Saturday, January 25, 2014

The three best books on the Philippines

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on the Philippines. One title on the list:
Dusk by F Sionil José

Dusk is the first novel in José's acclaimed Rosales Saga, five books that follow the fortunes of one family through 100 years of Philippine history.

The story begins during the last days of Spanish rule and ends with the entry of America as the new colonial master. It recounts the lives and hardships of the Samsons as Spanish rough justice drives them off their land and forces them to flee their village.

On their long and arduous journey to find new land to farm, the extended family are harried by other ethnic groups, bandits and the colonial Guardia Civil. They finally settle in what becomes Rosales.

The main character, Eustaquio (Istak) Samson, although a farmer's son, is taken under the wing of a liberal Spanish priest for a time and learns Spanish and Latin. Eventually, his educated status obliges him to play a role in the struggle for independence, transforming him from poor farmer and would-be seminarian into rebel fighter.

José's engaging and sympathetic storytelling puts the reader right alongside the protagonists as they struggle for a better life. The novel vividly captures the oppression and smouldering discontent of Filipinos under colonial rule, showing how the unifying struggle against imperialism forges Philippine identity.

José is one of the most widely read Filipino authors. The Rosales novels, set in his home town, are bestsellers in the Philippines.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue