Not gonna lie – as I was reading the first few pages of this book I thought it wasn’t my cup of tea. Now I’m glad I finished reading the entire thing even if it took some 3 weeks to do so.
I found out about Insurrecto when Pat put it in her wishlist in our company exchange gift. I saw it in the bookstores, too, and got too intrigued when I read the blurb because of how Gina Apostol described the country – Duterte’s Philippines. Some few weeks and a right timing with the right person later, I got my own copy of the book, thanks to Sugar and our never-dying friendship.
I could’ve gotten really drunk, had I taken a shot of alcohol everytime the words Ali Mall were mentioned in the early chapters of the book. The story was a bit confusing at first, because in my mind I could see vintage-y things from the 1970s and everything else associated with that decade, including the things my parents told me about President Marcos and martial law. One scene even forced me to recall blurred memories of when my mom would buy me shoes, and it always left me me in wonder where the shoeboxes came from, as they slid down from I didn’t know where. And for the love of God, I can no longer remember when was the last time I saw Underwood and Underwood. Yet, Magsalin talks about iPad and the internet, so I suspect she was held back in time and not being able to move forward because of what happened to her mother and her husband? The book is no doubt rich in imagery, and at one point, I was reminded by those images I mostly saw in Bob Ong books.
Fiction books can be a good alternative source to finding the truth, and Insurrecto just proved that. I tried Googling the Balangiga Massacre, and most results referred to it as the slaughter of 48 American soldiers. To be fair, the articles didn’t forget to mention that the people of Balangiga were corrupted and abused by these soldiers, that they were forced into labor and as a result, they revolted and fought for what’s originally theirs along with what’s due to them. Of course, American soldiers had to retaliate, leaving more casualties and damages to the Balangiga townspeople. And after this, they took the church bells of Balangiga as “trophies of war”, which practically means they stole it (and a little more than a century later they acted like it’s our debt of gratitude that they’re giving the church bells back to us). I think it’s far more correct to describe the Balangiga Massacre as the slaughter of the Balangiga people who were oppressed and tried to retaliate – something like that.
I remember when I was working as a customer care specialist for an American company, one of my customers accused me of being ungrateful when I refused to provide her credits for valid charges.
“In history, we Americans freed you from the Spanish forces,” she said. “The Philippines would be nothing if not because of our soldiers.”
I remember I could only take a deep breath, and made sure she hears it on the other line. She didn’t exactly insult me personally, nor she cursed or said bad words enough to call it profane so I didn’t have a valid excuse to end the call unceremoniously . So I just had to proceed, and told her it didn’t matter – the internet usages in her phone were valid and she had to pay for it. But of course, at the back of my head, I’d very much like to tell her that no, your account of history was wrong. Spain sold the Philippines to the Americans for 20 million dollars. Your people lied to us! (No offense to the Americans who are reading this right now but I am just stating one of the few true things from my history class).
It’s sad though, to think that history could lie to us beyond belief. I was damned when I found out Aguinaldo was the man behind the murder of Bonifacio and General Luna. These things, and heaven knows what else were omitted in our history books, which maybe makes sense because, how are we going to teach children patriotism and love of country if we tell the truth that the first president of the Philippine republic orchestrated the murder of the Ama ng Katipunan?
Insurrecto is a book you wouldn’t want to pick up of you need a quickie (in reading, I mean like something you’d read for the night). It took me some huge amount of willpower to finish reading it, tbh, and it easily puts me to sleep at night. But you have to read it if you, like me, just realized that you need another resource to find out the truth about this so-called Duterte’s Philippines.