Saturday, July 23, 2011


December 14, 2012. Another Christmas season is coming, and with it, another star in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise-two movies, actually: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again are currently filming back-to-back in "The Home of Middle Earth", New Zealand.Seventeen months of waiting after a ten-year LOTR drought? Better be worth it!

The Hobbit should be required reading for sixth grade or first year high school. Or for the busy executive or fulltime mom who's willing to take on the lighter side of the behemoth that is the LOTR trilogy.It reads pretty much like a typical boyhood adventure, complete with hundreds of close calls, a treasure hunt, and a really nasty dragon. I actually read this after I finished The Return of the King, and my loyalty to and admiration for J.R.R. Tolkien has been cemented forever since then. The Two Towers made me proud to be an English major in U.P., having written one of my most grueling final papers (for modern British literature) ever. I started to appreciate the depths and breadths of the world's epics, and before long, no professor had to require me to wolf down The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Back then, eons before Cate Blanchett's (as Galadriel) beautiful narrative intro to The Fellowhip of the Ring, the trilogy plus The Hobbit created an organic tapestry for me--a world that's out of this world, yet deeply rooted in this world: the politics, religion, psychology, philosophy, science of it all, timeless and bountiful, were there in Tolkien's manifold imagination. As a flashlight reader, I kept these nuggets close to my heart, moving on to The Sandman series in the mid-90's, until Peter Jackson came along and brazenly shot the three films. The anticipation nearly killed me. The antipathy towards Liv Tyler (sigh, as Arwen) grew and grew, and so did my movie memorabilia. Those were crazy years indeed.

But teaching the novels in high school wasn't a crazy idea at all. Thanks to the movies, mass market paperbacks were all over the bookstores, and my third and fourth year high school students then were reading  The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and writing really splendid essays on them. The entries on my students' thematic worksheets were such a joy to read, and our discussions were alternately hilarious and thought-provoking. I took care to focus on chapters that were not featured in the movies, like The Houses of Healing, where Eowyn and Farmir find each other and nurse each other's broken hearts, and The Scouring of the Shire, where the four hobbits--sans the mighty Elves and Men--defeat the evil forces that have taken root in their homeland The Shire. My students were telling me how proud they were to be annotating the movies to their friends and family, knowing what they knew beyond the movies. They have also come to realize that most everything in pop culture (read: Harry Potter) borrows from  the quest archetype and the heroic tradition. Every other adventure tale after the 50's pretty much echoes The Lord of the Rings, for better or for worse.

The Hobbit films should be promising. Some of the old gang will be reprising their roles (Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, among others), but it is the new crop of actors that interests me: Thorin Oakenshield, that brave, beloved dwarf leader will be played by Gerard Butlerish Richard Armitage (see pic on the right, also see the Captain America movie, where I think he plays a Nazi)), and Thranduil, Legolas' father will be played by Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies fame (he will also be in the Breaking Dawn film as roguish vampire Garrett). Smaug the CGI dragon will be voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, the suave villain from Atonement. Lost's Evangeline Lilly is an elf here, and I hope she doesn't glide and whisper like Liv Tyler. What should be interesting to all is Bilbo's epic first encounter with Gollum, and the riddles that led to the ring ending up in Bilbo's pocket.Plus, the merry band of dwarfs that came knocking on Bilbo Baggins' door are featured in the early poster versions. These little guys are poised to make a fashion statement!

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." Tolkien first wrote that line in the middle of checking his students' test papers. Me? In the middle of my administrative paperwork, I'll be blogging about this ongoing journey. That's a promise.

LOTR around the net:

Friday, July 8, 2011


This year I'm handling an organization for 2nd and 3rd graders called SIFI, or St. Isidore's Friends of the Internet. Naturally, many of our activities are web-based, and my role is to guide them in choosing the right sites for them and enjoining their parents to be present whenever they go online. We are also using the free website builder,, which we build one hour at a time every week. What's on the site? Feel-good stuff about God, the Church, school, family, friends, pets, hobbies...we have an entire school year to work on it.

