In search of the “Viper” and “Filipinas” (A Literary Analysis of F. Sionil Jose’s VIBORA! ) by Francis B. Tatel Preface “No matter how bad a book might be, something of value could be gleaned from it”. -Pliny “A book that has no value is a trash. ” Before a reader accept or reject a work of literature as a paragon of beauty, virtue and excellence, he must first measure its quality by studying and analyzing the various values it offers.
But first let us give the definition of “values of literature” in order to have a common point of reference and therefore avoid confusion and mistakes. The phrase “values of literature” refers to those qualities of poems, stories, novels, etc. that make them worthwhile to read. If we feel our time reading is well spent, we can say that a work has value for us. If reading the work was a complete waste, then we might say it has no value for us. And there is a spectrum between the two extremes.
It is very important to analyze literary pieces because it is universally known that literature attempts to promote certain ideas, values, or ideologies. So studying a certain literary piece assures someone to know its precise nature and content. Let us not forget that all literary works are produced by specific human beings belonging to specific cultures at given historical times and occupying very definite positions within the structures and hierarchies of their societies.
Not surprisingly, the ideas and values which literary works seek to promote are influenced by the history, culture and circumstances relevant to the individuals who produce them. Rather than a disinterested or idealistic endeavor, literature is a very worldly and very practical sort of activity aimed at the promotion and dissemination of cultural values and views of the world which are tightly connected to the interests of the author and of the dominant and other powers in her/his society.
It should be noted of course that the relation of the author to the powers, institutions, and systems of belief of his/her time can be one of affinity, opposition, or even ambiguity. For these reasons, an understanding of literature and of particular literary texts depends not only on the isolated reading of certain individual works and the consideration of their authors’ lives and their circumstances but also upon a solid knowledge and critical examination of the human history, language, and culture (including art, music, philosophy, religion, science, politics, etc. of which literature forms part and which it represents. The study of literature is therefore an eminently interdisciplinary endeavor through which we attempt to make sense of the human experience throughout history and of the ways in which human beings represent that experience and come to an understanding of themselves and of the world around them. Literary texts in effect often veil the ‘truth’ which they seek to convey in an attempt at enhancing its attractiveness and endowing it with a sense of mystery and transcendental value.
Literature, much like modern advertisement, is often an attempt at persuasion which operates on subliminal levels and artfully instills its message by concealing it under a cover of fictional situations and devices affecting the audience on emotional, intuitive, experiential, and instinctive levels. An excellent specimen of literature conveys its true message by constructing a set of emotionally charged and seemingly “realistic” situations leading to the almost unavoidable, but always unstated, conclusion of the story’s intended moral.
Literary texts thus convey meaning to their readers in ways which go far beyond the mere literal or “surface” level of signification. Indeed, literary texts distinguish themselves from other texts by the subtleties and intricacies of their many levels of meaning and by the common fact that the actual “meaning” of the text is almost always hidden and implicit in the fabric of the work’s devices. Meaning in literature is therefore something that needs to be determined not merely on he basis of a face value understanding of the words in it but through a complete evaluation of the signifying complexity of the rhetoric, figures of speech, images, symbols, allusions, connotations, suggestions, and implications of the entire text. This essay then undertakes to measure the quality of the contemporary novel VIBORA! which is written by one of the Philippines great writers in English; Francisco Sionil Jose.
The five parts into which this essay is divided are devoted respectively to the factual or informational, psychological, human, symbolic and, lastly and most vital of all, ethical values that the novel possesses and offers to the critical and analytical reader of the digital era. VIBORA! -F. SIONIL JOSE- The title of this novel has something to do with seeking, for that is what it has been, the search for this elusive character, this “viper”-no, not the snake, but the man who used it as his nom de guerre, this enigma of a patriot-even this defining term is open to question.
Characters: * Benjamin Singkol-the narrator, and the main character; a novelist searching for Ricarte’s true character * Josefina-his daughter; searching for justice, truth and other things missing in our country * Pepe Leynes- Singkol’s friend; an Ilokano historian, searching for a true Filipino patriot * Fred Lang-another friend; seeking the famous Yamashita treasure * Haruko Kitamura- Singkol’s Japanese friend; a journalist and writer Summary: VIBORA! is a brief yet perplexingly unique a novel composed of letters, diary and journal entries and little narration.
It is a story within a story which tells about Benjamin ‘Ben” Singkol’s research about the Filipino hero Artemio Ricarte for his novel Vibora!. Benjamin “Ben” Singkol, who is described by Jose as “perhaps the most interesting character” he created, is a renowned novelist who wrote the book entitled “Pain”, an autobiography written during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Singkol was described to be a coward, an uncircumcised man who did not only run away from such a “ritual of manhood” but also evaded his “foxhole in Bataan when the Japanese soldiers were closing in”.
Singkol was a “runner” or “evader” throughout much of his lifetime, while being haunted by the “poverty of his boyhood” and of the “treachery that he may have committed” in the past. In 1982, Singkol began receiving letters from a Japanese named Haruko Kitamura. It is just very opportune for Singkol because Kitamura is a writer and a journalist who can help him find relevant information on Ricarte. During his research, he is visited by Fred Lana in order to ask for his help in the for the fabled “Yamashita treasure”.
Singkol has a daughter who has her own search, too; the search for the real Filipino heroes in the contemporary times, search for the truth. Singkol read many letters from friends, diary and journal entries and other relevant articles about Ricarte. In his research Singkol found out that During the US-Philippine War in 1900 (a post extension of the 1898 Spanish-American War), General Artemio Ricarte (1866-1945), considered the “Father of the Philippine Army” was captured and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the US Government.
