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Viajero is a novel of history of the Philippine Islands and their people long before the Spaniards came. It is also the story of the Filipino diaspora as seen by an orphan who is brought by an American captain to the United States in 1945. Through the eyes of Salvador dela Raza unfolds the epic voyage of the Filipino, from the earliest contact with China through Magellan's tragedy in Mactan, onto the heroic voyage of the galleons across the Pacific. The VIAJERO story concludes with the movement of Filipino workers to the Middle East, and the travail of Filipino women in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo.

313 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

F. Sionil José

59 books362 followers
Francisco Sionil José was born in 1924 in Pangasinan province and attended the public school in his hometown. He attended the University of Santo Tomas after World War II and in 1949, started his career in writing. Since then, his fiction has been published internationally and translated into several languages including his native Ilokano. He has been involved with the international cultural organizations, notably International P.E.N., the world association of poets, playwrights, essayists and novelists whose Philippine Center he founded in 1958.

F. Sionil José, the Philippines' most widely translated author, is known best for his epic work, the Rosales saga - five novels encompassing a hundred years of Philippine history - a vivid documentary of Filipino life.

In 1980, Sionil José received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

In 2001, Sionil José was named National Artist for Literature.

In 2004, Sionil José received the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award.

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5 stars
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48 (16%)
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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
Profile Image for Riya.
4 reviews67 followers
May 2, 2013
I give it 3 stars, only because the story is so sincere about cultural perceptions and the actual experience of being a Filipino ‘viajero’ (Spanish for ‘traveler’) that I felt ill at ease while reading it. Also, 3 stars only because it is not for everyone? Hard to follow through or to get interested if you know zilch about Philippine history.

This book doesn’t just bring the reader ‘time-traveling’, it takes one across the US, Europe, Japan and the Philippines. It is subtitled as “A Filipino Novel”. It is not about being Filipino in the ‘nationalistic’ sense, but in the ‘diasporic’ sense and it is about the difficulty of pinning down the Filipino – as a concept, as an experience, as a people.

Having studied history in university myself and exposed to the workings of academia, I could immediately identify with the main protagonist’s worldview and the way he interacted with the other characters in the novel. I could also relate with the constant, chameleonic cultural shape-shifting that the protagonist goes through – having been ‘adopted’ in one culture, being physically his 'native' self and identifying himself as a cosmopolitan individual.

Throughout the novel, there is an underlying tension between his multifaceted perception of the world and his place in it VERSUS how the world sees him and restricts his place in it. Maybe that's my simplified take on it. But I feel that’s how the concept of the ‘cosmopolitanism’ – of seeing yourself as part of the wider world, rather than owning yourself within well-defined cultural/national parameters – is picked apart and problematized.

The novel is polyphonic (features various voices and viewpoints), but characters are still otherwise well-developed and able to relate to one another even though they are all very loosely connected (both temporally and geographically). My favourite was how the author very skillfully juxtaposes the worldly protagonist, for instance, with the unsophisticated first-generation migrant, eager to take advantage of the newfound land with his simpleminded expectations and aspirations.

The main protagonist, the orphan Salvador de la Raza (literally, “saviour of the race"), embodies the Filipino 'soul' through the nature of his interactions with foreign characters while he travels in search for ‘his place in the world’. His character is romanticized as someone who 'knows himself well' and yet, paradoxically, he has to keep 'finding himself'. He also has a very naive idealism and seem to lack control over his fate despite being so knowledgeable, well-traveled and well-bred.

On the onset, this seemed like quite an ambitious novel and sometimes it was very easy for me to find it pretentious or 'trying to be too contrived' with the symbolism/parallelisms, but after you read the whole thing and especially if you can identify with the issues tackled by the novel... it gives sufficient clarity to the diasporic experience.

I might need to re-read this again though. It's pretty dense, so I'm sure I missed out interesting metaphors along the way.
Profile Image for Gersie Santillana.
36 reviews2 followers
December 26, 2012
This is all about, from the title itself 'Viajero', a journey of Salvador dela Raza, a Filipino in World War II who's adopted and brought to US. An orphan who was traveling in an unknown path. But as he matures, it hit him, he came to realize that he wants to unearth the Filipino roots in him. A must read novel beautifully written by a multi-award winning Filipino, F. Sionil Jose. Pride of Pinoys!
Profile Image for Joanne.
1 review13 followers
September 8, 2016
"I then realize I have been on a voyage for so long, buoyed up even more by the knowledge now that my real father had also fought like them. The unexplored terrain beckons to me, compels me to go on. I know it in my bones -- if I am one of them, then I should help them, suffer with them. Ninoy had pointed out how -- you are a teacher. Teach! Show them themselves so they will be even stronger, their vision sharper, their future nearer."