Weebly is the safest and friendliest site builder I've worked on so far. It lets me work safely in the education category, and adult/teacher-supervision drives the site, allowing kids to upload, drag, drop and play in a safe environment. Parents have given me positive feedback about their kids' experiences with SIFI (Now on our second year!) Thanks to St. Isidore of Seville, the walking wikipedia of his time, for being our inspiration.:)

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This app was recommended by computer teacher Angelo.I like the interface, the concept, the affective nature of the site, and the amazing photographic detail.  Best for toddlers and preschoolers!

If you're using Google Chrome, install ASAP:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am so excited to go bookstore hopping this week! More than thrice-postponed, this sojourn into stacks upon stacks of tomes and pre-loved paperbacks is my ultimate favorite when it comes to making school purchases.

I'm proud to note that our school library, though tinier than most libraries, is packed with what students actually LIKE to read. I heard that in some libraries, the Harry Potter and the Twilight series were banned by school authorities. That's pointless, actually, as the kids could easily have bought their copies from any commercial bookstore. What librarians and reading teachers must realize is that popular books ought to be discussed in class, and not be treated like forbidden fruit. I remember the many enchanting hours I spent with students, throwing quotes from the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Twilight back and forth in intimate gatherings for readers. Popular fiction opens up many doors for young readers, and banning them in schools is like shutting the doors in their faces.

Once inside a bookstore, I'm drawn to the graphic novel section. In the early nineties, I was devouring them like crazy, and for over a year, I was on a special Sandman diet. From Preludes and Nocturnes to A Doll's House, I've made it my life's mission to read every single one of Neil Gaiman's gothic masterpieces. The DC, Marvel and Image graphic novels were a no-brainer. 

Where to buy, where to buy…

Besides the ubiquitous National Bookstore, Fully Booked and Powerbooks  there are many other nooks and crannies in the metro that hold a treasure trove of books that won’t make school finance officers’ hearts palpitate, given the much lower prices. The aptly named Booksale, with countless branches and one fantastic warehouse in Paranaque, still tops my list of the best bargain bookstore. I have completed book sets from Booksale throughout the years--Crichton, Ludlum, Uris, Anne Rice, and those tingly historical romances by Judith McNaught and Jude Deveraux. I am forever grateful to Booksale!

Sadly, the Scholastic Book Fairs have lost their charm for me. Perhaps it’s because in the last three years, I have been seeing the same old titles, and too many 39 Clues and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Or it could be the dwindling stock of teacher’s references that I know, looking at the online catalogue, Scholastic is famous for. Sure, the company gives us a percentage of total sales in the form of books, but the stuff we get is mostly eye candy.

I have yet to check U.P. Diliman's own cache of bargain bookstores. I know I've bought several bestsellers and some classics there during my college days. LOTR:The Two Towers for P10! Beat that! As for the bootleg book stalls in Recto...dare I visit again, after 20 years? I wish I had the time to drop by the university presses of UP, DLSU, UST and Ateneo. Though most of their titles are scholarly, collegiate and post-grad types, and thus more suitable for teachers and researchers.

I’ve been to the F. Sionil Jose-owned La Solidaridad bookshop twice before, while waiting for my dad to finish his dialysis treatments. I would describe the place  as quaint, and the books, mouth-watering. All the titles were rare, and unfortunately, quite pricey. I remember buying just two books from there, an anthology/of Langston Hughes poems, and  Teaching Shakespeare Into the Twenty-first Century. Wouldn’t hurt to take a detour to Padre Faura to check out the LS.

I'll definitely blog about this bookstore-hopping experience soon. This teacher ain't resting without a cartful of books for the school library, and sigh...for her own humble bookshelf.

About alternative bookstores:

Hey! July is Children’s Book Month!

A million reasons to love e-books: