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3.43  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,787 Ratings  ·  249 Reviews
Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize while still in manuscript form, Ilustrado is a hip and secure first novel about the urgency of art and regret.

Ilustrado opens with Crispin Salvador, lion of Philippine letters, dead in the Hudson River. His young acolyte, Miguel, sets out to investigate the author’s suspicious death and the strange disappearance of an unfinished
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Hamish Hamilton Canada (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 29, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Jzhun (his birthday gift to me last year)
Shelves: local, palanca
Reading Michael Syjuco's Ilustrado is like eating chopsuey.
1 kg. Main Story Miguel Syjuco going back to Manila to find the truth about Crispin Salvador's death
1/2 kg. Biography in Progress Crispin Salvador Eight Lives Lived by Michael Syjuco
2 cups. Unfinished Manuscript The Bridge Ablaze
1/3 cup. Kaputol trilogy
5 tbs. Interview The
2 tps. 1988 Interview in the Paris Review
To taste: Crispin Salvador's email

For me, this is like reading patches of several pa
Five things about this book:

(1) A good dictionary should be a good companion/reference material. I'm a wide reader, and I think my vocabulary is fair because of the nature of my work, but I thought this book had one flowery word too many. Lots of big words, in my opinion meant more to impress than to express.

(2) I didn't want to read more about the sorry state of my country ~ its politics, economy, poverty, and people. When I picked this book, I thought I had a mystery to read about. Instead, w
Jul 23, 2010 Apokripos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all who've lost faith in Philippine Literature, this novel will prove you wrong!
Recommended to Apokripos by: the "Voice"
Blurring Realities
(A Book Review of Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco)

Ilustrado is the ambitious and exceptionally complicated debut novel by Miguel Syjuco that won the Palanca Grand Prize for the Novel Category in 2008 and the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize later that year when it was still in manuscript form.

Since news of his prodigious success came out, I can’t help but feel elated, for his triumph is as much ours; his breakthrough is a vindication of sorts on our much neglected and often be
Kwesi 章英狮
I don't know why I have to suffer from reading this book, it has a slow beginning, unpredictable ending and added with hifalutin words that can bleed your nose until the last word Syjuco wrote. It was a nice book, unfortunately, for me it was like another Filipino book that serves to criticize what a Filipino is. No changes made, same with Filipino authors (I don't like to mention), wrote the same thing as this book but thinner and more funnier. I don't know if this book really meant for Filipin ...more
Jun 22, 2011 Aldrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Miguel Syjuco's "official" Web site is a joke. Entering (a perfectly innocuous URL) on your browser's address bar for the first time, you may be surprised seconds later to find neither the dynamic cleverness of an author Web site like Jennifer Egan's nor the static simplicity of something like David Mitchell's. Instead you'll be treated to an embarrassment of riches, chock-full as it is with blocks of text and images forming a tapestry of memes, and an assault on the senses, ...more
Apr 14, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-literature
A competent piece of work but not really more than this.

The book had a few problems

~ Stylistically flat. In literary fiction there is an expectation of eloquence...this book approaches this but does not quite make it.
~ Characters are not compelling and/or believable.
~ The variety of source materials should sound like they're from different personalities and they don't really do this. All seems to be the same flat character.
~ Too many pop culture references. The problem with this is that it giv
Jul 25, 2011 Louize rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Louize by: Aldrin

The Ilustrados of 19th century Philippines, the “enlightened ones”, were young men born from landowners; educated in Europe; top-hatted; monocled; and Spanish-speaking bucks; with nannies and tutors to run after them. Seemed a harsh truth, but the truth nonetheless. What’s good about these men, despite their higher social status, was that they sought reform through social equality and economic power for our country. It was through their works that injustices imposed on Filipinos
Ilustrado is a novel full of and about fakes. The fragments that make up the book are themselves knockoffs of different genres--murder mystery, satire, interviews from The Paris Review, everything but the kitchen sink. Miguel Syjuco's brassy debut novel turns on its head the first accusation thrown in the face of every expat writing a novel set in the Philippines: "Just how authentic are you?"

Reveling in the flimsy divide between the true and made-up, Syjuco names his protagonist--a listless, wa
Dec 09, 2010 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pinoy, trippy, writerly
This book can be probably best described as an encyclopedic narrative encompassing most of what that genre entails - which would mean not only the 'fun' stuff like the different voices and media, but also the sometimes frustrating stuff - like digressions, obsessive inclusive of details, etc. I feel too it may also be a ghost story, in more ways than one. Because part of it takes on the voice of a young and inexperienced writer, there are parts of this book that are ridiculously (though in my op ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Tintin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filipino
The scope and breadth of this novel is so mind-boggling I don't even know where to start.

