Prof. Ramon "Bomen" Guillermo gave a talk on September 28 in U.P. Mindanao about his novel, "Ang Makina ni Mang Turing", published by U.P. Press and the recipient of the Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Philippine Language conferred by the National Book Development Board in 2014.
According to Prof. "Bomen", the novel is set in the historical period of Rizal and focuses on the game of "sungka" and on the search for a winning combination through the use of a machine, and other philosophical meditations.
When asked, he confessed that he used the novel form, instead of the essay or non-fiction form, partly to amuse himself, and also to align the book to the tradition of the Filipino novel in the 1900-1930 period, which he referred to as "the golden age of the Filipino novel" wherein the novel served to introduce new ideas and to provoke discussions among the public.
At the insistence of the audience, he read the opening, "Mula sa kinatatayuan natin ngayon, kinamamangha natin ang kamangmangan mga panauhin ng kasaysayan; tungkol sa kanilang sariling daigdig at panahon. Kapag nagbabasa ng mga kasaysayan ay umiiling-iling tayo habang pinagmamasdan silang lumulusob sa mga landas na nalalaman natin ngayon ay walang pinatutunguhan. Hindi natin sila mapipigilan habang sila'y tumatalon sa mga dagat na walang sukat ang kalaliman, o buong tiwalang lumulusob sa mga malaput na kumunoy na hindi na nila matatakasan. Natitiyak natin na ang mga eksperimento nila ay mabibigo kahit na ilang beses pang ulit-ulitin. Paulit-ulit itong mabibigo.
Pero nakikita natin, sa hindi mabilang na halimbawa, na wala nang nilalang na mas matigas pa ang ulo kaysa sa isang tao na ayaw tumanggap ng pagkatalo. Bugbog-sarado, pikit na ang mga mata, basag ang mga buto ng mga daliri, nakahandusay sa maruming kanal, pero ang lagi pa ring sinasambit na parang nababaliw, 'Darating din ang araw na maglalaho ang mga inaapi at mang-aapi! Mababanaag ang pagkapantay-pantay ng sangkatauhan!'"
In addition, Prof. "Bomen" showed a sheet of paper that showed the numbers to play in order to win a sungka game everytime, which, he said, forms part of the book. He disclosed that he used a computer to make millions of iterations in order to come up with the numbers to win.
On the question of Filipino readership, he said that current studies showed that Filipinos bought an average of only 5 books a year --mostly on the Bible, romances, and cookbooks--while Malaysians, Indonesians, Vietnamese, and Singaporeans read much more. He said that Japan published 440,000 books in 2014 while the Philippines published only 5,000.
The talk of Prof. "Bomen" Guillermo was organized by A/Prof. Jhoanna Cruz (Dept. of Humanities) as part of their academic program improvement, and was attended by students of the BA English (Creative Writing) program, faculty members of the Humanities and of the Social Sciences, and Mr. Tyrone Velez, a columnist of Sun-Star Davao.