Owling on Novels

Two things I’ll admit again, folks: I’m not a novel-gulper and I love hospital work. These 2 time-killer seems an ocean apart but they’re not. Novels brim with dramas. So are hospitals. The dramatic plots in novels are purely in the writer’s mind; the ones in hospitals are real. Although I like literature, I haven’t gotten yet into novel-reading as a hobby. For someone still trying to put up the roof and ceiling of the house, sinking my head between pages is almost a luxury. Dwelling on the fictional casts and getting into their assigned characters, pulsing with the tempo of an unfolding story, you see, reading a novel involves some emotional capital, the investment a sort of crossing reality’s boundary. To some degree, it is a flight of the self away from those real moments, summoned back at times by the smell of a burned rice or the clanking of falling dishes scurried by cats, or a mailed notice of a power disconnection. But then again, there’s something in reading that’s hypnotic to a hungry mind that DVDs can’t sate. It’s the awesome invitation to imagine, and imagination is often more powerful than lateral thinking. Hence, I read novels on occasions and not as a hobby.

I remember the first full-length novel I read back in high school was Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name, about a missionary sent to a remote Native American community and how he was both transformed and mourned over. The novel was an exhilarating, if not mystifying experience for me. In between that first book romance and the now were the Gospel According to Peanuts and a few contemporary classics like Buck’s The Good Earth and some of F. Sionil Jose’s obra. For 30-something years of existence, they must be a little above a score in my definite guess.


But because I love hospital work and am missing it, I decided to buy for 20 pesos this two page-turning medical thrillers in one bound after my usual scour at Booksale. Tess Gerritser’s Harvest used to be a NY Times bestseller long time ago, 1996 to be exact. But had I read this before my residency back in 2003, I could not have imagined while reading, the chaos of a code nor feel how hair-raising hospital hallways are at midnight:

Late at night, a hospital is a surreal place. Hallways stretch empty, the lights are too bright, and through tired eyes, all those white walls seem to curve and sway like moving tunnels.”


I had walked over those surreal corners as an on-call chaplain, at midnight and even after an intubated patient’s ultimate prayer. But who doesn’t get thrilled by the surreal at times and the flight of human imagination that goes with it? Novel-reading aids us in those flights. Blogging is another story. Let’s promote reading the good ones in this age of shorter and lazier attention.


18 thoughts on “Owling on Novels

  1. But then again, there’s something in reading that’s hypnotic to a hungry mind that DVDs can’t sate. It’s the awesome invitation to imagine, and imagination is often more powerful than lateral thinking.

    Bull’s eye. The mind experiences more freedom in imagination.

    I indulge in novels as part of my reading diet. I cannot sleep without reading for an hour or so… And so I can say that I also read novels on occasions as part of my reading habit…

    The first novel I read goes way back during my 2nd year in high school: Year of the Cloud.
    The latest one I have read was from Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Hundred Years of Solitude. I have read it in the span of 2 months – November to December of last year, along with other bedside books. 🙂

  2. Freedom and imagination? Kaya madalas maraming natatakot sa mga real artists kasi pagiging malaya ang ipinaglalaban. Sa totoo lang, iilan lang siguro ang tumititig doon sa mga nagtatakbong nakahubad sa UP Oblation Run, hehe. They do love to cross boundaries especially if they are oppressive. I’m just beginning to know the artist in you, Mark. Si Gabriel Garcia Marquez, alam ko sikat sya pero balang araw babasahin ko rin sya.

  3. I’ve got two books to recommend. nibasa ko ito habang nasa bakasyon:
    The Birth of Venus ni Sarah Dunant
    at Of God and Madness (nalimutan ko ang name ng author, igoogle mo na lang).
    ang galing!

    as for gabriel garcia marquez, i read Hundred Years of Solitude too but I find Love in Times of Cholera more engaging.ü you might want to try Isabel Allende too. pareho lang sila ng istilo. medyo mas pang-adik nga lang ang ka marquez, parang kerouac on rehab.

    Bro, wala pa akong nabasa sa mga binanggit mo hehe. kaya interesting.

  4. The odd thing about me is that I seldom read novels. If ever I would read novels that would be a popular book. I don’t know, I’m just not a fan of fictional reading (pero mahilig ako sa comic books haha). Heck I havent even read the two towers and return of the king yet, even the other harry potter books except the order of the phoenix.