He was exiled, he returned, was exiled again, returned and started to re-kindle an insurrection. He was arrested and sentenced to 6 years in prison. He received political asylum in Japan where he lived with his wife quietly for 30 years. He returned with the Japanese invaders to the Philippines in 1941 as an aide or interpreter to assist the Philippine people into accepting Japanese occupation. Upon the invasion of the US/Allies in 1944, Ricarte took to the hills as a “hunted guerilla”, with a bounty on his head, and died in the mountains at age 79.
After the long and careful research, Singkol did not only learn many things about Ricarte but also realized many vital things regarding Philippine history. But despite it all, he leaves the final decision to the reader whether Ricarte was a patriot or a collaborator. About the Author F. Sionil Jose or in full Francisco Sionil Jose is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in the English language. His novels and short stories depict the social underpinnings of class struggles and colonialism in Filipino society. He is also the most translated Filipino writer in English.
His works have been translated into 22 languages, including Korean, Indonesian, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian and Dutch. Jose was born in Rosales, Pangasinan, the setting of many of his stories. He spent his childhood in Barrio Cabugawan, Rosales, where he first began to write. Jose was of Ilocano descent whose family had migrated to Pangasinan before his birth. Fleeing poverty, his forefathers traveled from Ilocos towards Cagayan Valley through the Santa Fe Trail. Like many migrant families, they brought their lifetime possessions with them, including uprooted molave posts of their old houses and their alsong, a stone mortar for pounding rice.
One of the greatest influences to Jose was his industrious mother who went out of her way to get him the books he loved to read, while making sure her family did not go hungry despite of poverty and landlessness. Jose started writing in grade school, at the time he started reading. In the fifth grade, one of Jose’s teachers opened the school library to her students, which is how Jose managed to read the novels of Jose Rizal, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, Faulkner and Steinbeck. Reading about Basilio and Crispin in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere made the young Jose cry, because injustice was not an alien thing to him.
When Jose was five years old, his grandfather who was a soldier during the Philippine revolution, had once tearfully showed him the land their family had once tilled but was taken away by rich mestizo landlords who knew how to work the system against illiterates like his grandfather. Jose attended the University of Santo Tomas after World War II, but dropped out and plunged into writing and journalism in Manila. In subsequent years, he edited various literary and journalistic publications, started a publishing house, and founded the Philippine branch of PEN, an international organization for writers.
Jose received numerous awards for his work. The Pretenders is his most popular novel, which is the story of one man’s alienation from his poor background and the decadence of his wife’s wealthy family. Jose Rizal’s life and writings profoundly influenced Jose’s work. The five-volume Rosales Saga, in particular, employs and interrogates themes and characters from Rizal’s work. Throughout his career, Jose’s writings espouse social justice and change to better the lives of average Filipino families.
He is one of the most critically acclaimed Filipino authors internationally, although much underrated in his own country because of his authentic Filipino English and his anti-elite views. “Authors like myself choose the city as a setting for their fiction because the city itself illustrates the progress or the sophistication that a particular country has achieved. Or, on the other hand, it might also reflect the kind of decay, both social and perhaps moral, that has come upon a particular people. “-F. Sionil Jose, 2003 Sionil Jose also owns Solidaridad Bookshop, which is on Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila.
The bookshop offers mostly hard-to-find books and Filipiniana reading materials. It is said to be one of the favorite haunts of many local writers. PART I FACTUAL/ INFORMATIONAL VALUES INTRODUCTION A good piece of literature, such as novels, must offer something factual or informative to the reader to increase his knowledge and improve his perception of the world. It must tell things about the world, about other people and life in the other lands. Furthermore, the reader must learn something from the author’s description of people, places and things in the novel and from the characters’ conversations.
CHAPTER I The Philippine History and the Filipinos in VIBORA! “…I doubt if Ricarte’s life will teach us anything, for we Filipinos have no memory, no sense of the past” (italics ours) (VIBORA! , 10). “What then is the future of small countries like Filipinas? Perhaps we are fated to ally ourselves with the powerful if we are to survive” (VIBORA! , 29). A certain Filipino critic and historian summarized the history of the Philippines, which is a history of repeated colonization, with this sentence: The Philippines stayed in the convent for three centuries and five decades in the Hollywood.
This is because the Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards for more than three hundred thirty three years and by the United States of America for approximately fifty years. Yet, during the American colonization an Asian nation, Japan, colonized the Philippines for five years and tried to take it forcibly from the fair-skinned children of Uncle Sam. This short-term invasion serves as the “secondary” setting of the novel Vibora! But what is really the significance of this short yet philosophical novel?
Francisco Sionil Jose’s Vibora! is a contemporary novel that must be read by every Filipino for him to be awakened from his long sleep, if not feigned sleep. It teaches the reader much information about the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation. It is very rich in historical, societal and, summarily, cultural issues of the past which are still connected and relevant to the 21st century Filipinos because those issues are the roots of the perpetual modern issues that ruthlessly plague our country.
These issues, Jose wants the reader to know (that’s why he keeps talking and writing about them), consider and imbibe by integrating them with current issues in the Philippines because he believes that “we Filipinos have no memory, no sense of the past”(VIBORA! , 10) “…the Revolution of 1896, the American Occupation as witnessed by Ricarte, and in more recent times, the martial law of Ferdinand Marcos. Think, and remember, and regret. These events tested us, our integrity, our loyalty. And as the present now clearly indicates, alas, we Filipinos were found wanting”(VIBORA! ,87).
VIBORA! paints the scenes in the Philippines and brings the reader to that unknown Philippines during the Japanese Occupation which history books don’t state. This novel is actually a story within a story because even though it is about and narrated by the novelist named Benjamin Singkol who is searching and writing a book about a controversial Filipino hero, the real essence lies in the story of the Filipino heroes, recognized and anonymous alike, who were involved in the Revolution and who, I one way or another, contributes to either the fiasco and success of the revolution.
