that some writers claim that Jo’s character somewhat resembles to that of Alcott? So much for self-insertion. But very well done!

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A Gothic novel which tells a story of love, revenge, loss and realizations. It centers on Heathcliff, who loved Catherine, lost her and sought to find revenge to those who have done him wrong. I cannot even write a good synopsis of this novel since it has a lot of curves and edges hehe and I don’t want to be a spoiler.

So I have been meaning to read this book since time immemorial, because I have heard a lot of good and not-so-good reviews. And now I understand why everyone’s raving about it.

For one, if you hate reading a topsy-turvy, “circulus in probando” plot, and you are not a patient reader, don’t read this one. Because you will find it a tedious read. hehe (But I still encourage you to read it! I am just kind of warning you…) That’s why some find it not so good. And the characters’ especially (Heathcliff!!!) craziness is also extreme it reminds you of the typical telenovelas — so much drama going on here!

But what’s great about this book is the human nature it strongly shows. It makes you think deeply that revenge is never a good thing. Truly, anger will just consume you and make you the most evil version of yourself. Just like Heathcliff. But in fairness, he realizes his wrongdoing but late…way too late.

And another sad thing, this is Emily Bronte’s only novel and she died a year later after its publication, at the age of 30. The world lost a brilliant a novelist early on…

4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

This Austen classic tells a story about two sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood they represent the “sense and sensibility” title. Just like most of Austen’s work, it has the theme on love, marriage, family and relationships.

This book is good for character analysis especially comparing characters of Elinor and Marianne. The two sisters are very different in their thinking, behavior and principles when it comes to love. Elinor is calm and cautious. Even when she clearly loves Edward, she has this art of self-control which let her act wisely. On the other hand, Marianne is oversensitive and impulsive, even described, “ She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation.”

But as the story progresses, they would soon become more or slightly of the other. When Elinor learned about Edward’s “marriage” to another woman (which didn’t really happen), her calmness was gone. She indeed fought for the love of her life. And when Marianne learned that her love Willoughby left her, she became so ill and desperate but later realized that she was the one who inflicted pain in herself for Willoughby never really proposed to her. And soon realized the worth of Colonel Brandon who was always there for her.

This classic makes me laugh about how us, women, can be so troubled about love. I am not sure about this but men fall in love, get hurt and move on. They know who or what they want and are decisive about it and make clear decisions to arrive at the goal. While women make it more complicated. I think most women over-analyze things and act upon emotions which most of the time is a perfect recipe for bruised hearts.

But it is also awesome that with this weakness comes our strength, that when we love someone, we give our all, we give our best. And I am sure a man who is in love to his woman will do just the same — give his all, give his best.

And I believe that is the ideal way, as what Marianne says during his marriage to Colonel Brandon “could never love by halves”. What a beautiful way to put it!

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A classic gothic fiction that tells a story of an impossibly handsome young man named Dorian Gray who had a portrait of himself painted by Basil Hallward. Upon the completion of the painting and prompted by Lord Henry Wotton’s remarks about “ transient nature of beauty and youth”, Dorian whimsically cursed that if only the painting “could bear the burden of age and infamy, allowing him to stay forever young.”

His wish was granted as his hedonistic tendencies led him to do evil acts and in every sin he commits, it is reflected on the painting which shows him aging and disfigured, while he stayed youthful and handsome. At the end, with too much regret and repentance, he plunged a knife unto the portrait with an attempt to destroy it, but “There is a crash, and his servants enter to find the portrait, unharmed, showing Dorian Gray as a beautiful young man. On the floor lies the body of their master — an old man, horribly wrinkled and disfigured, with a knife plunged into his heart.”

As I see it, this novel reflects hedonism and self-pride and the damage it can cause to anyone who is over-possessed by it. I mean, to be proud of who we are and what we can do is different with thinking too much of ourselves, thus, being prideful. And this is what Dorian shows. He wanted to stay forever young because he took pride of his beauty and charm.

Sad but true, I think this is what is happening nowadays. I don’t want to sound critical but videos or articles about “How To Be Beautiful/Handsome” (in any possible way: make up tutorials, how to lose weight, perfect outfit) would have million viewers compared to “How to be a Better Person”. (Try to check it on YouTube). This shows that human as we are, we (most of us), tend to think of physical appearance rather than inner beauty and style (porma) over substance, which is natural because we are normally attracted to what is aesthetic and pleasurable to our eyes. But it shouldn’t be the priority.

But there’s more to life than just a pretty face, as what they say. There is more to life than our beauty or of the people or things around us. When we think too much of ourselves (like Dorian), we are like chasing the impossible because there is no way we can satisfy our own lusts — for money, for gratification, for pleasure, for beauty. When we admire people just because of their looks, intelligence, talents that is superficial and it won’t last.

We have to look at ourselves and other people for who they are – for the kindness, selflessness, compassion, and love that comes from within. And this is something that our eyes can’t see, it is by the heart.

So yeah, what can I say but I am beginning to sound so deep…hahaha. Over-all I love this book so much! Hats off to Oscar Wilde for such great writing. This one’s something everyone must read to reflect upon.

