31 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Final Winner!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, Round 3A, Round 3B, and Round 4)


This may be the only Shredded Cheddar tournament bracket in which a contender that was eliminated fair and square came back to win the whole thing. And of course it would be everyone's favourite Grand Duchy!

Granted, it is here "only" as a representative of all the Francophone ESC countries, starting with La Mere France, and including Monaco, Switzerland, and even dear Belgium. With some reflected glory for other countries that have sneaked in French lyrics--notably Germany and Austria. (Would you have guessed them?) I really should be writing this post en francais, but it's the language I (foolishly) dropped after a classmate told me I couldn't take two languages at the same time. More on that in a future post. What you really want now is the second winner of the year . . .

26 July 2016


Option #43: Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (Student Edition) by Raissa Robles
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

Filipinos woke up to find a country where the streets were quiet, patrolled by armed soldiers. Crime had vanished, squabbling corrupt politicians had been carted off or had fled, and the scurrilous press had been silenced.

Only the newspaper run by a Marcos crony was available, and there were no radio or TV broadcasts, except for one station that repeatedly transmitted Marcos's declaration of Martial Law . . . in between almost non-stop airing of American cartoons.

Marcos claimed that what he had in mind was a government-led "Revolution from the Center" to counter the Communists. His centerpiece programme--to create a New Society that would close the wide economic gap between the rich and the poor because "what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?" He claimed the New Society had the interests, objectives, and needs of the poorest of the working people take precedence over those of the rest" . . .

SURPRISE!!! =D We have one more book for the Philippine Literature Giveaway Pool! This is the first year that a seventh book gets to make it, and what a deserving seventh book it is.

Marcos Martial Law was actually supposed to be Option #38, because I wanted some strong, well-researched non-fiction to ground me after dream-state wanderings of Option #37: Empire of Memory by Eric Gamalinda. But I was a few pages in when I realised it was too big to bring in so early in the giveaway. Instead, I decided, I would let it have the last word. And it begins with an answer to my biggest question about Option #42: Reportage on the Marcoses by Quijano de Manila: how did the 1970s affect Nick Joaquin's earlier rosy view of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos?

24 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 4!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, Round 3A, and Round 3B)

Well, this rules out any future for me as an ESC bookie. =P I would never have predicted which two countries would be slugging it out in the Final. But more fun for me, aye? LOL! Greece's wildcard win in Round 3B also means that only songs from the second thirty years of Eurovision will be competing this week, so Monaco, which dropped out long before the ESC's thirty-year anniversary, will not be representing the Francophones again this round. (Yes, yes, I know they tried to come back in the early 2000s, but those entries never made it past the semis.) Anyway, I have a feeling that Luxembourg won't mind one more chance to show us what it had.

Greece vs. Luxembourg

Hellas are here with another song from their most successful decade ever, the early 2000s. And few things are more Greek than a song like ΩΠΑ! Giorgios Alkaois wanted this Top 10 finisher to encourage his fellow Greeks, who were then enduring the worst of Europe's economic crisis, to stop dwelling on the past and to start over in the present. On the Eurovision stage, it became a spirited message for the whole continent. Up against it is Luxembourg's last big hurrah, from the late 1980s, featuring the Belgian chanteuse Lara Fabian, whose first language was Italiano. The yearning ballad Croire is all about the things you can believe in if you see life avec les yeux de coeur (with the eyes of the heart). Although it did not win the contest that year, it became an international hit that made hundreds of thousands of music-loving believers all over Europe. Which musical message do you think should dominate this tournament bracket?

And of course, because this is a Shredded Cheddar smackdown, another country we haven't even heard from until today could still take the crown home for itself. I hope you're ready for the final wild card . . .

21 July 2016


Pancit Malabon from Amber
(Pan-SIT Ma-la-BON)

Last Saturday, my German class had a little party to mark the end of our course. We all brought different kinds of food, ranging from "generic Americanised" to "European inspired;" and right in the middle, insisting on grabbing all the attention, was the Filipino offering.

19 July 2016


Teaser Two and Top Ten(ner)

It's a two-meme day because I'm feeling friendly! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Books And A Beat, while Top Ten Tuesday, with the perfect topic for me this week, is from The Broke and the Bookish.

You may remember that the main reason I don't do Teaser Tuesday as often as I could is that I like waiting for a book with a cover that matches the rule of MizB's meme: two sentences only. Since coming up with that, most of my Teaser Tuesday posts have been for books with a pair of legs on the cover. But today's teaser comes courtesy of a different part of the anatomy--the sort that doesn't normally come in twos!

17 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 3B!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, and Round 3A)

It takes a whole set of good songs to make a great show, and if there were one obvious winner from the outset, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to watch. On the other hand, it's usually the case that some songs are clear front-runners--and then the fun becomes predicting how they will rank relative to each other. Sometimes guessing correctly that a song will place fourth can be as satisfying as correctly predicting it will take home the crown!

But had I been among the original audiences of the following Eurovision songs, I would have bet that they'd place significantly higher than they did. Here are two more runners-up that I wish had won instead.

Round 3B
The "L'Amour . . ." Four

14 July 2016


Option #42: Reportage on the Marcoses by Quijano de Manila
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

". . . We tell them: Two thousand years ago our forefathers could make this beautiful pot which we cannot do now. And that has led to a different set of values. Before, in the houses of the rich, all they wanted were clocks of gold, that sort of thing. That was true of the country at one time, but not now. Now the pottery is more valued . . . Now they tell themselves that this chair was from their great-grandfather, and suddenly, that chair is so great. Before, that chair was ready for the garbage can."

