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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco

This book is a Palanca and Man Asia Literary Prize winner. While I was impressed with the awards, I was hesitant to buy the book and read it for myself. Truth be told, I had low expectations for Filipino literature. I had somehow gotten the idea in my head that they would always be in two kinds of stories that I do not personally enjoy. They would either be written completely in deep Tagalog, which I do not particularly understand (Cebuano here, sorry!), or they would be set in a stereotypical Filipino plot with lots of melodrama and suffering.

I've passed this book by for a full year before a professor recommended the book in one class that I took recently. My professor happened to be the Director for the Philippine National Book Board. I didn't even know we had a Book Board! Anyway, my interest was piqued.

The book starts out slow and it actually took me around two months to get passed page 50. But once I got to the good stuff, I couldn't put it down. I read the book till the end in five hours straight. And the ending drove me crazy! It's was definitely unexpected. And it was genius in a sick, twisted, lets-torture-the-reader sort of way. I couldn't sleep for hours after reading the ending. It was that insane!

I definitely have to read the book again to fully understand everything. And most importantly to understand the full meaning of the ending. A absolutely and ridiculously good book. I highly recommend it.

And the best part is, I've gained a renewed respect for Filipino stories and Filipino writers. We definitely have a lot of good ones. We're just not aware that they exist. Thank you, Miguel Syjuco!