”The identity of a Filipino today is of a person asking what is his identity.” - Nick Joaquin
When I bought this book a couple of months ago, I immediately skimmed the first two pages. I did think that this was a book about a female character with anatomical deformity and the book was about what caused the deformity and what should be done to correct it. I thought that this book would make me endlessly laugh.
Having formed that ridiculous image in my mind, I set this book aside. There were and there still are so many books by foreign authors that beckon on me. Also, just like most Filipinos, I always thought that foreign books were far better than local ones even those by our local literary greats.
On many counts, I was awfully wrong. First, this novel has nothing to do with the study of medicine, anthropology or anatomy. It is a novel that every Filipino should be proud of. It is a novel written by a Filipino about Filipinos and for the Filipinos. However, it does not preach. It does not self-deprecate. It does not promote self-interest nor does it encourage us Filipinos to hate ourselves and wish that we were of different nationalities. This novel is part of who we are as it shows a pivotal part in our nation’s history and how our race was formed or came into being by getting sustenance from two colonizers, akin to two navels: those of Mother Spain’s and Mother USA’s. The two countries that greatly influenced our nation’s psyche and will forever be part of who we are as an Asian race.
But I was right too. It made me endless laugh. But not for the thought of a person having two navels. I laughed endlessly albeit silently as I grieved about having to realize how much I’ve been missing while I prioritize foreign authors in my book choices. I also shamelessly laughed realizing how distorted asking myself who we are as a raceour culture is and we just couldn’t do anything about it.
Nicomedes “Onching”, today just “Nick” Joaquin (1917-2004) was...
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