“Natatakot ako sa iyo. You are the only puzzle I can’t seem to solve. But I love you. That’s why I won’t mind spending my entire life trying to understand you.”
Once upon a time, there was a princess who could not live happily ever after…
May hindi magandang ginawa si Erin Almeda, ang isa sa mga prinsesa ng Gibbons International School kung saan ang clique na kinabibilangan niya ay ang pinakapopular at pinakatinitingala. She played with the innocent heart of their class geek, Leonard Jamieson.
Seven years later, nagtagpo uli ang mga landas nila ni Leonard. It seemed their roles had been reversed. Sa fairy tale man o sa real life, palaging may kapalit na curse ang paggawa ng masama.
And so Erin needed to find the magic that will lift that curse. Or she will die of heartache soon…
If there is a book that will debunk once and for all that there is no quality to be found in mass market paperback romances, then Once a Princess by Angel Bautista is it. What a pleasant introduction for me. What an astonishing realization. What a slap to the faces of readers that consider lovebirds and hearts on covers a sign of cheesy and low-brow entertainment.
Though I have heard friends say that good writers have contributed to the genre, I could not truly believe it until I have encountered this book. The story was interesting, the characters strong, and the writing solid. Boy meets girl; are happy for a time; but here comes the complications and they part, not to see each other until they are both grown up. Secrets are revealed, but at a pace that kept me hooked until the end.
If once she was the pampered princess now she is an employee, struggling to keep what’s left of her family together, while he has become a prince of his own business empire. It’s a classic role reversal much beloved in fairy tales. Indeed there is a strong fairy tale quality to this book. There is a god father who recognizes her trials and rewards her courage with abilities to make things happen. There are fortuitous coincidences. There is a prince who has yearned for her since the first time he saw her. There are misunderstanding, tragedy, and tears; there is a long separation and then a reunion, and, finally, there is joy, the happily ever after.
One might argue that the fairy tale actually pulls the story down. But there is also a resounding voice of reality in the story, an almost heart-wrenching similarity to personal experiences:
But please give me a short break. Dahil sobra-sobra na ito para sa akin. Kailangan ko lang huminga kahit kaunti lang… Because I can’t breathe anymore and I feel like dying now.
This almost sounds like a prayer, our cry against too much pain. I can understand why reading romances or any book with drama cathartic. We read our own experiences in the stories. As the characters process their experiences, so do we. Perhaps romance pocket books serve as the condensed story of our life?
Once a Princess is narrated in Tagalog and English. It was a Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards Finalist in 2013 and was made into a movie in August this year. I hope the movie did justice to the book.