“Catch a star and put it in your pocket….”
from a song
Catch A Falling Star is a collection of short stories by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. Prior to its publication by Anvil Publication Inc., earlier versions of the stories appeared in magazines such as Philippine Free Press, Philippine Graphic and the Mirror Magazine. The book is dedicate to the author’s husband and two daughters. The author had returned to realistic short story, which was a departure from her earlier tale mode of earlier published books Tales for the Rainy Nights(1993) and Where Only the Moon Rages(1994). Hidalgo has written three short story collection and six collections of personal essays, travel narratives, two volumes of critical essays and a novel. She was awarded with a Carlos Palanca Grand Prize and the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award.
The simple narrative style and the nostalgic tone of the stories are about the young girl, Patricia. I loved the book because its stories are realistic and reminiscent of one’s own childhood.
The book is made up of 12 stories. According to the author, the idea of the first story came from her childhood diaries. “The entry set a chain of memories, and I thought it might be amusing to write a few stories about a little girl”(Hidalgo, 143).The story was progressing into recurring events wherein the protagonist, from grade 2 to her senior high school, eventually recounted her experiences. The book was in structure storytelling in flashbacks for there are interjections which shifts to the present. However, the stories were well woven that as a reader I wasn’t confused of the past and the present. “But the idea of short,simple initiation stories appealed to me. I didn’t think that I could use a child as the point-of-view character. Rather, I would use a memoir mode, an adult woman recalling episodes in her childhood”(144). It seemed as if I wasn’t actually reading the book rather I was listening to someone who is storytelling. The verses do not destroy its persona. The stories are mouthed by with a precision of an adult yet with the innocence of a child. I think the book is accessible to children readers.
“I began toying with the idea of a book that would be entirely about her,” writes Hidalgo, “In each story, Patricia would be a little bit older. I wasn’t sure if I could sustain it”(145). Three stories were based on the author’s own experiences, others were as she said invented. After having published four stories, she discovered that they can be part of Patricia’s character. One thing that I like about the book is that I can relate my childhood with the protagonist’s character. The stories’ italicized terms add to the local coloration of her settings, all of which are in Philippines. Starting from the first story entitled The Magic Glasses which shows the Patricia with the same childishness as I was engrossed in games years ago until the last story The Woman in the Apple-green Dress with a young woman persona, I believed that the author pulled through sustaining her major character. Thus with a her line saying, “By then, I had discovered that I knew more about her”(146).
There is always an available subject matter everywhere. Hidalgo had been inspired by young girls she saw and without ado she wrote in succession for the completion of the book. She argued that the book isn’t a novel, that the stories are but simple narration of the experiences of Patricia from the stage in her life when she realized a lot of things.
With regard to her eleventh story in the collection entitled How I Spent My Summer Vacation she wrote in Afterthoughts, “I think about the sort of experience and imagined Patricia would have loved it. It was a romantic adventure-romantic in the sense of the exotic rather than in the sense of having to do with love. Patricia was clearly an incurable romantic”(147). This story is indeed one filled with various things such as divans, carpets etc. and there was a weird gang of people. A significant character was her Tita Alicia, the sister of her mother who once lived in Europe, thus explaining why she lived a different lifestyle. She had a gang of friends and they’ve had relations which Patricia didn’t understand yet. This was the story, I felt an initiation for Patricia to the last story The Woman in the Apple-green Dress.
I was quite happy that I could relate to things like tortuous siesta implementation and even the young child’s esteem over classmates. I like how I could place myself in Patricia’s shoes when I recall the nuns govern my former school in our hometown. I also empathized Patricia’s childish infatuation over boys. I can say that there were those events that I, as a reader, was familiar of. That Patricia’s life hadn’t completely alienated that of my own.
I truly am amazed by how the book recounted experiences with the easy motion as does storytelling. I like how the characters were sketched to life and how they had developed to be regarded as real. I first have Where Only the Moon Rages(1994) as a choice, but I found it much difficult for the stories belonged to grown-up persona unlike that of Patricia. I had to deal wit the complex minds at work in my first choice, so when I found Catch A Falling Star, I found it more appealing than the former. That even as I read the title, it was as dreamlike as it is being a child’s.
Hidalgo, Christina P. “Catch a Falling Star.”Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc., c1999. Afterthoughts. pgs 143-148.