By Maia Fortich-Poblete
I love books. I read books a lot. Readjng is something that makes me relax. It is the best way to travel without spending too much. It introduces me to interesting characters who, in one way or another, inspire me in different ways. They may be fictional but the stories and worlds they live in are as real to me as any of the places I’ve travelled to. And yes, I see bits and pieces of myself in some of them – and I am inspired to be like them. Often, I find myself dreaming of meeting my favorite book characters and becoming part of their world.
I’m attracted to characters with strong personalities and exciting back stories. I delight in reading about their adventures and experiences; in discovering their thoughts and feelings. I find their stories exciting and I often wish I was like them.
Right now, three of my favorite characters – the ones whose stories inspire me to read (and write) – are from local works of fiction. These are Alexandra Trese of the Trese comic book series by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldissimo, Karina of Kagay-anon K.M. Levis’ The Girl Between Two Worlds and The Girl Between Light and Dark, and Fr. Gus Saenz of F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles. Allow me to introduce them to you so you’ll understand why I admire them (and why they inspire me).
Alexandra Trese is a strong, independent woman who is a private detective specializing in crimes committed by supernatural beings. Trese is connected with the Underworld as her father, Anton, dedicated his life to solving supernatural mysteries. She followed in his footsteps.
Trese doesn’t hold back when working on a case. She analyzes the situations well before making a move. And she always finds time to work closely with both humans and supernatural beings.
This brave woman knows what she’s good at and is not afraid to take advantage of this fact in helping authorities solve crimes.
Trese runs a night club called The Diabolical, has bodyguards called “Kambal”, and uses a magical kris named Sinag (in addition to guns).
At the start of The Girl Between Two Worlds, Karina is just a typical teenage Filipina living in the USA with her father. As the story unfolds, we find out the strange circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her mother, and Karina’s real story unravels. She actually belongs to two worlds: the human world and her mother’s birthplace, Engkantasia.
Karina has to learn and understand what it means to be the next in line to the throne at Engkantasia. So, all at once, she is confused, afraid, hurt (that her mother kept things from her), and raring to prove her worth (albeit quite hesitantly at times). Controlling her powers and learning how to fight off supernatural forces suddenly becomes a regular thing for her.
In the 2nd book, The Girl Between Light and Dark, Karina is finally in Engkantasia and her struggles level up. Aside from proving that she was worthy for the throne, she also has to save Engkantasia from dark forces determined to take over the kingdom. Certainly not the kind of stuff a 16-year-old normally does, but Karina takes up the challenge and tries her best to help Engkantasia cliam victory.
Fr. Gus Saenz
The first thing that attracted me to Smaller and Smaller Circles was the fact that it tackles forensic science, a field that’s unexplored in local novels (and one that completely interests me). The fact that the protagonists, Gus Saenz and Jerome Lucero, are priests made it more interesting. Imagine, two Jesuit priests doing forensic work and trying to solve several murders the authorities are baffled about….that’s a first for a Philippine publication (as far as I know)!
In the book, a number of young boys from a poor neighborhood in Payatas are murdered one after the other. Fr. Gus and Fr. Jerome are immediately drawn to the case and are puzzled why the authorities have not done any significant action on finding the murderer. Since they, especially Fr. Gus, are quite prolific in forensic science, the priests try to solve the case by using crime scene investigation, forensic analysis, and criminal profiling.
Despite negative reactions from authorities (apart from one or two), Fr. Gus moves forward into his investigation. He doesn’t solve the case overnight, but he does not give up until the murderer is identified and proper action is taken.
These three characters describe the typical hard working Filipino: resilient/tough, creative (in finding solutions), never one to back down easily, determined, and self-sacrificing. These are the reasons why Alexandra Trese, Karina, and Fr. Gus Saenz inspire me to read. Characters like them remind me that no matter how difficult the situation is, if you work hard, are honest, and have only good intentions, everything will work out well.
If you choose to start reading today, I suggest you pick up (or buy) any of the books these characters are featured in.