His First, Her Last
by Jonathan Sturak
September 3, 2013
Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure. The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present, grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places, and its people. Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls. A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart. But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes. Will he escape? Will she survive? Will his first trip be her last?
It was interesting to read about my country from the eyes of a foreigner. Sure, I will have to admit that my country is not paradise, heck, it's even world-famous for its corrupt politicians, but it's not so bad really. It was understandable to read about Jason being all antsy and careful as regards the food and environment when he came to the Philippines. It's normal to be scared of something you've never experienced, or some place you've never been to before. Besides, the Philippines is culturally different than America. I'd say that it was normal for Jason to imagine the worst of things about the Philippines, and the author realistically captured this.
Story-wise, as this book was based on the real experiences of the author, I wasn't really expecting something majorly ground-breaking. Majority of the story-line wasn't exactly about the love between Jason and Hazel. It was about Jason's adventure in the Philippines and the way he almost lost Hazel due to an accident in a country with no adequate medical facilities.
What I think was really beautiful about this story is that from Jason's perspective, the Philippines isn't even half of what the US is as a country, but the people from the Philippines make do with what little they have, and they can smile despite their circumstances. Personally, this trait is something I'm proud of. In the Philippines, we have this motto: "Kung maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot", which roughly translates to: "If the blanket is short, learn to bend (your legs)". Yes, the Philippines might not be as urbanized or as highly developed as the US, but we learn to adapt and make the best out of the hand we're dealt with.
Secondly, I loved reading about Hazel's family. The typical Filipino family was realistically depicted in this novel! Even the house they all lived in, and the way they shared whatever it was that they had with each other. In my opinion, the reason why most Filipino can smile despite dire situations is because of their close-knit support group - their families. (Statistics show that depression is higher in the US, than in the Philippines, and this is even despite the fact that psychiatric help isn't even prevalent in the Philippines.)
What else? Hmmm... Ah, yes, I was a bit disturbed while reading about Jason's sexual desires for other women. I'd like to think that this is because the women that Jason saw in the Philippines looked exotic in his eyes for being different, but really, it was still disturbing to read about him ogling other women when he has Hazel. Dude, just no.
While I was delighted to read about my country in this book, in general, I don't think that this story would really appeal to other people from other countries. The details about the Philippines were spot-on and realistic, but portraying them in the book made it a bit dragging. Secondly, the story-line was simple, and not all that exciting.
All in all though, for me, this book was such an interesting read!