Angie Thomas’ novel revolves around this redefined meaning of THUG LIFE by Tupac Shakur, popularly known as 2Pac.
It follows 16-year-old Starr Carter whose uneasy balance between her poor neighborhood and her fancy suburban school is shattered when she witnesses the shooting of her best friend at the hands of a police officer. His name is Khalil, but the world calls him a thug. Everyone wants to know what went down that night. But Starr’s decision to stay silent or to speak comes with a risk for her people and her life.
Some people snicker at the thought of reading books under the young adult genre. They have this stereotyped belief that YA novels are shallow, sappy and superficial. They rarely see it as an avenue for discussing socio-political issues. But Angie Thomas proves these people wrong.
Without mincing her words, she delves into the most delicate and controversial subjects in America and the world today: racism, oppression, privilege and broken justice system. The book is thought-provoking without being preachy. It gave me different perspectives to look into. It made me introspect on what I have done and what I would do when faced with these issues. Other than posting about the hashtags and signing every petition there is, do I have it in me to act against racism, oppression or injustice?
In the end, this novel goes to warn the society that what it gives (hate/violence/injustice) to little infants (the poor/minority/less fortunate) will always come to haunt them. The THUG LIFE cycle continues…
Having spent seven years in the concrete jungles of Cebu gave me a pair of eyes that looks at province life with extra appreciation and love. Like most people around my age, I started craving for the simplicity and warmth that rural places have to offer. Going home for me has become more than just reuniting with my family. It has now become a form of healing.
At the height of ticking off #bucketlists and #travelgoals, more and more places are “discovered” each day, topping the trends on Facebook and Instagram. While this is essentially harmless, I personally don’t like the idea of calling every place a tourist spot. I believe that, in a way, we rob it of its personality.
To set an example, let me take you to my hometown.
Bung-aw is a mountain barangay in the municipality of Hilongos in the province of Leyte. We do not have something elaborate to boast apart from our simple way of life. However, a few years ago, people from far off places started coming. The reason? Didang river.
Didang river gained popularity because of its yellow stone boulders. It was named after the woman who lives nearest to the river. The cameras and naked eyes did not lie. Didang truly was and still is Instagrammable. Its beauty is nature’s very own masterpiece.
What bothers me is hearing people say that it has now gone unpreserved. That the locals gave less value to those Insta-famous yellow stones and that they should have made the place tourist-friendly to boost its status. “If only this… “If only that…”
True, Didang looks different than it was on the onset of its fame. It looks even more different when it didn’t have a name. But locals know that after being worn and rounded by the action of moving water, the river always change.
There was no need to protect Didang. At least not until outsiders started disrespecting the place and leaving garbage behind. They carved on stones and littered the riverbed with plastics. So who’s at fault again?
Despite this, my people started adjusting to the long complains. They no longer wash laundry near the river to avoid photobombing shots. They built makeshift huts to offer guests shade. They even placed multi-colored flag banners along the trail to welcome onlookers. The rest is history.
If only these “tourists” follow the river that snake through the foothills of our mountains. They will certainly find other scenic nameless spots.
But today’s generation is naive. They travel more for photo sessions than learning about the place – not knowing there’s more to Bung-aw than Didang.
They didn’t know the story of our hanging bridge. How it made the local’s lives easier as they cross it carrying their farm produce, charcoal and root crops for sale.
They didn’t know the story of our kanal. How it sustained the rice paddies and at the same time carried our fondest childhood memories as we bathed and washed laundry here.
They didn’t know the story of our mountains. How, despite the digital era, people still have to climb higher up the hill to get a better cellular connection to check on their loved ones.
No, these are not tourist spots. These are part of our lifeline. They were not created to please other people but to cater the basic needs of its residents. We do not have fancy names for such places even. So if you only think of doing it for the ‘gram or racking up Facebook likes or being the first word-of-mouth, go away.
There are no such thing as tourist spots in Bung-aw.
From a number of plot twists to finally reaching Mt. Kalatungan, our three-day climb culminated with a traverse hike to Mt. Wiji.
