Inspired to find my writer’s voice, I am in a quest to search for a novel of a local author. But apart from honing my writing skills, I thought I should also write a review about this book. Gina Apostol’s novel Insurrecto beckoned me to pick it up. In the front cover, the woman in Baro’t Saya—a skirt and a blouse worn between 17th-18th century, gave an impression that this novel will transport us into the portal of memory and history.
Insurrecto story is about the Philippine-American war. It revisits the horrifying memory in Balangiga, Samar Philippines in 1901. Though I love history, my bookshelf can attest to that, this is one part of history that really gives a chill to my bones.
It tells a story of two women, Chiara and Magsalin, who went on a road trip in the island of Samar to collaborate in writing a film script about the massacre during the Philippine-American War.
Chiara, a spoiled brat and a film-maker herself, is the daughter of a famous film-maker, Ludo Brasi. His father is known for his film “The Unintended.” After finishing it, Ludo disappeared or died in Samar? She emailed to a translator asking for help in writing a film script about the massacre in the early 20th century.
Magsalin, to translate in Tagalog, is a translator and a mystery writer. She just came from New York on a vacation and in a hope to finish her novel. All of a sudden, she receives an email, requesting for a translator. Later on, the two women set off to this far flung island. Both whom were somehow trying to reconnect.
Then there’s private first class Edward and Gogoboy. Edward, always holding an Uzi, is the malnourished guard while Gogoboy, the diabetic, is the driver that will help them get to Samar.
Surprisingly, this novel is bold. It dares to show you sordid side of a country, a dystopia where fascism, extrajudicial execution, injustice occurs and the filth. That’s why, I am not recommending this book to young readers.
The dialogue fleshed out the character’s personality and affinity to each other. Two women traveling , plus a duo of interesting male characters, let you traverse in each plot in a playful and entertaining fashion. Also the book made me care to the characters–good thing they travelled with Edward and Gogoboy.
Also, the novel offers both sides of the war. This is an interesting take on the Philippine-American war, as it gives a deeper retrospect of the history of both countries.
In order for you to truly appreciate this book, you have to read it until the end to better understand this novel. At first you may take sides in the conflict, but soon you will realize that both Americans and Filipinos are the victims in this war—and all the wars before and after it.
In terms of the language, Gina Apostol uses florid vocabulary which let you see the characters move in the contemporary Manila, although there were some parts that I have to slow down my phase, as to have a better understanding of a scene. Nevertheless, it is a must-to-read novel for history lovers.
This book taught me to have sympathy and to look back in that dreadful part of history. We may not have the power to rectify the mistake in the past, but we definitely can learn from it. I have been entertained by this for few days, and I don’t find any reasons why you shouldn’t.