F. Sionil Jose’s 2007 novel VIBORA! , a sequel to his novel Ben Singkol, revolves around the life and heroic or traitorous deed of Artemio Ricarte who used the Spanish term vibora or viper as his nom de guerre or war name. Artemio Ricarte’s real surname was Dodon, which means grasshopper in Ilokano dialect. Figuratively speaking his surname connotes a person who “jumps from one opportunity to the other” (VIBORA! , 10). The novel says that he became a Spanish teacher in Japan and became a shogun (warrior) and he was called Ricarte Shogun.
The reader will get to learn that Ricarte’s heroism is controversial because he sided with the cruel Japanese invaders who treated Filipinos as animals instead of fighting against them. One will also learn that of all the surviving leaders of the Revolution, only he refused to vow allegiance to the American government that’s why he was exiled to Japan and lived there for thirty years. The novel implies that the Filipinos are selfish, self-centered and greedy which is one of the reasons of the failure of the revolution.
The Tagalogs claimed that the revolution was their sole endeavor. No Cebuanos, no Ilokanos had been involved. But we must not forget that Bishop Aglipay, General Antonio Luna and General Artemio Ricarte were both Ilokanos. A typical Filipino citizen will be doubtful to know from the novel that that Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Republic of the Philippines, ordered Antonio Luna to be assassinated because he saw him as his military rival. This is one thing no history teacher of mine, or any other subject teacher, had ever taught me.
It is also stated that the Spanish-American War was called the Philippine insurrection by the Americans because they fully believed they had a rightful claim to us after buying us from the Spanish Government for a very low price. He was also the one who had Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procorpio killed by either extreme torture or gunshot in Mount Buntis. He considered Bonifacio his political rival. This is the reason why he is considered a disgraced hero. Jose attempted to prove that the attitude of the Filipinos was one of the reasons of the failure of the Revolutions.
Many Filipino were afraid of losing their wealth that’s why they fought against the Americans and Japanese for personal and not for general and noble intent. Look at these lines which are actually thoughts that ran in the mind of Ricarte while talking to another Filipino hero on their way back home to the Philippines. “I knew, of course, that the rich will protect their wealth, their privileges first, rather than their honor. And they will use anything and everything in their power to preserve what they have, enlarge it, and in the process harm others, even those who do not stand in their way but whom they suspect of opposing them.
Greed (italics ours), not self-preservation, is what drives them, because if it were only self-preservation, then they would not have to do anything more. They were already safe in their vaunted positions” (VIBORA! , 29). There are also important individuals who have significant contributions to the Philippine history who are mentioned in the novel. One is, Mariano Marcos, the father of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, went around in Ilocos using Japanese armor just like Artemio Ricarte, and thus was killed by the guerillas. His body was burned in Caba.
This made Ricarte fear his own fellowmen that’s why he joined Yamashita in the Cordillera Mountain. Another distinct Ilokano mentioned in the novel is Bishop Gregorio Aglipay who founded the Eglesia Filipina Independiente which could have become the national church, like the church of England. A certain Isabelo delos Reyes is also mentioned in VIBORA! He was a scholar anthropologist who became the first Filipino Labor Leader. He saw early enough the necessity of organizing the working masses into unions. A knowledge about an remarkable effort of another Filipino leader and hero during the 1896 revolution was mentioned in VIBORA! He is Mariano Ponce who went to Japan to ask for help. The reader will then know that the Japanese did send rifles-but the boat sank in a storm off Formosa-and some military advisers who had to return to Japan basically because of communication problem. The reader will also learn from the novel the reason of having surnames, commonly Spanish, of the Filipinos. It is stated that the Spaniards assigned letters of the alphabet in the different places in the Philippines which would be the start of the surnames of the people living in those certain places.
Obviously, a reader who is not very much informed or even familiar with Philippine “tortured history” (VIBORA, 39) will be shocked to know all these novel things. And surely upon considering and learning all those, he will breed a new perspective regarding Philippine’s “tortured history” (VIBORA! , 39) and he will start to realize the real meaning of the word history. As what F. Sionil Jose had written, “So reality, history, personalities and memorable events are reflected, refracted, in many mirrors, many prisms, and when this happens they assume different forms, at once in variance from the rest”(VIBORA! 86). Even the state of Manila, the capital city of the Republic of the Philippines, was described during the time of Artemio Ricarte, giving the reader an idea of what kind of environment Manila has when he was not yet born. “Manila had… changed very much. Handsome new buildings, schools, hospitals, many cars, streetcars, shops as big and as elegant as those in Japan…The Filipinos and Filipinas [the country] have changed” (VIBORA! , 61-62). The reader will also learn something about the EDSA Revolution and the real kind of leadership the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino had during her administration. The week after the triumph of EDSA I in 1986 and after Marcos and his cohorts…had fled to Hawaii, political prisoners,… were freed (Vibora! 63). “How quickly the lustre and expectations of EDSA were tarnished by incompetence, by this Cory Aquino who soon turned out to be unequal to the job that was gladly thrust upon her. In a year, all those fond hopes had turned awry because she did not fulfill her promise of land reform, of being above personal whim and above a system burdened with patronage and the usual appendages of family and ethnicity” (VIBORA! , 65). CHAPTER II
The United States of America and the Americans in VIBORA! “The United States was much too powerful, was too big an enemy to be defeated even by a nation as united and as courageous as Japan” (VIBORA! , 77). F. Sionil Jose also discussed in VIBORA! the colonization of the Western world which is represented by the countries Spain and United States of American. The world knows that next to Portugal, Spain was the country which led in the colonization period in world history. As time went on even England, France and even America joined the competition for territory. Now let us see what information and knowledge the novel VIBORA! as to offer regarding the United States of America and the Philippines and its children during their colonization. “the English, the Dutch, and long before the Spaniards, the Romans. Power (italics ours) is not just how big their armies are-it is the breadth of their territories, the lands they control, the people they subjugate. That is the history of Western nations, their lust for empire…”(VIBORA! , 29). The following quoted lines below show the reader of the perception of the Americans regarding the Filipinos, their history, attitude and revolution. Take a look at this certain paragraph from the novel: The Filipinos are not a bit antagonistic. So I was very much surprised when, last month-this you better believe-this ragtag army routed our boys in a skirmish-I won’t dignify it as battle…”(VIBORA! , 23). This is taken from a fictitious letter of an American war correspondent to his brother in Boise, Idaho. It teaches the reader the scenario during the time. Notice the use of the adjective “ragtag” to describe the Filipino army. An obvious superiority complex is running in the veins of this western man. Generally, these quoted lines show racial discrimination even in the disgusting world of war.
