My Thoughts About MacArthur by Bob Ong (Book Review #53)

” I shall return.” The book is metaphorically based on what General Douglas MacArthur said in 1942 as he left the Philippine Islands during World War II in the attempt of organizing the American offensive against Japan to help the Philippines in its cause. What’s the connection of that line to the book? It’s for the readers to know why the book was entitled MacArthur.


Published in 2007, MacArthur is Bob Ong’s sixth book and was often told as the only book that Bob Ong thatis dramatic in nature. Like the classic Bob Ong, he again used some touches of humor and mixed it with the socio-political concept of the story.

This book is about the struggles of Filipino youth in dealing with the problems of today: drugs and vices, employment, education, social and economic status and family expectations. The book is a mixture of humor and sad truths like how the classic Bob Ong attacks certain issues in his books. The book though is notable for employing a brave and realistic look at life in a Philippine community.

The book is the story of four friends, Noel, Cyrus, Voltron and Jim who lives in a squatters area. Each has their own character and personality but share the same denominator – poverty. They live not in the best of conditions and to adapt they acquired certain coping mechanisms to adjust like learning learned how to make a living using illegal ways and using illegal drugs to forget their problems for the mean time. There’s Noel, who came from a middle class family and a typical college student who eventually stopped studying because of financial reasons; Cyrus, the youngest member of the group and known for stealing things to make ends meet with him and his ailing grandfather whom he considers as his father; Voltron, also known as Denver and Amadeus and described in the book as skinny and has a big chest, small head, big hands and feet and whom suffered the worst fate in the book; and Jim, 23 years of age who has a wife and son. The book introduces the lives of each which mirrored the situation of some Filipino households specifically those that belongs to the urban poor. Through good times and hard times the four support each other.

I like how this book provokes emotion. The writer made me feel tense, happy, sympathize, sad and angry to each of the scenes that he create. The author made the book balance by writing in a way that no one would read the book and feel that the scenes were forced and far-fetched. The storytelling and delivery is very effective in telling the essence of the book.

The novel is thought-provoking and an eye-opener to the real lives of those who finds solace in taking drugs for pleasure to forget what they’re going through. The author created engaging characters. The book portrayed them as someone who are also human who needs understanding and love. But because the frailty of their situations, they easily become prey to exploiters who abuse their weakness. They are to be understood and educated and not to be judged.

The book is written very simply but the message was easily and successfully sent across. Sad but heartwarming. Short but direct. The book mirrors reality, that’s also one of the reasons, I believe, Bob Ong’s books are always sought after.

The book is quite thin with just 89 pages and I wish it could have been longer. The book has alot of subplots that could have been expanded. Despite that, the book was given justice. The book ended, although wanting more, satisfied me. One thing that readers that needs to be cautious with is the choice of explicit and vulgar language, profanities, violence and the grotesque way some scenes are described. This book is not recommended for sensitive readers.

4stars out of 5.


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