    I rather read books that are academic, books written by henry nouwen, autobiographies, spiritual classics, reflections and books based on real life experiences that spells, triumph, dreams, going through odds and stuff. Basta everything written in reality. I think the only novel I read (and I dont know if its even considered a novel) is We Neurotics, my favorite aside from Tuesdays with Morrie

    Nagagalingan ako sa mga taong mahihilig magbasa ng Novel. Kasi sa totoo lang wala ako katyaga tyaga sa ganyan. nabobore ako. I feel I am wasting the precious hours of my life reading thick and ‘God-knows-when-it-will-end’ fictitious stories and plots. kaya parati ako in awe whenever I hear people reading this and that novels.

    If I would attend a book lover’s party just like in “you’ve got mail”, surely, that will be the time that my mouth would shut up hahaha The only topic I think, in all of the General information that I practically have no knowledge off. That’s why I don’t want watch Jeopardy.

    Nakangiti ako habang binabasa tong comment mo. Pareho tayo ng taste. Tapos nabanggit mo pa si Henri Nouwen. At yung mga hindi mo nabasa, roger din. Minsan, kunyari umpisahan ko tapos nabobored ako in-between kaya titigilan ko na. If i’m not mistaken, you’ve mentioned about Richard Rohr in one of your posts. He’s a favorite writer of mine. Yung Radical Grace – ginawa kong daily reading for the whole year. Then i emailed him one time asking him about his men’s retreat. I was so happy he responded with a complimentary “hugs from a father.” Wow, i still kept that email of his. Then i read philosopher Richard Tarnas at mga katipo nya. Sa atin syempre si Randy David despite his confessed agnosticism. Sa book lover’s party, tahimik si Bluep! Hahahaha – nasa prayer mode lang po!

  5. Langya DFish, doktor ka pala. Kaya pala puro dissertations at papers mo ay related to medicine. LOL

    Uy Bro, baka maniwala sila sa yo. Ang taas pa naman ng confidence level ng readers sa yo. Naalala mo sa blog ni Revsiopao, daming nagulat doon. Pati si St. Bonistation natakot. Hindi po ako doktor. Love ko lang po talaga ang hospital work as a hospital chaplain by training. At mahilig lang talaga ako sa masalimuot na mundo ng panggagamot. Yun lang po.

  6. i’ve read quite a few novels here and there and i’m sure i’ve read f. sionil jose, hindi lang ako sure pero yung title nya may word na brother at executioner ba yon or something. tagal na kasi nun at may memory gap ang lola. haha..

    gabriel garcia marquez’s love in the time of cholera speaks of beauty amidst ugliness. maganda rin, but honestly, kya ko siya tinapos dahil mahal siya. sayang naman yung pera ko diba. charing. haha

    those by robin cook also titillate. wala lang. suggest lang.

    happy new year!

    Ang Prinsesa ng Britanya! masarap basahin si f.sionil jose, currently the most popular novelist we can be proud of! LOL! buti na lang hindi nagbabasa ng tagalog blogs si marquez! si robin cook, nakita ko lang yung cover sa national bookstore. regards kay sarge!

  7. Hello po..

    Ako, minsanan lang magbasa ng novel, kapag may topak lang, hehehe..

    As of the present moment, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray and Love na gift sakin ng friend ko nung Christmas, sabi nila pang babae daw ung book na un pero nde nmn daw sabi ni tita Oprah, hehehe..

    I think I need to reread your entry with my oxford on my side.

    Hi Jorge, kahit sa pagbabasa ng novel, may Eating part pa rin ha! uy, wala pang oxford na Bisaya-English Dictionary ha! Ang tanong kasi – babae nga ba si Tita Oprah mo?


  8. Love ko lang po talaga ang hospital work as a hospital chaplain by training.

    Kapatid, nabasa ko somewhere that you are a family man. Now, hospital chaplain. Then in another post, you have been honed by SVDs, MSCs and FSCs (Fratres Scholarum Christianarum – gusto ko kasi sound nito…)
    I’m getting confused… hehe…

    The only logical conclusion I can summon to have these info fitted in for them to remain applicable is that you are now outside the Catholic Church… Please correct me if I am wrong, and do forgive the intrusion…. 🙂

    yung mga holy acrostics, seminary training ko yan Mark. Tapos nagpasya mag-out sa Big Brother House at pansariling naglakbay hanggang humantong sa lay chaplaincy na katanggap-tanggap naman bilang ministry at professional hanapbuhay sa Tate. Sa kabilang dako, i can understand the confusion – magulo ang buhay ko sa totoo lang!

  9. @Cool – its not I think outside the catholic church, formation siguro to be exact more of an ex sem like me ganun.

    @DFish, hindi ba? LOL I take it back. Its because in medical parlance when you say, residency its for doctors, internship for PTs and allied meds, duty is for nurse. Kaya I thought when you said residency you are a doctor. I didn’t know na may iba pa pala gumagamit na profession nun.

