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Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong

image source: http://krislerism.blogspot.com/2009/05/bob-ongs-new-book.html

Kapitan Sino made me remember why I stopped reading Bob Ong even before I hit the age of pretentiousness that I'm supposed to like, err, art... literature.

Sure, I can bear and grit my teeth through his underlying misogyny (with Kapitan Sino's female characters divided into two types, the palengkera bitches and the innocent goody goodies─where the female has to be blind to be good because she doesn't care about looks at all, which kinds of hints Bob Ong as a bitter male pissed off at womenkind─or a group of bitter males because there's this rumor that Bob Ong is not just one author). What I can't stand anymore is his preachy-ness.


I remember reading Ang Paboritong Libro ni Hudas and started wondering if he's just really a stuffy old man ranting to the kids about the good old conservative days. Well, most of the time, he surely sounds like one─the way he talks about the eighties and the nineties, sometimes I wish I can build a time machine to send him back so he wouldn't be grumpy anymore.

Kapitan Sino is set in the late eighties, and is about this young dude who's, duh, a superhero. He has a fat best friend who's funny and his blind almost-girlfriend. And then he saves people. Typical stuff: thievery, buildings on fire, cats stuck on trees. The book even poked fun at these cliché situations, showing how these are really more Western incidents rather than local ones. Heh. Cats getting stuck on trees. Our cats will definitely kick their cats' butts!

Bob Ong can be really funny. There are lines and quips that are so right on timing, they almost shadow his annoying qualities. Almost. The whole book preaches all about defining heroism and attempts to showcase a satirical take on the lower middle class society that the funny aspect can't shadow the sucky aspects. I am not saying that the palengkera and ungrateful bastards and bitches of lower middle class society make up a group of saints. But painting them in that ultra-negative light doesn't showcase the ills of the community; it just further showcases the author as a pompous bourgeois who thinks that the urban poor are hateful, greedy, idiotic munchkins who will basically never change. Bob Ong does not offer anything new or insightful to what I've always been hearing in my bitchy middle class world about the urban poor.

This is, by the way, how local superheroes Zsazsa Zaturnnah and its concept mother Darna differ from other ego-centric and individualistic superheroes. These superheroes actually value the community, even asking help from them when worse comes to worst. My favorite moment in Zsazsa Zaturnnah was when the superhero's love interest Dodong tries to help the superhero but gets thrown into air by the villain. The community, who was watching the fight for entertainment (there were vendors selling food and bottled water, plus tabloids with the headline "Salpakan ng mga Seksi"), screamed "Hinagis si Dodong! Tulungan natin! Saluhin natin si Dodong!" It's interesting how the community is there both for entertainment and to support the good guys.

They failed to catch Dodong, though. They let out another scream of apologies. "Sorry Dodong! Sorry talaga!"

Anyway, I'm talking about other superheroes to point out that discussing heroism, societal ills, and being funny at the same time is possible... WITHOUT the need to be such a self-righteous jerk. (And imagine, Zaturnnah was able to discuss gender too.)

I read Bob Ong because I was trying to bring back my grasp of Filipino. Good thing I read Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan first because one, I wouldn't have read Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan (which was good) or any of his other works after Kapitan Sino.

And two, because Kapitan Sino really just deserves to be left a mystery.


And oh, Bob Ong's definition of what a hero is would probably be a forefront of the lame Ako Mismo campaign.


"What I can't stand anymore is his preachy-ness."──I remember wanting to read all of Bob Ong's books (and I think I read two or four)when his writing was like a light bulb in my head or a slap in the face. Then after a couple of books or "when I grew up", deadma na. Hehe.

But I still think he's a breakthrough writer and good read, if only for his earlier works and the younger generation's need to be shaken and stirred. Hehe.

Claire said...

True about "growing up." Hahaha! Atsaka yeah, some people have to start somewhere in being shaken and stirred. Okay na start naman si Bob Ong. Well, more with ABNKKBSNPLAKO (tama ba? haha)

And may effort yata siyang icover ang lahat ng genre. Good actually yung Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan. Gagawan ko din ng rebyu, me ibang bagay lang na ginagawa pa. Hahahaha.

Oo, yun ata yung una. The others I read were Bakit baligtag magbasa... at yung Libro ni Hudas. Tapos I tried to read the next one sa store, hindi ko na tinapos kasi na-bore nako. And I haven't picked up another one of his books 'til Stainless Longganisa(?)... na hindi ko pa rin natatapos. Hehe.

Masaya nga that he tries to cover lahat ng genre. But let's face it, his writing style doesn't work for all of them. Hehehe.

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