April 26, 2015
Francisco Sionil Jose impressed me once again through this book. His short stories opened my eyes to explore Filipino prose at its finest. Another chance was given to me when this book touched my hands for the first time. Viajero gave me an opportunity to wander the history of the Philippines through the man named Salvador dela Raza and made me realize that what grade school and high school textbooks were just an impression and the contents aren’t just what they are. Beyond that is our (Filipinos) identity that once robbed by the invaders and its beauty that once concealed. I won’t analyze the book chapter by chapter because I’ve read the book for a short time. I will reread the book again and will write another review. For now, I’m going to give remarks of what I like and dislike about the book.

Foreword never fails to get me in boredom. I regret reading it for it gave me a little spoiler about what the novel is all about. It was little closer to the ending itself but I really hated that the author mentioned the lead character already and some information about him. Some things written in the foreword gave me some hints of what is going to happen next like Badong/Buddy went to the Philippines, lived like an NPA and died eventually. Despite of what the foreword gave to me, I loved how the author put the prose of our Gat Jose Rizal in the beginning and end of the book. It gave me an impression that before he wrote the book, it is like Rizal reminded him first to remember the love for his country and what our motherland inherited to him must be shown in the book. Anyway, this is the only part that I really disliked.

The first chapters brought me into a cinematic scene where there’s a tragedy, oppression and the development of the lead character- biologically and psychologically. The younger days of Badong from the plateau to America gave me non-dialogue scenes just a motion picture of what was happening. The words from each pages were so vivid playing my imagination and appeared those scenes that I usually seen in movies. It made the book a page turner. The characters were introduced clearly. The diversity of the characters is what I loved the most. Each races represents one’s generation like James Wack representing the struggle of blacks before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered “I have a Dream” in America, Serena and Buddy represented the time when refugees were abundant and Jessica who I think brought the present generation. I thought the whole story only focused on the lead character alone. I knew San Francisco is one of the places where there are lots of immigrants and mostly allotted by Asians. His interaction with the Filipino community and knowing the language with Tele was a little cliff hanger to me, I wanted more of it if he could recite either Ilokano or Tagalog.

The chapters written in italics that gave a story telling of the pre-colonial period of the Philippines were I can say are the best parts. As James ad Buddy talking about past and how is it associated with one’s identity, it became clear after reading the italicized passages and its content, the pictures of pre-colonial period as what I’ve seen in Ayala Museum and the struggle of the Filipinos against the invaders recalling Magellan-Lapu-Lapu fight in Mactan but it looked like the same thing when the narrator of these chapters had the same experience as what Badong had. The difference is the man is present from the Pre-colonial period up to the Marcos regime. The passages made me puzzled about how it related to the story.

The succeeding chapters took me around the world as Buddy traveled Europe; it was like he took me with him. My favorite part is when he was in London that he described it as wet and dreary and the English and their horsey faces were homogenous. It made my impressions to the English people renewed as I view them before as a real fairytale characters. The people who are white-skinned, having towering height and a great accent as my impressions. A journey to Badong’s searching for his identity as a Filipino and his hunger for it made me ashamed of myself that once I never appreciated this kind of culture. It was lately when I discovered that women in pre-colonial period were respected that time.

The middle up to the last chapters focused alone to Salvador dela Rama and the part wherein he was already in Asia made me turned the pages again as I’m waiting for the chapter that he finally back to the Philippines. His exploration in Japan and Philippines is what I loved most. The way the book describing the beautiful culture of Japan and the busy streets of the old Manila fascinated me to love the places more. It was very detailed especially the part when he was wandering old Manila and also the beauty of Kyoto. I loved how he explored the Geisha’s as it reminded me the novel I’ve read about it. Japan and Philippines are the countries that always comparable in terms of modernization and preservation in culture. The author never compared this two in the book that gave me a good impression, that both are beautiful on their own.

