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Mika Angela D.

Nathalia Marie M. Martinez
Approaches used: Formalistic Approach, Reader-response, and more.

Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang Mga Pilipino?

By Bob Ong

Bob Ong is a well-known, mysterious Filipino writer for no one has actually
know his identity. His pen name ‘Bob Ong,’ which has caught the attention of many
Filipino, is derived from his website ‘Bobong’ Bob Ong is from the word
“Bobong” which the word “Bob” is only separated from “Ong.” Articles written inside
this website sharply tackles about the behavior and the mentality of the Filipinos that
he had observed, including the kind of government under the rule of the President
Erap who was the current president during his time. Eventually, the site of was shut down after the ouster of the President Joseph Estrada
(Erap). So he decided to write a book which has the same purposes like the articles of
his website and that is to open the eyes of the Filipinos, to point the reality which
seems Filipino cannot see. His works reflect who and what kind of person he truly is.
Regardless of his mysterious identity, this has not become an obstacle to capture the
interest of many Filipinos.
The second book of Bob Ong written on 2002 and published by VISPRINT,INC.,
“Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” has caught the attention of many
people not only because of its yellow color but particularly, to its inverted book cover,
also the title of the book is also enough to made their brains start to run and think. As
what was mentioned a while ago, the work of Bob Ong sharply focused about the
reality of the mentality and behavior of the Filipinos. This work of him which me and
my partner think was the most powerful among his works because this book is giving
clear messages for the Filipinos and the reality in our country. It is like an arrow
released directly in the hearts and minds of Filipinos. This will make the Filipinos,
even the foreigners, especially the Filipinos who are foreigner-want-to-be, open their
eyes and realize something for their selves.
There was no clear structure of his story but contain many symbolisms that
should read carefully. There are various points showed mainly about the improper
behavior and attitude of Filipinos, and some points about other country and
foreigners. The story was written from specific to general, and has no clear plot.
The first page of his book is enough for us to understand to whom was this book
is for. It is for the Filipinos, half-Filipinos, and for Filipinos who rather wanted to
become an outlander of their own country which was written in the first page of the
book. The story begins about the description of the places here in the Philippines,
particularly in Manila. It was described as one of the dirtiest cities in the world. The
first part of the story was introduced with a big slap of the reality. Additionally, it also
mentioned about the Filipino who lacks planning and principles for their life. It
reflected about the youth who are already involved with immoral actions, and adults
who love to dillydallying who seems lose their hope in life and some were lack the
planning when it comes to their family. Joseph Estrada, also known as Erap, was also
mentioned which represent the lazy and nonproductive government during his
service as the president of our country before. As we read this part, we sense
something like loathed or hatred of Bob Ong to the government which was ruled by
Erap. Government perform crime like the graft and corruption, even red tape which
are still done today. They are the one consuming the money that is supposedly for the
Filipinos, as a result, this affect their lives and made them suffer more. “Filipino, itself,
is the one putting the life of their fellow Filipino in agony,” this is what the first part of
the story is trying to tell us. My partner and I formed a lot of argument and reasoning
that could oppose the side of Bob, but as we read the evidences and illustrations
presented by Bob Ong in the early part of the story, we eventually gave up and focus
ourselves on reading and understanding the point that Bob Ong is trying to show to
his readers. But honestly, no matter how hard we think of ideas and form sentences of
arguments inside our brain to counter that description, we cannot, because that is the
reality and we are seeing it until today. Furthermore, it was also emphasized the
reason why the lives of Filipinos worsen is because of the crab mentality they have in
which they are pushing each other down and not letting anyone get above on them.
Filipino women were also called cheap for acting as an easy-to-get kind of
people, Filipino teenagers use ‘conyo’ language and slang works as their way of
speaking and acting like a rich kid even though they are not. Filipino people who
doesn’t have enough knowledge about our history mainly about Jose Rizal, Andres
Bonifacio, and Emilio Aguinaldo, and Filipino possessing the colonial mentality and
patronizing the brand of other country were stated. These various points had more
elaborated in the latter part of the story.
Of course, the negative side of the Filipinos are not the only thing presented in
the story. The name “Juan dela Cruz” is also mentioned in which this name symbolizes
and represent the Filipinos and their culture. One of the popular part of the Filipino
culture is the 100 days of celebration of Christmas and how Filipinos do actually
prepare for it. Where in, money and status of life doesn’t matter, what matter is there
are food prepared on the table as a celebration for Christmas. Including how happy
the exchange gifts are, and also the monito and monita, which is other term for
exchange gifts only the difference is it is exchange of gifts specifically between men
and women who are partners, in which these are enjoyed by people. Aside from
Christmas, Fiestas was also celebrated by different towns all over the Philippines
annually. And in fiestas, food specialty of each town is also featured, including
different competitions like colorful street dance and sometimes float parade. Men and
women, even children, have the opportunity to play different games, contest, and
practices like the amateur singing contest, beauty pageant, dance party, prusisyon,
parade, palosebo, and many more which are part of the Philippine culture mentioned
by Bob Ong in this story. Not to mention the amazing culture of the Cordillera Region,
especially the Igorots who are tied by their cultural practices and beliefs. Another
distinguishing feature of the Igorots are their vibrant pieces of clothing. This reflect
how colorful and rich the culture of the Filipinos is.