The Americans, despite the blood, horror and scattered limbs and organs, don’t forget that they are really racially superior. Even the American’s assessment of our military officers and revolutionary soldiers who we now called and fully respected as national heroes where implicitly stated in VIBORA! : “Their officers have no real military schooling. They usually come from the upper classes. The soldiers are usually farmers and, as such, they are not literate…They are unwieldy Mausers, unlike our Krags. Those without guns are armed with staves, short knives and bolos, as they call their bladed weapons.
They even have…Igorotes, half-naked cannibals (Italic ours) with wooden shields and battle axes. With these weapons, they have to fight at a very, very close range. ”(VIBORA! , 24). Here are some lines that show the rampant racial and social discrimination of the time: “This ragtag army is not disciplined. Divide and conquer-I think this is the best way to keep them under control. ”(VIBORA! , 24). The American’s prejudicial and ruthless judgment of the Filipinos as cannibals and undisciplined shows, crystal clear, how much they depreciated and humiliated us during the times when the western world was still hungry of colonization. I finally got hold of the novel, Noli Me Tangere, by Jose Rizal. He is very much revered by his people. I have finished it and am looking now for its sequel, called El Filibusterismo. ” “Well, if a native can write a novel like this, I think I have to modify my views about their capacity for learning. But just the same, this place is the dumps and it is really good for these people that we are here,…”(VIBORA! , 25). In the novel VIBORA! , the reader is also given an insight on the cruelties done by the Americans to the Filipino How soon they [Filipinos] had thrown away their past, what they had suffered under the Americans, the insults, the tortures, the massacres inflicted on them? ”(VIBORA! , 77). The reader will thus learn that the Filipinos don’t care anymore about the cruelty and barbarism done by the Americans. “Had my countrymen forgotten that they were brown, that they belonged to Asia?… Where now is history? And memory? ”(VIBORA! , 77). The novel stated good things that the American government had done to the Philippines. “The United States immediately set up a public school system when the war was over.
Filipinos wanted it badly. We separated the state from the Church-again another demand from the Revolutionists. And we started building roads and bridges, and abolished the scourges of cholera and the smallpox. ”(VIBORA! , 50). The Americans came to the Philippines to drive “away the corrupt and inefficient Spanish rulers” (VIBORA, 25). They believed that they “have a God-Given duty to teach these natives [Filipinos] that America stands for freedom and justice”( VIBORA, 25). CHAPTER III Japan and the Japanese in VIBORA! Yes, the Japanese were true to their word-they gave Filipinas independence, although it may not have seemed true freedom at the time. But that could not be helped; a war was raging, the United States was the enemy, and to defeat this enemy was more important to the Japanese than the niceties of independence” (VIBORA! , 77). The novel VIBORA! gives some interesting knowledge about Japan and the Japanese. According to the novel, “the Japanese are racists. Even the most Westernized think they are a superior people, particularly in their regards for Asians. They don’t really care for outsiders, the gaijin.
They are self-centered, they care only about themselves”(VIBORA! , 50). Indubitably, this gives the reader some knowledge regarding the Japanese psyche. The novel also includes a little geographical, historical and mythological, backgrounds of the country Japan. From this, the reader learns many things. Let us discuss these backgrounds. “To understand Japan, look at the map. It is a small country, like England, like the Philippines. It is obvious that it has a historical link with Korea and China. This linkage is very important for it determines culture and civilization. ”(VIBORA! 51). Here is a mixture of quoted sentences arranged in such a way as to form a coherent whole. This is very much related to the previous one which explains why Japan is continuously progressive. “Japan had always fascinated me. It could very well be the nation we aspire to be. Look at the land-it is also an archipelago (VIBORA, 72)…. Japan was poor and many Japanese were trying very hard to survive-a time when their women, their workers and craftsmen were all over the region,…(VIBORA! , 75) And look at its history-for so many centuries, their warlords fought one another (VIBORA! 73). Oh, they slaughtered on another in the beginning, they sought to subjugate each clan, until one leader conquered the weaker ones and united all of the fiefdoms, then from all that struggle and that bloodshed, Japan became a nation (VIBORA! , 109). …They proved themselves capable and strong. But more than us, they were able to shut off the West for so many centuries and were thus able to evolve the basic characteristics which they now have-the social cohesion, the discipline and, most important, a sense of nation” (VIBORA! , 72-73). Now, we know why Japan is very progressive!
The Japanese have discipline and, mostly, a sense of nation which we Filipinos clearly do not have, even in our minds. In this next paragraph taken from the novel, the reader is acquainted with the reason why the flag of Japan has such form. “The Japanese, like most peoples, have their myths, and one of these is that they are descended from the sun god-Amaterasu-which explains their flag, and that their emperor has a divine personality, for which reason, emperor worship persists to this very day, although no longer in the same fashion as when kamikaze soldiers died for their emperor”(VIBORA! ,51).
