7 Swans-a-Swimming: 7 Books I’ve Read and Loved

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 7 swans-a-swimming!

Or — in my case — seven books-a-swimming, drifting, sailing all around my literary inclined faculties.

It has been a great year, in terms of book reading and literature devouring. I’ve finally caught up with the many years of reading I had lost because of lack of time and resourcefulness (yep, you read that right — resourcefulness not resources). This year, thanks to e-books and excess books, I was able to grab hold of many worthy reads, reads which have long been on my list but I have never gotten round to ticking off.

Now, I must choose seven which will serve as my seven swans-a-swimming. So without further ado, let me introduce those swans to you:

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne


“If you happen to have read another book about Christopher Robin, you may remember that he once had a swan (or the swan had Christopher Robin, I don’t know which) and he used to call this swan Pooh. That was a long time ago, and when we said good-bye, we took the name with us, as we didn’t think the swan would want it any more.” (Introduction, Winnie-the-Pooh)

See. One swan-a-swimming. But that would be the last you would read about swans because, upon poring over the rest of the book’s pages, you’ll find out that this children’s tale won’t make mention of any more fowls but would proceed to elaborate about the adventures (and misadventures) of the much loved Edward Bear (or Winnie-the-Pooh, as we all know him now), Christopher Robin, and their friends at the Hundred Acre Woods.

I bought this book at BookXcess at a super low price (RM5). You can not believe what joy it gave me when I found the little orange book peeping at me from the shop’s bargain tray. I’ve been wanting to read this book since forever — my mom used to read it as a bedtime story to me and my brother back when we were kids, you see. Now, at 24, I still find every childlike page magical. Who could beat silly-old-bear and his unassuming antics? This is a must read if you just want something fun and amusing to make you chuckle and shake your head in wonder.

2. Monkey Bridges by Lan Cao


Another book I bought at BookXcess. I really like books set in non-US countries. They give me glimpses of other cultures. Other ways of thinking. This book was written by a Vietnamese woman and tells a story of a young Vietnamse girl and her mom who were forced to migrate to the US because of the Vietnam War. The summary’s paragraph reads: “Like navigating a monkey bridge — a bridge, built of spindly bamboo, used by peasants for centuries — Lan Cao’s narrative traverses perilously between worlds past and present, East and West, in telling two interlocked stories. One of these stories is the Vietnamese version of the classic immigrant experience in America, told by a young girl; and the second, a dark tale of betrayal, political intrigue, family secrets and revenge — her mother’s tale.”

I traversed through the monkey bridges during the early part of this year, when I still commuted to work using buses and trains. It was easy to get lost in the narrative, easy to forget I was in the train to bound for Putrajaya, easy to think I was in Saigon, Little Saigon, Ba Xuyen, and Farmington instead.

I loved it.

3. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones


This one I bought at National Bookstore last year while I was on “Christmas Break”. 90% of the book is set in Papua New Guinea and the protagonist here is a young girl who finds herself absorbed in the tale of Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations. It gets a bit morbid around 80% into the tale but the rest of the book shows the profound effect of literature on the life of people young and old, on men and women dark and white. I was shaken when I got to the end. Shaken in a good way.

4. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins


I bought The Moonstone at MPH because it was thick and cost only RM10. Did I say it was thick? It was thick. It’s a classic and was one of the first detective stories during its time. At first, I couldn’t find myself finding the story in the thread of narratives told by varying characters. But once the plot eventually unfolded, I couldn’t put the book down. I even brought it with me during my “Midyear Break” in the Philippines. Trust Mari to lug a bulky book like that around.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

This could actually stand as the seven swans on its own because the set consists of seven books. But I shall count the sevenology (is there even such a word???) as one. And yes, I, the book buff, have only read this series just this year. I feel so ashamed. I guess I was just too stingy to shell out cash for the collection.

Well, this year, I managed to grab hold of an e-book containing ALL the seven books: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and his Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; and The Last Battle.