Moreover, Bob Ong highlighted the simple way of living in which children and
the youth love to play different games like the patintero, luksong baka, habulang
daga, pitik bulag, and there is also the famous lutu-lutuan, bahay-bahayan and dolls
which are played by the women. He eventually added the different teachings of
adults, especially of the grandparents to the children. This is the stage where the
mindset of children are shaped by their parents and by the people around them. Child
is a symbol of innocence, and we think that Bob Ong wanted to show here that the
teachings of the parents and other adults affect the identity and thinking ability of a
child and because a child cannot think on its own, their identity and rationality
depends on what they can get from their parents and the people around them.
Bob Ong pointed out how Filipinos took advantage of the special occasions
happening annually. First is the Christmas in which children were encouraged by
their parents or their own will to perform a carol from one house to another, including
some group of youth or organizations. We are aware that this practice is a part of our
tradition, but how about the children being not satisfied when they were only given
some coins and some organization who gives you an envelope which indirectly
implying that you need to give a money in paper, not coins? Their interest is not about
valuing the true essence of Christmas and to make it mirthful and festive, but instead,
they more on look on the value of money they are receiving as they carol from one
house to another. Second is the all saint’s day in which these days should be the days
when we should go over and visit our beloved family in the cemetery. But again,
people are taking this event as an advantage. The left candle planted on each of the
top of the tomb were collected by children then combining and forming it again. Let’s
not also forget about the new year which is the continuation of the celebration of
Christmas. But instead of enjoying, numerous cases of victims by different kind of
fireworks are recorded every year.
How funny that Bob Ong is also aware about the situation inside a jeep in which
the driver’s conductor or the driver itself keeps on saying, “Sakay na, MALUWAG NA
MALUWAG PA!” from the statement in the story even though the passengers are
barely comfortable in their seat. A jeepney is already part of our culture. It symbolizes
the main transportation that Filipino frequently use to their everyday lives. Until now,
there are still a lot of jeepneys transporting billions of Filipinos from one place to
another and traveling to the different places here in our country. But jeepney drivers
is a different topic for Bob Ong, he even provided different classifications of jeepney
driver and how funny that we can actually understand and relate to it. Again, Bob Ong
has showed another point about the behavior of the Filipino. In his classifications of
jeepney drivers, he showed a driver in which the number of his passenger exceeds
the capacity of his vehicle, a kind of driver who doesn’t follow signs on the road like
the loading/unloading side, some drivers also cussed while there are some who loves
green jokes, and there is also a ‘SUPER PINOY DRIVER’ who follow the rules and value
his passengers. All of this reflect the behaviors not only of the jeepney drivers but of
all drivers in general, a tricycle, pedicab, name it.
According to Bob Ong, world revolve so fast, including the commercialism in
our country. A lot of different brands of clothes, shoes and bags are everywhere,
especially cellphones. During the time of Bob Ong, when he wrote this story, Nokia
are the only brand of cellphone that is popular to people. And when the swapping
corner still exist in his time, Juan dela Cruz will swap everything he have just for the
Nokia cellphone including the washing machine, sala set, aircon, exercise machine,
name it. The name “Juan dela Cru” represents all the Filipinos. And even the Juan dela
Cruz in the modern times will do anything in order to own an updated touch screen
brand and version of a phone. Filipino also loves to buy imported brands over the
Philippine made materials. A kind of mentality that is still possessed by the Filipinos
until now.
He also showed the kind of media they have during his time which still the kind
of media we have as of this days. He indirectly mentioned in his story how useless
some of the news. His example is about a Filipina artist who have a dark coccyx, and
Bob Ong sarcastically asked how this news affect the lives of people and does it really
affect and contains power to change our country? He also included censored images
of women placed in front of magazines which are seen by many Filipino Men who was
buying, reading, then ogle at it. And as of today, different news is broadcast all over
our country which I think, many of it are not significant to the lives of people, in
general. Aside from it, magazines we have today is more tamed than before, but not
for the movies and drama showed in our television. SPGs and censored drama and
shows are aired and children are not even safe to leave alone watching a TV.
Until Bob Ong had arrived to the topic about Filipinos getting involve with the
foreigners. Filipinos are trying their best to learn how to speak in English, which is not
bad, but forgetting the importance of our own language. He showed how the Filipino
rather choose to speak in a conyo way than in a straight filipino because it will make
them, once again, look rich.