Mt. Wiji stands at the height of 2819.78 meters above sea level and is located at the southern part of Kalatungan Mountain Range. The mountain is named after the first Japanese who made it into the peak, but locals refer to it as Mt. Lumpanag or Makaupao.
The early morning wind greeted us with a chill and by the time we sipped our coffees, we were wearing layers of clothes and jackets to counter the very cold temperature. We were supposed to start the ascend at 8 am based on our initial itinerary, but Kuya Babu and the guides suggested that we start early for us to witness the sunrise and [probably] the sea of clouds. So there, in the darkness of the dawn, we started our trek.
It was 5 am when streaks of light started painting the sky with shades of pinks and purples. Although Mt. Wiji is less than a kilometer away from Bamboo Camp, the trail going to the peak is very steep. But despite our huffs, pants and coughs, the gorgeous view made it a whole lot easier.
Have you ever got that feeling when you know exactly you’re about to do something big? It’s like all the small moments pile up into something bigger and you find yourself saying, “No going back now. This is it.”
That was how we felt on the dawn of November 22. After all the plot twists and yesterday’s rain, we’ve probably seen the worst possible scenarios. Things seemed less daunting now and we’re ready to do what we’re meant be doing. That is to climb Mt. Kalatungan.
My first foray into the written world of Michael Crichton was Congo. James, who loves the man as much as Dan Brown, never missed to mention his works whenever we talk about books. So I guess this is where curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back comes in.
The 1980 sci-fi novel centers on an expedition searching for rare blue diamonds and investigating the mysterious deaths of a previous expedition in the dense tropical rainforest of the Congo. At first I was worried that I’d be stuck in the complicated science and technical jargon but as it turns out, Crichton is a great de-jargonizer. I found myself immediately engaged in the story that capsulized science, history, and geography in each and every page.
Which brings me to this week’s WQW, Iron and Ironies. Congo left me emotionally, mentally and morally disturbed. In a simple story it raised provocative questions that I found hard to answer.
To what extent is animal cruelty? Is it limited to performing experiments/animal research? How about throwing lobsters on a boiling pot? Sticking pigs on bamboo poles? Exterminating rats? Do ALL animals have rights or just a selected few? Does man get to give them the reason to stay alive as a species?
These questions led me to reflect on our deeply ingrained habit of meat eating, on the equality among animals, and man’s idea of speciesism. I know there are multiple sides to these multifaceted issues and I would love to hear a thing or two from you. 🙂
The moment I heard that the streets of Divisoria have been cleared of sidewalk vendors, I flew to Manila to witness the momentous sight. This once busy section, riddled with various bazaars and people, has finally been stripped off its chaos.
As I stride aimlessly on one of its thoroughfares, I couldn’t help but sigh. It feels different. Everything is new to the eyes. Who would have thought we were walking on square blocks of concrete before?
“It’s so empty,” I voiced out.
“So are our stomachs,” the man from behind replied. He is Renato, a vendor for 45 years.
Friday Fictioneers is a weekly writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields where a photo is used as a prompt for a hundred-word piece of fiction. The photo prompt this week is a courtesy of Rochelle herself. 🙂
This one is inspired by the ongoing road clearing operations in the Philippines. Last July, the Department of the Interior and Local Government gave local executives 60 days to reclaim public roads from private use and to clear streets of obstruction. While this project scheme comes with good reasons and intentions, it could not be denied that the street vendors, whose lives relied on their meager earnings, were greatly affected. When the stretch of roads have all been emptied, what happens to those who strive to make ends meet. Is change truly for all? Here’s a photo of the real Divisoria.
“What is happiness, Grandma?” four-year old Jenny beamed, her eyes filled with curiosity and wonder.
It’s year 2090. The unlikely symbiosis between humans and computers over the years lead to the creation of Hyperworld. Technology evolved in ways nobody believed was possible to begin with. Man, like God, has come to defy the natural law. And there is no need for such thing nowadays.
