WHAT remains when there is nothing left to do? Nothing and everything, Luis Katigbak asserts in his collection of nonfiction pieces titled, The King of Nothing to Do (Milflores Publishing Inc., 2006).

In his compilation of essays which he had written for various publications like LegManila, MEGA, and Manila Bulletin, the Palanca and Philippines Graphic Awards winner presents “a pleasant conversation about writing, music, films, and pop culture.” The essays discuss more than just the ways that people entertain themselves, as they also tackle the underlying culture within the different methods of escapism that people incorporate into their lives.

His first essay, “Another One Rides the Bus,” reveals how Filipinos have gotten used to crimes in the city.

Katigbak narrates his experience involving a violent, knife-carrying bus driver who assaults a rival driver, with the passengers watching passively as the aggressive driver smashes the other bus’ rear-view mirror.

“It had never even occurred to me to report it,” Katigbak writes. “I realized I had taken it as a normal everyday occurrence.”

“A Brief History of Slime” tells of the dark side of dormitory living as Katigbak discloses the bad cleaning habits of his college friends and the consequences of their neglect, which include a layer of “sickly green scum” covering their unwashed dishes and a patina of fructified vomit taking over the bathroom.

Katigbak also shows how hobbies like reading and writing can be ways for strangers to cease being strangers since having fervor for the same things can link people together. Then he tells of an experience with a woman in a bookstore who shared his taste for books.

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“It was undeniably pleasant, in a manner that only conversations with complete strangers, about shared passions, can be,” Katigbak writes in his essay “Essential Distractions: On Writing, Death Threats, and Talking to Strangers.”

What gives The King of Nothing to Do its strength is the way that Katigbak turns his focus on tackling issues of midlife crisis and the yearning for death. In “Hanging by a Thread,” he contemplates how man keeps on holding onto life because of the connections he has made during his life on earth.

“But we remain suspended above this abyss because we are attached to threads–cherished beliefs, financial security, close friends, loved ones,” he writes.

But he also shows his optimism in “What to Do When Saturn Returns” by saying: “The prospect of oblivion is not as attractive as the hope that you might actually be able to end up doing what it is you’re meant to be doing.”

Reading each essay is an exciting experience for the reader because besides Katigbak’s humorous approach to his subjects, there is also an infusion of metaphors and concrete symbolisms that are easily relatable.

In “The King of Nothing to Do,” he likens his perpetually lost friend, who has yet to discover his calling in life, to a disconnected telephone wire. Each piece is also accompanied by a caricature of Katigbak portraying everyday life in the city.

However, Katigbak’s self-deprecating humor can sometimes be overbearing. Most of his essays about writing keep on reiterating how being a freelance writer is the same as having no career. This view of equating “non-contractual writing” to being a bum can discourage aspiring writers to pursue the same path.

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But what redeems The King of Nothing to Do is the way it idealizes contemplation. Since idle moments are the perfect opportunities to think about and re-evaluate one’s life, Katigbak ultimately proves that “having nothing to do” can also be a good thing.

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