Book review: Tongues on Fire by Conrado de Quiros

Tongues on Fire by Conrado de Quiros, Manila: Anvil Publishing, ©2007

Thanks to my friend Roy who lent this book. Check out his blog: RODTrip.

One of the writers that inspired me at an early age is Conrado de Quiros, who is most famous for "There's the Rub", his Opinion column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. His commentaries on the current happenings in Philippine politics is something that many people look forward to every morning. De Quiros is on medical leave now, his last article for the Inquirer was dated 2014, and I regret that he wasn't able to write about the current administration and recent events. I bet he has a lot to say about it, and I'm shying away from saying anything about Philippine politics. Its the worst of times.

De Quiros has a unique style that makes him stand out from most writers, there's wit, poetry, and a rare rhetoric.

Tongues on Fire is a book of his speeches spoken on different occasions. The only time I heard De Quiros speaking in during the TV coverage of Cory Aquino's funeral, and I saw that he's great at speaking too. His eulogy for Cory was "One Good Person" and it's a good read.

The speeches of this book talk about madness, writing, Martial Law, Marcos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Erap. The timeline of these speeches is the early 2000s, but it saddens me that even if he writes about old politicians, we're still facing the same old problems! The reason that he chose to publish speeches instead of columns in that opinion articles age badly, they make the most sense at the time they were written. These speeches may talk about past events but we still face the same problems at present.

My favorite speech here is "Lessons in Humility" which is more about writing and the writer's opinion on Nick Joaquin. Nick Joaquin is a famous Filipino author who excelled in both literary works and journalism. He proposes that the two writing genres can learn from each other.

"Dumaan ako kay Constantino" reminds me of my days as a Political Science student in UPV for a semester and a half, and one subversive teacher assigning Renato Constantino's books on history 'from below'. Unfortunately, I found the course difficult and I wasn't fit for it. But it opened my eyes to another view of history, and I can also say that like De Quiros, dumaan din ako kay Constantino. 

"A Real Book" is a speech on how the author came to write his book on Martial Law, Dead Aim: How Marcos Declared Martial Law which is an excellent book. I didn't buy it, I saw a copy in the library. As a reader and librarian, I love the speech "Interactive," as it is about the importance of reading and how the author finds it difficult to promote it to his children. During this time, TV was the enemy, but now I think its social media where people spend much time rather than reading.

I don't have any quotable quotes to post since each paragraph here is quotable, but here are some memorable lines out of all I highlighted:
The greatest enemy is never somebody else, it is oneself. The greatest deterrent is not today, it is yesterday and tomorrow. Or at least the yesterday that never was, and the tomorrow that never will be. (from 'Heroes of our Time')
Harshness is not the toughest thing on earth, compassion is. Being inured to pain is not the toughest thing on earth, feeling its sting is. Learning how to die is not the toughest thing on earth, learning how to live is. (from 'Human rights, Human wrongs')
 For the past always catches up in more ways than it has the way of rattling the skeletons in our closet. The past always catches up in that it pervades the present, like air, or the vultures that circle in the air. You may not leave the past like a one-night stand or a stale love. It hounds. It dogs. It tracks. And it finds. Always it finds. You cannot escape the past. You can only do two things with the past. You can make it a fiercely loyal lover or you can make it a scorned and bitter one. There is no in-between. It admits of nothing else. (from 'A Real Book')

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