The reader also learned why the Japanese worship their emperor and why the kamikaze soldiers are not afraid but instead are very much willing to defend and die for their emperor. “For many centuries, Japan was closed to the world, with limited access the West at the port of Nagasaki. During these centuries, the Japanese were in constant war with one another until the country was unified under the powerful Tokugawa clan. Then Commodore Perry opened the country to the West and the Japanese were forced to modernize under the Emperor Meije. They sent thousands of their scholars abroad, to Europe and to the United States, to study Western methods.
I slightly over a generation, they had become a strong military power, defeating the Russians in the war of 1905. The Japanese modernization appealed to so many Asians. (VIBORA! ,51) Japanese occupation of Manila is mentioned in the novel. It is said that one of the first propaganda steps they [Japanese] made was to set up a media bureau and newspapers, among them the Roces daily paper, The Tribune. ” (VIBORA! , 43) A paragraph in Chapter 8 of the novel tells about the current economic status of Japan when Ricarte was exiled there by the American government. “…the country was undergoing tremendous change.
The innovative and very strong government of Emperor Meiji had long expired and his son, the Emperor Raisho, was ineffectual. But this time, the heavy industries that were set up-all of them in Japanese hands-were already providing Japan with so much economic power”( VIBORA! , 52) PART II PSYCHOLOGICAL VALUES A good novel must have psychological values. Psychological values are classified into two kinds; sensory and emotional. The sensory aspect under the psychological values of a novel deals with the images formed on the mind of the reader while reading the novel.
In addition, a good novel creates clear and varied images or pictures that will linger in the reader’s memory for a very long time after finishing the novel. CHAPTER I The Picture on the Water After reading the novel VIBORA! , the reader will have myriad images that will linger on his probably revolutionized mind. Let us enumerate and discuss the outstanding situations in the novel that have the potential to cling to the reader’s memory even if the pages where they dwell are already closed and the volume is placed on its respective space in the shelf. A) Vibora and Agueda Artemio Ricarte has a wife by the name of Agueda.
Being two of the important figures in the novel, let us pick out the portions of the novel that portray them by the use of descriptive words. Here is the picture that will linger on the memory of the reader about Artemio Ricarte’s physical features: “He was short, with no imposing presence or charisma to go with his title of general”(VIBORA! , 10). “ …Ricarte is small and unimposing…” (VIBORA! , 104) Here is the counterpart picture the novel draws of his endeared wife, Agueda. “Agueda was small, dark and, like the activist women of her period, was committed to her political ideals” (VIBORA! ,57). My ever patient wife, she was courageous as well” (VIBORA! , 75) The next paragraphs may be the source of the reader’s conclusion of Agueda’s character. It is about one of the perils she experienced in which she acted bravely and calmly and from which she came out alive. “It happened on the eastern outskirts of Manila. A Spanish patrol overtook me by surprise and it was too late for me to move away from its path. A Spanish officer on horseback ordered me to stop. A Filipino soldier asked what I was doing in that isolated part of the country and I said I was going to Mariquina to sell the rice cakes in my basket.
The officer dismounted and started looking at the bundles of suman and the sugar panocha to go with the suman. I offered him one which he took. He peeled it and bit into it. He grinned and ordered the patrol to move on. “I had acted naturally, pleasantly even, as a peasant woman does. After all, I was dressed as one. Had he emptied the basket, he would have seen underneath a map indicating the new Spanish positions in the city. Without much hesitation, he would have ordered me shot”(VIBORA! , 59). B) Vibora and Ben Singkol
Perhaps it is not so presumptuous to say that the scene which will really linger on the reader’s memory is that when Ben Singkol was in a plaza one afternoon gazing at the newly erected and unveiled monument of Artemio Ricarte, the VIBORA! himself. It would be best to quote the paragraphs to see their impact. “It was late afternoon. The plaza was empty of people. A stray dog ambled past; from the near distance, a ripple of laughter, indistinct Ilokano voices, a sultry breeze. I [Ben Singkol] sat on the bench, thoughts crowding my mind, images of those wooded mountains [Cordillera], the whump of guns.
He [Ricarte] was there, too, but on the other side with his Japanese friends. “I gazed at your [Ricarte] monument, at your stern but quiet face. Since I was now the same age as you at the time of your death, I wondered what your thoughts were before your last breath ebbed. Did you regret what you did, kept faith although you knew that it brought you no joy, no reward or fulfillment-nothing really but the contempt of your own countrymen who you thought you were faithfully serving, and the derision of your colleagues who saw you turn your back on your chances for wealth. Vibora, you old fool-you pined away all those years you could have spent building this nation had you stayed; you could have exposed the traitors among those who lifted the sword] easily named them, kept them from usurping the power that was never theirs by right in the first place because they gave up their loyalty to Filipinas by pledging themselves to serve the Americans! The next paragraph is the part that will really linger on the reader’s memory long after he has finished reading the novel. “Suddenly, the statue came to life.
Old man Ricarte jumped down from his perch, stood before me, his solemn eyes now blazing with contempt, with volcanic anger. People who knew him said he spoke softly, gently, without rancor or anger and it was in this manner that he spoke, his voice clear like sunlight but sharp like a newly polished bayonet. (VIBORA! , 106-107) Even to the narrator himself, Ben Singkol, the very person to whom Ricarte materialized as a real human being could not erase that unexpected, if not undesired, confrontation between him and Vibora. “Even now, I can see him pointing a finger at me, saying softly in that voice steeped in politeness. Do not look at me with such cynicism, even disdain-I have had more than my share, not just from you, but from those of my generation, who gave up their beliefs and accepted money from the Spaniards, from the Americans” (VIBORA! , 109) “Then, he swung, that sword gleaming for an instant, before it cut across my face. “And that is what I last remember, for a sudden darkness fell on me”(VIBORA! , 110) C. Manila and the Philippines There are many paragraphs in the novel that create picturesque and panoramic picture of Manila, its neighboring cities and the entire country of the Philippines.
