Happy Endings

Up, up, and away, and off to the land of opportunity, I think to myself. The land of happy endings.
from Happy Endings, L. J. Katigbak

 The book Happy Endings written by Luis Joaquin M. Katigbak is a collection of short stories that revolves around different interpersonal relationships between people, where these people are impelled to believe the idea of ‘happy endings’. The book showcases the different stories of different people when dealing the nature of love and relationships, and exploring self-identity that may lead to self-realizations. The story reflects a lot of things: love, bewilderment, fear, and pain, represented in the various facets of character personas of high school teenagers, college students and young adults. Perhaps, one of the most distinct underlying theme that holds the collection comes from the reflection of the “I” narrator (named Emil) of the short story entitled Happy Endings:

[…] I think about all of us, speeding and lurching or trudging towards our individual endings, catching glimpses of them now and then, planning for the future, wishing, hoping, never really knowing for sure whether our endings will be happy or tragic […]

Indeed, most of us, inevitably, would dream about happy endings, only to find out that not all things end this way, and that our speculations and assumptions are far from what’s real. That is what makes the book really interesting, as the writer was able to extract specific details of experiences, wherein he coupled them with vivid characterizations and an effective prose style to present to us realistic situations of life.

The book has ten short stories. In Renegade Eyeballs, a college student faces the usual problems in a university, dealing with his friends and his girlfriend, and flunking exams and subjects. In between times, he finds leisure in daydreaming, which is a momentary suspension of reality due to his emotional insecurities with the people around him, and at the later part of the story, he ends up thinking of himself as a lunatic sharpshooter with his cheap toy gun, but only for a moment, for in the end he realizes that everything still remains the same. In Postcards, a girl mysteriously receives postcards from nowhere, and she ends up transporting herself into the other world. There, she meets the older and the other self of her who happens to be the one who sends her the postcards. In this story, the theme of self-identity echoes in the other girl’s statement, “To let you know that you have yourself to thank for your happiness.” In Happy Endings, a fresh college graduate named Emil works in an advertising company wherein he is able to distinguish the different desires and ambitions of the people around him, and reflect whether the things that they are doing would eventually lead into their desired happy endings.

In Birthday, a young man forgets his self-identity, and ends up wandering around the place hoping to find it. Along the way he speculates his own nature, and when he has the chance to know his true self (through his lost wallet), he detains the idea for a while, and told himself that today is his birthday. In What the World Was Waiting For, a group of high school student researchers are working for a thermoacoustic engine as a scientific project. A high school boy secretly develops feelings for his best friend who was going out for somebody. In the short story Away, the young woman daydreams of happy endings with a co-worker, and assumes that they both have the same feelings for each other, only to find out that the man is ‘too far away from her’. In Document, two special friends share a word processor, and the young man is confused whether there is something deeper between them.

In the story Kara’s Place, two long-termed college friends Eric and Kara meet one day in Kara’s place, and they talk about Kara’s problem about his professor who tried to harass her. To their surprise, they end up hugging and kissing each other in a moment, and they part from each other, leaving a sense of confusion to both of them. In Rain, Rachel, and a Wednesday Afternoon, a 28-year old man named Dodong looks back at the memories with a girl named Rachel fourteen years ago – memories in the rain and at that memorable Wednesday afternoon when they first met. Now, Dodong reflects on the present time: Rachel is already married and she has a beautiful daughter, and through this, it is questioned, whether he is trapped in the past. In the final short story, The End, the main character Anton becomes the herald-messenger of the end of the world which will happen in seven days. Here, we see, how Anton struggles with the pressure of the responsibility, but amidst this distress, he comes to appreciate the value of love in a life already marked with brevity.

In a closer reading of the short stories written by Luis Joaquin Katigbak, it is notable that the strength of the writer lies in his vivid descriptions of the mental and emotional states of his characters. By relaying to us the emotional and mental processes of his characters with utmost subtlety, we readers are able to see more of their human and sympathetic aspects. The writer was able to push the plot of the stories to subtle sentimentalities, mainly because his characters are ‘human’, believable and credible characters. In this way, we readers are able to participate in the story by relating ourselves to the feelings and mental states of the characters. Indeed, these characters have the quality of verisimilitude and universality.

The book Happy Endings is heavily laced with irony that life is not purely all about happy endings. The stories reflect unique interpretations of the inability of humans to decode what the future holds for each of us. The writer highlights the idea that humans are not perfect, and they have occasional shortcomings, and these mistakes are bound to stain the happily-ever-after thoughts. But eventually through these mistakes, humans can achieve clarity about their own selves, and to some extent, self-realizations. This theme is subtly exemplified in each stories of Katigbak – it resonates all through out the book with deeper significance. Luis Joaquin Katigbak has that creative finesse in using that artistic emotional restraint of which he used extensively and effectively in each stories, and that is why Happy Endings is one of my personal favorites.

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Twilight

I just finished reading Stephenie Meyer’s book entitled Twilight, and I was so thrilled with the story. Even more exciting is the fact that the novel has an upcoming motion picture with the same title, starring Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. You still remember Robert Pattinson? He’s Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movie series, and this is got to be his first major starred movie. Giggles.

The novel was already out since September 2005, but it was only until just in recent years that it finally caught my attention. Sigh. Probably because of the fact that I’m totally busy reading more classic novels (class requirements) and I was so happy that I was able to read this new book. The fact that the Harry Potter book series was over and is finally concluded, this hip new series is probably worth my time.