The chapters near the ending part where Salvador is already in his old age waiting himself to die but seeing the satisfaction in his life made him in integrity. As he described his interaction with Filipinos around his place made me think that he’s finally home unlike in San Francisco that he was like a lost child living with strangers but treated him as a family member for so many years. His words were full of wisdom as I read the last passages. He could still recall the time he woke up when he’s looking for his itay and spent boyhood with Apo Tale and Mayang. I pictured the old Badong as Kidlat Tahimik from Baguio who described the beauty of Filipino culture that for him is genius.

I appreciated History since elementary and loved it more after reading the book. I recommend this book to the History enthusiasts who are planning to explore the world through imagination. This one could give a good motivation. I had only one part that I really disliked and so many chapters that gave me good points those made me rereading this book again soon and share this online. Reading Filipino novels give me the same feeling when I dance Philippine Folk dances, how my imagination showed the splendor of my country as I interpret a particular scene in the Philippines where the culture is showed through hand gestures and footsteps. The book gave me other things that I never knew. Beyond my parents and teachers told me before. The interpretation of the paintings, dioramas and sculptures I’ve seen around the museum in Manila and behind the documentaries from the interview from the renowned Philippine historians.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
8 reviews
January 15, 2008
The book I can read over and over again. This book, similar to Ermita is visually captivating. The type of book that makes me want to demand Sofia Coppola and her father to go back to my motherland and make a movie out of this book. Consider it a book about learning about oneself and the country you think you belong to.
Profile Image for Michael Gerald.
381 reviews45 followers
May 15, 2020
A historical novel with a time-travelling feel to it, this ambitious undertaking takes a grand sweep of Philippine history through the eyes of fictional characters. F. Sionil Jose can be compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his storytelling. Marquez won the Nobel Prize for literature; Sionil Jose deserves to win too.
Profile Image for John Ray Catingub.
94 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2018
Almost a distillation of Filipino history, "Viajero" is truly "A Filipino Novel" as its subtitle acclaims. FSJ weaves together an orphan Filipino's search for identity in and though America, Europe, Asia, and—ultimately—the Philippines with Filipino history from pre-contact, through the Spanish Empire, the Filipino-American War, colonial ordeals with Japan and America, and the internal trials of the second half of the 20th century. While not as epic in length as the "Rosales" saga, its scope is just as far-reaching, touching more upon the Filipino as a global man, either in it today or as a product of his colonisers. The search for self culminating in returning to one's roots, or at least examining the cyclical nature of life and history, "Viajero" is a must-read for a student of Filipino history, at home or abroad, and doubly so for the first-world children of immigrants—or immigrants themselves—wondering what it is to be a Filipino.

As an aside, I've heard that Syjuco's "Ilustrado" is a poor attempt at aping FSJ's story; I disagree. While similar in conceit, I found Syjuco's story more compelling due to its modern writing style (not to disparage FSJ).
June 17, 2017
With a lost boy with fragmented identity trying to find himself juxtaposed to a country searching for and trying to build its sense of nationhood, F. Sionil Jose's Viajero takes its readers to a magnanimous intricacy of history of these groups of island later to be called the Philippines.

Well-written, insightful, and mentally-perplexing, Viajero challenges our perception of nationalism and its many nuances, of history and how it is viewed and studied, and the role of education in bridging the many gaps on how we see and understand our society.
Profile Image for Patrick.
563 reviews
February 17, 2014
This book ranks up their with his Rosales series perhaps b/c it is the continuation of Mass. I am giving this book a 4.5

I like the poem in the beginning by Jose Rizal and translated by Nick Joaquin of a man who is permanently a wanderer who others may envy b/c he has experience that they have not experienced themselves but b/c of the lack of a home base feels empty and unrooted inside.

In developing countries, notions of nationalism becomes intertwined with social justice issues for the poor. Raza states that education is the key to get people out of ignorance. Viajero is a journal about a revolutionary thinker/mystic named Salvador Dela Raza.

Raza says that he lacks memory which is the sole basis of the self. Viajero is about the Filipino diaspora as told through the life of Raza. The journal begins with Raza being separated by his parents b/c of the Japanese occupation followed by the rape of his foster mother Mayang and the death of both her and his foster grandfather Tale by the Japs.