Here is a paragraph taken from the first chapter of the novel that creates a mental image of Cordillera Mountains and the guerillas taking refuge there. “…in the Cordillera, on so many occasions, at sunrise when the rim of the world slowly turned from silver to the effulgent splendor of day, and at dusk when the light dimmed and the stars swarmed out of the black bowl of sky, I had looked at the mountains that ringed us, range upon range of blue wall, then looked at myself, ourselves, our weapons and saw how insignificant and puny we were.
Indeed, this is what mountains can do to tiny creatures like ourselves, often lost in our own rapture, but humbled by the towering majesties’ (VIBORA! 3). Notice that the subtle and artistic used of figurative languages in this reflective paragraph appeals to the reader’s senses and, thus, make it powerful which makes it stay on the mind of anyone who has read the novel. The author used just simple words but he arranged them in the best order that is possible such as “rim of the world”, “effulgent splendor of day”, “stars swarmed out of the black bowl of the sky”, “blue wall”, and “towering majesties”.
While reading this descriptive paragraph, it seems that the words are jumping out of the limit of the plain piece of paper to form the pictures of nature right before the eyes of the reader. Here is another portion of the novel which will surely create a vivid mental image of Luzon in particular and the Philippines in general and of a patriotic Filipino desirous of returning to his homeland: “…the Coastline of Cavite and Bataan appeared, first a hazy blue-green rise above the waters that became clearer as we neared it. Home at last! It would be here where I would die, not in some alien land. How green my country is, the mountains rising from the dark carpet of the sea. Finally, the mouth of Manila Bay, and beyond, the green hump of Corregidor…I think of my nipa house…, the kindly neighbors, the relatives who took care of me, fed me. “Now the spires of the churches of Intramuros loomed in the hazy horizon. The air seemed warmer. We were now in the Pasig and the water is no longer dark blue-it is brownish even, and the smaller boats are all over, ciscoes loaded with produce, some steamers anchored at the mouth of the river.
A lot of activity on the ship now, the sailors shouting, heaving ropes, as they moved the ship close to the customs house” (VIBORA! , 33) These paragraphs relive the surroundings of Manila during the American colonization. It is as though the places mentioned swirl and twirl before the reader’s face only to form clear and picturesque images. CHAPTER II The Feelings in the Air “…all I needed was to stoke the embers in their hearts, and again, the fire would be fanned alive” (VIBORA! , 74). There is no question that the novel VIBORA! will arouse feelings through the words used by the author.
The sentimental scenes will surely touch the heart of any reader. And for those who love our country so much, surely this novel will intensify, magnify the love they feel. Many readers will feel what the characters feel, major and minor alike. The feelings of joy, pain, hope and despair in the novel will make a reader identify himself with the characters and realize that what he feels is normal and universal. Now, let us pick out from the novel the most conspicuous scenes that have psychological values in terms of arousing of emotions.
The most sentimental scenes in VIBORA! to Benjamin Singkol, basically because he is the protagonist, and to his alter-ego; Artemio Ricarte. So we will confine the content of this chapter to the sentimental scenes that involves these two men. A) Benjamin Singkol and Josefina Benjamin Singkol has a female friend named Nena who was very close to him. Their relationship was summarized by these words of his: “…I came to hate the Japanese not so much for what they did to me, but for killing her [Nena] only because she was close to me” (VIBORA! , 7)
He married a woman “much like [his] Nena, and she bore [him] a daughter whom [he] named Josefina” and who he described as his “flesh and blood” (VIBORA! , 2) The most touching scene between Ben Singkol and Josefina was when they were discussing about Artemio Ricarte. After Ferdinand Marcos fled to Hawaii, the political prisoners were released. And one of them was the daughter of Singkol. Josefina is one of the youth activists and she is openly contradicting the Marcos’ dictatorship that’s why she was imprisoned. While Ben and Josefina were talking about Ricarte, Ben changed the topic and asked her a daughter a very moving question. Did you know I had to destroy myself so that you could be free? ” (VIBORA! , 67) This question must not be taken literally. Destroying himself means that he was forced to forget his hatred of the Marcoses, forget his own principles. This is because General Dawel, his childhood friend who became a Marcos’ crony demanded him to rewrite a bit of Philippine history and make his master the hero of the Liberation Battle of Bessang Pass. But Ben Singkol knew that Marcos was not present at the battle. So how could any historian or writer distort our own history? The love of a father to his daughter is seen on the quoted lines below: I did try to write something at first. I tried to appear like I was doing it with great difficulty although truth is I was not doing anything. I wanted you there, in that prison, and you know the reason why. ” “You don’t love me then. ” “That is how it looks on the outside-to those who don’t know my thinking. But had they freed you from prison, you would have gone back to them, to the mountains, and who knows what could have happened? ” “I could have been in greater danger in that prison. ” “I was certain General Dawel would not let anything evil happen to you. ” And Singkol was right. For all Dawel’s corruption, he knows his character.
Their ancient friendship mattered to him-he did not harm Josefina. This conversation is emotionally very stimulating. And when it seems they were having a dissent regarding Ricarte’s character, twice Singkol said to himself: I could not disagree with my daughter. And at the end of the conversation, when Josefina mentioned Singkol’s lifelong commitment to his old flame, his Nena and to her own mother, Singkol became speechless. And when unknowingly his eyes misted, and he started to cry, she came to him to brushed the tears from his cheeks and hugged him. B) Benjamin Singkol and Fred Lang Another emotion-arousing scene in VIBORA! s when Benjamin Singkol was visited by an unfamiliar person who later became his friend; Fred Lang. He’s American father came to the Philippines in 1945 as lieutenant on MacArthur’s staff. Her mother was a Filipina who taught him Tagalog. He is particularly interested with the Yamashita treasure. He wants to find the find the treasure so it can be invested wisely by the government and be used to create jobs and bring prosperity for the Philippines. And when Ben Singkol asked him why he has such noble motive, this is what he rejoined: “I haven’t told you the entire story of my mother’s family.
