There will always be stories where you will find pieces of your soul within its pages, and I found mine in “Ang Larong Nagwakas Sa Atin.” I devoured this book in one sitting and as I turned to the last page, the story struck a chord within me.
So, what’s this book all about?
Mula pagkabata, buhay na ni Dennis Manansala ang paglaro ng chess. Dito lang siya siguradong magaling siya. Nang ilipat siya sa St. Louise de Marillac Academy o LdMA para sa high school, akala niya natukdukan na ito. Pero isang panibagong laro ang magsisimula nang makilala niya ang babaeng magpapaintindi sa kanya sa kahalagahan ng pamilya, pagkakaibigan, at pangarap.
Kinder pa lang, planado na ang buong buhay ni Esther Pamintuan. Para makapasok sa panagarap niyang university, mangunguna siya sa klase at magiging aktiba sa pahayagan ng LdMA. Ngunit nang hindi inaasahan, mapapasali siya sa laro ng chess at makikilala ang lalaki na magpapabago ng takbo ng mga plano niya.
Isang oras. Tigtatlumpung minuto sa orasan. Sa isang huling laro nakasalalay ang apat na taon ng pagsasamahan nina Dennis at Esther. Isa lang sa kanila ang magwawagi, gagawaran ng scholarship, at hihiranging Chess Player of the Year.
Sundan sina Dennis at Esther magbaliktanaw kung paano sila nagkatagpo, nagkalapit, at nagkaibigan
Perhaps one part that endeared me to this book was its focus on chess as the center of the narrative. Like these two characters, chess was a huge part of my elementary to high school years. I was sickly and asthmatic so physical activities and sports were out of the question for me so my father–who like Dennis’ father and Coach Michael was an avid aficionado of the sport–filled my days with chess training and we would even buy books on chess strategies on the weekends together with my younger sister. Like Esther, I was forced to participate in chess tournaments in my primary school and sports events in high school because I was “smart”. Chess made me happy I was trying out a sport, and I was comforted by the wooden chess pieces and the black-and-white squares on a 150 pesos-chess set my father gave me and my sister to practice with.
Like chess, the choices we make in life always influence the endgame and nothing will ever go according to plan, no matter how carefully you map out your whole life. This was a recurring theme between the two characters: Dennis and Esther, throughout the whole book and reflected in the many struggles that they have faced in the book.
In particular, I struck a chord with Esther because of the many parallels I shared with her: former honor student who is pressured to maintain grades to feel “validated” by parents, joining school paper as plus points for extracurriculars to make up for the fact I can’t participate in other physically-taxing activities, and using chess as a sport and a means to temporarily escape. Unlike her though, I wasn’t part of the varsity team (my little sister was the more talented one).
The book also explored the many struggles and worries of a high-school student: the impending arrival of college and making decisions that would help decide your future. It’s grueling, tough work and as someone whose been down that road, it’s terrifying. However, with the struggles also come the treasured moments of joy in between–kilig moments when a classmate gets serenaded with a group of guitar-strumming fellas, tears and confessions exchaged during a retreat in your last year, and the one magical night of prom where everybody is transformed and poised to dance to the night. This book was a whole nostalgia trip for me considering I also started my high school years around the same time Dennis and Esther did in the book.
The romance in this book was also bittersweet and cute, like most high school love stories go. I especially loved how organic Dennis and Esther’s relationship developed, and the sweet moments they shared. But most importantly, I was invested in how other external conditions (such as college applications, scholarships, family problems) influenced their dynamics with each other. I personally found the ending of the story very satisfying and well-wrapped up, despite the ache that it left my heart.
All in all, I loved this book so, so much. If you can understand and read Tagalog, then I strongly urge you to pick up this book and read.. Highly, highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
What are some books that you read that felt like you found a piece of yourself within its pages? Have you read books about chess?
Let me know in the comments below!
Before You Go!
Recently, my country, the Philippines, has experienced the onslaught of 4 typhoons in a span of 2 weeks. I live in a region that was spared from the most damage, but hundreds and thousands of my fellow kababayans particularly in Luzon weren’t as fortunate. Please visit and click this carrd for information on how to donate and help. $1 is equivalent to 50php, and it will go a long way to feed one Filipino family.
If you are unsure and uncertain about which organizations to donate, Ate Shealea of Shut Up, Shealea is running a donation campaign where you can course your donations through her and she’ll be forwarding them to legitimate organizations.
Likewise, my university alma mater, UP Visayas is also accepting donations (for locals in the Philippines). More details linked in the pub below.