    Like Coolwaters, sensya na rin for the intrusion. Nabigla lang ako, I saw your list of papers and man, they were deep stuffs. Taytol pa lang nosebleeding na. Kaya di mahirap ako maconvince na doktor ka kasi bagay. BTW thanks tol for clearing that up as early as now. Baka nga may makabasa maniwala sa sinasabi ko.

    Swak na swak, Bluep! Kasingbilis ng MRT tong utak ni Bluep! Tama ka kasi residency din ang gamit sa US for chaplaincy. It’s almost the same as medical residency – on-call ka rin for the whole hospital, rigid din ang training. pero mas astig pa talaga ang medical residency.

  10. I love the book 100 years in solitude but I have yet to finish it after 3 years. hehehe. I almost hate to admit that I like to read and yet I dread reading because the kids would go hungry when I start a book. I like John Grisham for lighter reading. Stephen King for nightmare invites before bed. I love C.S. Lewis on Mere Christianity. Dr. James Dobson for raising kids. There are many more authors to mention. If I do, I will have a post blog on your comments sections. I will look for the book The Harvest.

    Hi Sis! everybody reads marquez. ako lang yata at si bluep ang hindi pa. I miss ordering used books at Amazon. Sana merong ganun dito where really good books are just clicks away…

  11. Naku, napaisip ako sa tanong mo ah… hmm.. babae nga ba si tita oprah? toinks!

    Jorge, let’s assume na lang na hindi na talaga kailangan ni tita oprah mo ng lalaki. Ayaw din naman niya magkaroon ng sariling anak. Teka lang, oo nga pala, may Oprah Book Club din pala kaya nalihis tayo sa kanya.

  12. Nosebleed din para sa akin ang mga titles and authors pero di ko rin naman masabing I don’t like reading novels. Nagbabasa rin kasi ako depende sa lifestyle ko sa isang period of time.

    Like coolwaterworks, I like what you said about reading. “It’s the awesome invitation to imagine, and imagination is often more powerful than lateral thinking.” This is what amazes me when I read fiction. Authors can make their readers imagine a whole lot of things just by using words.

    Hi Milay, if i may irreverently address you this way. Una, salamat sa pagdalaw sa tolda ko at sa positive vibs na iniwan mo. Tama ka, lifestyle dictates. Minsan kasi, pagwalang pera for example, novel-reading is a lazy thing to do.

  13. Tol, mas napangiti mo ako kasi Richard Rohr is one of my heroes and major influence in writing. Do you see any imitation on my part? haha (except of course when I write satire) pero yung mga reflections ko, its mostly influenced by his style of writing. You know I started “un-judging a book by its cover literally” during my first month in the formation.

    Our OT prof, a great capuchin intellectual and oriental spiritualist, gave us this tattered old books which is as small as a pocketbook. It’s OT Themes written by Richard Rohr. Yun ang aming text book for the whole semester. I never read that for a month kasi nga I used to judge a book merely by its cover. Pero one afternoon, a day before the exam, I was forced to read the book, Usually I just listen to the discussion and just pick up morsels and bits from what my prof and classmates leave, para bang connect the dots. kunwari nagbabasa ng book pero ang totoo eh nakikiramdam sa bawat iniiwan na hints sa discussion. ganun ako katamad haha. And then I was forced to read the book kasi the prof told us that the exam is not objective type. So I really have to read the book kasi baka kako essay tapos mostly secondary concept na nasa libro yung iexam. And when I read the book, man, it is as if I was reading my life, especially his take on the Exodus journey. I finished the book from 11 pm till 4 am on my bed with a flashlight. with only 1 hour sleep before the bell rung. Hindi ako inantok nung binasa ko sya. I really felt the connection with the book and my life. The next day, still groggy from the insomniac activity, I aced the exam. Not because of anything else, but because I loved the book so much that every word of it stuck on my mind during the exam.

    and from then on I searched the whole library and read all of the books written by Richard Rohr. Sadly dito sa bookstores sa atin wala masyado books nya so I am saving money to order books online pa. Kaso mo, pati amazon di pwede dito sa pinas. hay.

    One great writer who also influenced my writing is Henry Nouwen. Akala ko nung una lay man sya. Pari pala. I always get teary eyed reading his spiritual classics. It’s so human.

    And another one is the great Papal Preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap. His books are so deep that sometimes you really have to invoke the Holy Spirit to comprehend his writings. It is as if his writings are whispered by the Holy Spirit himself.

    And of course, Bo sanchez, LOL

    I like randy david but Conrado de Quiros and Letty Jimenes Magsanoc is really pure pleasure and learning for me. Those two are also my hearoes and influences.

    yan ang mga palagi ko binabasa LOl Yan din ang mga naka impluwensya sa akin na sumulat. Haha halo halo ano? Even the style of JP II inluenced my writing. dami nila LOL.

