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Tuesday, August 3, 2010


by Miguel Syjuco, 2010, 304p, rating=4

Talk about art reflecting life!  The fictional character is named after himself (author)... exactly Miguel Syjuco.  An outlandish concept to me and part of the genius this book offers ... the confusion is a foreshadow of telling you to prepare yourself for a brain workout!  Yes, this book is definitely a find that challenges the brain (see my blog title description).  Pull out your dictionary because Mr. Syjuco, both the author and character (haha), throws out many fancy words.  After all, he has to prove that he is among the elites educated abroad like those back in the 1800s that returned to the Philippines to aid in the revolution that ousted Spanish control.  Hence, through the title Ilustrado, defined in the book as enlightened ... the literati ...the educated class... calls out to the 21st century expatriates and wonders if they will return back home to aid their vulnerable native country now!  Thus, this book explores the satire chaos of the Philippine politics.  A biting look into its governance, migration, work, sex, poverty, and so on.  I must warn you that it is full of such Filipino nuances that much might go over your head ... it did for me and I'm a Filipino!  Granted I've lead an ignorant life of what's it is really like back in the Philippines now.  Funny, am I then one of those expatriates and so I should do something for my native country?  Crap!!  --Anyway, congratulations to Mr. Syjuco, the author, for winning The Man Asian Literary Prize.  A prideful boast on my part ... yeay, Filipinos can write!

Book's synopsis:
"It begins with a body.  On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River --taken from the world is the controversial lion of Philippine literature.  Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families.  Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate.  To understand the death, Miguel scours his teacher's life, piecing together Salvador's story through his poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs.  The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves.  Finally, we are surprised to learn that this story belongs to young Miguel as much as to his lost mentor, and we are treated to an unhindered view of a society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress."


  1. hi jinky,
    Bought a copy of this book out of curiosity, but it's somewhere inside my closet collecting dust because I still have a whole pile of books to read. I'll make sure to bump up the priority. Thanks for this :)
    - jinky

  2. Jinky, great review. I like the humor you inject, it always makes me laugh. I really liked the smart confusion of this book.


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