Nice job of research on The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata


This article researches facts in history related to details in the novel The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata. While not ingenious, it is earnest, and I enjoyed looking at how the researcher figured some of the novel’s puzzle out. There are so many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in this layered novel that it is satisfying when a person at least figures out even one corner of the complex piece. Good job,! (It is hard, I guess, as the writer, not to point out where some spots are missing and how to find them; but I will refrain and maybe in a hundred years others might figure it out, who knows; the novel, if figured out completely, is meant to shed light on multiple resonances among and between history, reading, language and art with the revolutionary period of the Philippines as the emblem of that fascinating intersection, between history, reading, language and art, by which, I think, we experience our humanity.)

An interesting recognition here by the researcher, the last sentence of which is important—a lot more can be said about the metafiction the novel involves, but it is a good start, and smart: “In the novel, glimpses of this historical phenomenon are seen from the point of view of Raymundo Mata who has always been known as a blind man. The first part tells how he learns the alphabet, spends time at the Binakayan stream with his playmates (including Emilio Aguinaldo), begins his formal education, and develops a passion for reading. His childhood coincides with the onset of the revolution, as seen in his entry about the Terror of Cavite which serves as a backdrop for events in his youth. The revolutionary setting is further hinted at by Mata’s inclusion in the manuscript of a short story written before he and Aguinaldo become members of the Katipunan. This part of the novel highlights its metafictive element, being a fiction (the short story) within a fiction (Mata’s journals) within a fiction (the novel) and nonfiction (the execution of Bonifacio) within a fiction (the short story) within a fiction (Mata’s journals) within a fiction (the novel).”

The chief with Company C

The chief with Company C

Valeriano Abanador, hero of Balangiga, in August 1901 with American soldiers of Company C. In September he masterminded the plan to kill them.

Bibliolepsy review, Philippine Inquirer, a while ago

“A love story–of sorts”:
Book review of Gina Apostol’s (AB’84) Bibliolepsy by Luis Joaquin M. Katigbak

Bibliolepsy by Gina Apostol is not a book for everyone. Readers who seek the familiar arc of a story, that breathless rise to a climax and subsequent slide to a resolution, will be disappointed. The flow of this story is not linear and easy to follow–it skips, repeats, digresses. The main character’s motivations are not always clear and comprehensible even to herself.

What Bibliolepsy is, is a book for those who can be swept away by the graceful and meaningful turn of a phrase, those who love a smart joke and who won’t mind, once in a while, putting the book down for a bit–to muse on some cryptic phrase, perhaps, or to mull over two characters’ opposing viewpoints.

This is the story of Primi Peregrino–born to an animator and an amateur taxidermist, orphaned at the age of 8 and who, as a young woman, occupies her days reading and seeking out and having sex with writers. “Like any citizen in a passionate country, I keep looking for some chimera; in my case, that fabulous monster of incongruous parts–text and body, manual and man.” Part One relates her childhood in Tacloban. Part Two is about her young adulthood in Metro Manila, in the mid-80s.

Part One is an unequivocal pleasure to read; the episodes are funny or fascinating, often both, and Primi’s parents, Prospero and Prima, are wonderful characters–loving but not cloying, unusual and yet utterly convincing. Just as interesting is Primi’s sister Anna, who goes on a hunger strike to protest their Abuelita’s tyranny, and almost dies as a result. It is in this first part that the seeds of Primi’s bibliolepsy–an excessive love of words and books, “the endless logo-itch”–are planted. It is also in this first part where we as readers are stunned by Apostol’s way with words, by her power to describe scenes and people and sensations, often with a rare and twisted wit: “Atorni Sugba, as he was called, has a lean, scholarly face that came from his having had to take the Bar four times. ” Or, regard “30-year-old Joaquin, who had such an unerringly awful sense of fashion I think it was his way of elevating himself to myth.”

But there is something else that Bibliolepsy achieves in this first part, seeming effortlessly. Despite the main character’s “misplaced aptitude for a foreign language”, these passages have a soul that is essentially Filipino, which is rarer in our literature than it should be. Glimpses of history and landscape meld naturally into the narrative, and we are charmed by their accuracy and vividness. The details are just right–Apostol does not come off as trying too hard, as striving for authenticity.

