For the past few weeks, I’ve been raving about Miguel Syjuco’s “Ilustrado” to anyone who will listen! Hahaha, I’ve even managed to convince a bunch of people to go out and get copies (Dianne and Mike and Mike’s uncle, haha —  I hope you like it as much I did!) because I couldn’t contain my excitement about it. Here’s my full length review (originally published in Manila Bulletin), and I hope it makes more people want to read it!

“When the author’s life of literature and exile reached its unscheduled terminus that anonymous February morning, he was close to completing the controversial book we’d all been waiting for.”

Thus begins Miguel Syjuco’s “Ilustrado,” winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Award and the Palanca Award, recently launched in the Philippine edition by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (International release is due this week — I think I’ll get myself a trade paperback of the international edition). I was waiting to board a plane to Davao, and I relished the ominous beginning as I settled down at the airport lounge for the first few chapters of this highly anticipated read.

Filipino writer-in-exile Crispin Salvador’s corpse is found floating in the Hudson River, and his student, Miguel Syjuco (yes, the same name as the author), wants answers.  Miguel sets out to piece together Salvador’s life with fragments of his mentor’s body of work, personal history, interviews with friends and relatives, and other sources, telling his own life story along the way.

“Ilustrado” is not your typical Filipino novel, eschewing carabaos in the fields and sunlight the color of mangoes in favor of epistolary-style metafiction that uncannily mirrors Philippine culture, history and politics.

Continue reading “Ilustrado”

Miguel Syjuco launches ‘Ilustrado’

I spent most of last week in Davao City, toting along my review copy of Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado, winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Palanca Award. It’s a metafictional novel that pieces together the life of Filipino writer-in-exile Crispin Salvador as his student, Miguel weaves together fragments of Salvador’s body of work, personal interviews, blog entries, newspaper clippings, and many other sources as he investigates his teacher’s mysterious death.

I spent most of my spare time engrossed in the novel — at the airport, on flights, and before hitting the sack at the hotel room  —  and I was looking forward to coming back to Manila to attend the press conference and launch at National Book Store.

The review will have to wait; I just finished the novel and I’m reviewing it for Manila Bulletin, so here’s a recap of the launch, the first release of Ilustrado anywhere in the world!

Continue reading “Miguel Syjuco launches ‘Ilustrado’”

The Magic of Maps

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining a media tour at the exhibit “Pen, Paper and Bookmaking: The Life of Carlos Quirino” at the Yuchengco Museum.

Carlos Quirino, National Artist for Historical Literature, is a writer, scholar, sportsman, and bibliophile who made invaluable contributions to the study of Philippine history.

2010 marks Quirino’s birth centennial, and in celebration of this auspicious event, three erstwhile out of print Carlos Quirino books are lined up for release by the Vibal Foundation: Philippine Cartography, Old Manila, and Filipinos at War.

First out is the third edition  Philippine Cartography, a landmark history of Philippine maps and their cartographers, considered as Quirino’s magnum opus. First published in 1959, the book traces the evolution of the Philippine map, from a speck in the Pacific Ocean to its current iconography.

Continue reading “The Magic of Maps”

Very Short Stories for Harried Readers

I must admit that I’m not a big fan of short story anthologies. When reading fiction, I like full-length novels I can really sink my teeth into, because I like the reprieve they provide from the real world.

Sometimes, though, practicality does get in the way. When you don’t have the luxury of time (which is generally how I’ve been ever since 2010 kicked off), it’s difficult to squeeze some reading in. For me, the general problem is that when I start reading I can’t stop, and I end up putting off the work I was supposed to be doing, or worse — forgoing precious sleep. Hence I’m reading thinner books and more anthologies this year.

Continue reading “Very Short Stories for Harried Readers”