Option 12: Cave and Shadows by Nick Joaquin
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"They're pagans, or want to be: all those who come here?"
"Oh, no. They only want to be healed, they come for the miracle. But I don't mind. In one way or another I am reviving anito worship among them. Which is not hard really since the old religion still lives in them, however deeply submerged. I have only to stir a bit to make it rise back to the surface. But maybe, yes, they are all pagans already, or again, without knowing it. They may go home Christians but their Christianity will be even more pagan than before. It shouldn't be long before they realise what they really are and shed all the vestiges of what they thought they were. The old religion is coming back, Mr. Henson, to undo four hundred years of history."
For the second year in a row, my June-into-July Giveaway ends on the kind of glorious note you could only get from a Nick Joaquin novel. (At least the Reading Project part ends for me. The Get a Free Book from Enbrethiliel part--which is what everyone else cares about--will not run its course until Friday.)
Having said that, be aware that this is a high note unlike any you've heard before (which I say not to be condescending, but to reflect the fact that it was a high note unlike any I've heard before). If Merlinda Bobis (author of Option 11: Banana Tree Summer) is correct about the same things tasting different on everyone's tongues, then this might be a real shock to your unsuspecting palate. Heck, even I find it a bit difficult to swallow.
. . . From the doorway emerged the Dakilang Dalaga, spilling down the steps to the lawn. There they lined up in twos. There were twelve of them, all a golden brown . . .
"They're picked for their kayumanggi colour?" asked Jack.
"And their Malay features. If they're too fair, they have to get tanned. It was one of Nenita Coogan's heartaches: that she didn't tan deeply enough."
"Isn't that another kind of false face?"
"False? On a Filipino?" . . .
In one sense, it is the mysterious death of Nenita Coogan--she who was forever trying to see through false faces, including her own--which sets our story in motion. She rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, when all she wanted was to be accepted as one of them, and amateur sleuth Jack Henson soon finds that her death is not half as much of a puzzle as her life.
In another sense, Nenita's death is just another false face. Something is going on here that involves everyone from the highest-ranking officials in government to the poorest of their constituents, and at least one person is willing to kill to make sure nothing gets in its way.
And if you're now excitedly thinking that Cave and Shadows sounds like a Murder Mystery Thriller . . . I almost hate to disappoint you with what it's actually about. =P
Joaquin, too, is trying to see what is behind a false face--that with which the Philippines has been engaging the world; and he peels back many layers of geography, history, journalism, and even legend to get to what only folk memory is left to remember. Forget 400 years of Catholicism; the Philippines is pagan in body and soul, and the old religion of the anitos, the nature spirits, refuses to remain buried for much longer.
Cave and Shadows is less a Thriller than--believe it or not--Inspirational Fiction. (!!!) And if you've ever wondered what Inspirationals would be like if the author's idea of a happy ending involved more characters converted to paganism than to Christianity, then this is your book!
And yet . . . whatever the characters do and wherever the narrator's sympathies seem to lie, Nick Joaquin himself was not a pagan. He was a Catholic, who once admitted to feeling the call to religious life (which the needs of secular life did not allow him to answer) and who had a deep devotion to Mary all his days. He was also a fervent nationalist, which one can see in his portrayal of paganism as a patriotic impulse and Catholicism as a colonial import. Cave and Shadows is hardly condemnation of the Church he would never have considered leaving, but it is a love letter to a nation he believed was beautiful, although she had never properly shown her face.
You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you don't mind having your most sacred and deeply-held beliefs challenged by a real master of writing.
Image Source: Cave and Shadows by Nick Joaquin