It is when Primi moves to the city and enters college that the book becomes, for lack of a better word, more difficult. Even the writing in the second part becomes more florid, more alliterative, almost as if Apostol believes–as Primi at one point wants to–in some deeper meaning inherent in the alphabetical ordering of word. (One wonders; is it an affectation of the writer, or the narrator? Whose tricks are whose?) Paradoxically, it is when Primi discovers her goal in life that the story starts to meander: “I was 18 and I felt my life was coming together, gathering into some purpose: I knew what I wanted.”

What Primi wants is to seek out men who are writers, or in some way connected to the act of writing, and to make them her lovers. It begins with an unplanned encounter with her poet brother-in-law. She then proceeds to seduce a typewriter repairman and afterward a writer she meets at her first poetry reading. As we follow her from man to man, poet to fictionist to politician, we are treated to a scathing overview of the local literary scene, with its pedantry and pettiness, its small satisfactions. Primi’s account of her dalliances ends with an appointment of sorts with history: the Edsa Revolution of 1986. But it is an appointment that she, in the strictest sense, fails to keep, occupied as she is with her latest chimera-component, the “intolerably beautiful” motorcycle-riding boy named Fernando, who borrows a book from the British Council at the height of the country’s upheavals because, well, it was open.

“I speak–writing mainly on the impulse of love,” Primi the narrator informs us. But Bibliolepsy, despite all the couplings and uncouplings, is not a love story, or at least not a typical love story involving a man and a woman. It is, as the title implies, about an obsessive, overpowering love of books that is both pathetic and awe-inspiring. For those of us who have gotten down on our hands and knees to thoroughly search bargain book bins–from the clean and well-lit to the downright grimy, from Morato to Recto–we will find our fervor echoed in the character of pale bibiloleptic Primi, and find Bibliolepsy a dizzingly eloquent, slightly disturbing, but ultimately strangely comforting read.

Reprinted from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 09/30/02


The Jam’s Going Underground. “The public gets what the public wants”

The Jam’s Going Underground. The public gets what the public wants, but I don’t care what society thinks. Going underground… alternate anecdote for largehearted boy Gun Dealers Daughter

I’d choose it for my playlist, on largeheartedboy (see post below), if I had not been in such a rush to write the piece (because I was packing). Great stuff for Gun Dealer’s Daughter playlist, if only I had remembered. The incident linked to The Jam would be when I was out of school and had no work, no apartment and was looking for a job, and a friend from the movement said, we have an apartment, we have room, stay with us for a while, and I did. It was a nice, lovely place in Quezon City, close to Diliman. Very burgis, no rats, haha, I would never have been able to afford it, and no one ever asked me for rent; I just helped with the chores, helping out with another housemate, who it turns out was pregnant. Another of my Kalayaan (freshman dorm) friends. I think we were 20 or 21 at the time. Anyway, turns out, her lover was underground, and he’d come up from the hills to visit her every so often. I’d just stay away and go out to parties when he was around, to give them privacy—I’d go dancing to The Jam or similar ilk. I told this story recently to my friends from those days and they said, OMG, Gina, I can’t believe you were living in Blabla’s safe house! I said, no I wasn’t. Yes, you were, you were living in a UG safe house. Oh my god. I realized more than 2 decades after, I was living in a goddamned UG safe house, and I had no clue. No wonder they never asked for rent. So that’s my playlist anecdote—there I was, dancing to The Jam while the guy who had actually gone underground got it on above ground. Yeah. “Going underground! But I don’t care what society thinks, going underground!” Oh, the 80s. I’m so ignorant.

Read Largeheartedboy, a great music website. My playlist for Gun Dealers’ Daughter below. I’d include The Jam’s Going Underground, if I could.

Read Largeheartedboy, a great music website. My playlist for Gun Dealers’ Daughter below. I’d include The Jam’s Going Underground, if I could.