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, filipiniana.net! (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).”
I also refer to the use of the water cure in Note 157, Entry #15 of my novel, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, admittedly reported by the fairly nutty Estrella Espejo:
“Note 157. By the way, I’m not joking when I mention the august use of waterboarding in the G.I. jails of the Filipino-American war! In The Ordeal of Samar, written by an American journalist, Joseph L. Schott, about events in 1902, the ‘cure’ is explained with explicit candor, instructive to us all: ‘Major Glenn was highly commended by his superiors for his good work. The major was a relentless interrogator. As an aid with uncooperative officials, he used a method of duress called ‘the water cure.’ The uncooperative official was spread-eagled on his back and the end of the hose was run into his mouth. The other end of the hose was connected to a water faucet. Water was poured into the victim until he swelled up and thought his guts would burst’ [Schott 28]. The admiring Schott goes on to say: ‘American Army surgeons later testified that the water cure was not lethal in itself, although they did admit the victim might expire from heart attack or sheer fright during the procedure.’ (Estrella Espejo, ditto)”
The book The Ordeal of Samar chronicles the court-martial and subsequent acquittal of an American officer, Colonel Waller, for his role in genocide in Samar in 1901. Major Glenn, much admired by the chronicler Joseph Schott, was also court-martialed. Unlike Waller, for his use of torture Major Glenn was found guilty.
Looking ahead to a high-level meeting this spring (2012) between the U.S. and Philippine state and defense ministers, or 2+2, in the parlance of D.C., The New York Times asked me to write an op-ed piece on U.S.-Philippine relations. Having researched and thought about those relations quite a bit in two novels, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata and Gun Dealers’ Daughter, I could not figure out how to narrow the piece’s slant. I think in terms of a novel’s sprawl, not an op-ed’s cramp. The New York Times wanted eleven hundred words; Gun Dealers’ Daughter covered the same topic in seventy thousand. I settled on the “hauntology” (as critic J. Neil Garcia called it) of the U.S. military bases. Here’s the article, printed in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times, April 29, 2012.