I actually don’t read Filipino books, just because my vocabulary is pretty much limited compared to a typical Filipino teenager (I’m Chinese-Filipino teehee). This time around, I was forced to read this novel because it was selected as final paper for the semester in my Filipino subject. I wasn’t looking any forward to reading it even though it was just really short (ohmy, it’s just 179 pages) and I just started cramming it hours before Samar went to Ateneo de Manila University for a talk. I figured that I have to at least read more than half of the book when I show up; otherwise, how would I be able to relate to his talk? Reading Janus Silang for the first 30 minutes made me realize that there is no need to cram reading this because it’s something that keeps me in my toes. Without knowing it, hours passed by, and whoa, it was already time for the talk. I ended up not finishing it, but that’s okay. Okay, not really okay because it was so suspenseful that it was very bad for my heart.
The first few chapters of Janus Silang speaks everything. Why? Right off the bat, I got the image of what the life Janus Silang, the protagonist, has in terms of his school, family, friends, and most importantly, gaming. That’s what caught my attention. Gaming. Years ago, right around his age (13-14 years old), I was also a gamer. Yes. Pretty much the same age where I got really hooked into online games. Name it all: Ragnarok, Gunbound, DOTA, Freestyle, Counter Strike, etc. I pretty much have played a lot of games during my elementary years, and that’s what made me felt connected with Janus. Also, everything about him just screams GAMER, and I found my past self in him (well, minus the internet cafe part), and that’s mostly because Samar captured the way a gamer thinks, talks and acts so vividly into the character of Janus Silang.
The mystery behind the plot was one of the primary things that made me keep on reading and turning the pages. The story involved death with the players that played TALA (the fictional online game involved in the story) was very intriguing because the cause of death is unknown. As the chapters went by, I found myself also trying to figure out what or who was the culprit is behind the deaths of the TALA players. The more things were revealed, the more exciting things became. It reached to the point that I just refused to put the book down. Even though the novel is written in third person point of view, it didn’t diminish the feels I felt from the thoughts of Janus. This novel is just so intense that I could feel whatever Janus is feeling, and it’s like I’m inside the book. I even felt goosebumps, fear, anxiety, guilt, depression, heartbreak, and all those emotions that the characters just experienced. For such a short, 179-paged novel, it was packed with a lot of stuff, that didn’t made things confusing. Everything complemented with each other, and made the story really grow as a whole. The way Janus Silang was written just kept me wanting for more because when I think I got something figured, a new surprise pops out. Plus, the creative way of foreshadowing was really amazing.
I don’t understand much Philippine mythology since I didn’t grow up with them, so it was kind of hard for me to imagine what they were like in the novel, but it didn’t reduce my reading experience at all. That’s what’s most surprising for me because I would expect that my little understanding on a topic that is made one of the foundations for the book would make me appreciate it less, even if it’s just for the tiniest fraction.
Actually, the one that I love the most with this novel is the mix between the fantasy elements, the virtual gaming world, and the reality. It wasn’t just some fantasy, mythological novel. A lot of values can be learned by young adults, in a way that wasn’t preaching or lecturing, which was really a nice touch. For me, Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon is absolutely perfect, except for the fact that it ended cliffhanging. Imagine my shock when I reached the ending. I was like, ohmycrap, this did not just happen. I really can’t wait for the next instalment, and I hope more Filipino YA novels such as this will be published. I completely recommend reading this one, especially to all the gamers out there, because I know that I entirely did not regret reading and finishing this novel!