Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Playing It Safe by G.T. Los Baños

A Filipino YA novel in English


"It all began that day we went up against the Mountaineers for the interclub university softball championship. I guess knocking a girl unconscious with a softball is just about as weird as it gets when it comes to starting any sort of relationship, but anyway, here's how things happened on that crazy, glorious afternoon:

The game was sort of a grudge match: the two toughest organizations on campus, the Mountaineers and my team, the Outsiders, squaring off for the school's interclub softball championship."


Playing It Safe by G.T. Los Baños (Cacho Publishing House, 2007) is about sports, university life, and relationships. It's about Jon Garcia, a sophomore college student on the varsity wrestling team, and Sheila Prado, a member of the same university's varsity swim team, and how Jon falls for and pursues Sheila... Or is about how Jon falls for and fails to pursue Sheila? After all, he does plays it safe. But everything goes Jon's way - until Sheila implies that she wants a bit of traditional Filipino courtship (flowers and the whole works), which Jon doesn't believe in.

For a love story, Playing It Safe is heavy on Jon's exposition, light on action and dialogue between him and Sheila or any other character. And on that note, Jon and Sheila's story has its cheesy moments. But I could not stop smiling while reading. I even had to stop every few pages because I would hunch over laughing. I was so amused and so entertained by Jon's story, and I found Jon and Sheila, their lives, and their relationship so interesting and so refreshing. (There aren't many Filipino YA novels in English about sports, university life, and relationships!) Plus, the writing is incredibly engaging. There's also the fact that Playing It Safe is a fun and accurate portrayal of life on a Philippine university campus. My only disappointment with this novella is all the typos. Apart from the bad proofreading, it is very good!

The ending of Playing It Safe is a real cliffhanger. I can imagine some readers will be dissatisfied with this and burn with curiosity about what happens with Jon and Sheila. I was satisfied with the ending because it raised great questions about, yes, playing it safe in relationships and about whether or not a little bit of traditional Filipino courtship is still desired and/or relevant.


[I bought my own copy of Playing It Safe. G.T. Los Baños was one of my college English teachers. He was so cool and such a good teacher that when my younger brother got to college, I recommended he take Mr. Los Baños' class. My brother really enjoyed his class too!]

28 comments:

Doret said...

This is something I would read. Is softball/baseball big in the Philippines?

Tarie said...

Hi, Doret! Actually no, softball is not big in the Philippines. In the first chapter, the main character Jon actually talks about how softball is not big in the Philippines but it got big in his university because of that interclub championship. :D

tanita davis said...

Oh, check you out, getting to read a teacher's book! Isn't that always a hoot!?

This sounds SO CUTE.

Tarie said...

Tanita, I knowwww. It's Mr. Los Baños' first novel and I literally squealed and jumped when I discovered it.

I wish they would make a second edition of Playing It Safe - minus all the typos! - then make it available internationally.

Zarah Grace C. Gagatiga said...

glad to read your review of a local book by our local talent :-)

Niranjana said...

I don't read many love stories, but the part about you laughing every few pages makes this sound irresistible! Hopefully the book will reach Canada sometime soon...

Aline Pereira said...

Great to know about this book, Tarie! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Chen said...

I would like to make it available internationally - well, in Sweden(at least if it's as good as you all say)! But how do I get hold of it? I couldn't find it anywhere on Amazon or any on-line bookstore that I can access. Hmm... Maybe I should try to contact the publisher...

Tarie said...

Hi, Chen! Wow, that would be great. The distributor of Cacho Publishing House books is Anvil Publishing: http://www.anvilpublishing.com/

I hope that helps. :D

Chen said...

That helps a lot. We'll see what happens. It's so exciting to discover new, good books!

Tarie said...

Hi, Aline and Zarah! Thanks for stopping by. :D

Niranjana, I don't read many love stories either. It seems like cheesy scenes are inevitable in love stories. Hahahahaha!

Marjorie said...

This sounds fun - and I guess questions of traditional courtship are pretty relevant everywhere!

Tarie said...

Hi, Marjorie. :D Yes, the book was fun! I hope G.T. Los Baños writes more YA novels.

campbele said...

What a review! How could I not want to read this book! Thanks so much for sharing!

Tarie said...

Aww, thank you so much, Edi! :D

Tarie said...

An important update! Anyone interested in ordering Playing It Safe can get in touch with the publisher through these numbers:

Phone: +632/6318361
Fax: +632/6315244

Woot! :o)

Tarie said...

It's me again. :D If you are in the Philippines, this message from Cacho Publishing House is for you:

"Anyone who comes to our publishing house to buy any of our young adult novels and says: 'Tarie sent me' gets a 20% discount (maximum 10 copies per purchase).

Here's our address:
Cacho Publishing House
Union corner Pines
Mandaluyong

(near the Boni MRT stop. Take Reliance St/Abbott Labs, then first left)
(From Shaw/Lourdes School Mandaluyong, take Sheridan then turn right at Boyds Coffee)"

Thank you, Cacho Publishing House!!!

Kaye said...

Wow, thanks for the review. I didn't know we have a YAlit in the Philippines.

Tarie said...

Hi, Kaye! It's so great to discover you and your blog. :o) Yes, we have Philippine YA lit! I'll try to post more reviews asap. My backlog is even worse now because of Typhoon Ketsana. Were you affected by the floods?

By the way, did you go to Ateneo? I see you follow Chris Tiu's blog. LOL.

Kaye said...

Same with you, I'm now following your blog, I love your auhtor interviews too!

...thankfully our place was not flooded though we did have a crisis at work because of it

And no, Im not from admu, csb grad =).
I'm not even a basketball fan, I just think he's cute =)

jph003 said...

I picked up this book by chance while browsing in NBS. At first it intrigued me but as I kept on reading I found the book very refreshing. It definitely reflects life on a Philippine university campus. The cliffhanger ending did raise my eyebrow a bit and sparked my curiosity as to what eventually happened to the Jon and Shiela. Will a 2nd novel be ever written? What university does Mr. Los Baños teach in?

Tarie said...

Hi, jph003! :o) Mr. Los Baños teaches in UP Diliman. (The novel is set in UP Diliman.) I certainly hope he writes more YA books!

the_blueaviator said...

Hi! I'd just like to know what the real name of G.T. Los Banos is because I badly need it for my term paper in literature and I can't find his/her biography on the internet. Hope you can help me with this. Thank you. :)

Tarie said...

It's "Gerry." :o)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Another thing, is there any site on the internet which contains his biography? :) I really can't find one. Can you link me up please? :)

Tarie said...

Sorry, I don't know any sites with his biography either. :o(

alibi server said...

I have to admit, this is WAY WAAAY better than the schlock of a novel some of our so-called local "YA Novelists" chuck these days. The writing is clean, and yes it can be somewhat preachy, but it's harmless fun. I want to add it in goodreads BTW

Tarie said...

Yes! I love how the writing is clean! =D