A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet US-based Filipino author Gina Apostol, whose work I first encountered in the anthology “Manila Noir,” so I quickly agreed to interview her when I received the invitation some months back.
I read her two books, “The Gun Dealers’ Daughter” and “The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata,” which proved to be quite an interesting experience. I enjoy non-linear narratives (because they mess with your mind, haha constantly make you think), and while these were not easy reads (the vocabulary is intimidating!), these two books showcase some darn fine storytelling, not to mention a historiographic wonderland for both postcolonials and postmodernists.
I read “The Gun Dealers’ Daughter” first and was surprised to find it was a coming of age novel. Soledad “Sol” Soliman is a young woman trying to come to terms with a traumatic past, struggling to emerge from her dreamy haze to piece together her memories and discover what her psyche is blocking out. And while there are entirely too many novels set in Martial Law Philippines, I enjoyed the deeply personal way the novel tackles this period in history, making it Sol’s own story and telling it in a different way.
“The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata” is a metafictional delight set in my favorite period of Philippine history, the Philippine Revolution. Raymundo Mata is a fictionalized historical character, whose journals are being translated and annotated by scholars. As Raymundo tells his story, another story is being told in the footnotes, as the translator Mimi C. Magsalin and two rival scholars Diwata Drake and Estrella Espejo begin to create meaning out of the text (and then some!). I loved the way Raymundo Mata was neatly slotted into history (as a childhood friend of Aguinaldo and a patient of Rizal), but I enjoyed the comedy happening in the footnotes even more: the petty catfight brewing between Diwata and Estrella, and the ongoing commentary on the text, reflecting the way history is never fully objective. As they get deeper into the text, more questions arise, leaving the reader to form their own opinions on this historical mystery.