My Thoughts About Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Mangkukulam by Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo (Book Review #125)

Nostalgic. That for me is the best description that best suits this Filipino book that I picked up during this year’s Manila International Book Fair. Detective Boys of Masangkay is one of the new books published by Adarna Publishing House this year and it created quite a buzz in the reading community and so when I saw a copy I immediately grabbed it without any hesitations. And I am very glad I did pick it up despite reminding me of how old I am now. 😀

detective-boys-of-masangkay-ang-mangkukulam-coverThe book follows the story of there friends who call their group as the Detective Boys of Masangkay or DBM who are committed to solve petty crimes in their community. The funny thing is the three friends share the same first name which is Michael so their nicknames come handy. There’s Uno, the leader of the group. He’s the one in charge in planning their course of action when they investigate things. There’s Junior, who is the strongest and biggest in the group. Being also a Judo black belter, he’s the one whom his friends rely to during fights. Then there’s Thirdy, the group’s natural charmer. By using his good acting skills he’s the one in charge in talking to people to get details that they need during their investigations. The group agreed to have an honorary member, in the person of Me Ann. She was able to prove herself by successfully completing all the challenges given to her as an initiation. She’s smart and she share the same passion as the three boys when it comes to solving mysteries and she also love the anime show Detective Conan. From there, we follow the four as they try to solve their community’s problems from missing pets, missing clothes from a clothes line and to the massive killing of fighting cocks. Then the worse come to worst when Me Ann’s brother Melvin has gone missing. We follow the friends as they try to investigate whether the events were really caused by what the community folks are suspecting as an alleged witch, an old lady by the name of Aling Binang. As they try to look for answers, love blossomed, trust was questioned, their friendship was tested and family secrets were revealed.

Growing up in the 90’s is something that I am thankful for. I grew up in the province where life is very simple. Me and my childhood friends grew up without cellphones and computers. Our backyards became our playgrounds. We preferred going out playing in the rice fields, biking in the neighborhood, climbing trees and trekking mountains than being confined in each other’s house playing video games. My childhood was a childhood filled with scars and lessons, sweat and adventures with scolds and laughter. This book made me even more miss the 90s days. There were some parts where I laughed so hard because I was able to relate so much with the things that the characters did in the book because I did those too growing up, like for instance the prevalence of signing up slum books, the belief that kisses or aroma beads when soaked in alcohol will procreate and being addicted to watching cartoons in the afternoon like Ghost Fighter and Detective Conan. This book successfully captured that 90s vibe that I miss. This book successfully made me remember things that I did and believed growing up. This book is a perfect throwback tribute to my childhood.


I like how the author managed to make the story very 90s Philippines, there’s the 90s Filipino pop culture and Filipino culture infused in the story. The author was able to create such distinct characters in that setting with unique back stories that for sure everyone will have someone relating to. The innocence and determination of the characters were very seamlessly showed in the story. The four friends for me became the sort of characters that I wish I met and grew up with. I enjoyed the bond between the characters I enjoyed seeing the characters grow. They are these curious adventurers and independent-minded kids that share a love for thrills. The author was able to balance the humor and suspense in the book making it an engaging read. I didn’t expect to finish this book in one sitting but I did. The author was able to sustain my excitement as to what’s going to happen next. If you’re worried about the love story aspect of the book and thinks that it will put you off, don’t worry as it did not overpower the story. It’s just this cute part of the story that added flavor to the plot.

Young readers will surely get a lot of lessons from this book. Aside from talking about the importance of friendship, the book holds this belief that no one can be considered as too young or too old when it comes to helping others. Age is not a factor when we talk about the roles that we can play in making this world a great one. Young and old readers alike will surely have something to enjoy about this book.

Overall, it’s a treat reading this book. The ending speaks of a possible sequel and I’m seeing a lot of potential for this book. I can’t wait to read more adventures from the characters!

P.S. The book also has this cool illustrations before a chapter begins which for me makes the book even cooler. I wish though the book comes with a map. It will be cool to trace where the friends are doing their investigation. Hopefully its next book will have one.

4 stars out of 5.


Author: Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Release Year: September 2016
Publisher: Adarna House
No. of Pages: 207 pages

About the Author:

photoSi Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo ay isang manunulat, mandudula, at minsa’y nakagawa na rin siya ng maiikling pelikula. Naging writing fellow siya sa IYAS National Writer’s Workshop (2015), Virgin Labfest Writing Fellowship (2014), at Kabanata Young Adult Writers’ Workshop (2014).

Ang Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Mangkukulam ay ang una niyang nobela. Ito’y nabuo mula sa pira-pirasong alaala niya bilang batang ’90s, na hinubog upang maging ganap na akda sa tulong ng Kabanata Workshop.

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