Running after a Big Bag Wolf

‘Some intellectuals claim that we are not a reading people, but I believe that’s inaccurate’


HAVE YOU ever been to a novel place where you felt like you want to stay there forever?

That is exactly what I experienced when I arrived at the World Trade Center in Pasay City more than a week ago to chase the first ever Big Bad Wolf event in the country.

It’s the brainchild of BookXcess leads Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng, whose main mission is to extend the doors of opportunity to book readers and book lovers who normally couldn’t afford to buy one.

As soon as I stepped foot on the entrance of the building at around one in the morning, a pleasant aroma greeted me which emanated from the smorgasbord of books stationed per category across the 2-hectare floor area of the venue. The chill in my body was something I’ve never experienced before from the throngs of book sales I had been to.

“This one is different,” I said to myself. “A glimpse of heaven.”

I can still recall how my eyes glowed like the sun when I saw the sea of people walking and running and pushing their carts with the same exhilaration I’ve been curbing inside for days leading to opening day. I even thought for a moment that I was in an airport when I saw that some of the shoppers were carrying large bags and boxes, as if they’re going to travel to a remote destination or roam around the world.

The mood was convivial. Pop songs encompassed the enclosed space. The ushers wore their best smiles and first-rate patience. A stranger handed me his own basket. I unhurriedly checked the piles of titles from the right wing of the entryway to the section close to the center.

I read the texts written on the back covers. I smelled them. Secretly. Memoirs. Novels. Non-fiction.

I bought a total of 8 books for about P1,800: Asne Seierstad’s One of Us, David J. Linden’s Touch, Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Scott Christianson’s 100 Documents that Changed the World, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of A LionDivisadero, and a winner of the Booker Prize, The English Patient.

While the books being sold at the Big Bad Wolf are “remaindered” and launched about 6 months or one year ago (which is why they are priced 60% to 80% lower than in regular bookstores), I still can’t help but feel sorry for the scarce presence of Filipino literature in this mammoth book sale.

As I was about to pay at the cashier, I thought: “Would it be possible to see Filipino authors’ works being sold and showcased at a colossal and noteworthy affair like this someday? Will they be received the same way as J.K. Rowling and R.R. Martin?”

Truth be told, most of the of books I currently have were written by foreign authors. While I read F.H. Batacan, Bob Ong, Laurel Fantauzzo, and Miguel Syjuco, my ignorance on the content, tone, voice and structure of the worlds created by National Artists for Literature F. Sionil Jose, Nick Joaquin, Cirilo F. Bautista and the others is undeniable. I was in high school when I first heard of their names because we were required to read snippets of their artistry in our Filipino class. But when we graduated, and with no quizzes to take, time passed by, and I forgot about them.

When you visit a branch of the Phlippines’ biggest bookstore these days, the themes of their top selling local books revolve around these 3: how to fall in love, how to move on, and how to be loved by your crush. These are the thin, self-help, mind-numbing books that can leave one to ask: “Hanggang dito na lang ba tayo (Is this all we’re capable of)?

The day after I watched his interview with Boy Abunda for National Arts Month, I swiftly searched for copies of National Artist Virgilio Almario’s poem collections in a luxurious mall just a couple of kilometers away from our home. I was appalled that I did not find any trace of his genius; instead I saw Leavs, Faudets, and Kaurs taking over the shelves.

In the face of globalization, English is considered as the most valuable means of communication. As Filipinos, we take pride in our level of proficiency in this language. But with it comes the growing practice of degrading our roots and creativity, and the maltreatment of Filipino poems, essays, and novels, labelling them as corny, subpar, and insignificant. We have so many writers and creators who are discouraged by the feedback they receive from the people around them. There’s no money in writing. It’s useless. You’ll just be a slave all your life. Don’t waste your time in nonsense. Art is dead.

Jose Rizal once said: “On this battlefield man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no other force but his heart.”

Literature and the arts are the soul and heart of a country. They help us unravel some of the unspoken, subdued, and hidden truths around us so that we may understand ourselves better and be introduced to the richness of our history, which will fuel us to act, reevaluate our views, or change our course if the situation demands for it.

If we do not embrace our own gifts and treasures, and if we forget who we are, we may end up cruising on a highway with no direction or maps as references, and unknowingly get into a collision with our fellow travellers.

Some intellectuals claim that we are not a reading people, but I believe that’s inaccurate. I am convinced that we’re still searching for that spark of transcendence, of the drive to take another sound, earnest look at our dying local publishing industry.

We have to change our mindset that the works of foreign authors are innately superior and finer and more magnificent than what we can produce. We have to debunk the colonial mentality that’s deeply ingrained in our culture, or else we’ll live in an endless search for our identity.

Not everyone can declare that they ran after a Big Bad Wolf at one in the morning on a Saturday. With all the courage I have, I did, and I hope you do, too. Forever.

(This piece has been published in’s IMHO on February 24, 2018.)

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20. Elon Musk

“Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.”

I ADMIRE the man for his conviction, for standing up for his principles, for not listening to his idols and mentors on what he has to do, for having deaf ears on their never-ending opinions for him to stop innovating, to back out and forget the idea of challenging this world’s perspectives.

He makes it seem like his bourgeois status is irrelevant whenever he speaks, when he tries to explain things. His eyes glitter like the stars in space. 

But aren’t we tired of the congestion, of inhaling toxic gases everyday from petroleum-fueled cars? 

We are all witnesses on the rising effects of pollution to humanity caused by petroleum-fueled cars. There’s tons of health problems and issues that the governments of the world have to deal with for its citizens. Global warming is happening not because of the of nature’s processes, or the imbalance in the ecosystem. It exists because of our own actions. 

And so, he built Tesla, Inc..

