So what’s your favorite book?

That’s one of the hardest questions to answer. I can’t choose just one – besides, majority of my books are short story collections, not really novels and novellas. I am torn between The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century: An Anthology of Fiction in English (edited by Isagani R. Cruz) and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

The former is definitely one of my favorite anthologies; it contains most of the short stories I love like Kerima Polotan Tuvera’s The Virgin, Paz Marquez Benitez’s classic Dead Stars, Paz Latorena’s Desire, Amador Daguio’s heartbreaking Wedding Dance, Francisco Arcellana’s equally heart-wrenching The Mats, Estrella Alfon’s empowering story Magnificence, Lilia Pablo Amansec’s strange Loverboy, and Nick Joaquin’s very sensual story, The Summer Solstice, among other stories written by great Filipino writers. I bought a copy of its first edition because most of the stories we were going to discuss in my Creative Writing 110 class were included in the anthology, and I bought it using my own allowance for one week (that’s a big thing for a college student… back in the day).

The anthology’s editor, Isagani R. Cruz, may have excluded some equally amazing stories when he was deciding which ones were among the “best Philippine short stories of the 20th century”, but I think this collection still gives the readers a good sampling of what some (most?) of the best Filipino short story writers have to offer.

Golding’s novel, on the other hand, is also another big favorite – although the circumstances that led to a copy of the book getting into my hands are a bit disturbing. Remembering it still gives me goosebumps. MY copy of Lord of the Flies was not originally mine; I found it sitting comfortably albeit forgotten on one of the bookshelves at home. Compared to Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which I tried to read, but gave up after 100 pages), this novel was shorter and I was confident that I could finish it in one sitting.

I ended up reading the book for more than two days for two reasons: one, a group of pre-pubescent boys un-chaperoned on a deserted island wasn’t as interesting to me as, say, Little Women 2 characters where there was an equal mix of both genders; and, two, I realized the book bothered me, and it was becoming harder to read because pre-pubescent boys and death don’t usually go together. (I tend to forget that in the world of fiction, anything goes.)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding | The Antithesis CollectiveLord of the Flies is a story about a group of British boys under 13 that survives a plane crash and ends up on an uninhabited and isolated island. The two dominant boys from the marooned group, Ralph and Jack, take up leadership roles and hatch a plan on how they’ll survive on the island and how they’ll get rescued from the island. Ralph, voted as the leader of the “tribe”, focuses on keeping order within the group and keeping their fire signal going in case a ship passes by. Jack, on the other hand, becomes the leader of the hunters tasked with gathering/hunting food for the rest of the group. Later on in the novel, the imposed order of things quickly deteriorates: Jack leaves the tribe and forms his own tribe, the “war” between the two groups escalates with Jack stealing Piggy’s glasses, and Ralph ending up being hunted by Jack’s group after they kill Piggy and force Ralph’s remaining followers to join their tribe.

I honestly thought this novel couldn’t get any more boring (like I said, group of boys marooned on an isolated island, un-chaperoned), but boy, was I wrong. I found out as I read through the novel that this was full of allegories which were shown through the novel’s characters and other elements in the story.

Golding’s novel left a deep impression, and I don’t believe it’s a novel I can forget that easily because it makes you think. Almost eight years after first reading Lord of the Flies, I still see how accurately the book and its characters mirror our civilization and society – “civilized” young boys descending into savagery.