    Yeah, when people talk about secular novels, tameme ako pero spiritual classics and books dyan ata ako di mauubusan ng laway.

    sensya na, I was carried away kasi binangit mo si Richard Rohr… LOL

    Dots connected kapatid. Maanghang madalas magsulat si Fr. Richard. Fiery and fearless. Punto for punto. Honest kahit na tungkol sa mga ecclesiastical loopholes natin that we need to liberate ourselves from. Tatak-Pransiskano ang hangaring magpakatotoo bilang tao, Kristyano at Katoliko. I have quite followed his story and writings and no doubt, he is the leading, dreaded prophetic voice (eto na naman ang “voice”) along with Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister.
    Naalala ko ang isang balita. He was the main speaker at a big gatering of Presby ministers in Texas, hundreds of them. Alam mo naman pag Presby pastor, very articulate at idol na idol ang mala-abogadong si Calvin. Most of them have PhDs or Doctor of Ministry from either Princeton, Fuller or Austin. Ewan ko ba kung bakit si Fr. Richard pa ang inimbita nila. Ganun na nga siguro ang “celebrity status” niya. Pahamon nyang sinabi na ang mga ministers daw sa Amerika, laging ipinagdadasal ang mga sundalong Amerikano. “But do we pray for our “enemies”? The victims? Because this is what Jesus had commanded.” And there was a long silence….eng, eng, eng. Matapang si Fr. Richard sa pananalita at pagsusulat. Uy, yung OT Themes, although sa States ko lang nabasa pero ang ganda ng exposition niya ng Exodus Story, moving as he relates it to our personal exoduses. Next time bro, pag-usapan naman natin si Henri Nouwen at iba pa. Pero feeling ko, marami pa akong sasabihin tungkol kay Fr. Richard. Kape muna ako. Sensya din, na-carried lang.

  14. try mo rin si Bill Bryson. current fave ko ito. fun read!ü

    pero ang mga hinahanap kong babasahin ngayon eh yung mga akda ni Hilda Olvidado at ni Carlo J. Caparas.ü

    Teka lang Brother Utoy, meron bang kapana-panabik na nobelang naisulat si CJC? Di ko lang alam. Alam ko yung running Gagambino sa GMA…

  15. “Maanghang madalas magsulat si Fr. Richard. Fiery and fearless. Punto for punto. Honest kahit na tungkol sa mga ecclesiastical loopholes natin that we need to liberate ourselves from. Tatak-Pransiskano ang hangaring magpakatotoo bilang tao, Kristyano at Katoliko.”

    Thats true. Kaya love na love ko ang pransiskano, very down to earth. Though Rohr is not Capuchin, but he is a Franciscan, ka first order ng Capuchins. And I really like it whenever they preach. Sabi ko nga sa isang comment ni utoy sa blog ko na ang mga puti daw ay very dry mag homily, pero not with the capuchins and franciscans. Although di naman lahat, pero most of them give the “hottest” sermons you’ll ever hear. Ewan ba kung ano meron training ang Pransiskano. You will always end up thinking and reflecting in one corner every after homily. Talagang yung espiritu ni Francisco ay nag trickle down dun sa tatlong first order (Capuchin, Conventuals and Observants).

    Kaya pala si Russ Murray, my Presbyterian blogger friend (aka Kingpin) is defending his PhD now in London. Ganun pala sila ano. ang galing.

    Sige minsan pagusapan natin si Henry Nouwen. Napakasimple din ng atake nya sa books nya. so human. he even writes about his own mistakes. Dun ko natutunan sa kanya ang openess and generosity of experience.

    di ako nainom masyado ng kape. Milo na lang haha

    Kapatid, si Fr. Cantalamessa. matagal ko ng pinag-iinitan. my last read of him was around 1997.

  16. Next time bro, pag-usapan naman natin si Henri Nouwen…

    Oo nga, pag ginawa nyo iyun makikisali ako…. Idol ko kasi ito…. 🙂

    Gustong gusto ko yung treatment niya ng parable of the prodigal son…. 🙂

    Si Tatay Henri, sobrang bait yung taong yun. Ewan ko lang kung alam ba ni Bluep na dumaan ng isang taon na deep depression and idol natin. Sige Mark, freely share na lang…

  17. The good earth was the first novel ive rea when I was in 1st yr HS. I rarely read novels now but I used to… However di q ganahan romantic novels kana ako action hehehe like kad2 bourne series nabasa naq sila be4 sila na movies ug mga libro ni john grisham..

    nosebleed jud ka mag ingles brader oi hehe

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