Books books books, bubba of books books books….
So I just finished reading Mass, a novel by F. Sionil Jose, a Filipino author. It’s about a youth, Pepe, from a poor village who moves to Manila and is involved in student movements during the Marcos regime. It’s the fifth book in his series about the people from the village told during different time periods. I found it really easy to get into without having read the preceding four books, although I’m definitely going to read them now, which means that you too should go read it. I'll wait here.
At any rate, I won’t try to summarize the book (I only finished it today, it needs to percolate), but I wanted to share this quote, if only because it’s such a strong view. Pepe is describing a slum in Manila where he lives:
“The Barrio was not easy to know – this is what all those researchers and scholars believed; they came with their tired questions, their long-winded interviews. I soon realized we were overstudied, with all that fancy data stored in libraries and in computers. Still, nothing changed.
They came, those do-gooder sociologists, those slumming foreigners maybe because they wanted their troubled consciences salved a bit, maybe because by “studying” us, they would be able to unlock the gates of our hell and welcome us to their paradise.
But they never reached the pith, the core, the heart – it is beyond their perception because they don’t live here, because they are not poor and there is always a way out for them. Look at this artist, Malang, how prettily, how daintily he pictures our homes. If only he had lived here, even just for a week – I wonder how all his pictures would turn out!
All that they will know will be gathered, concluded from comfortable positions which they would not lose no matter how sincere or close they will be to us. Not us – we could not say the many things that strained to be said, what were coiled and seething within.”