My Thoughts About 56 by Bob Ong (Book Review #144)

“Mas mabuti na ang librong maraming gustong sabihin kumpara sa librong walang sinasabi.” – Bob Ong, 56

So where will I start? Prior to finishing this book, I said to myself that this is the type of book that had to be immediately reviewed after finishing it but after I finished it, I realized that I have a lot of things to say about this book and I should probably take a day off and reflect first before finally start typing on my laptop. And so here I am, days after I finished this book and I still don’t know where to start. I’m still confused how and what will I tackle first. Still aimlessly resolving an internal conflict as to what needs to be discussed first. This book has more stuff that what I expected it to be.

Bob Ong is a pseudonym of a yet to be identified Filipino writer. He’s been writing for over a decade now and it’s still a mystery as to who he really is and he’s identity is still clouded with anonymity. Despite his anonymity, his books sells like hotcakes and whenever a new book of him comes out, its always on every bestseller’s lists. The subjects in his books mostly cover slice of life of a typical Filipino. His books mirrors reality, a reflection how a typical Filipino lives and adapts. He is a common Filipino who experiences common Filipino problems like traffic, pollution, problems in public transportations, red tapes in government agencies and one who experiences social media fatigue and I believe that’s the reason why Filipinos enjoy his books because it became relatable to them. His books also does not shy away from societal and political commentaries targeting the inefficiency of the government and the inability of us Filipinos to make a stand and act on certain issues. He has this knack of highlighting simple things, acts and attitudes which a typical normal Filipno would not normally take notice, but which has a great impact to the whole society, brought about by his keen observation about the Philippines and its people. The reason why his books are also popular, I believe, is because his books have something for everyone regardless of what generation they belong which allows him to cater to a much larger audience. 56 is Bob Ong’s 11th book.

“Asar ako sa mga “book lovers” na laging sinusukat ang ikinahihigit nila sa sa sangkatauhan base sa dami at uri ng mga librong nabasa nila. Dahil kung tutuusin, pagsisiwalat lang nila ito ng sariling kaignoratehan dahil hindi mo sila nababanaagan ng kabutihan sa kapwa at mas malalim na pagkaunawa sa mundo. Palabasa ka nga, pain in the ass ka naman.” – Bob Ong, 56

This new book by Bob Ong just came to my knowledge around the last week of May. And by that time, pre-orders of the book is already available. With that in mind, I already made a mental note that it’s most likely that this book will be available in bookstores around mid-to-late June so I already made adjustments with my TBR pile. I was planning to read Si (another book by Bob Ong) first, which I have in possession for almost three years now (I got it during the 2015 Manila International Book Fair), before 56. And so I was quite surprised when I saw a Facebook friend having her won copy. I messaged her and she informed me where she got her copy which was at Filbar’s. The next day my plans of originally deciding to immediately go straight to the bus terminal as I planned to go home to the province that day changed because I could no longer contain my excitement and decided to dropped by at the Filbar’s branch that I was advised of selling the new book by Bob Ong. After having the said book finally in my hand, I was actually amazed with having it physically in my hand. The title and the author of the book is embossed. Surely the amount of effort put into making this cover really paid off as it is so aesthetically pleasing. I have copies of all of Bob Ong’s books and for me this is the most beautiful. With both Si and 56 in my hands, the temptation to read 56 became harder to resist (56’s quirky blurb closed the deal;)). I started reading the book at the bus terminal and finished it a day after I left our home in the province. It was a ride I never expected to be in.

In the opening part of the book, he mentioned that this book is for the youth. He divided this book into six sections which according to the author describes the youth’s role in this world based on his age. The first section is PAL (PAL-amunin) which includes discussions about the growth of social media, its effects to the youth and how to be a responsible netizen among others; Registered voter, which includes the responsibilites that came with being a 18-year old Filipino citizen like being an intelligent voter and processing different IDs among others; Laborer which includes a financial literacy manual among others; Housemate, which discusses independence, living alone to eventually starting a family and settling down among others; Alipin which includes discussion about fatherhood and child-rearing among others; Historian where the author reminisced things and parts of the past and reflected on where he is now among others; and Chapter 7 X 8 which includes random things from spiritual life, smart shaming, book and movie recommendations, AIDS, environmental and current issues like phasing out jeepneys and other outlandish random trivias. This book is quite different from all the books that I read from Bob Ong so far. The last book I read from Bob Ong was Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan which I read last 2016.

“Masarap man ang pagmamahal na kayang patunayan, ang wagas na pagmamahal, walang patunay na kailangan.” – Bob Ong, 56

What I also noticed about this book is it’s probably his most personal book to date. In this book, I was able to get to know Bob Ong more not only as an author but on a more personal level. The author contemplates his life growing up and responsibilites that came with it, his family, his education, his decisions growing up, his lovelife, being a student, being a bachelor, being in a relationship, being a married man and being a father and being an adult. He even opened up and mentioned about the voices in his head that sort of like in the Disney movie Inside Out which guides him in his decision making which most of the times turns out riotous and his spiritual life which he referes to as “his charging station”. This book became like a no-holds-barred account of him growing up to eventually becoming who he is now sharing everyone the saddest parts (heart-tugging moments where the author shares what he felt when his father and a child of him died) to the happiest moments of his life.

This book turned out to be like a self help book about adapting to being a youth and eventually adulting. It includes what to expect and how to react when one is already an adult. In this book he did not only became a family counselor offering practical tips about what worked for him being a husband and a father but also a financial guru (though putting a disclaimer that he’s not one) offering tips on how to handle finances.