They were all killed (emphasis ours) by the Japanese. My mother was the only (emphasis ours) survivor. C) Artemio Ricarte and Agueda In the last letter of Artemio Ricarte to his beloved wife, a very sentimental reminiscence was mentioned by Ricarte to his wife. Here is a portion of Ricarte’s last letter to his wife: “So many years ago-fate decreed that we would be separated,…We have…suffered together as perhaps no couple has suffered and yet endured. Those days, when we worked so hard in that ceramics factory, when we had so little to eat, when in the depth of winter we were not only hungry but cold!
What sacrifices you willingly made not just for me, but for Filipinas! This letter he ended with, Your most faithful and loving Artemio Vibora Ricarte. How maudlin it is then to know that “unknown to him, Agueda, his beloved wife, had already died of disease and starvation somewhere in the mountains of Northern Luzon. He also did not know that twenty of his relatives who had fled with the Japanese were massacred (emphasis ours) by the Japanese themselves. Just imagine the pain felt by Ricarte upon knowing that his wife was already dead due to starvation and that his relatives were slew by people he considered faithful allies.
D) Artemio Ricarte and Apolinario Mabini On their way back home to the Philippines, Artemio Ricarte and Apolinario Mabini shared their grief to each other. “It is what other people inflict upon you with their dark intent that is difficult to bear because it is like fighting a shadow, the air, or nothing at all, although you know it is there”(VIBORA! , 30). “The ill things said of me, how I was enriching myself with contributions from people who believed in our cause. But both of us know we cannot struggle by ourselves. This is one of the painful things Ricarte experienced despite his efforts to help our country.
He was still unappreciated and much worst he was reviled by his countrymen who were envious of him. “And they called me syphilitic. Oh, they did not tell this to my face-they whispered it. How does one get it except through the company of prostitutes? I do not deny the urges that pursue all men. But my contracting of disease through the company of prostitutes-I am not of the purest virtue, but I am more careful than most, careful not by choice but because I never had the money to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh”(VIBORA! , 30) To end this chapter, let us quote two paragraphs in the novels that are laden with emotion: If you have loved someone for many years, you become instinctively aware of his feelings, even divine his thoughts and anticipate his actions, so that it would seem that you two have really become one. “When you love someone, that love has no limit, no measure, because you know in your deepest being that when that love demands sacrifice, you will give it without question. you will not look for reasons, for justification-the act of giving, of sacrificing, is a natural compulsion, like breathing, and it will, in the end, surprise you because you did it without a second thought” (VIBORA! 62) PART III HUMAN VALUES INTRODUCTION One of the most essential things critics look for in a novel is human values. A good novel should give a clear understanding of the motives behind human action. The reasons of the characters for acting the way they do must be clear to the reader. In the same way with their speech, the motives for saying what they say must be clear to the reader. A good novel has consistency. Furthermore, it must show good personality patterns of the characters.
The third Aristotelian rule in characterization in his Poetics is that the character must be true to life. The fourth is consistency. For though the subject of the imitation ‘[literary piece]…be inconsistent, still he must be consistently inconsistent. The character must act according to the laws of necessity or probability (Poetics XV). CHAPTER I The Reason behind the Action “We measure others through ourselves, see people through the prism of our own personalities, and from such narrow, personal indices we evaluate motives and form our conclusions” (VIBORA! , 6)
The novel Vibora! is a very philosophical novel which tries to analyze motives behind human actions. The characters in the novel are all preoccupied with their personal quest for something peculiarly interesting to them. But it must be emphasized that the major personality in question is that of Artemio Ricarte’s. And this chapter will be devoted to the interpretation and analysis of his motives behind his intriguing and, therefore, misunderstood decision and actions of collaborating with the Japanese. The most confounding question is: Was he a patriot or a traitor?
But before proceeding directly to the core of the discussion it will be judicious to discuss first the personality of the narrator and some of the minor characters and their motives on their search. A) Why the search for the “Viper”? The novel VIBORA! is about Benjamin’s Singkol’s search for the true personality of Artemio Ricarte who was captured and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the US Government. He is now considered the “Father of the Philippine Army”. Why Ben Singkol is so interested to know the real personality of Ricarte is also another interesting point to discuss.
It is helpful to note that Benjamin ‘Ben” Singkol, a renowned novelist. When he wrote his first who book entitled “Pain”, an autobiography written during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, he did not used his real name. He was described to be a coward, an uncircumcised man who did not only run away from such a “ritual of manhood” but also evaded his “foxhole in Bataan when the Japanese soldiers were closing in”. Singkol was a “runner” or “evader” throughout much of his lifetime, while being haunted by the “poverty of his boyhood” and of the “treachery that he may have committed” in the past.
Artemio Ricarte also used different names when he secretly returned to the Philippines. “I had returned to Filipinas in secret and under a new name, I visited my old comrades, hoping…to stoke the embers in their hearts,… I was not prepared for their adamant refusal, for their rationalization-… “I had to flee again (same with Singkol), to Shanghai under the name Minami Hikosuke;…”(VIBORA! , 74). Perhaps Ben Singkol is able to relate to the character of Artemio Ricarte so he wants to research, know and write a book about him. He senses that there is a similarity between them-treachery.