6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This novel written in 1851 narrates about the nature of whale-hunting and Captain Ahab’s obsession to finding Moby Dick, an infamous great white whale who is known for destroying whalers and is responsible for Ahab’s lost leg.

It took me 5 months to finish this book! Five months! Seriously, that’s how it is a difficult read. But I kept on because I have read from a lot of reviews that it is one of the most profound books of all time. And indeed, I wasn’t proven wrong.

So a lot of people think what is the relevance of a whale-hunting story? Yes, I thought of that too. But when you read it, you will encounter a lot of themes and character conflicts — more on the characters self-conflicts. Each character has his own issues which all of us can reflect into. For instance, Ahab’s obsession. He is so determined to find the great whale so as to seek revenge. This obsession led to his doom (because he was drowned together with his ship).

I still find myself perplexed by this great book so let me share this wonderful explanation I have read:

“ Moby Dick endures because, like a multifaceted jewel, the story has interesting characters, compelling plot, exciting action, and meaningful inner conflicts. The conflicts do not exist between the crew members themselves, rather the characters grapple with their own natures, their thoughts, and the consequences of action and inaction. Ahab’s obsession with what he cannot have, namely his revenge, in a sense challenges us all. Als wir auf Deutsch sagen, “Wir müssen unsere Grenzen kennenlernen,” but how can a man know his limitations without testing them and even challenging them. By the way, the coffin turned life-buoy, the image of “grim death” as Ahab calls it, is the image of the cross. That which was an image of hate and death became an image of love and life. And it was what saved Ishmael at the end. So it opens up a whole discussion about fate, obsession, grace or luck (whichever you prefer), and human decision. The beauty and power of the story is that it does not answer these outright, only points the reader in the general direction.” -From SparkNotes, by user dlplife dated December 6, 2016

So there you have it! My 2016 great read list! For the first and second quarter of 2017, I have read Jane Eyre, Madame Bovary and Northanger Abbey. I am so excited to read more and share another list to all of you next year. Let’s see how time flies!

This is all for now. But let me leave you with this enigmatic words from Ray Bradbury: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them”. Together, let us read! Happy reading!

Of Condoms and the Filipino Youth

For the past few years, there has been a long-debated issue regarding sex education and its impact to young people. In a conservative Christian nation like the Philippines, majority of the people frown upon the idea of its inclusion to the curriculum. But it is business as usual as Department of Health (DOH) announced its plan to give out condoms in schools as part of its intervention amid the alarming rise of HIV and AIDS cases especially among 15 to 24 year olds. DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubail said condom distribution will start as soon as policy formulations are established with the Department of Education (DepEd). In response, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones asserted the need for a careful evaluation of the program before its implementation.

Scientifically and reality proven, condom is an effective tool in preventing the spread of HIV when used ‘consistently and correctly’. But the real concern is, should schools be involved with its ‘distribution’? One interesting fact to ponder, even DepEd reiterated the need for thorough discussions with DOH to settle whether such policy is proper to cover schools and learning institutions. Indeed, schools are venues for teaching-learning processes and sex education is one area that students must be aware of. But there are certainly more age-appropriate means to provide information such as lectures and symposiums, etc. To put it bluntly, those students who engaged in pre-marital sex have long known where to get condoms and making these readily available in schools is synonymous to saying that what they are doing is acceptable.

This now leads to another discussion of whether to support this policy or not. For while safe sex is one practical strategy to address the problem, are our teachers and school administrators ready to take the responsibility of handing out condoms to their students? More so, are our students prepared to handle the pressure amidst this whole issue? Because as news about condom-giving makes way to TV Patrol or 24 Oras or in any other media platform, curiosity will work in more ways than one and it all starts with the mind. Wonder what a condom is? Wonder what will I do with it? Wonder how sex feels like? Wonder, wonder, wonder. And without proper guidance, promiscuity and pre-marital sex might just be the outcome.

It is then important to deal with the root cause of HIV/AIDS cases among young people. And what causes it? Basically, pre-marital sex, unsafe pre-marital sex. In 2013, a survey done by the University of the Philippines Population Institute revealed that 1 out of 3 Filipino youths aged 15 to 24 had pre-marital sex. More disturbing than this is the statistic that “78% of those who had pre-marital sex for the first time in this age bracket did not use any protection”.

But there is a sure fire way to protect our young people from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. And it is more effective than all latex or polyurethane condoms combined. The power of abstinence and keeping one’s purity are the best things our children can do to guard themselves — physically and emotionally. Schools, churches, and families must work hand-in-hand to uphold true Christian values and pour it out to the hearts of our Filipino youth.

The scripture says, Romans 16:19 “Be excellent of what is good, be innocent of evil”. In this context, it is a call for this young generation to devote their time to worthwhile and productive things — that they become so passionate about it that they don’t think about something corrupting, like pre-marital sex.

And when that happens, perhaps DOH might use P50 to P100 million on feeding programs in schools rather than purchasing condoms. (AJC)