How I stumbled upon Ilustrado: A Novel by Miguel Syjuco

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.

Subconscious colonial mentality?

Alex‘s reply to one of my post inspired me to reflect about the volume of Philippine Literature I have read. Because of that , I decided to make it as a blog post. And this is her comment:

Subconscious colonial mentality?

To give a brief background, my previous post (a grabbed post actually) is about the top ten list of Pinoy Literature recommended in a Yahoo! article. I commented about the article about myself being guilty of not being able to support our own literature here in the country. And now going back to the topic of this post, is my preference for foreign literature a subconscious colonial mentality?

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Pinoy Literature Top Ten List

I stumbled upon an article in Yahoo! Phillippines about Pinoy Literature Top Ten List.  As stated in the article, I agree that libraries and bookstores here in the country are dominated by foreign bestsellers. They overshadow the books under the “Philippine publications”, which are underrated because of lack audience from the mass. In fact, some writers are considered as world class like F. Sionil José and Nick Joaquin, who are both National Artists.

But I think I’m guilty of not being able to support our own literature. I haven’t brought a single book authored by Filipino writers (except books required by the school curriculum such Noli Me Tangere and El filibusterismo written by Jose Rizal). Though I have my own list of books to buy or read under the Filipiniana section such as The Best of This is a Crazy Planets by Lourd De Veyra and the books written by Bob Ong.

And now, here are the Top 10 List of Pinoy (informal term for Filipino) Literature recommended by Gel G. Galang of featuring Palanca Awards Winners and National Artists:

1. GAGAMBA by F. Sionil Jose

2. THE TWISTED SERIES by Jessica Zafra

3. ILUSTRADO by Miguel Syjuco

4. MY SAD REPUBLIC by Eric Gamalinda

5. SOLEDAD’S SISTER by Butch Dalisay

6. MONDOMANILA by Norman Wilwayco

7. IN THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS by Michelle Cruz Skinner

8. NEWS OF THE SHAMAN by Karl de Mesa

9. THE SKY OVER DIMAS by Vince Groyon


P.S.: Sorry if I added too many links in this post. XD