Spot Shelf: Jerry Yapo Reminisces About Elbi Life, Art, and Dogs in New Collection

book review artfully speaking
PHOTO BY Artfully Speaking and Other Essays/Jerry Yapo ILLUSTRATOR: War Espejo

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(SPOT.ph) A person's writing style is a manifestation of their character—shaped by their life experiences, formal education, and social interactions.

In Jerry Yapo's Artfully Speaking and Other Essays, readers are given a glimpse into his life and experiences, which serve as a testament to his character. His essays allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of his worldview and the unique lens through which he views the world.

The book is a collection of 12 personal essays, written in a quotidian style making them easy to read and imagine. The stories, averaging from three to four pages each, can be read swiftly and enjoyably. Each narrative has a featured artwork, providing readers with a visual take aside from what the author has written.

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Despite its straightforwardness, his writing style is not lacking in cadence. The author's words are infused with insights that seamlessly interweave with his anecdotes. This is a testament to his extensive knowledge of the subject matter, enabling readers to mull deeply into what truly matters. 

A Stroll Down Memory Lane in Jerry Yapo's Personal Essays

Yapo's book centers on remembering the past, with each story invoking a range of emotions in readers. In "Atop a Carabao," he recounts his youth in the province as a farmer's son who's expected to follow in his father's footsteps. However, he chose a different path, discovering hobbies that would later prove useful when he was accepted as a Communication Arts student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. 

In "Elbi is Home," Yapo reflects on why Los Baños—fondly called LB or Elbi—in Laguna holds a special place in his heart. It's not just because of the town's natural beauty and old-town charm, but also because of its spaciousness, idyllic atmosphere, and distance from the frenetic pace of city life. He highlights unique features of Elbi that visitors can only appreciate when they're there, including its food, topography, tourist attractions, and the stories of Mount Makiling shared by the locals. Most of all, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) campus itself is a favorite destination for educational trips among students.

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Yapo's poignant reflection on the death of his parents, "In Loving Memory," provides readers with an insightful perspective on death as a gift that must be treasured by the living. He fondly enumerates his parents' endearing qualities and attributes his father's leadership skills and his mother's interpersonal skills as traits that he and his siblings now possess.

Finally, "Curve-Spin" recounts a humorous incident in which Yapo was mistakenly accused of shoplifting two branded long sleeves that he had unknowingly brought out of a department store without paying.

On Aging, Education, Arts, and Urban Living 

In "Almost There," Yapo presents a humorous reflection on aging. Time ticks away relentlessly, but he has no other choice but to embrace his white hair and accept aging as an inevitable part of life. 

Yapo strongly believes that education is not just about acquiring knowledge, but also about nurturing a passion for learning. He successfully illustrates this point in "A Summa Story Retold," which tells the inspiring story of Helbert A. Paat, a BS Applied Mathematics summa cum laude graduate from UPLB. Yapo's main argument is that success is not just about what you know, but also about your passion to learn and grow in all areas of life. 

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The titular essay, "Artfully Speaking," is Yapo's take on what constitutes good art. He argues that a good work of art must have three key elements: concept, technique, and skill. He also suggests that evoking a singular response from viewers is likely to be a sign of "bad art." As someone with authority in the field— being a professor of Humanities and director of UPLB's Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts, Yapo's insights are particularly noteworthy. In "Show Openings," he also shares how art exhibit openings serve as validation for any artist. 

Although Yapo lives in Elbi, he chose to have a city address, allowing him to experience the benefits and drawbacks of "Vertical Living." Meanwhile, "A Commuter's Tale" recounts his struggles with the reality of traffic problems, which is a relatable issue among Filipinos. He then provides tips and hacks for reducing stress while commuting

Love for Dogs and Books 

Yapo's profound passion for reading is brilliantly showcased in "The Pilot, the Prince, and the Fox", an essay that delves into the intriguing characters of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. This classic novella has become mandatory reading for humanities students at UPLB, and Yapo's take on it gives readers a fresh and profound perspective. 

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In "A Dog's Word," Yapo's love for dogs takes center stage as he fondly recounts the delightful presence of his three multicolored Labradors: Maximus (yellow), Cicero (brown), and Jubaira (black). Through his story, he highlights how the world of dogs seamlessly fits into his life, showcasing the wonderful bond between humans and their furry companions.

Yapo's Artfully Speaking and Other Essays speaks of many things about the author. But more importantly, it touches on every reader's experience of home, art, pets, and life.

Artfully Speaking and Other Essays (San Anselmo Press, 2022) by Jerry Yapo is available on Shopee for P410.

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