Short Bites: Felix Starro

Lysley Tenorio’s Felix Starro, a short story in Monstress, is about an old man and his grandson, both of whom are named Felix Starro, a faith-healing duo who perform Extractions of Negativities, a ritual of such profound spiritual healing that some blood is shed in the process. (If no blood is shed, which is very rare, the client is deemed “clean” from negativity.)

What? Is this person a shaman? Maybe. After all, Filipino culture (this is a compilation of Philippine literature that I found in the bookstore!) subscribes to a lot of superstitious and supernatural beliefs (see East of the Sun and Fallow’s Flight for other short reads), so I’m not surprised that people line up and, better yet, pay for an Extraction.

The story also covers migration; a few decades ago, Filipinos, with hopes of greener pastures, began migrating to the US. The problem is that they seem to think that time has stood still in the Philippines while they lived their lives anew in the US, and so we have Filipino Americans still raving about Felix Starro while the rest of the Philippines has moved on.

Well, greener pastures do not necessarily mean a life abroad. For the young Felix Starro, it means leaving the family business, Extractions. A new life, however, comes at a cost, and the young Felix eventually realizes: for every decision, sacrifices must be made.

HP TGR 2: Half-Blood Prince

This is the sixth installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (or the second to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Another ginormous book (but thinner than Book 5, which almost makes this book look quite thin), Book 6 was yet another great travel companion, which I took with me to coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I actually breezed through this book—except when I took a break when I was 3/4 through because I didn’t want to relive the experience of reading about Dumbledore’s death, which I have never really recovered from.

Given that the Half-Blood Prince is a Slytherin, this (post) is a tribute to my Hogwarts house, Slytherin. I am not going to make excuses for the evil deeds of The Dark Lord here—nothing can ever justify his actions—however, I am going to talk about Slytherin-istic characteristics that I was not able to fully appreciate when I first read the series (and this book in high school) but that I do now.

There is a common misconception that all Slytherins are evil, especially because Voldemort came from this house. It also doesn’t help that Slytherins are snobby and tend to stick to their own. Whatever. Not everyone in the house is a blood-thirsty evil person, but people in this house are not known to be brave either. (Slytherin wasn’t known for his courage as Gryffindor was anyway.)

So I bring to light some Slytherins and their strengths. While not all of them are good, not all of them are entirely evil either. May we all appropriately appreciate the characteristics that makes one a Slytherin.

Continue reading “HP TGR 2: Half-Blood Prince”

HP TGR 2: Order of the Phoenix

This is the fifth installment to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (or the first to Harry Potter: The Grand Reunion (Part 2).

Despite being the largest book I have ever held (an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), Book 5 has been a great travel companion. Over the last two weeks, I would lug this ginormous book with me to the Caltrain and read a hundred pages or so on my way to work. I had forgotten how funny JK Rowling was until I found myself laughing alone while reading this book. This book is supposed to be dark, too, but I love that the characters were allowed to be teenagers still.

I have to admit: I’ve always found this to be my least favorite book in the series. I remember the first time I read this. I had borrowed it from the library absolutely sure I could return it in a week max, but I couldn’t get myself to pick up the book and to read it for longer periods that I had to rush reading through the book to return it by the time it was due. (Or maybe I didn’t finish and had to borrow another copy? Ok, maybe I don’t remember that well.) Fast forward to 15 (WOW, IT’S BEEN THAT LONG?) years later, and I definitely looked forward to reading on each morning. I didn’t mind lugging the gigantic book around, and I even brought it with me on days I knew I was going out with friends.

What’s changed? Good question. Obviously it’s not the book that’s changed but myself that has. I guess I have learned the meaning of maturity and empathy and other things as time went by. It also helped that I knew how things were going to end anyway, so I was able to focus more on the fun fun fun details that I didn’t focus on the first time around.

Continue reading “HP TGR 2: Order of the Phoenix”

Short Bites: Fallow’s Flight

A part two to last week’s Short Bites, here’s another story from Dean Francis Alfar’s How to Traverse Terra Incognita: Fallow’s Flight. The story follows an elderly dragon, Fallow, who is mourning the death of his daughter, Glorious, who perished in battle. This story is in Chapter 5, Get to Know the Locals, of the collection, and, in this case, dragons are the locals. (Check out East of the Sun for a glimpse of Chapter 4, Understand the Culture.)

Francis Dean Alfar does not only tell a story but also gives a commentary on society. This short read makes you think more critically about the wars that must be fought and our brave warriors risking their lives for the greater good.

The interesting part of the story is that the ongoing war is simply the norm. No explanation was ever given as to what had started the war; it had just always existed. I wish they told us what noble thing our great dragon warriors were fighting for. It didn’t seem to be freedom, for the dragon warriors were not in an oppressed society…

It doesn’t sound too different from the real world, does it? Can someone please tell me how to determine whether our great dragon warriors have gone too far? Thanks.

Short Bites: East of the Sun

East of the Sun is a short story in Chapter 4, Understand the Culture, of Dean Francis Alfar’s collection, How to Traverse Terra Incognita. I highly suggest reading this if you can grab a copy of the collection. The stories are written in English, and the writer describes the creatures well enough that you don’t need to be familiar with Philippine folklore to get the story. (I had actually forgotten what a tikbalang was, but the story reminded me anyway.)

The tale is excellently told; it included:

  • a call for sympathy because desperate people do desperate things; and
  • a smack in the face because one always has a choice.

The story starts off when a poor family’s youngest daughter is given to a tikbalang, a creature that is half horse and half man, in exchange for wealth. But also: the tikbalang has threatened to kill off the whole family if they did not give up their bunso, the youngest daughter. Nevertheless, once it becomes agreed upon that the bunso is to be given away, everyone but her mother is already thinking of what to do with the wealth that is to come. And so the bunso is taken.

Before the tikbalang brings the bunso to his home, he rapes her practically to death. He eventually takes her home, and she can get anything she wishes for with the ring of a bell. And then late at night, after the lights have gone out, the tikbalang would lie down beside her, vulnerable and eager for love and affection. Say what? Please explain:

  • Why did he rape her if all he wanted was love?
  • How can he expect love after the crime he committed?

Some things you just cannot fathom.