C. S. Lewis is a genius. I still feel a bit sad about Susan though. Oh but the spoilers will end there. But I love how the stories leak out Christian truths in an adventure-filled and magical way.

6. Strictly Business by O. Henry

Strictly Business is a collection of short stories by O. Henry. Mr. O (not his real name — and O. Henry is just the guy’s pen name) is quickly becoming one of my favourite short story authors (well, I still have many more short story authors to discover). But it’s crazy how his stories suddenly take uncanny twists in the end. You may know him from one of his more famous works, The Gift of the Magi

I have yet to grab a physical copy of his collections. I read Strictly Business in the Project Gutenberg repository and put up with online reading because I found the New York tales so amusing. My favourite shorts there would include The Thing’s the Play and Proof of the Pudding. READ THEM.

7. Uprising by E. R. McManus


And a non-fiction inspirational book makes it to the list. I LOVE MCMANUS. The back portion of Uprising warns readers: “This book is dangerous! It is only for those who are ready to join the uprising — a revolution of the soul that will change and ordinary life into an extraordinary one. It is only for those who want something more out of life, who desire to tap into the divine potential that was placed in them at their creation.”

I like how McManus breaks it into “Quests” instead of the usual “Chapters”. In his book, you go from your Point of Origin on a Quest for Honour, a Quest for Nobility, and a Quest for Enlightenment until you get to your Final Destination. 

Read this book and be changed. And while you’re at it, read McManus’ other books as well.

* * *

Well, this entry turned out to be one of my longer pieces. I decided not to break it into parts but I hope it still worked out well with you all, dear readers.

So how about you? What books did you read and love this year? They might just make it to my next year’s reading list. ;)


Nothing beats "real" books.
Nothing beats “real” books.

8 Maids-a-Milking: 8 Songs (Part 2)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… more maids-a-milking! 

I posted the first four yesterday, now I shall post the last four today. For those who couldn’t take yesterday’s mush and cheese, rest assured that today’s batch of maids-a-milking consists of songs that are more… serious.

Well, hopefully not that serious. We’ll see.

(Or should that be, “We’ll hear”?)

>> Steady my Heart by Kari Jobe

Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it all just falls apart. I will run to You cause I know that You are Lover of my soul, Healer of my scars — You steady my heart… It’s unexplainable, but He really does heal. It’s a mystery, but time and time again I have seen and experienced that even when there’s no one there to understand us and hold us through all the darkness we are going through, He is faithful to see us through.

>> One Thing Remains (Bethel Loft Sessions Version)

Oooooh-ooohh-oooohh-oohooohoo… This might just be our team’s theme song this year. We sang it in Vietnam, we sang it in our celebration this November. And really, it’s so true that His “love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me” — on us. Because when everything is said, when everything is done, it would all boil down to One Thing — His Great and Enduring Love.

>> How You Live (Turn up the Music) by Point of Grace

I’ve learned that we could be so busy with so many things that we forget how to live — like, really live. We could be so busy with work, with our ministries. We could be so busy with our worries. We could be so busy drowning in pits of depression. We could be so busy with, well, being busy. But Jesus said that He came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10b). So why not simply live it to the full? Let’s turn up the music, shall we?

>> So much for my Sad Song by Chris Rice

I have been so guilty of this. I’ve been guilty of waking up thinking, “I’m gonna write a sad song today.” But then “love flood[ed] the world right before my eyes” and I, like Chris, ended up singing a love song instead.

Let’s sing more love songs.

Give it a hand, folks, for those eight maids-a-milking. :)

8 Maids-a-Milking: 8 Songs (Part 1)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 8 maids-a-milking!

Woot! Let’s give it up for those eight maids! They’ll be miking in batches in my version. Why? Well, I shall be embedding the YouTube videos of the songs that have made it to my 2012’s OST. However, I have learned from a previous entry that YT vids make blog entries very content heavy. Thus, I shall be grouping the eight maids in two — four cheesy ones and then four slightly more sane and level-headed ones. Not that the first four ones are insane but…

Whatever. I’m super cheesy and that’s the way it is.