It is said that he may have committed treachery in the past, and the knowledge that Artemio Ricarte was considered a traitor by his own countrymen gives him a sense of association with him.. It can be deduced that Singkol is somehow bothered by his cowardice and he wants others to understand him. It is perhaps not a mistake to say that Artemio Ricarte is Benjamin Singkol’s alter-ego When Singkol was visited by his friend Fred Lang, who is looking for the Yamashita treasure which is “rumored to be the source of Ferdinand Marcos’ fabulous wealth” (VIBORA! , 8), his only answer is: Fred, I am not interested in your treasure at all. Even if it does exist, it does not interest me” (VIBORA! , 55). And when Fred Lang tried to convince him, he asked: “But why are you so eager to convince me? (VIBORA! , 55). And Fred Lang said that he can trust him with any information, his reply was this: “No, I don’t want to participate in this venture” (VIBORA! , 55). B) Why the search for the Yamashita treasure? Another important character in VIBORA! is Fred Lang. He is half-American and half-Filipino. His father came to the Philippines in 1945 as lieutenant on MacArthur’s staff.
Her mother was a Filipina who taught him Tagalog. He is particularly interested with the Yamashita treasure. He wants to find the find the treasure. But Ben Singkol is baffle by Lang’s motive in befriending him because obviously Lang noticed that he is not interested in the treasure. And this is Lang’s explanation: “But you are a writer. You should be interested. It’s an exciting story, and it means so much because it is the essence of greed not only of men but of nations. Can’t you see that”. (VIBORA! , 55). But Ben Singkol was not yet convinced so he asked this question: But why are you so eager to convince me? ” (Ibid. ). And this is what Lang said: “I can trust you with any information. I always have to tread carefully. You know what I mean. I could disappear tomorrow and nobody would find a trace. This can happen easily in this country. How many have disappeared and no one knows what happened to them? ” (Ibid. ) “…I am telling you for the record, because you are a writer, because you can perhaps write about it someday” (Ibid. ). Now, what will Fred Lang do with the treasure if fate sides with him and he indeed find it from the bosom of the earth?
This is his unusual answer: “…if that treasure is found, it should stay here, not go to Japan. It is a small payment for all the depredations that the Japanese inflicted on this country. Invested wisely, that treasure could create jobs, prosperity for the Philippines, like the diamonds that were brought back to Japan” (VIBORA! , 21) And when Ben Singkol asked him why he has such noble motive, this is what he rejoined: “I haven’t told you the entire story of my mother’s family. They were all killed (emphasis ours) by the Japanese. My mother was the only (emphasis ours) survivor.
This conversation between Ben Singkol and Fred Lang proves that every character in the novel has a deep personal motive for his search. C. Why collaborate with the enemies? “Don’t forget that men steeped in revolutionary activity were also steeped in conspiracy. They are not democrats-they are usually obsessed with the idea of power and how they can influence people to do their bidding” (VIBORA! , 52) VIBORA! is a very good novel because it shows that a person always has his motives in doing his actions. Whether the motive is good or bad is another question. Here, it is Ricarte’s motive in collaborating with the Japanese that is in question.
Remember this: it was self-less love. He did not profit, unlike so many of those who collaborated with the Japanese, who called themselves patriots, or claimed they brought order where there would have been anarchy and therefore, more suffering and more lives lost. These are justifications. Love, real love requires no justification at all. It is there, mixed with your blood, which you may have to shed”(Vibora,47) CHAPTER II The Rare Pattern Understanding others is not an easy thing for a person to do that’s why human beings are naturally prejudicial and judgmental.
This chapter of this essay will be devoted to the personality pattern of famous Filipino heroes mentioned in the novel. But we will focus on the two dominant figures of the Revolution mentioned in the novel. Ricarte and Aguinaldo VIBORA! shows how we human beings harshly judge their fellowmen without trying to know the reasons behind their actions. Let us quote some paragraphs from the novel which tells the role played by Vibora in the Katipunan. “Ricarte was a Katipunan original; one of his jobs was to prick the arms of the recruits for the blood with which they signed their names in the covenant.
He was a segurista, a doble cara. In that Tejeros convention that ended in the murder of the Katipunan founder, Andres Bonifacio, he abandoned Bonifacio and sided with Aguinaldo. On March 23, a day after the Tejeros election, following Bonifacio, he signed the documents renouncing and disclaiming the results of the election. Then on March 24, in Tanza, where the officials of the revolutionary government were gathered, he took the oath of office as Captain General of the Aguinaldo Cabinet, the same government he repudiated the day before” (VIBORA! 40) PART IV SYMBOLIC VALUES CHAPTER I The Biggest Symbol of All CHAPTER II The Lesser Symbols PART V ETHICAL VALUES INTRODUCTION Matthew Arnold says that literature has a definite relation to the problem of how to live right. In other words, literature has ethical value. A good novel has an ethical value if reading it gives occasion to think about ethical questions. If a story dramatizes conflicts and dilemmas, it is not necessarily teaching us how to live, but it encourages us to contemplate the codes that the characters live by.
If an author wants to promote a particular perspective of life and the world he may use a character to do the promotion. While reading, the reader is given the opportunity to meditate on the perspective the character advances. He may not always agree with the character’s sense and standard of morality, but seeing that morality in action can shed light on what it means or how it changes the world. If a novel makes the reader reflects on a moral code, instead of simply rejecting it or embracing it, then we can say that it has an ethical value.
But it is not expected that the questions raised by the novel will be answered at the end of the novel. It is because a literary work does not preach for it is not its inherent function. A good novel must only disclaims and insinuates, it persuades instead of convinces, it stimulates and does not oblige. CHAPTER I To Die for One’s Own Principle “It is the heart, after all which dictates, which rules, which lets us live and die. ”(Vibora,118) “What is the logic of… love? It is the willingness to sacrifice, to pay the cost, with one’s life if necessary. And sincerity. And integrity. All these words go together” (VIBORA! , 47).