Last Monday, I went to the Filipiniana section of the Library to search for some books by Lualhati Bautista. I’m just taking a break from a dreadful reading of The Hobbit, which seems to take me a month to finish, by picking up books with less pages. In the first shelf, I saw books written by Bob Ong and Ricky Lee. While scanning, a friend approached me and imitated what I was doing. “I’m not into reading books”, my friend said in Tagalog, comparing our reading habits. Trying to convince him into the habit of reading by persuading him to read at least a thin book, I handed him the first book written by Bob Ong. I said to him that it would not take him too much time in finishing reading the whole of it. The trick seemed to work. But he immediately proceeded to the last portion of the book maybe to see on what fashion will the book will end. He laughed out loud from what he had read from a not-so-typical scenario in that public classroom setting. In case you don’t know, that scene depicts a student with a dilemma of discoloring his khaki shorts while people in the classroom learned about it because of the odor coming from it.
While we are standing there between the bookshelves, I noticed a new book inserted between non-fiction books. I recognized that it’s the one I saw in a bookstore while I roam around the airport. The book design seems to capture me just as I have habitually judged a lot of books by just looking at their cover. So, I grasped the novel written by Miguel Syjuco with the title Illustrado. Though I located it in the Filipiniana section, it seems that it has a foreign feel by just looking at its cover. I’ve finished reading it in two days even by just sitting during breaks.
The novel is about a death of a Columbia University professor named Crispin Salvador. His corpse was found floating in the Hudson river. His acolyte and only remaining friend, Miguel, tries to investigate about his sudden death. Miguel intends to write a biography about Salvador, who mysteriously died after accepting a literary award. On Salvador’s acceptance speech, he was loudly booed by the audience while proclaiming to release his new book, “The Bridges Ablaze”. By the way, Ilustrado won awards even before it was published. It won the Grand Prize for the Novel in English at the 2008 Palanca Awards and the Man Asian Literary Prize in the same year.
I honestly cannot just put the book down even though I need to attend classes. It’s so good that I plan to reread it next time. A book review will follow about it next time.