Viajero (A Filipino Novel)

Viajero (A Filipino Novel)

by F. Sionil José

Viajero is a novel of history of the Philippine Islands and their people long before the Spaniards came.

It is also the story of the Filipino diaspora as seen by an orphan who is brought by an American captain to the United States in 1945.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 4.09
  • Pages: 313
  • Publish Date: 1998 by Solidaridad Publishing House
  • Isbn10: 9718845046
  • Isbn13: 9789718845042

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I give it 3 stars, only because the story is so sincere about cultural perceptions and the actual experience of being a Filipino viajero (Spanish for traveler) that I felt ill at ease while reading it. Having studied history in university myself and exposed to the workings of academia, I could immediately identify with the main protagonists worldview and the way he interacted with the other characters in the novel. I could also relate with the constant, chameleonic cultural shape-shifting that the protagonist goes through having been adopted in one culture, being physically his 'native' self and identifying himself as a cosmopolitan individual. The main protagonist, the orphan Salvador de la Raza (literally, saviour of the race"), embodies the Filipino 'soul' through the nature of his interactions with foreign characters while he travels in search for his place in the world.

Ninoy had pointed out how -- you are a teacher.

An orphan who was traveling in an unknown path.

Viajero gave me an opportunity to wander the history of the Philippines through the man named Salvador dela Raza and made me realize that what grade school and high school textbooks were just an impression and the contents arent just what they are. Some things written in the foreword gave me some hints of what is going to happen next like Badong/Buddy went to the Philippines, lived like an NPA and died eventually. Despite of what the foreword gave to me, I loved how the author put the prose of our Gat Jose Rizal in the beginning and end of the book. It gave me an impression that before he wrote the book, it is like Rizal reminded him first to remember the love for his country and what our motherland inherited to him must be shown in the book. The chapters written in italics that gave a story telling of the pre-colonial period of the Philippines were I can say are the best parts. As James ad Buddy talking about past and how is it associated with ones identity, it became clear after reading the italicized passages and its content, the pictures of pre-colonial period as what Ive seen in Ayala Museum and the struggle of the Filipinos against the invaders recalling Magellan-Lapu-Lapu fight in Mactan but it looked like the same thing when the narrator of these chapters had the same experience as what Badong had. The way the book describing the beautiful culture of Japan and the busy streets of the old Manila fascinated me to love the places more. The author never compared this two in the book that gave me a good impression, that both are beautiful on their own. As he described his interaction with Filipinos around his place made me think that hes finally home unlike in San Francisco that he was like a lost child living with strangers but treated him as a family member for so many years. I pictured the old Badong as Kidlat Tahimik from Baguio who described the beauty of Filipino culture that for him is genius. I had only one part that I really disliked and so many chapters that gave me good points those made me rereading this book again soon and share this online.

The search for self culminating in returning to one's roots, or at least examining the cyclical nature of life and history, "Viajero" is a must-read for a student of Filipino history, at home or abroad, and doubly so for the first-world children of immigrantsor immigrants themselveswondering what it is to be a Filipino.

I am giving this book a 4.5 I like the poem in the beginning by Jose Rizal and translated by Nick Joaquin of a man who is permanently a wanderer who others may envy b/c he has experience that they have not experienced themselves but b/c of the lack of a home base feels empty and unrooted inside. Viajero is about the Filipino diaspora as told through the life of Raza. In America, he had three influential women in his life Serena his girlfriend, Jessie a his adopted sister who was 15 yrs younger and Roxanne, adopted mother. Like so many educated black people in the early 20th century, Jim preferred Europe to the US b/c they were treated with respect and seen as equals. Jim dated Black, Hispanic, and White women now he was involved with a Chinese named Serena. Later, Serena and Salvador made a pilgrimage to Chicago and learned just how much the Chinese traders influenced and were influenced by ancient Filipinos. Salvador has the disease of many ethnic-Americans who do not know where they came from and thus look for and want to know their family history and history as a people. Although they both considered themselves Americans, Serena was bound to Chinese tradition and had to marry an uncle who was his father's 3rd cousin. One day, Buddy found a Filipino old man who reminded him of Apo Tale. Buddy described love not only looking out for your well-being but also the well-being of your beloved. Buddy planned to study the effects of colonialism in the Philippines, Mexico, and later Indonesia. Sarkistano told Buddy to know Rizal as his 1st step to know the Filipino. Buddy thought that the search for the Filipino's history was really about finding the self. Before he left Spain, Feliza teased him in Cordoba and told Buddy that he would be searching forever b/c only people can give meaning to the past while life is meant to be lived in the present while looking towards the future. He decided that he went to Europe in order to experience life in this way he was like his sister, Jessie since they are financially independent they have nothing to live for. Spains lasting legacy was its authoritarian impulse and Buddy realized that American subjugation of Blacks were similar to Spanish subjugation of Filipino's in either case with the complicity of the ruling elite as well as th subjugated people. Like early American colonies, the Filipinos search for reproachment with their colonizers before seeking independence through revolution. Buddy related to Pilar's being a dilettante in experiencing life walled off from the actual dangers of poverty in favor of empathizing with the trials of his fellow Filipino. Buddy imagines Pilar's opposition with the religious institutions b/c it is them who rule and use their power to have sexual relations on the natives all the while they are selling the virtues of morality to others. Buddy decided to look over Old Tele's papers of his trials and tribulations as the 1st wave of Filipino immigrants. He says that his experiences taught him the value of work, savings, and education unlike the Filipino's @ home who just want to spend the money of their ancestors labors in the US. B/c of his fellowship, Buddy took Jessie to Japan where she seemed to be in a better mood with the change of scenery. Meanwhile, Buddy decided to live in a home of a former Geisha to experience what it is like to live in "real" Japan. Buddy laments Filipino's lack of social cohesion unlike other Asians which had strong cultural identity. In Japan, he proceeded to look @ the life of General Ricarte who was a veteran of the Filipino-American war and refused to swear allegiance to the Americans but instead chose to go into exile in Japan. Looking into the eyes of defeat, Ricarte asks himself whether he was correct in defying America even after the reports were in that Americans helped the Philippines progress. When Buddy left for the US because Jessie tried to commit suicide, Emiko cried b/c she was losing her first lover. Buddy realized that the problem with the Philippines is a structural problem in which the oligarchy elite keeps peoples natural talents from flourishing so they get stuck in either dead end jobs but the more fortunate ones among them go abroad like the US where sky is the limit. Buddy's imagining what Vladimir's life is like as a hesitant expat. Like other sexually trafficked people, Filipinas were recruited by a company promising them jobs abroad for money that they paid them then when there isn't they turn to prostitution as a way to survive in a foreign country. For Vladimir, Filipinos run away from a country who denies them honor to live. Unlike Filipino workers in the Philippines who can only think about their survival, Vladimir can at least give back to his parents and plan for his future with Anita. He asked why Filipino skilled laborer has to go abroad in order to find work instead of building the Philippines b/c of the lack of opportunity available to them by the oligarchy.

In 1980, Sionil José received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.