Prepare for lots of dairy!

>> I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz

I am so in love with Mraz’s LOVE is a Four Letter Word album. And really. This song — for me — speaks about all the beautiful things in life that are worth fighting for. You won’t easily give up on those things. “Even if the skies get rough”, you should always find yourself “looking up” — right? :)

>> Unpack by Gabe Bondoc

So what if it’s autotuned — it’s Gaaaaabbbbeeee. The one in his Timing LP is much, much, much better though. The song made me cry a bit. Just a bit. Okay, maybe not a bit.

>> A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

Before you come running up to me with your pitchforks and wooden stakes, let me just put up a disclaimer here: I am not a die hard Twilight Fan. I did watch the franchise’s final instalment and thought it was okay (and the cheesy me admittedly swooned at the “forever” part) but — I’d pick THG any day. Still, this song did strike a chord in my heart. A couple of good friends of mine were in love with the song so I looked it up — they even told me to do a cover of it. Which I did. Last April. Croaky voice and all. Haha. But hey. It’s a pretty song. Just don’t think of them vampires too much, though.

>> Never Gonna Leave You by Us

This one would be a very recent addition to my 2012 soundtrack. A wonderful kuya whose taste in music is fairly similar to mine knew how much I leaned towards mushy music. So he introduced me to some of this couple’s songs (which I looovveeed). And then a few clicks through YT brought me to this video. And I, like, wanted to fall off my chair. Why? Because. They’re just so cute together, that’s why! And because grocery stores are fun. Very fun. :D

So… had enough cheese? Well, stay tuned for tomorrow’s more “serious” entry! ;)

9 Ladies Dancing: 9 Women of 2012

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 9 ladies dancing!

Time to let the ladies take centre stage. Go ahead and give it a twirl, beautiful women of the world. ^_^

  1. Mom! Let’s give it up to the woman who has the same initials as I have (for now) — Mrs. MABL. She and Dad are my biggest fans. Really. Her Facebook timeline is beginning to look like a fan page for me — she shares my pictures and links back to my latest blog entries. Oha. San ka pa?
  2. Ms. PAU — soon to be Mrs. PAUP? Hihi. You are a treasure to me. Though you are far, far away (wait, Cambodia isn’t that far), I know I can always turn to someone for prayers and support. And coffee. Though I’m not really supposed to drink coffee right now.
  3. Mrs. MPHB — MPH Bookstore??? Haha!  Technically it’s MSHPHB, right? These initials are so funny. I super miss you, te. I want to see your baby soon. Like, SOON. VERY SOON. And I must, must, must talk to you. Like, SOON. VERY SOON.
  4. Ms. MABN — I can still feel your support even though you are several time zones and Centigrades away. How are you enjoying your first White Christmas? Thank you for transitioning us well. Have a happy, happy, happy holiday!
  5. Ms. YDP, let’s do the pre-marriage course, now na! I salute you for your passion. I salute you for your endurance. Lezdothis!
  6. Mrs. LLU, I so love your bilo-bilo! Next year is going to be so exciting. Thank you for your family’s warmth and hospitality. You are priceless treasures.
  7. Ms. PAO (Siopao?) — bunso! Yehez! You are precious. ;) Thanks for coming over. Thanks for your love and childlike nature. We have sooo many adventures up ahead of us next year (and in the years to come) — game?
  8. Ms. OD Ate!!! I am super grateful for your friendship, partnership, and support. We’re in this together. I have Yes Wifi na, you can access the net in my house anytime na. :D
  9. Ptr. AY — I’m going to cry rivers of tears right now. Thank you, Ate.  Here’s a big, big, hug for you. *HUUUUGGGGG*

You women deserve much honour. Group hug?

With much love,

This little woman right here
This little lady right here

10 Lords-a-Leaping: 10 Men of 2012

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 10 lords-a-leaping!