He showed different articles from the opinion of the foreigners to the culture of
the Filipinos. A Matter of Taste by Matthew Sutherland talks about the different kind
of foods, especially the street foods like the balut, “Walkman” (pig’s ears),
“addiddas” chickens’ feet, and more. Including the article by Mack P. Magno entitled,
“Unjust Portrayal of Some Filipino Foods” which talks about the weird naming of
parents to their children. Additionally, a certain DJ in America wrote a letter about the
Filipinos. This letter had become a controversial issue for the Filipino as it talks
negatively about the attitude, origin of the Filipinos. According to the letter, Filipinos
are not actually Asian because the culture that Filipinos have are more like Spanish. It
compared how big the difference between our country and the country of Japan and
China in which our country is a ‘third world country’ and they are not. Asians like
Chinese doesn’t act the way Filipino act, Asians don’t talk about sex and such unlike
how Filipinos frequently talk about it in different chatrooms online and the
technological advancement that the Philippines has is so far than the Japan and the
Korean have. You may actually want to cursed the writer of this letter as you read the
first part of the letter, but as you continue and reach its conclusion, you will somehow
agree especially the sentence written in the last part of the letter saying, “Your
Identity is Filipino. That’s all you are. Just Filipino. Think about what that means.” It
once again made me realize that Filipino doesn’t have a certain identity although we
are rich in culture and talents, and fighting various competition around the world. We
keep on winning different pageants and competitions but somehow you will ask
yourself, “Who really are we?” This is the message of Bob Ong in this part of the story.
Yes, we are Filipinos who are Morenos and Morenas, but we have not yet established
specific identity like Japanese who are known for their anime and manga, Chinese are
known for their cute and chinky eyes especially their kind of clothing, and the middle
east country in Asia which are known for being Muslims. Well, what this part is trying
to point out also is that we don’t need to copy the trend in other country, specifically
in the western countries, we need to do something, make something we can call as
our own. Something that we can truly call as Filipino’s property.
The story had also mentioned regarding how other people from other country
think about the Filipinas and some articles indirectly explaining how easy to get are
they, and including what is a true Filipina beauty according to a certain mail order
bride website. It says that our country is a third world country and Christians. Because
Filipinos are Christians, so women highly value the importance of marriage and their
attitude as they socialize with other people. But the main point is that, because our
country is poor, Filipina women will cling to the knife’s edge and will do everything
for their survival. The owner of a website is confident with it because he, himself, is
married to a Filipina.
“Who wants to become a Filipino?” is the main question asked in the end part
of the story. Bob Ong put articles and experiences showing that many Filipinos wanted
to become one of another race, that if they would be given a chance they would rather
choose to become an American than to be a Filipino. Filipino are poor and this is their
The Philippines was compared to the country of Vietnam in the story. 1975 when
a war has occurred in Vietnam which bring great damage to this country, everything
was broken-down and this country is once a poor country like the Philippines but after
25 years, it miraculously boomed and recovered which is now a wealthy country.
Philippines was also greatly affected during the end of the World War II on 1945, but
after 25 years, the situation became worse. Beggars are everywhere in different cities,
there is also a poor squatter area, and corner of the street which is full of garbage.
Instead of recovering, it became worse.
The hidden question asked as in this part is, “If Vietnam did it, why can’t the
Philippines?” The story showed factors why. First is because of our history.
Philippines was easily conquered by the Spanish before is because of the lack of Unity
of the Filipinos. Each part of the country was separately ruled by a Datu and has
usually a rift happening between them. Each tribe or barangay have their own
interests which became their weakness why the Spaniards easily conquered them.
Eventually, we became slaves or the ‘Indios’ of Spain for 333 years. Another thing is
that Filipino, especially the Youth have no interest in learning the true events
happened in our history. What do youth know about Emilio Aguinaldo who is consider
as the first president of the Philippines? Why do Filipinos are pleasantly welcoming
the American even before until know although Americans had ruled us and became
their slaves after the rule of the Spaniards? Who actually killed our national hero Jose
Rizal? What is the purpose of Andres Bonifacio and other heroes who put their lives on
the line during the revolutionary period? These questions are what Bob Ong trying to
ask. How about the name behind our country? According to the book of “Tamad nga
ba si Juan?” mentioned by Bob Ong in the story, Spaniards named our country
Filipinas or Philippines which is from the name of the King of Spain named Philip II
who is a shy and unprogressive leader. The naming of our country represents us being
slaved by the Spaniards before. This part of the story is a big addition to our
knowledge and is enough to make us inquisitive and heighten our desire to know
more about our history.
Moreover, Filipino possessed a colonial mentality which is also mentioned
above and which is also mentioned many times by Bob Ong in the story. Filipino
believe that products from other country is better than the products that we have here.
