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F.H. Batacan’s Circle

Between internet browsing, which fills up most of my time outside of my work, I read books, magazines, eBooks or even listen audiobooks. Speaking of the latter, there is great podcast by Malcolm Gladwell called, “Revisionist History”, which is both entertaining and informative. There are 20 topics so far, that’s 10/year, which tackles issues that happened back in the days and examined by Gladwell with a new set of eyes. Very compelling, if you ask me. You can get it from youtube.com, iTunes or you can google the website. And its for free!

Two months ago, I was at the National Bookstore with my kids, and while I was browsing for the latest John Grisham thriller, I stumbled upon a book in which the cover was the face of a popular local telenovela villain wearing frocks. The book was titled, “Smaller and Smaller Circles”, written by a certain FH Batacan. Although I’m not ver familiar with Filipino fiction writers, the name was completely new to me.

Reading the synopsis, the book was about a serial killer set in the Payatas Dumpsite in Quezon City, which involves two Jesuit priests as the detectives trying to solve the case about the murder of young boys. Priests and young boys in the same sentence makes my blood churn for very obvious reasons.

Now, I always read reviews before purchasing but this book was just too irresistible to leave behind. So I bought it, arrogantly thinking that if it turned out a lemon, then, at least, I’m helping this no-name author financially. I got home and tossed it on the shoe rack, to be forgotten for the next two months.

Last week I remembered about it and I took it with me to Butuan. I read the first few pages in the hotel and was dismayed with the font size and the texture of the paper, but I pursued reading it. After the prologue, I was hooked! FH Batacan’s writings are so real that I can smell the stench of the dumpsite inside of you that I felt I had to take a shower to wash it off. That’s how powerful this book is.

Juxtaposed in the story, written some 20 years ago, is the political and religious realities that we all have experienced one way or another.

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Smaller and Smaller Circles are not without mistakes but the way the yarn is written is straight to the point, no “nosebleed” words, and the best thing is that there are no “lull” pages.

FH Batacan’s book is the first crime/serial killer novel written by a Filipino that I’ve read and it feels like reading, “The Hunt for Red October” all over again. It’s like eating an expensive and delicious food- you want to chew it slowly, move it between tongue and cheeks, allowing the taste buds to be mesmerized, before swallowing it. This book is also the first fictional work that is being turned into a film which will be released this December.

This work is very inspiring, and it is my hope that this will lead to more Filipino fiction writers given a break.

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