The story is mainly about Bella Swann who decides to live with his father in Forks – (her parents were divorced). So it’s a new environment – rainy and snowy town and meeting new classmates in her new school. Bella didn’t find it hard to fit in to the crowd, in fact, almost all guys are all eyes on her, but she is totally intrigued with Edward Cullen, an appealing but hostile senior student. Things get really complicated when she finds out that Edward was actually a vampire although his clan doesn’t really feeds on humans, and she is constantly involved with him. Even more exciting is the fact that she’s hopelessly in love with Edward, and the feeling was mutual too! But certainly there seems to be lots of life-threatening situations they have to face in this novel before the novel reaches its height.

The book has 24 chapters, excluding the preface and the epilogue. Most of the scenes in the book are closely concentrated between Bella and Edward and their witty conversations, although there are also side-bit chapters about the Cullen family, and other significant characters. The book is easy to read and very conversational, which makes it really enjoyable, although there are times in the story when the conversations get really ‘syrupy’ in a sense – but in general, I could say that teenage girls would enjoy this more than hardcore guys.

Now, now, what really interests me is the upcoming motion picture. If I have to imagine what I just read from the book – I think the movie is much much exciting because it seems as if the book was written to be adapted in a motion picture in the future. True, images in the novel are clear and vivid, and are better rendered in the screen. Well, that’s just my presumption, but along with the Twilight fans out there, I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (The Movie!)

Along with my favorite Harry Potter series, I also like the Narnia series of C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. I already completed the whole series, which, like the Potter series, has seven installments. My personal favorite book in the Narnia series is The Horse and His Boy, but I can’t deny that I also like Prince Caspian book.

I’m so happy because following the first Narnia film from Walt Disney and Walden Media, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian movie adaptation will be premiering this June 4 in the theaters. This is very good news for the fans of the Narnia series.

I first read the series when I was in high school, and finally completed them when I just started my first year college. I admit that it was really hard to be involved in the story readily (unlike Harry Potter) but later on, as you pursue reading the other books, you’ll find that you just can’t help but love the Pevensie children and their adventures. But the exciting thing about this is that there is something deeper in the whole Narnia series, and I noticed that when I finally read the last book. C.S. Lewis is really good and very subtle in injecting his ideas in the children’s books. If I’m going to look deeper through the character of Aslan, then it feels like he is like God. To critically analyze this, is a very good idea. Ha-ha! The rest of this exciting mind work will be your quest. 😉

The movie was directed by Andrew Adamson.

Looking Into the Future

I saw National Geographic Channel’s feature about Nostradamus in Nostradamus: Is it Real and was utterly surprised to saw the same topic again in Discovery channel in Nostradamus: the Truth at least two days after. It was weird, but maybe that’s how competition goes. Ha-ha!

Well, almost everybody knows about Nostradamus, who was extremely famous for his prophecies. It was said that his book of prophecies was sold in very large numbers, and widely circulated all over the world. In both features, they tried to present if these prophecies were really real, or just purely coincidental. His glimpses to the fate of mankind were mostly depressing views of the world, written in different language of French, in a style that depicted clearly the raw visions of his mind.

To give you a background story about how I got acquainted with Nostradamus, I was told off when I was 10 to get ready for the end of the world. Whoah! I was really scared back then, because in that coming year (that was 1999), there would be complete darkness to hover all over the world and widespread hunger where the King of Terror would descend to the Earth. We all panicked there, (hehe, the kids in the neighborhood and old people) about the coming of what we believed as The Judgment Day. But nothing happened. There was no darkness for the coming years, there was no such thing as end of the world (though there was still widespread hunger in other parts of the world and a few eclipses) but still life went on. Now, its year 2008, and everything is running in its usual course. So what the heck just happened at that time?

Did Nostradamus make a very grave mistake OR did we make a huge mistake in interpreting his prophecies?

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A famous historical event that we can associate with Nostradamus is about Catherine d’Medici and King Henry II ofFrance. Catherine read the book of prophecies of Nostradamus, and summoned him to look into her king’s fate. And Nostradamus predicted the death of her husband – a one quatrain that troubled the queen that tells about King Henry II’s death. And it did happen. It was said that that was the first time that Nostradamus successfully looked into the future.

But there was more: the predictions about the Great Fire of London in 1666, the rise of Hitler, the atomic bombs dropped inHiroshimaandNagasaki, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Although there were seemingly perfect matches, science does not support it. Although many people believe that Nostradamus might have acquired divine inspiration or paranormal abilities, scientists still believe that it is utterly nonsense.

There were also few misinterpretations of the prophecies, some dates written in the quatrains were recalculated, and we cannot deny the fact that because of manual ‘publishing’ of the prophecies, people involved might constantly and unintentionally change the words which only added errors. Then, the original quatrain might have been misprinted by hand, and this is also because of the mistranslation of Nostradamus’s complicated French. He was so careful in anything that he said in the prophecy because of the height of the Inquisition.

But this is my take: the language that Nostradamus used in his prophecy is ambiguous, generally, and this vagueness, I personally think, is responsible for the increase of probabilities. What I think is that he was not looking into the future, but referring back to historical past events, knowing that the astronomical patterns involved in his passion for astrology, would always follow the same historical pattern.