Part of my difficulty reviewing Ilustrado is that I can't use the same yardstick I use for reviewing most fiction. My usual standards-- character dynamics, plot progression, willful suspension of disbelief -- don't matter as much in this book. It’s different. I had to set a different standard.

You'd think that a story covering the lives and family histories of two separate individuals spanning 150 years acros
Rav De Castro
Feb 04, 2013 Rav De Castro rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is some serious crap and waste of time. It's like a know-it-all classmate who just transferred to your esteemed university from a small-town community college who wants to show the world that he knows about stuff. I can believe it won an award. I mean, the Syjucos have money.
Aug 22, 2012 Bennard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
from The Book Hooligan

There are only three truths. That which can be known. That which can never be known. The third, which concerns the writer alone, truly is neither of these. - Crispin Salvador

The Philippines is a country unlike any other. Our trajectory in history has been decided, for more than 300 years, by foreigners who colonized us. This, in turn, made us search and question our identity and place in history. Should our norms, practices, and culture be Asian, European, or American? In w
(Reread 4 March 2016)

Speaking of Ilustrado, here's a post I wrote 5 years ago about two characters in the book:


The puzzle fragments of this novel, like the famed Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, form an island chain of experiences and consciousness. The sequence is filtered through several narrative ecosystems: immigrant experience, colonialism, cultural diffusion, literary questionings, historical deficits, failures of identity. At the center of Ilustrad
James Murphy
Mar 18, 2013 James Murphy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ilustrado is a term for the new, young Filipinos alive with promise. They're movers and shakers with immense potential. Ilustrado the novel is about one such individual, the writer Crispin Salvador, whose story is told in a long ribbon of poems, memoirs, interviews, and fragments of novels and essays. This treasure is collected and presented for us by the writer Miguel Syjuco who returns to the Philippines following Salvador's untimely death in order to uncover truths about the man who'd been bo ...more
Ilustrado is a novel by Miguel Syjuco. (Spoliers ahead!)

Honestly, I didn't understand the story very much. It’s fragmented, and the author is very verbose. I only began to sort of grasp the whole unity of the novel when it was about to end. The twist in the ending reminded me of the twist in Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. I didn't quite expect it.

From what my feeble mind was able to gather, the story is about a young writer who loses his mentor. The latter’s death is mysterious. No one knows
Aug 03, 2010 Jinky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Talk about art reflecting life! The fictional character is named after himself (author)... exactly Miguel Syjuco. An outlandish concept to me and part of the genius this book offers ... the confusion is a foreshadow of telling you to prepare yourself for a brain workout! Yes, this book is definitely a find that challenges the brain (see my blog title description). Pull out your dictionary because Mr. Syjuco, both the author and character (haha), throws out many fancy words. After all, he has to ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Jenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh gosh, I cannot express the relief I felt after finishing the book. First time I felt that way towards reading! Let me explain.

I was on page 19 of the book and I already felt bored. 19 pages of trying to sound smart. Comes out pretentious and overdone.

By the time I reached the middle (I pushed myself to continue reading as I desperately wanted to find a silver lining), I patiently looked for any revelation, for that sense of enlightenment which will justify 200 pages of excerpts from the work
Kee the Ekairidium
The premise of the entire novel was intriguing: a very famous Filipino writer by the name of Crispin Salvador was found dead, his corpse floating in the Hudson river.

The manuscript of his final book The Bridges Ablaze is gone as well, a book that will expose the crimes of many ruling corrupted political families in the Philippines. His apprentice Miguel, an aspiring writer, sets out to Manila to investigate and untangle the mysteries surrounding the Salvador family, going back as far as three g
Elliot Ratzman
Jan 04, 2013 Elliot Ratzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
My book club did not like this book, yet it won the Asian Man prize two years before it was published and there was talk of a Nobel nomination for this young author’s first novel. It is a difficult, fragmented pomo book, consisting of seemingly random arrangement of the fiction, essays, autobiography, jokes and biography of a made-up Filipino author living in NYC, teaching at Columbia. His biography is being researched by another Filipino writer-in-exile, also from a well-connected Manila family ...more
Apr 04, 2010 Mag rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, asia, philippines
A Filipino ilustrado embarks on a journey to discover the real cause of drowning of an author, in which we mainly weave between the Philippines and North America, Manila and New York. Ilustrado, if you wonder, is an interesting word with several meanings ranging from just being illustrated as with a book, through being wise, to denoting a man who made something of himself through being enlightened or learned. I found it neat that the story delivered in all the meanings of the word. The story is ...more
Lit React
It's a common complaint that the special effects in movies today are extraneous, explosions and computer graphics inserted into a narrative simply because the director/studio can. Filipino writers in English (IMHO) have the tendency to be the Jerry Bruckheimers or George Lucases (I still love Star Wars though) of literature. They are skilled and they can write and they are hell bent on proving these facts by using every special effect in their writing arsenal.

