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Brian Poe Llamanzares: From Plato to modern political theories

“As you may have noticed, I do read for leisure, but I mostly read for study and to sharpen my mind,” says Brian Poe Llamanzares        

When I first heard Brian  Poe Llamanzares speak, I remember texting his mom that I thought he would be of great value to public service one day. As I watched him help his mom become the leading senator in this year’s senatorial race, my admiration for him grew. He is articulate, charming and moves about without any air of entitlement. He is the future.

I asked Brian to share his favorite books and here they are:

1. Great Political Thinkers written by William Ebenstein. “The book gives little glimpses into the greatest political writers from Plato until modern political theory.”

2. Plato’s Republic. “I was brought into a whole new understanding of what politics really was (by this book). It was an art and I wanted to study every angle of it. It was just so interesting to look into the past and see how developed the concepts of democracy and justice already were. Reading about the ideal government, reading about the republic of Plato was inspiring to say the least. But the concept of the Philosopher King was what got me. Someone who truly loves wisdom and does not aspire to be king but becomes king to answer the needs of the people. Becoming king because you were trained, destined, and called to and not because of power is something else. He also points out that no one in their right mind should want to be king, knowing the sacrifices a king will have to make. That is if they were to become true and noble kings. He showed that being king is not a position of power but a position of public service and sacrifice, which one must train all his life to prepare for.

“It was also the Allegory of the Cave and the story of a man who saw the light and did all he could to bring the truth to the people that moved me to love political philosophy all the more. The story reminded me of my grandfather’s presidential run in 2004. He, in my opinion, brought light to the issue of our suffering democracy. People are now all the more vigilant and all the more willing to fight corruption and the lies of the previous electoral system because of him. This led me to study other classics like, Plato’s Cretan City by Glenn R. Morrow, and Aristotle’s Ethics.

3. On Revolution by Hannah Arendt. “After classical political theory I moved on to more modern political theories. I grew up in the US and I always admired the stories of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. So I was instantly got caught up in the political analysis of Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution. She beautifully compared the American Revolution with the French Revolution and accurately portrayed the importance of a constitution. For her violence was the absence of speech, and though revolution may occur in any political environment, one must always think before acting for action without thought must be condemned as mindless violence. I feel she would have been proud to see our bloodless EDSA revolution. I’m sure she would have written a piece on it had she been here to experience it herself. That concept of ‘constitution’ and thinking before acting became a core value for me, always leading me to question the justifications for all that I do.”

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4. Philippine history books. “Having read book after book of political theory I then moved on to applying that theory to my studies of Philippine history. Ambeth Ocampo has to be one of my all-time-favorite writers. His books Bonifacio’s Bolo and Bones of Contention: The Bonifacio Lectures were very enlightening. The first time I opened up the book Bones of Contention and read the first few pages where Mr. Ocampo describes the last moments of Bonifacio’s life, it shocked me and drove me to study more about our history. Those two books led me to admire Bonifacio. After reading those two books I read others like them, for example, Horacio Dela Costa’s Selected Studies on Philippine Colonial History, Teodoro Agoncillo’s Revolt of the Masses, Reynaldo Clemena Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution, and even Apolinario Mabini’s The Philippine Revolution, just to name a few. I truly admire our national heroes. The stories of the revolution were so full of tragedy and patriotism. I can’t help but feel moved as I read about the sacrifices of our forefathers, especially that of Bonifacio. I can’t help but use his struggle as one of my inspirations to continue working towards making our country a better place.”

5. Letters Between Rizal and Family Members Vol. II Book 1 (in the Ateneo de Manila University where I had found all my other books before that). “The book is literally just a collection of all the letters to and from Rizal. The letters paint a picture of the world right before the turn of the century as Rizal described his adventures and his family described their daily lives. I can only imagine how beautiful the world must have looked and how amazing it must have been to be a traveling scholar. While my lolo and Bonifacio gave me my peg for the type of leader I wanted to be some day, Rizal gave me the peg for the type of student I wanted to be. By reading his letters I could sense how badly he wanted to take all his newfound discoveries back to his home to make a difference in our country. I couldn’t help but relate with all my travels to Japan, Singapore, Prague, New York, etc. on scholarship or leadership programs. Each time I left I felt like it was my obligation to absorb as much of the culture and learn what made each one great and bring that knowledge back home like Rizal did. That’s why I loved reading this book.

“As you may have noticed, I do read for leisure, but I mostly read for study and to sharpen my mind. To explain why, I will quote one of my favorite characters from the hit HBO series Game of Thrones: ‘A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.’ (George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones) Besides, I feel there’s much to learn from our great philosophers and our country’s history. My dream is that maybe one day I’ll be given the chance to use all that I’ve learned for the good of our people, or even be given the chance to pay tribute to our great national heroes by making or acting in movies about them.”

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“The Reading Club” recommends The Mango Bride written by Filipino writer Marivi Soliven and released under Penguin Books available in National Bookstore and PowerBooks. I can’t put this book down.

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Your comments and suggestions are welcome at mjrodis@yahoo.com.

 

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