With little Jenny on my lap, I described what happiness looked like. Happiness came in different forms but always with leaves. They whispered day and night. Their color changed with seasons. Winds carried gay trills of song. They used to make the world alive.
“Does happiness still exists, Grandma?” she asked.
My wrinkled hands brushed the faded photograph. It’s an awkward picture of me walking amid what people in bygone years used to call trees.
“I hope it does, angel. I truly hope it does.”
Word count: 150
I remember the first time I joined Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing prompt hosted by PJ where we were challenged to weave a piece of fiction using 150 (+/- 25 words). It lead me to a (virtual) path treaded by the likes of Rosema, Jade, Mandi, Jessie, Davy D, Millie and Ali. Back then, we had all the energy and time create our own fictional worlds and let other writers in. Fast-forward to 2019, we found ourselves caught in buzz of the real. Some of us still writes (cheers!) while others hope to get back at writing (no, you don’t stop). Of the six flash fiction writing prompts I used to join in, only three are left active: Sunday Photo Fiction, Flash Fiction for the Practical Practitioner and Friday Fictioneers.
You look at their faces and you want to save them. You think they need to be loved, that they should be. You want to make them happy.
So you take your step. With the air of a knight in shining armor, you walk up to the girl who is probably sitting alone on a table for two. Or wave to the girl who has been sharing memes and Bob Ong quotes.
You get a taste of her sharp tongue but you know deep inside, in all realness, she is just a sad girl. So you keep on talking.
Hours, days, weeks, months — you let her feel your presence. You let her see that you care. Know that you’re sincere. The sad streak on her face will slowly fade and you will find her passing a smile.
You get a sense of satisfaction. But that is not enough. You try to hold her, gently, but soon you realize you will have to hold her tight. You still have to get through her wall. Your ego will not let you lose, so keep doing more. More sweet talk, more care, more time, more effort.
Until her protective wall collapses. And you see her closing the distance between the two of you. That is your reward.
She starts telling you her story and history. At first you like it. You like to see how dark her world was and how much light you have brought into her life. You fill her heart with love and she gets better. She does. She no longer talks of heartaches or fears or ghosts from the past. She looks forward to tomorrow with her hopeful eyes glistening with joy.
But as time flies, you start missing your sad girl. You no longer see the pain. You realize your project is over. So you leave her. To look for your next sad girl. Another charity case for you to fix.
A story one the radio reminded me of this piece I wrote a while ago. This one is inspired by a friend’s short-lived love story. Have you been through the same thing? Have you met someone who likes sad girls?
Are you a Summer person? A Winter person? Or one of the other seasons suits you best?
The climate of the Philippines is divided into two main seasons: the rainy season (from June to the early part of October) and the dry season (from the later part of October to May). Despite its melancholy and all its drama, I have never been a fan of the rain. It always makes me sad for some reason. This is why I prefer sunny days. It somewhat calms the chaos inside and makes me hopeful. Though, I hope it don’t get brutally scorching whenever I’m outdoors.
What is your favorite summer time clothing?
Nothing in particular. I’m a regular t-shirt/jeans/cuff shorts kind of human being.
Do you find yourself eating out more during the summer? Or making ‘cold food’ like salads and stuff you can heat in the microwave?
I always think big when it comes to food. I “think” that I can eat a lot but whenever I eat, my stomach can only accommodate a few. Recently, I find myself craving for mango float. Does this count?
Do you like watermelon? What’s your favorite summertime treat?
I like watermelon but I like mangoes better. As for the summertime treat, for me buko salad would be best! It’s a Filipino fruit salad dessert made from strips of fresh young coconut with sweetened milk or cream and various other ingredients. If you want to learn how to make one, check this out!
Are you thankful it’s finally (sorta) dry and warm?
PAGASA declared the start of the rainy season last June 14 on my side of the Earth. However, I am still thankful because the country has experienced a severe drought and it took a great toll on our farmers. Farmers, in general, celebrate rain showers, but not typhoons, as a sign of good harvest in the future. Now is the time for them to get back on track.