The Curious Case of Bob Ong

Monday, October 08, 2012

Every Filipino bookworm who doesn't only limit themselves in reading foreign fiction had definitely heard the name Bob Ong. He is one of the few Filipino literary writer who had made an impact with his published books but little is known about him. Nobody knows who he is or if he is real. What we only knew about is that the name Bob Ong is not an actual name but a pseudonym and that he was working as a web developer putting up Bobong Pinoy website and a teacher. His defunct website had even won People's Choice for weird/humor (Philippine Web Awards) in 1998 but was taken down when former Pres. Estrada was ousted through People Power II. His anonymity equaled the blockbuster sales his books made. Even his publisher - Nida Gatus of Visual Print Enterprises is fiercely protective of his identity. She insists that Ong only communicates through the internet, no phone interviews, photographs and personal appearances. ever.

But who is the real Bob Ong?

There has been a lot of speculations on the real identity  behind the name. Confusions were raised between him and a Filipino - Chinese author Charlson Ong. However, on his book Stainless Longganisa he said that his surname is not Ong. The family name is instead derived by a wordplay on his website BobongPinoy and his web visitors were the ones who christened him with that name. Filipino Poet Paolo Manalo had also denied he was behind the pen-name. Broadcast personality, blogger and activist Lourd de Veyra was also considered (that includes me!). With their similarity in writing style especially about Filipino culture, he can passed as the real Bob Ong. Some readers even believed that Bob Ong is not just a single person but a group of writers that compiled their material under one name. But no matter who we think he is whether he is a single person or not, the best way to have a glimpse of his personality can be found within the pages of his books. We know for a fact that he didn't grow up fancying to be an author. In fact, he didn't enjoy reading books. He drop out from getting a college degree but finished a two year vocational course that involves computers and went to teach computer course in a certain Secondary School.
And What makes "him" and his books a phenomenal success?

One can't argue that his conversational style of writing is what made him a success story even if his real identity is unknown. I have read all of his books and I like the fact that he injects humor and an occasional amusing remarks about Filipino culture. He writes in everyday Filipino language reminiscent of your grandmother or mother in a family conversation over a buffet of food or your barkadas over pulutan and a bottle of beer or your neighbors telling you about the latest gossips. Its short but packed with entertaining  qualities that makes you as a reader flips pages and so on that even after reading you can't help yourself to reread from Chapter 1 again. His  storytelling skills can make you relate and nod to the topic that was discussed. He writes about real people and real experiences that makes his books relatable (if there is such word).

Real person or not, Bob Ong is for me a literary genius. Maybe its a good thing that nobody knows so that who he is because identity it not important but  his books and his writings are.

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