And as Filipinos acquire a feeling of pride for what is theirs, for what they are, they will become more eager to surround themselves with order and cleanliness, to walk in beauty, to live, move and have their being in a just society. Culture and art and a taste for the beautiful must all lead to goodness.

"As the president said, the government is like building a house. And he told me he would build the structure, I was to take care of the refinements, the trimmings, the details . . ."

-- Imelda Marcos, quoted in "Art in the Palace", August 1968

It's time capsule time again! And boy, do I have Marcos Pa Rin time capsule for you!!!

Nick Joaquin, writing as Quijano de Manila, penned several lengthy articles on the presidential couple Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, all based on extensive interviews with them. And if you knew nothing about the Marcoses except what he said about them and let them say about themselves, you'd probably conclude they were the best President and First Lady the Philippines had ever had. In fairness to our reporter, he also knew nothing about the Marcoses except what was available to him in the 1960s. And his special gift was magical realism, not investigative journalism. Of course they'd appeal to him. Especially Imelda. =P

The catch for us is that these articles from the 60s were compiled and published as a book in 1981. But if the decade in between had affected his views in some way, we get no hint of it. Like his crime beat features in Option 24: Reportage on Crime, these pieces were republished without comment--nothing to put them in any new context. And it's actually refreshing.

10 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and the Interval)

This tournament bracket may pit country against country, but it does so song by song. Just like the Eurovision Song Contest itself! What I loved about becoming a Eurovision fan is the mini education I've been getting just by appreciating the music. There is the lovely language aspect, of course, when the songs are in German, Italian, and French; but the cultural and historical frames around the entries can be just as fascinating.

When you have over twenty songs competing for your hearts, your votes, and a single crown, well, there are going to be some really good ones that you fall in love with but won't see win. And if you are a real Eurovision fan, you'll spend the rest of your life loudly refusing to get over it. (It's the principle of the thing.) I'm going to do a bit of that now, but more politely, with a Final Four of runners-up that I personally love more than the songs that beat them.

Round 3A
The "L'Amour . . ." Four

09 July 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-Three!

We're still looking at new books in the Philippine Literature Giveaway pool today, and this one is so meme-friendly that if I hadn't made myself save it for Locus Focus, I would have been writing about it all week. It wins the prize for most Marcos Pa Rin setting: a place that will always be tied to his memory, unless something more historically momentous upstages his regime. (That could take a while . . .) 

08 July 2016


Tinola at Home!

As I was saying, if you came to visit my country and stayed with me, I'd feed you at home. That is, I'd get my brother to feed you. I'm a decent cook, but he is something else.

One classic Filipino dish he does really well is tinola--chicken and greens in a broth flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce--the ginger being (in my humble opinion) the star of the savouries. Or as a former friend and her brother like to call it, "green chicken." (You can tell they grew up abroad.)

06 July 2016


Option #41: Salingkit: A 1986 Diary by Cyan Abad-Jugo
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for details)

Her cousin guided her through the mass of people on the highway . . . keeping a firm hold on her elbow. Then he stopped, and just some feet away was this scary-looking tank, and there were wreaths and wreaths of sampaguita on it, while some men in uniform walked around it. One soldier was talking to a nun, and they were eating sandwiches. Then a man with a cigar between his fingers stood on the tank to talk and people clapped , and Kuya Alan grinned and told Goro, "That's General Ramos."

He didn't look particularly tall or handsome, but when he spoke, Goro found herself listening with all her heart. The tank, the general said, had been sent to kill him and the people who surrounded him, yet now the tank was there to protect them. The soldiers, he said, could not bring themselves to shoot on their fellow Filipinos.

The people clapped, once more. Some wiped tears from their eyes . . .

You never want your book to be read after the F. Sionil Jose novel in the Shredded Cheddar Philippine Literature Giveaway . . . assuming, of course, that you've even heard of the Shredded Cheddar Philippine Literature Giveaway. =P But I think there's more than its unfortunate place in the reading order that makes me find Cyan Abad-Jugo's Salingkit more than a little amateurish.

Half diary, half third-person narrative, Salingkit would have fared better if told entirely in the first person: then anyone who criticised Kitty "Goro" Eugenio's voice could simply be reminded that she's "just" a fifteen-year-old girl. Which wouldn't be a bad thing: we need more people who were "just" themselves--rather than active political players--to remind us that they made history, too. It's good to have an account of Martial Law, People Power, and the latter's militant aftermath from someone who was so apolitical that she needs 80s British New Wave lyrics to flesh out her memories.

03 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Interval
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

After this, I'm going to stop feeling bad about Ireland's performance in my bracket. I promise.

Speaking of Ireland, I once scandalised a friend from there when I said there was a time I didn't stay for the results. I simply watched all the finalists' performances, went to bed, then looked up the winners the next day. (LOL!) My friend argued that the tallying of the votes is the best part--and well, now that I do stay up for it and scream along, I agree it's kind of essential.

It is the interval act that comes between these two main parts that remains hit-or-miss--and it is both a joke and a fact that many people choose this point to leave the room for some errand. Yet while no two Eurovision fans ever seem to agree on the results, there seems to be some consensus that Ireland's interval act of 1994 was a true highlight of ESC history. And now that I've told you that and shared Riverdance's Eurovision video, I do feel better. =)

Better enough to throw another mini face-off at you after the jump . . .

01 July 2016


Character Connection 54

Created by The Introverted Reader

When I read an F. Sionil Jose novel, I like to spot the characters who are stand-ins for himself and for the whole country. This year, I also found a character who could have been a stand-in for me.

And that's a funny way to introduce this post because, at the last minute, I decided not to write about her. =P But I am writing about her father . . . and this is still a non-sequitur because he has no resemblance to mine.