Why I like about Bob Ong is that he knows how to adapt to the current tide, he knows about the current trends and he’s aware of the current issues. For this book, Bob Ong also tackled the proliferation of fake news and how we, as citizens, can educate ourselves how not to become a victim of one. The best part of this book for me is how it became a book about “netiquettes” or rules on how to behave and act properly in the internet community specifically on social media sites. Here’s two that stood out for me:

“4. Huwag mang-spoil ng kuwento ng libro o pelikula o magsabi ng mga nangyari sa kabanata ng teleserye o palabas na una kang nakapanuod. Huwag agawin ang saya ng sorpresa ng anumang kinapapanabikan nila.”

“14. Ipagpaalam muna kung mag-a-upload ng litrato ng iba o ita-tag mo sila sa litrato, lalo na kung mukha pa silang galing sa pre-Jurassic era sa lumang litrato na ipapakita mo sa mundo.” – Bob Ong, 56

This book also became like sort of a manual on how to become intelligent netizens. The book acknowledged how social media became the new mental playground for Filipinos. The author mentioned that social media sites became a platform where the rich and the poor can interact without any borders in discussing current issues. Though recognizing the benefits of social media sites, this book also adressed the negative effects of such particulary discussing cyberbullying, online trolling, commenting without reading and understanding an online article, and spreading fake news as mentioned previously. With almost everything now on our fingertips, everyone should be cautious with what they read and believe before voicing out their opinions. The book even went further by identifying fallacies in logic and educating its readers about it before forming an opinion.

“Hindi ko nasiguro at hindi ko kailangan maniguro. Pinili ko ang maybahay ko dahil siya ang taong gusto kong makasama sa mundong walang kasiguruhan.” – Bob Ong, 56

It also mentioned how some people now define themselves by the number of likes, shares , retweets and reactions that they get on their posts, even calling it as “the new opium”. It became an approval indicator, a tool to measure acceptance and a criteria for validation that feeds the ego of people.

What I also like about this book is that despite being another typical Bob Ong book that gives commentaries about the Philippines, its people and its government, it does that trick by being modest in his writing. It points out the wrong and recommends solutions not in a preachy and intimidating way allowing its influence to infiltrate both the rich and the poor. I believe that what worked well in this book and all the other books by Bob Ong is its ability to connect to its readers, the readers understand what the current situation is, his book’s acknowledge each and everyone’s capability to grasp and understand a certain issue and the author eventually using his wit and whim to convey his message.

The author knows when to catch the attention of his readers. I like how the book became spontaneous and injects attention catching topics (i.e. sex and lovelife) when needed be. The book became this piece for spontaneous ideas for the young and old, spontaneous exploration of the past and the present and spontaneous reflection of what happened and what could have been. There is indeed no dullmoment when reading a Bob Ong book.

This book offered a more in depth study of the inefficacies and inefficiences of the not only the Philippine government but also of us, the people, in developing solutions about issues that continues to haunt us. In this book, Bob Ong cited, that the real cause of our continouos struggle is our sometimes lack of common sense in our decision making making us not to see the real cause of these issues.

Moreover, his book talks about being sensitive to others and to our country. No one is expected to help this country aside from its people. No one will expected to work for this country other than its people. Because at the end of the day no one is expected to enjoy the benefits of a progressive country other than its people. This bookprovides a good reflection of what we can do and what we are capable of doing if we are just to change our old ways. The book believes that its about time that we remove the masks that blinds us all in seeing the real issues and problems that this country have. For it is only by doing that we can see the change that everyone hopes about and wants to see but seem very far from grasp.

“Banatin mo ang iyong mundo. At maglaan ka ng oras, kung hindi man araw o buhay, para sa kapwa mo. Gumawa ka ng hindi lang para sa sarili. Dahil alam mong kaya mo, gusto mo, at dapat.” – Bob Ong, 56

Though this book still have that unconventional approach of employing jokes with his analyses, that is balancing humor and serious discussions, while reading this book, I noticed that compared to his other nonfiction books, this has a more serious tone to it. The way he reminds the youth to not focus on more trivial things such as love quotes that he injected in this book, I believe, signifies that Bob Ong wants its readers to be more to be more focused with what’s what’s happening around them. I guess like how most people feel, the author believes that the country needs us more than ever. The author wanted its readers to learn from this book aside from the love quotes that has been the usual takeaway from most of his books.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s another thought-provoking and an eye-opener by Bob Ong. It became like a compendium of random things. My most favorite part would is his tips on how to have a better reading experience. Going back and thinking about it, those random and simple things that I learned from this book, when applied by many, could indeed make a difference. This book encourages people to be more understanding and be patient but when know when to resist. This book shows that Bob Ong really love the Philippines. He disregards negativity and he’s full of optimism as to what is ahead. He believes in each and every Filipino’s capability to change: change our attitude, change that way we act and change our outlook. He encourages people to try and to not be afraid of failing.

And in case you’re wondering where did the author get the title, of course, I won’t tell it to you. *Wink Clue: The author mentioned some of his previous books in this book (Stainless Longganisa, Alamat ng Gubat, ABNKKBSNPLAko?! and Ang Paboritong Libro ni Hudas) and one story in one of these books became the reference why this book was titled 56.

Other Bob Ong books that I read and reviewed:

My Thoughts About MacArthur by Bob Ong (Book Review #53)
My Thoughts About Alamat ng Gubat by Bob Ong (Book Review #60)
My Thoughts About Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin by Bob Ong (Book Review #82)
My Thoughts About Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan by Bob Ong (Book Review #114)

BOOK SPECIFICATIONS:

Author: Bob Ong
Format: Paperback
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: June 2018
Publisher: Visprint, Inc.
No. of Pages: 300 pages

About the Author

Bob Ong, or Roberto Ong, is the pseudonym of a Filipino contemporary author known for using conversational Filipino to create humorous and reflective depictions of life as a Filipino. (Goodreads)

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