It takes guts to build a company out of nowhere and get over the hump of the financial crisis in 2008. 

Wikipedia described Tesla Inc. as an “American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. Founded in 2003, the company specializes in electric cars, lithium-ion battery energy storage, and, through their SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.” 

When I first heard that company name years ago when I was still studying electrical engineering in the university, I remembered right away the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, who I look up to because of his genius and passion for science. As someone who wanted to work in one of the hardest and most challenging fields ever, he inspired me. There I was, imagining who I could become someday. I also once told myself that it’s so fitting that Elon named his company after Nikola Tesla because of his contributions. It’s a form of respect. 

All creatives works, all novel ideas come from those pioneers and thinkers who are courageous enough to question everything, to take the status quo head-on. They are those who do not dwell too much on the “now” but on what the future holds. We are where we are today because of the continued search of humanity for advancement and progress. But sometimes, we hinder each other, demotivate those who oppose us, those who are different from us, and tell ourselves that we are right without conducting objective examinations. Sometimes, we unknowingly victimize the creative genius in all of us. 

While it is true that owning an electric-powered Tesla car will cost you a fortune, still we should appreciate the attempt to turn this world upside down. 

I hope to meet Elon Musk someday. I hope to have coffee with him. I hope to finish reading all of the books that influenced him. And I hope to personally tell him: “Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.” 


15. Pluviophiles

“It’s when raining that everything makes sense.”


I LOVE it whenever it rains. I like the cold weather, the bed weather, the suspension of classes (when I was still at school) because of the heavy rain. I like listening to the sound of every drop, the tiny and huge ones; the roof asking for mercy on its never-ending greetings.

They call us Pluviophiles, those who find joy and peace of mind during rainy days. For a number of times, I bicycled while it was raining, played basketball with my friends during a downpour, finished reading a book in one sitting while there’s a typhoon, and challenged myself to a 10K road run while everyone’s inside their houses watching programs on tv or savoring their hot, flavorful soup.

Rain cleanses our roads and reveals our inability to follow simple rules like throwing our garbage at the right place. Whenever it rains continuously, some areas become flooded. You can see plastic bottles and plastic bags floating; street kids diving into the murky water as if it’s a swimming pool.

Rain transforms us. More likely, traffic’s everywhere. People are on the rush to escape, to get off the road, to reach their destinations. But if you’re stuck, moods change, conversations become lighter, and we get to see and observe the little things around us.

It’s when raining that everything makes sense.


14. Having a mentor

“A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst.”


CAN YOU consider your boss a caring mentor? How about your teacher at school? Or does your trainer constantly motivate you to reach your full potential?

We all need honest and sincere people in our lives. They are those who are willing to take the risk to divulge to us the areas where we can improve on, the part of our work where we miserably break, the shortcomings that we overlook. We need another set of eyes from those who truly want us to progress and not be stuck. Not for anything else, not for their personal gains, not for their biases, but because they feel that it’s the right thing to do and because jealousy and selfishness are not in their vocabulary. We receive absolution from them whenever we feel like we committed mistakes that we’re guilty of or whenever we fail them.

While it is true that there are times when we suffer just seeing our mentors, those moments that they share with us their lives is more important. They are supposed to inspire us. We listen to their feedback and adhere to their advice after careful analysis in our head.

Various books have been published about leadership, mentorship, and success. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers said that those who succeed in life do not just have talents. There are a lot of people who are talented but are not successful. He discussed the value of timing, influence, culture, and environment for one to stand out and reach their peak. And in the environment, our mentors are included.

Their presence in our lives is a game changer. Mentors pave the way for us to have a glimpse of another point of view. Another point of view means comparison. One gets to have the choice on what path to take, when to pull the trigger, and better understand the consequences of every decision.

A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst. They’ve been there and done that. Their experiences are unquestionable only if you know each other very well. Trust is vital for any relationship to work.

If you have a mentor that you look up to, be grateful. Not everyone is given a chance to have one. They help us create things and with grit, make a difference.


11. Finally owning a copy of the book you love

“Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we?”


TRUTH BE told, being a book hoarder or a book lover is not easy. You plot your calendar with nearby book sales, you ask your friends if they want to donate their books to you or you carry a basket around a bookstore and try to limit yourself with the budget for that month. Most of the time you fail. You just don’t know why.

But there are just some books that even if you wanted to own them and embrace them and smell them the first time you saw them, you just couldn’t. You wait for the right timing, the perfect opportunity. Sometimes, they are the hardbound books with glossy pages, full of pictures and texts that can blow your mind away. You crave for them. They are the type that you prepare for, think about, and not just settle for if you don’t want to go home empty-handed after going for a hunt in the mall.

Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we? We have our favorites. We fell in love in the author’s way of thinking, their perspective, their choice of words; the structure, the voice, and the characters they created.

Tonight, I am going to open the pages of a coffee table book by Kuya Daniel Razon. The title of the book is Get It Straight with Daniel Razon. Tonight, I am going to revisit the interviews the award-winning journalist had, the issues that have been tackled, the truth at every turn of the page. Tonight is the night that I’ve been waiting for. I was not present during the book launch more than a month ago but to understand that there’s more to the book than meets the eye is a treat itself.

Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Adam Grant are some of the greatest authors today and I own a copy of almost all of their books. But that one purchase, that one black coffee table book by Kuya will always be in a league of its own.

So at this point, think about that one author that you admire most. Think about the things that you realized after reading one of his or her works. What did you feel when you first held it in your hands? What were your thoughts?

Of the mountains of books that a book hoarder or a book lover has in any part of the world, there will always be that book that will stand out the most. And that book, whether hardbound or not, whether made of glossy pages or not, is what they’ve long waited for.

It’s all worth it, isn’t it?