So, they rather choose the imported goods. Filipino also think highly of other race like
the American. For Bob Ong, this implies the lack of self-love of the Filipinos. Why do
Filipinos are trying hard to speak in English for the foreigners although they are in the
Philippines? Isn’t it the other way? Bob Ong also emphasizes how Filipino hardly treat
their fellow Filipino while softly treat the foreigners. Filipino are impatient and strict
to their fellows while, patiently associating their selves with the foreigners.
It was given that Filipinos are hospitable in nature which is one of the factors
highlighted by Bob Ong in the middle part of this story. But how about being too much
hospitable? This unreasonable respect, which is more like idolism to the foreigners
especially to the white, shows the hypocrisy of the Filipinos and their lack of love for
their own nationality and country.
Chinese was also compared to the Filipinos. As we observe today, a number of
Chinese businessmen establish their company in our country and became successful.
According to the website of Get Real Philippines, this Chinese are not fluent in Filipino
but this had not became a hindrance for their success. Chinese started from a low-
class group of society here in our country until they become the king and monster in
business. It was also said that Chinese can survive everywhere through their wit while
the Filipinos can’t do the same. Chinese don’t depend on what their government or
our government is giving to them. Yes, we should not compare ourselves to them but
isn’t their experiences a great example of what we should also do. We need to work
hard and strive using our own strength, not depending on what our government can
provide to us, in order to become successful.
Filipino also frequently use the reasoning, “There are many countries which are
far worse than our country,” as a counter when people give bad comments to our
country. Another thing is that in the illustration of Bob Ong in the story, these people
are the Filipinos, themselves, who are insulting their own country and the fellow
Filipinos. This teach us that instead of comparing the Philippines to other which is far
worse than our country, why don’t we strive to go beyond, become the best and be
not contented with the fact that there still worse than us. It also implies that we should
face the reality about our weaknesses and make a change for the better of our country
instead of reasoning and defending ourselves from the negative comments and view
of people to us.
Again, we should know how to love ourselves, our nationality which is the point
that Bob Ong keeps on emphasizing throughout this story. Filipinos usually
discriminate their fellow Filipinos from the foreigners in a way that Filipino is politer,
humbler, more hospitable, and has a better treatment to the foreigners unlike to their
fellow Filipinos. Filipino Christians discriminate their fellow Filipino Muslims, where
in fact, they are living in the same country.
As the story reach its conclusion, it emphasizes that it is us, ourselves, is the
problem. Because of our own interests and our lack of unity is the main reason why
are we poor and why our country is not in the state of progress. Wealthy and powerful
are becoming selfish while keeping a firm hold to their high status in society, while
people in a low class group in our society are learning treacherous things and do some
crimes that will help them for their survival. Bob Ong also added that we are not a
slave anymore which means that we are now free to do the things that we should do,
lot of years had already past but nothing had change in our country, if there is then it
only become worse. The end part of the story emphasizes that Filipinos from different
part of our country are contending to achieve the most powerful status. Only one
problem remained from before until now, and that is the very slow pace of progress
in our country.
As we see, there is no clear structure and a clear plot of this story but the
message was successfully and clearly conveyed to the readers. There are a lot of
points presented as we read the story and thoroughly understanding of the meaning
of each situation so as the hidden questions that is needed to answer and the hidden
messages that is needed to find. And the story was ended with a powerful conclusion.
Despite the number of ideas or arguments of Bob Ong in this story, he successfully
connected each of them and the main message he wanted to convey was successfully
Various elements such as the symbolisms, the articles inserted, some part of
the life of the author, and the illustrations which still applied to us until now is a big
help to appeal the readers. It is also amazing how Bob Ong narrated the story in a way
that it doesn’t bore the readers but instead, the humor and the comicality struck the
hearts and minds of his readers. His use of humor throughout the story gives spices
and make his work a one of a kind, which me and my partner think, also the reason
why there are many Filipinos who loves his books despite that his work is like an arrow
piercing deep in our soul and opening our minds to the reality of our life. This style of
writing of Bob Ong is unconventional.
This work of him maybe written, more than a decade, but it is still applied in
our days. The characters which are we, the Filipinos, affect our society. We are the
roots of the problem that can’t be solve because we are not changing ourselves for a
better. And the title, “Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang Mga Pilipino?” including
its inverted book cover is a representation of the inverted way of thinking of many
Filipino. They don’t follow rules, competing for power, depending their problem in
government, treacherous, and think highly of people from other country. They lack
the love for their selves.
As a student, we highly recommend this book for it was worth reading. It
contains the reality in our lives as a Filipino, it also shows the mentality that we have
that we are not aware of, and what lacks our country which keeping it from
progressing and becoming a prosperous country.

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