Arts & Culture


“You think you’ve seen it all, and then you close your eyes.”

Angsty, in-your-face, temperamental at its purest, and raw to the core. Authors are great in terms of evoking a feeling. But only a few could make you feel their words as if they are your own. Case in point, Alan Navarra. Just imagine being an overworked, exploited, and often confused young professional who couldn’t fully express the turmoil you are in. There are just so many words, yet none of them could describe the true meaning of what one sees.

Many of us would resort to drinking; others would bury themselves in books, or both. I mean, why not? Relating ourselves to the things we read suits best with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. In vino veritas, they say. Perhaps, one of the most influential books I laid my eyes on would be those written by Alan Navarra. In 2008, while searching for Jessica Zafra’s ‘Twisted,’ I stumbled upon this book painted bright orange, a Gilette blade in the middle of a heart with ‘Girl Trouble’ written underneath.

The author released a digital (text) copy of Girl Trouble here

It was a book that encapsulates all the things most struggling (or not) young professionals are experiencing in their relationships and the lack thereof. It was a cut-throat narrative of how dysfunctional systems make you, me, and everything else dysfunctional. My first recognized echo chamber. In this world, in his words, everything I feel, see, and hear is valid—and there’s nothing more satisfying than getting a nod for feelings unnoticed and disregarded—like a misfit finally getting the applause from front row faceless clappers, right before the curtain call.

Alan Navarra and his not-so-subtle art of word vomit

Girl Trouble was my indoctrination to the Alan Navarra wordplay. And boy, it’s not for the faint of heart. The way it was written, with the illustrations perfectly accompanying his often double-edged words, creates an illusion that his words were never his but borrowed from whoever was reading—seemingly predicting the common thoughts running in our heads. Some book pages contain scribbles of random tirades and philippics. Others are splashed with ambiguous and hazy photos creating the vibe of a drunkard butt-pressing the camera button of his phone—art, considered.

Since the discovery of Girl Trouble, Navarra continued to release more illustrative books, like ‘Dumot,’ ‘Sacada: A Catalog of Commodities for a Period of Glorious Tumult,’ ‘Ang Panlimang Alas Ay Nakabaon Sa Iyong Dibdib’ and ‘Lord, Pls: Prayers From a Real World.’ Out of all the books published, my personal favorites would be Dumot and Sacada since they carry the same grouchy vibe as Girl Trouble—more whiny, unbothered, and more true to life.

Dumot and the need to spit facts

“You don’t have to be that smart to know you’re going to end up doing something stupid.”

Older folks would say millennials are temperamental brats. They’re “Mr. and Ms. I-have-a-comment-about-everything.” But truth be told, perhaps, the need to say something about everything is a desperate attempt to arrive, as close as possible, at describing a situation or feeling. Dumot contains a collection of random thoughts we often keep to ourselves. The things and feelings we encounter during our solitude. The lingering questions and probable answers we may or may not need to know.

If Girl Trouble is about relationships, Dumot is about young people’s angst and invective expressions. The emotional catharsis in this book requires years of constant disappointment, bottled-up anger, and thoughts we are too stubborn to entertain—like a visitor paying an unannounced visit into our lives.

“Patience. Even the dead have to wait in line.”

If labeling the inexplicable is too high a price, then Dumot gives off generously, in an eloquent manner. Offensive but still articulate. Downright rude but philosophical. In the book, Michael Perez, a fictional character, represents the working class that has so much work to do, so many things to say, yet is so underpaid. He represents our struggles and frustrations in our daily routine. He put words to the things we wished to say but couldn’t. Through the book Dumot, Michael offers comfort by emphasizing that our resentments are not isolated in a world where the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer.

Sacada and finding wisdom in drunken thoughts

Alan Navarra spat so many thoughts and words that I strongly agree with. One of which is the process of finding wisdom in drunken thoughts. As mentioned earlier, in vino veritas. Sometimes, the truths we uncover heavily depend on the courage we muster. Since bravery is innate to humans yet too taxing to take on, many of us tap the help of our bottled friends.

Aesthetically speaking, Sacada can be a tad bit intimidating for other readers. With lots of pages dedicated to doodles and random art, it did not fall short in relaying its radical confessions. It carries the usual Alan Navarra theme of writing—unconventional and self-aggrandizing. Like Dumot, Sacada is comparable to a louder poetic sibling who talks about anything—deserving or not of attention.

“The real challenge is getting stupid people to do the right thing.”

The book contains excerpts and frustrations of people in the creative industry. Like the book title, Sacada, it expresses the exploitative nature of the people in the industry. Sacada encapsulates how unfree the author is in his current labor conditions—a setup that resonates with people in the working class. People who have no choice but to keep producing and working regardless of whether their needs are acknowledged.

Alan Navarra has produced books that veer away from the conventional way of storytelling. It’s amusing to see a literary work that breaks the ceiling of what poetry should be like. It’s amusing to read a book that does not shy away from talking and speaking about the things that will make our angels cry. True to form, with art on his side, the picture gets more apparent with his every word.



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