I found From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant the same way protagonist Boy Hernandez found himself in jail: by accident – or maybe by fate. I snuck in the recent Manila International Book Fair while entertaining family friends, and while hurriedly browsing the racks in National Bookstore, a loudspeaker announced that the author, Alex Gilvarry, will be signing copies that day. I’ve seen his pictures, so I immediately grabbed a copy and fell in line without paying for it – defying store protocol. I was stopped by the lady handing out numbers for the signing, but I managed to charm my way.
I quickly re-touched my face to make sure I looked halfway human, and elegantly (meaning I didn’t trip or make funny noises) made my way towards him. My opening line was:
“I’m also a writer, but I write for a broadsheet,” mentioning The Philippine Star.
Such a fucking namedropper. He was polite enough and we spent a few minutes talking about the newspaper, his book, and his participation in Rogue‘s September feature on Bryanboy, the notorious fashion blogger.
The last thing I said to him was: “I hope I meet you again.” Such a fucking flirt.
Anyway, the book. The book is about Boyet Hernandez, a Filipino fashion designer who tries to make a name for himself in New York, only to find himself connected to a terrorist ring. He is dubbed as a fashion terrorist and is detained, possibly illegally, at a detention camp.
I was attracted to the idea of a fashion terrorist, but the book is more terrorist than fashion. I found the premise fascinating, but I’m not well-read or interested in national security. I much preferred the times when he would talk about Boy’s fashion life, which sadly, wasn’t much. Of course, the title is Non-Enemy Combatant, not Womenswear Designer.
Perhaps other people would enjoy it, but I thought it was okay. At least it didn’t cash in on the poverty porn prevalent in Western works set in the Philippines.