I for Ilustrado

“One thing you’ll learn when you get older is that when you hate someone so much, a part of you wants desperately to forgive them. But you can’t decide if it’s because you really want to, or if you just want to stop hating. I still don’t know if forgiveness is generous or selfish. Maybe both.”

~ Ilustrado

Ilustrado was my fitting companion in my recently concluded weekend of introspection.

The quote above is my favorite among the many, many lines that I’d like to share on Twitter and Fb. And yes, well, the quote that inspired me the most during the decisions I had to come up with last weekend.

The photo, albeit staged, was really taken from my 1st day of reading Ilustrado. I spent the whole afternoon by the saltwater pool, swimming in the words of Syjuco.


It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River. Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families. Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate.

The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing one hundred and fifty years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves. Exuberant and wise, wildly funny and deeply moving, Ilustrado is a daring and inventive debut novel that “begins as a murder mystery and develops into an ambitious exploration of cultural identity, ambition, and artistic purpose.” (The New Yorker).


Ilustrado is an ambitious and complex book that shares the story of 2 Filipino writers in New York and their somewhat intertwined lives. The mentor and the student. Who is to be admired? Who is to be emulated? The obvious is usually the answer. But is it always the right answer? 

It’s witty, perceptive, moving, daring and stylish. I love that Miguel Syjuco is cute.  I loved how the author effectively created layers of fiction and how effectively he placed Pinoy jokes without at all deviating from the feel of each substory.

This is the first novel written by a Filipino that I’ve ever read that has got nothing to do with schoolwork. I’ve never been a fan of Philippine Asian literature until Ilustrado.

I love you and kudos to you, Miguel Syjuco!


listening to: Ocean Colour Scheme – One for the Road

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