In order to construct, you first need to deconstruct. This seems to be what Derain wants to prove with this book. With this book he used, putting his own spins, well-known Filipino folklore and religious tales to come up with an highly imaginative tale about Benito,
a lizard (tuko
) that resides in the ceiling of an old church whose sole occupation is to say prayers for insects like spider, ants, cockroaches, etc.
I started pouring over the pages of this book with much gusto not only because a trusted friend of mine recommended Derain's earlier book, Iskrapbuk. It's just that there are many more appetizing books that have been coming my way. However, when another friend saw this book last week on the shelves of a bookstore last week, he texted me right away because the book looked irresistible what with the First Prize for Novels in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature
proudly screaming on the book's front cover.
Among the old stories that he used in the book are: Ang Alamat ng Ibong Adarna, The Monkey and the Turtle: A Philippine Folk Tale by Jose Rizal, the story of the moth and the flame also by Rizal and many other local folklore. If you are familiar with some religious cults in Southern Luzon especially those that have Mt. Banahaw or Mt. Makiling as their base station, their prayers, emblems or even incantations are heavily used here both in pictures and in the plot in terms of background, dialogues or theme.
What I liked about this book is its creativity. Who would have thought of telling the simple childhood days' story of matsing
in two perspectives and he even extended the retelling by linking it to the existence of the banana plantation that started with a single banana tree that the two divided between themselves? Who would have thought of incorporating the hilarious existence of kanding-kanding
(meaning: young goats) as subjects of libidinous friars during the Spanish era in the Philippines? These are both bewildering in their freshness and mesmerizing in its effectiveness to elicit easy laughter and snickers from me while leafing through this book's pages in the last few days. Believe me, I have to read this book only (I put down all the others) because I could not believe that there is Derain whose fertile imagination is something that can put Philippine Tagalog serious literature back to the days when many Filipinos preferred local over foreign books.
Yes, he is that good. This book deserves to be read by all Filipinos who want to push the advancement of our local literature from just romance, wattpad and some compilations of blurbs or life/love advises from a television or radio programs.
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