The Filipino Novel Comes of Age

A peculiar thing has happened to my reading habits which I have only realized recently. Having grown up as a reader who shifted from Nancy Drew mysteries in her elementary years to the meatier (and longer) Stephen King horrors in high school, I have never been a stranger to the novel form. It is, by far, the easiest way to get lost in a different world, with nothing required for travel expenses except time and imagination. Having been part of a readers club, I have encountered other people who expressed a great love for long, engaging narratives as well. However, there has been a glaring lack in this aspect of my formative years–an exposure to Filipino novels.

Ask a Pinoy on the street about a Filipino novel he has read and the most frequent answer would be Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, a product of the educational system that declares them required reading for every high schooler in the country. If you are lucky, you will hear a few other titles such as Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ‘70 and Amado Hernandez’s Mga Ibong Mandaragit, which has gained light fame (or is it infamy?) recently due a recent online discussion about the Philippine canon. But the titles that have emerged from Filipino writers through the years aren’t reaching the consciousness of the lay man.

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