The first page recounts the author’s kindergarten experiences, and readers can’t help recalling the same scene in Bob Ong’s ABNKKBSNPLAko?. Actually, if one is going to scan the Philippine lit bookshelves, one will feel an earnest desire of local publishing houses to come up with books that will equal if not outdo the success of the Bob Ong series. Aside from this book, there are Eros Atalia’s “Peksman, Nagsisinungaling Ako” and Bud Tomas’ “Wala lang,” which are both written in comical-but-wait-there-is-depth-and-drama-somewhere-yes-I’m-Bob-Ong-but-hello-I’m-not mode. Even National Artist Virgilio Almario employs a Bob Ong element in his new book which he entitled “Supot ni Hudas.”
But why should I complain? Many students are now flocking National and Powerbooks to search for local books with the same BobOngish mode, and before I know it they’re already reading F. Sionil Jose. And Amado Hernandez. And even Edel Garcellano! This might be a sign of an upcoming golden age of Philippine literature! And god, Bob Ong is its father.
Anyway, back to Gonzales’ book. “Isang Napakalaking Kaastigan” really is a napakalaking kaastigan, as it is indeed tough to talk about nothing but yourself in a 100+ page book. Reading it feels like going through a collection of journal entries, spontaneous, no uniting theme, and flowing with memories about childhood, school, family, sex, funny and corny cobweb jokes, and influences from pop culture. There are stories about eventful quarrels between his parents, unforgettable conversations with friends and relatives, and hilarious and sometimes melodramatic moments with the family. There are stories about growing with and being conditoned to live like TGIS stars, learning to act like Sharon Cuneta , and dance ala Maricel Soriano.
What can I say about a book whose professed purpose is to simply entertain? Vlad Gonzales’ voice is natural, playful, and pleasingly narrative. Some readers might be annoyed reading tidbits of random experiences ending with expected punchlines, but hey, it works with Bob Ong, and Vlad Gonzales definitely knows how to pull it off too, employing good writing techniques, dramatic line repetition and deft word play. If you’re an Edsa revolution baby, I recommend this. The stories that Vlad Gonzales shares and the humor that he creates simply come from our generational and cultural familiarity with what is unforgettable and what is funny. His book is your bestfriend telling you everything you’ve gone through after you smashed your head and got amnesia.