Reader reviews and comments on When The Elephants Dance, plus links to write your own review.

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When The Elephants Dance

by Tess Uriza Holthe

When The Elephants Dance
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2002, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2003, 368 pages

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There are currently 14 reader reviews for When The Elephants Dance
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Joe Walls (10/01/03)

I lived through WWII and the Japanese occupation in Manila from the age of 8-12. I know of many families who underwent Japanese treatment and personally presenced Japanese brutality. So, when I read of how the a 10-13 old boys would walk 20 kms from Bulacan to Manila to work for cigarrettes, Lucky Strikes, and other US brands 3 years into the occupation, immediately turned me off. Serving rich folks with whiskey while they played mahjong under palm ceiling fans??? What a yarn! Three years into the war, you would be searching for food not drinking whiskey. The Japanese did not care whether you were poor or rich. The fact is, the Japanese hit on the rich for what they had, The ordinary soldiers would invade your home and take whant they wished. They were not a well fed army, depending a lot on local resources. By the way, Filipino kids by culture are heavily shelterred, poor or rich, then and now. Why wasn't 'papa' out there scavenging like my mother and I did trading clothes for food on our bicycles everyday? Sending the "babies" out on such ventures....incredible! The houses in the Philippines especially in the provinces like Bulacan was then, did not then or now have cellars. what the author refers to as cellars is what we call 'silong', nothing more than the crawl space of about 2-3ft under the house. Also, that drama about the Tanaka going through the motions to find out who killed his colleague; testing a child's machoism... this is what is expected from a movie script writer. The Japanese did not waste their time, they just slit your throat. They were not concerned nor respected the Geneva Conventions..agreements, etc. Too much Hollywood in this book.
I noted that except for one review, most of the accolades come from folks who never experienced the war under Japanese occupation or born much after WWII. Only speak to a camp internee from Santo Thomas or Los Banos if you want to get a feel for how the Japanese behaved. My family's friends and friends had first hand experiences of massacres and torture. Enough said... Full of misinformation.
Not having lived through the times makes for a lot of inaccuracies.
Lupin III (08/12/03)

It is a great one. Two thumbs up!!!
Anonymous (04/22/03)

Finally a well written book depicting Filipino culture.
Lily (08/13/02)

I was first drawn to reading this novel because I was searching for a novel that would eloquently capture the true essence of "being filipino". As a young filipino-american, I was very proud to discover that this book would enlighten many who are of filipino-descent and those who are not about philippine history during WWII,the culture and local folklore. What I liked about the book was that the story did not revolve only on the war but the author included the experiences of the characters before the war began. Oftentimes, movies or books about WWII are told by soldiers who describe the natives(which happen to be filipinos) as one dimensional characters because they have struggles with communication, and usually the narrator is very condescending(due to colonialism) which resulted to present misunderstandings and ignorance on people's cultures. The author seemed to have done a lot of research based on her vast knowledge of the names of places that have been changed or have become non-existant. I have lived in the U.S. for only ten years and 11 years prior to that, I lived my childhood in the Philippines. I understand that the author did not grow up in the phil. and had to rely on many sources especially her relatives. What disappointed me was that there were a lot of grammatical errors whenever words were introduced that were from the Tagalog dialect. I came from a family that speaks this dialect very fluently. Although it constantly evolves with new slangs that I'm probably not familliar with, it is a relief to know that most of the words has not changed and could still be checked in a filipino-tagalog dictionary for accuracy. I just felt very awkward calling this novel an heirloom when it had a lot of grammatical and spelling errors on most of the Tagalog words and phrases, even some local objects and words were defined incorrectly. Although, for non-Tagalog speakers the errors would go unnoticed. I also had to emphasize the fact that for a filipino descent who is familiar with most filipino folklore, most of the stories told by the characters in the cellar would seem very much rehashed from local urban legends and some have a cheesy filipino soap opera-ish feel to the plots and characters. The filipino colonial mentality is very evident in one of the stories. In one of them, a couple adopts a daughter who is of European descent and ends up falling in-love later with a man who is also of European descent. I realize that most filipinos are suckers for soap opera stories based on comic strips sold by streetcorner periodical vendors. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, it's just part of the local filipino culture. The problem is that for most filipino-american readers who are already familiar with these story genres, I think they would become bored very easily since the plots are really not that unique. I understand that the stories told by the charcters are supposed to be treated as oral histories mostly passed down from ancestors, or that they are just stories meant to entertain or scare the children characters, but there were some that seemed too fantastic and unrealistic that were told by the adults not just for the childrens' ears. One example was the journalist and his rendition of the talisman story. Again, it is not really unique and an unlikely story comming from a young journalist from a "well-to-do" family. Most sureal filipino stories start with the narrator saying:"Noong unang panahon..." (a long time ago) and is often continued with: "..according to so and so.." mostly a grandparent or someone not present as not to make it easy for the listener to confirm the validity of the story, forced to trust the authority of the source. In the novel, the adult characters
verify that the stories they told were personal accounts, which in filipino folklore is very rare. I also thought that there really was no need of translating unimportant words and phrases in tagalog since most of them were not translated accurately in English. I feel that the whole theme and setting of the novel was enough to make it a very exotic novel for non filipino readers. Other than that, I appreciated the "based on facts" war accounts of the characters since they have shed light on the universal tragedies brought on by the horrors of war.
levy lanuza (06/24/02)

a book to keep and share for generations to come.......a treasure...!!!
Leslie (04/19/02)

As a filipino american, this novel brought great insight to the struggles faced by my greatgrandparents. This is a novel I will treasure and share with as many people as I know!
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