This penchant for writing FX is on f
Don Jaucian
There is no arguing that Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado is a well-written, amazing piece of work. Amazing in the sense that it boldy delves into post-modernism; a dizzying pastiche of Philippine History as seen through an outsider’s eyes. Because no matter how you position it, Syjuco’s Philippines is the Philippines as seen by balikbayans, OFWs and expats. There’s nothing really new. And what is there to tell anyway? Corruption, sleazy politicians, wayward youth and lost heritages. Is that all there ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
The protagonist of Ilustrado is a young man and would-be writer called Miguel Syjuco (henceforth, I will refer to the character as Miguel and the author as Syjuco), originally from the Philippines who has lived in Vancouver and now New York, who on the discovery of the apparent suicide of a famous literary writer and fellow-expat, Crispin Salvador, goes back to his home land on a bit of an investigative mission. He seeks to find the three black boxes that contained the manuscript that Salvador w ...more
Yes I'm That Girl
Oct 03, 2013 Yes I'm That Girl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Yes I'm That Girl by: My deluded lit teacher
Oh my God. Is this the best novel done by a Filipino writer? (as the cover reviews say) Ohhh god, when I read that on the back cover I was literally like O_O. The amount of ass kissing CONTAINED in that single sentence? Fuck.

Okay, but then again why am I not that surprised? Filipinos readers and writers are not exactly known in the literary world for being a group of virtuosos (unlike Japan's Murakami and Ishigawa).
But what the hell am I expecting from a country where "fine literature" *ahem* b
The book marketed itself to be one of those stories of a minority in a new surrounding, trying to fit, etc. And it turned out to be such a disappoint.

Chapter by chapter, I dutifully turned the page hoping that the protagonist would reveal his vulnerability and lets us into his core. Then he turned out to be just one jerk who was just experiencing teen angst.

I chose the book to predominantly support my fellow Filipino. This story is more about elitism and there isn't enough material for the rea
Karlo Mikhail
Aug 04, 2014 Karlo Mikhail rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mediocre
Reread the novel few days ago and wrote the following:

Criticism of didacticism is common fare when talking of works of literature. Poems or novels must not express political views. They must shy away from social commentary. Ideologies must not be hammered on the heads of the readers. Yet this general rule seems not to be the case withIlustrado, an intensely political debut novel by Miguel Syjuco, a Filipino writer living in Canada.

Instead of encountering the usual admonitions on the necessity of
Jul 17, 2014 Reianne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has an interesting cover and a clever title so I was really excited to read it when I bought it over a year ago. It reminded me of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo as well (I really liked those two books). However, the storytelling/narration style isn't to my liking. And I didn't feel any connection to any character in it at all. Jose Rizal was a better storyteller!

It seems there was no intention for Ilustrado to be appealing or to appeal to anyone. Sometimes it makes me wonder wh
Aban (Aby)
I was keen to read this book because of the award it received and the rave reviews it had from the Globe and Mail. I was also eager to read a book about the Philippines, written by a Filipino, because of our visit there and our family connections to that country.

It's the story of two writers: Crispin Salvador and Miguel Syjuco (same name as the author!). At the beginning of the book, Salvador's body is found dead, floating in a river somewhere in the USA. Miguel decides to write a biography abo
John Levi Masuli
Oct 13, 2015 John Levi Masuli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filipino, fiction
Ilustrado is the perfect hearty meal for the sophisticated literati. It employs a wide array of cute literary techniques and displays wide knowledge on a many issues especially the Philippine political situation, the state of Philippine literature/ writers, internal struggles, to mention a few. However, despite its overtly high artistic ambitions, I find its open-ended diagnosis of Philippine society lacking. The 'empty box'which supposedly contains Crispin Salvador's magnum opus symbolizes less ...more
Finally finished it! A record read for me - took me more than 2 weeks to finish! Firstly, there's the very unfriendly font. There were many kinds of typeface fonts that were used, with the regular one proving to be a challenge to read at night; so much more for the smaller typeface which was italized! Oh well, even if it was the tiniest of font, I would surely have found a light bright enough to read it, if only it was able to hold me, but it didn't.

This is a satire, and the story was interesti
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Miguel Syjuco earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and is completing his PhD at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He received the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Philippines’ highest literary honor, the Palanca Award, for the unpublished manuscript of Ilustrado. Born in 1976 into a political family in Manila, Syjuco left the Philippines to become a writer. He currently live ...more
More about Miguel Syjuco...

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“It kills me how these days everyone has clinical justification for their strangeness.” 71 likes
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