Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Congratulations to Dorothy Bangayan Lee,  winner of "White: A Philippa Gregory Essay Contest!" 

*Dorothy, you can claim your  limited collector's edition of The White Queen at the customer service counter of Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street branch by February 10, 2011! Just bring valid ID!

After thorough deliberation, the U.S. editorial team of Simon & Schuster, publisher of Philippa Gregory's novels, contacted Fully Booked to announce the winning entry. This will be published in the February-March 2011 issue of the Fully Booked Zine.

Apparently, according to a Simon & Schuster editor, Philippa Gregory was informed about the contest, and although she did not take an active role in the judging, she did view the entries and had this to say:

"I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of their reading and touched by their affection for my novels."

Philippa Gregory photographed by James Stewart

Indeed, though I too was not part of the judging process, I feel privileged to have been allowed to read the wonderful entries that the contestants submitted. In just 500 words, all of them displayed a true passion for the historical fiction genre and the works of Philippa Gregory. It was quite heartwarming to read who their favorite Tudor heroine is and why, as most professed a strong, very sincere affinity to their character of choice. 

I myself am a fan of historical fiction, and were I to have joined this essay contest, I would have chosen to write about Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne Boleyn, and predecessor to King Henry VIII's affections. After risking her husband's ire for the favors of the king, she was cast aside by the monarch for her sister Anne. Her children, supposedly by Henry VIII, were never recognized by their royal sire. Sure enough her first marriage failed due to her "indiscretion," and her second marriage to a mere soldier so angered her sister Anne—who was already queen by then—that she banished Mary from her court. Sad to say, this same sister met a worse fate: she was beheaded on account of high treason, among other things. Once again, another woman had caught Henry VIII's fancy.

Mary Boleyn (from Wikipedia.com)
Oil on panel of Anne Boleyn, held at the National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 668 (from Wikipedia.com)

It never fails to amaze me how ultimately tragic the Tudor period was for many women in the royal court; how love was deemed insignificant in comparison to ambition, stature, and power. We are fortunate that the climate for true romance in the present day is much more favorable than it was centuries ago, and that in most (but not all) cases, a marriage of convenience is more one of choice than a non-negotiable. More importantly, that a hangman's noose or an executioner's axe do not await us should our spouses "tire" of us or should we choose to follow our heart and dreams and not fulfill somebody else's lofty ambitions.

The Simon & Schuster editorial team also named two exceptional entries, and although there is only one winner, I will share these entries with you readers here. Both essayists are fans of Catherine of Aragon:

My Own Little Costume Party
By Jasmin dG. Fajardo

To quote Katherine Howard, “Now let me see, what do I have?”

But other than count clothes or jewels, I count books. They are indeed the greatest treasures you can find. A book lets you be in different places at once. It lets you meet different characters from this world or another. In other words, it's your own time traveling machine. When I tell my friends I’m fascinated with period books and movies, they huff and puff and say, “Didn’t you have this in History class?” They refer this kind of literature and films as “costume party” (since they dress differently from what people wear now). But to me, different means "elegant" and "romantic" when it comes to period pieces.

They say that first love never dies, and I am a firm believer. I admire Queen Katherine of Aragon above all because she had King Henry when he was still a boy and still growing up. It’s safe to say she had him at his worst. She became his older sister, his mother, and his wife all at the same time. I attribute this to the fact that she understood him more than the rest because she was there in his formative years. She saw him transform from a boy to a man, and she endured and catered to the tantrums and demands of a young king. Nowadays, it is so rare to find a wife still faithful to her husband when he is upfront being unfaithful. She held on to her faith like a lifeline. Until her last breath she fought for her right to the throne, her right to see her daughter, and she fought for her love of the king. Her undying faith and love for her sovereign made her the hero, especially to her daughter Mary who followed in her footsteps—a devout catholic and a god-fearing lady despite the fact that they were separated by King Henry until the queen’s death. She is indeed a good mother, lover, and above all, a great queen to a fickle king. And she was lucky, if not for her trials with King Henry VIII, she lived in a time of magnificence, richness, and boldness, where elegance came naturally, unenhanced by technology; when life was simple and yet extravagant. And yet, with the changes we experience in our fast-paced world, only the emotions, especially love, remain unchanged.

The difference between History and Historical fiction is tantamount to differentiating "just seeing" and "experiencing." Historical fiction not only teaches you about the past and how it affects the present, it also allows you to experience the feeling in a time and place so long ago, it becomes otherworldly and unimaginable even if it really did exist—only to find out that the clothes and way of speaking may have changed, but the feeling didn’t.

Now let me see, what do I have? Oh yeah, my love for books, traveling, and experiencing. 


By Patrick John R. Valencia

My friends tend to smirk at me every time I tell them that my favorite author is Philippa Gregory. Besides the fact that it is NOT Twilight, historical fiction has never been a popular choice among my age group. No sane person loves hearing about what happened centuries ago. You can even count with your fingers the students who listen to their History teacher without dozing off.

And yes, I was one of those students. I was hypnotized, enthralled, and mesmerized by facts and momentous events shared by my favorite teacher in high school. I always wondered what it would be like to live in an era where Facebook and Twitter don’t exist, where people took pleasure in throwing endless feasts for a grandiose celebration in the company of the royal family. I fantasized transporting to the 16th Century, sharing a laugh with King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. I wanted to see Elizabeth I as a young girl and watch her grow up as the greatest monarch England has ever seen.

Reading Philippa Gregory’s novels made me live that dream. Every page is a detailed description of the lives of these kings and queens; their physical attributes, clothes, way of thinking, and the obstacles they faced while ruling the most powerful country in the world. The historical accuracy of the novels is impeccable. There were times when I had to Google the facts just to make sure what I was reading really happened.

Although the novels’ foundation is History, its most endearing quality is the heart of the stories. A lot of writers can just feed never-ending facts to their readers, but Gregory gives life to her characters. She goes into the minds of her protagonists with utmost sensitivity that you eventually get to care and root for them in the end.

One character that struck me the most was Catalina, Infanta of Spain. In The Constant Princess, we learn that at a young age, she was betrothed to Arthur with the promise that she would one day become Queen of England. She inherited the courage and faith of her mother, Isabella. She knew that her only goal in life was to marry the prince and rule the country destined to be in her power. When Arthur died before being crowned, the people assumed that the Infanta would go back to Spain and live in a house alone as a widow. What they didn’t know was that they were facing a character much stronger and more persistent than they ever expected. Backed up by her faith and a lie she consistently stood for, Catalina caught the attention of Arthur’s younger brother Henry. They married, and she eventually became Katharine of Aragon, Queen of England.

Catalina is just one of the characters in History that Philippa Gregory gave life to. Her novels let us enter the world of these powerful women who we thought we’d never get to know. She makes reading facts enjoyable and entertaining.

1 comment:

  1. "And yet, with the changes we experience in our fast-paced world, only the emotions, especially love, remain unchanged."

    I love this line. This is what you call writing with passion.