Bob Ong


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ABNKKBSNPLAKo?! is an autobiography detailing author Bob Ong’s school days, from his experiences on his first day of primacy school to his disastrous university experience and culminating with his entry into the education sector himself, as a teacher. The book is written in Tagalog, the language of the Philippine Islands. The autobiography’s long title is meant to be read phonetically, as “Aba, nakakabasa na pala ako?!” which when translated to English means, “Wow, I can actually read now?!” Bob Ong is Filipino, but the name is a pseudonym and his true identity is unconfirmed, though several contemporary Filipino authors have been proposed.

ABNKKBSNPLAKo?! is told through a series of humorous anecdotes focusing on four phases: primary school, high school, university, and his adult working life. Ong is befuddled by his introduction to a chaotic, Filipino public school at age five, and deeply scared of terrifying, witch-like first primary teacher, who made a habit of physically lashing out at misbehaving students. As Ong grows older, his troubles with school grow. He skips school to watch movies at the local movie theater. He experiences the traditional teenage scourge of acne, dotingly pursues a pretty girl he refers to as “Special Someone,” and battles his constant foe, math class, all while using his experiences to poke fun at Filipino cultural norms and the Philippines’ deeply underfunded public education system.

When Ong moves on from secondary school to university, he wonders if the change in scenery will change his lack of academic motivation. He decides to study Computer Science, but his university years are a disaster. The tone changes in this section, as Ong realizes just how much his future will depend on his university grades. Though Ong struggles valiantly to master his university curriculum and make good grades, he ultimately fails out of his Computer Science program and later finishes up his studies at and graduates from a vocational school. The book’s final section sees Ong returning to his roots as he begins work as a teacher at a Filipino public school much like his own alma mater. As a teacher, Ong observes his students, providing a guide of the various social groups that make up the school’s population—Clowns, Geeks, Celebrities, Weirdoes, and Nerds, among others. He sees just how much his students have to teach him, just as he strives to teach them. He also has a new perspective on the various failures of the Filipino education system, and concludes his book with a call to fixing these issues of infrastructure and lack of funding.

ABNKKBSNPLAKo?! is as much a story of the Philippines and the country’s culture as it is a story of Bob Ong and his life. Though the book is one man’s autobiography, it goes beyond a simple life story, taking a humorous but critical look at one country’s education system and calling for substantive change.