Gagamba by F. Sionil Jose

F. Sionil Jose, Gagamba Paperback cover


Very much like his famous Rosales Saga, Gagamba (The Spiderman) is one of F.Sionil Jose’s novels associated also to another of his masterpiece, Ermita, in line with the story setting and some characters. I’ve been again learned with his views on the social and politicial subjects concerning the Philippines as he expansively reiterates the country’s cause of inadequate progress after the 1960s, or perhaps its vitiation after People Power.

The writing style is different from his other novels. He builds-up each of the character’s background per chapter and how they end up having the common denominator of consequentially being introduced to Gagamba and being within the famous Camarin when the historical 1990s Manila earthquake occurred. The story telling is entertaining though a bit dragging as you keep on guessing on how many chapters he’s going to allot for how many people. Then eventually you’ll end up on the last chapter—at long last, when the earthquake shattered the Camarin establishment and buries the characters, except for three people.

The novel’s last chapter and ending is a disappointment. I was expecting a little more to it after turning different stories of the characters each chapter, building up my anticipation. In the end, three individuals survived the Camarin’s heavy remains: Gagamba, the cripple (represents the battered but hardworking poor) who took care of one of the victim’s orphan Namnama (represents the country’s youth and hope) and Fred Villa (the corrupt opulent owner of Camarin) who’s source of sin and pride has been taken away by the accident, who I hope will eventually change his ways and be part of the nation’s development and change. The story of the destruction of Camarin depicts the Philippines’ continuing decline towards rock-bottom status. That the rebuilding of this country will depend on the individuals who were given second life by surviving the accident.

F. Sionil Jose’s novel Gagamba tells a story of the Philippines in a post-Marcos timeframe, an interval wherein many Filipino’s hopes and dreams are within reach after establishing democracy once again. To our despair, it seems that the dream has been an illusion all along. After achieving victory in the People Power, we still see ourselves and our nation stagnant in a swamp of poverty and corruption. One man’s power and dictatorship rule is cut, but the deceptive devils along with their intimidating leister are still lurking around, mortifying the very nation’s hope and spirit.

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