ILUSTRADO MIGUEL SYJUCO PDF

Share via Email Miguel Syjuco in Montreal. Photograph: Marcos Townsend The "Ilustrados" from whom Miguel Syjuco derives his title — the enlightened ones — were Europeanised Filipinos who came home, from onwards, to prepare for revolution. He himself writes in English and has developed as a writer at such institutions as Columbia University and the University of Adelaide. At one point Syjuco describes the white sky over Manila bay as a blank page waiting for its first mark — but anyone who reads Ilustrado is likely to feel that the skyline has been richly inscribed and illuminated.

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Share via Email Miguel Syjuco in Montreal. Photograph: Marcos Townsend The "Ilustrados" from whom Miguel Syjuco derives his title — the enlightened ones — were Europeanised Filipinos who came home, from onwards, to prepare for revolution. He himself writes in English and has developed as a writer at such institutions as Columbia University and the University of Adelaide. At one point Syjuco describes the white sky over Manila bay as a blank page waiting for its first mark — but anyone who reads Ilustrado is likely to feel that the skyline has been richly inscribed and illuminated.

The plot starts with the death by drowning in New York of a famous writer called Crispin Salvador, a gadfly in exile who can rarely resist provoking the powers that be in his home country. There is a noir tinge to this opening and a scattering of clues. Salvador leaves behind a list of names, but no trace of the manuscript The Bridges Ablaze that was supposed to establish his reputation for all time, as well as to settle any outstanding scores.

Neither of these characters comes to life. Salvador is a bizarrely prolific producer in a number of genres, from the essay, the poem and the guide book to the disco musical, and extensive extracts are included from his works. His thriller and his books for children are equally feeble, and even the historical novel The Enlightened is closer to the Cookson-axis than the Tolstoy-axis of the genre. The tone here is two-faced: half defensive, half defiant.

Living on the margins, a bygone era, loss, exile, poor-me angst, postcolonial identity theft. Tagalog words intermittently scattered around for local colour, exotically italicised. Run-on sentences and facsimiles of magical realism, hiding behind the disclaimer that we Pinoys were doing it years before the South Americans Intermittently he treats "Miguel Syjuco" parodistically, having him try to share his pornography habit with girlfriend Madison out of a commitment to honesty the two of them are ex-drug addicts turned vegans.

In the mix somewhere is the fact that his parents were tragically killed when he was a child, but these elements, pseudo-autobiography, broad comedy and standard genre-movie motivation might Salvador by any chance represent the lost father to "Miguel"?

The noir conventions soon run out of steam in the Philippines. Not all of the jokes are particularly funny, and most of them would work just as well told with Welsh or Irish stereotypes. Salvador and "Miguel" are similar in many respects. Both have daughters with whom they have no contact, and both had privileged upbringings — their exile has little in common with that state as it is experienced by hundreds and thousands of their fellow-countrymen, as a hard fact of economic life.

But the two writers also share a conviction that creating a national literature is a civic duty. The book displays in a kaleidoscope a culture that has already been through the mincer called history any number of times. There can be low jokes self-pleasuring described as "talking to Palmela Handerson" and sharp turns of phrase someone feels like "a spoon sparking in a microwave" but when a woman enters the club where the DJ is sampling electro classics, "Miguel" is reminded of one of the nymphs in a pre-Raphaelite painting giving Hylas the eye: "I swear, Waterhouse must have secretly loved a Filipina mestiza.

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