And so the song continues. I was supposed to post an entry yesterday (Monday, because I wanted to maintain an MWF consistency) but the day’s busy-ness didn’t permit me to do so. Plus, I still hadn’t recovered from Sunday because — wait for it —

We sang as the front act for Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas in Our Hearts” concert in Kuala Lumpur!!!!! Owemgee, owemgee, owemgee, owemgee!

Okay, I still have a hangover from the event. So, before this entry becomes a blog post about that, let me get started with honouring and thanking those 10 men who have made a significant impact on life this year. And because this blog is becoming very public (here’s a cheery shout out to all those OFWs who keep on stumbling upon my How to get an OEC from NAIA 3 entry! ^_^) I’ll be using (mostly) initials instead of full names, lest this blog causes you guys to rise to too much stardom. So here goes. 10 lords-a-leaping.

  1. Jose Mari Chan!!! Permit me to break the Initials Rule for this item because it’s THE Jose Mari Chan. As previously stated, we got to sing as the front act for his concert at KL Live. God has a funny way of opening doors up. I was just browsing through my Facebook feeds when I saw an announcement posted by the Philippine Embassy at Kuala Lumpur — they were looking for people interested in joining a choir which would sing during the legend’s December 9 concert. At first, I thought it was just a joke. And I didn’t know if I could commit to the practices. But something inside me told me to go, go, go. And so the rest was history. Throughout most of November and through the first week of December, I and a good friend frequented the Embassy to practice “Negaraku”, “Lupang Hinirang”, “Joy to the World”, “Pasko na Sinta Ko”, and “Kumukutikutitap”. Well, though it cost me a lot in terms of gas money and parking tickets, like another good friend stated — the experience was priceless. I got to meet Mr. Chan. I got to exchange a few words with him (he told us that he was looking forward to hearing us sing!!!!) and I got to have my picture taken with him as well. And of course, I got to watch him perform live — his voice is still timeless. And yes — after eight years — I also got to sing on stage as part of a choir (like, a real choir with all the four voices) again. I really, really, thank God for that awesome opportunity.
  2. Okay, that’s all for Mr. JMC. Now it’s time to give Mr. JVL honour. Dad. You have always been a supportive follower of my blog. And a supportive supporter of my life, too. Thank you. See you on the 29th! :)
  3. Ptr. PY. Our senior pastor. I know you have always loved this land. I know your prayers and support are always with us throughout each and every season. I thank God for the time that we were able to spend time with you and Ate AY this year. Salamat po. :)
  4. Ptr. LO, I have always looked up to you ever since you handled the student ministry in Los Banos. Being under your leadership again is amazing. Cheers to next year and the years to come!
  5. Mr. PS, I am transitioning slowly! Hahaha. Yes, I’m often quiet, but more often than not, I’m just — weird and crazy. So thank you so much for your timeless support. We’ll keep in touch!
  6. Mr. TCB — kuya!!!! Let me say that again — kuya!!!!! Haha. You already know how valuable you and your wife are in my life.
  7. Mr. ADG — I wanna watch The Amazing Spiderman again, kuya. Hehe. Come back and I’ll let you drive Caleb again.
  8. Mr. VPC — Ako si Sailormoon! Though you are somewhere else, your support (drama moment much?) and offer to keep us laughing is much appreciated.
  9. Mr. WU, I am so thankful for you and your family. You guys are such an inspiration to me. And I am super grateful for your generous hearts. Thank you for letting God use you in making my life (and others’ included) much, much, much easier.
  10. Mr. ASC — I wanna go to Tsoko Nut Batirol again! Hehe. I will be forever thankful for your friendship. Cheers! Merry Christmas! Gift ko! :D

I just noticed that my last two entries ended with the phrase, “So there you go.” I was about to type in the very same words, but thank goodness I checked first.

Well… So there you go! Haha. 10 lords-a-leaping. And here’s my pic with Mr. Chan so that you will all know that I’m not bluffing. ;)