He was rescued by a black captain named James Wack and later became his new father. Raza was taught ebonic English. Captain James Wack brought him back to San Francisco with him. His first vision of America is that it was a land of abundant food. He lived in Pacific Heights and was immediately given the bungalow out back. While initially he felt excluded from the family, he later realized he was blessed with his own space. In America, he had three influential women in his life Serena his girlfriend, Jessie a his adopted sister who was 15 yrs younger and Roxanne, adopted mother.

Like so many educated black people in the early 20th century, Jim preferred Europe to the US b/c they were treated with respect and seen as equals. Jim and Roxanne were both light-skinned Blacks that could pass for whites and often did as the need arised. Jim was independently wealthy as he belonged to the Black elite with oil found on the family farm in Oklahoma and produced 2 patented products which made Black people look whiter. Unfortunately, Roxanne was killed by a black gang which saddened Jim who refocused his energy to raising Salvador and Jessica. Jim became Jessica's confidant. Jim dated Black, Hispanic, and White women now he was involved with a Chinese named Serena. Serena and Jim are both working on their masters degree in History. Intellectual intimacy blossomed into sexual intimacy within 2 months of meeting. Although Serena's parents only wanted her to date Chinese boys, she began to date Salvador. Salvador interest in her coincided with his interest in the Chinese diaspora in the Philippines. For Salvador, Serena anchored him to part of his past unlike his adopted family. Serena tried to go back to China to rebuild the homeland after the communist took over but was ultimately disillusioned by the lack of individuality she experienced. It was only then that Serena realized that she was American. Later, Serena and Salvador made a pilgrimage to Chicago and learned just how much the Chinese traders influenced and were influenced by ancient Filipinos. Just as, there was a symbiotic relationship b/w Serena and him.

Salvador has the disease of many ethnic-Americans who do not know where they came from and thus look for and want to know their family history and history as a people. Seeking his past became an all consuming obsession in that he occasionally became obsessed. It was fortunate for Salvador the seeker to have Jim as a father who was not only an academic who focused on the African diaspora but also a civil rights leader. Jim tells Salvador that Chinese culture is a continuum and that traditions in the past are carried into the present. Jim also says that so much of a nations outlook is how they see their past.

The Ulo of Daya had to kill her beloved daughter Rang-ay for running away with the son of Narrow Eyes b/c she loved him and felt that he was her soulmate. Since the Ulo of Daya was the leader of his people, his duty as leader compelled him to kill his beloved daughter not only to set an example to his people, but also to preserve the peace he brokered with Amianan with betrothing her to their prince, Tured.

The story of the Ulo of Daya prefaced what was happening to Buddy and Serena. Although they both considered themselves Americans, Serena was bound to Chinese tradition and had to marry an uncle who was his father's 3rd cousin. Jose does an excellent job describing the intimacy in their conversation b/w Buddy and Serena which sets up perfectly the heartbreak b/w Buddy and Serena when she has to do her duty and marry her uncle.

One day, Buddy found a Filipino old man who reminded him of Apo Tale. He was part of the first wave of Filipino immigrants who worked in Hawaii's sugar cane fields, then California's orange orchards, and finally Alaskan salmon canneries.

In the '60's-70's, Americans were forced to look @ its racial issue as well as gay rights issues in San Francisco. Vietnam war proved to be a divisive issue in the nation. Buddy identified with Black America and could appreciate their opposition to war as the Blacks were used as cannon fodder since they could not afford college. Jessie gave herself an abortion when Buddy arrived he took her to the hospital. I think abortion should be available though morally reprehensible against. Jessie had sex for fun and curiosity though Buddy had to impress upon her that sex should be done only in the context of love. Buddy described love not only looking out for your well-being but also the well-being of your beloved. Jessie is what happens in a single parent household and the parent is not mindful of what the girl is up to. Jessie became a hippie and smoked marijuana with her friends.

Jim Wack is correct in stating that Blacks must move forward and be better than Whites to be seen as individuals instead of a race and stop discriminating against others. Jim Wack was filled with hatred for being seen as a problem for being born black and being light enough that Black people hated him for being favored by the white people. The real sin against the early Filipino's were the anti-miscegenation laws.

It is interesting to note that until 1821 when Mexico got its independence from Spain, it was through Mexico that the Philippines was ruled.

Buddy planned to study the effects of colonialism in the Philippines, Mexico, and later Indonesia. Buddy is totally Americanize and he felt Europe was too homogeneous and lacking the American vitality that he loved so much.

Sarkistano told Buddy to know Rizal as his 1st step to know the Filipino. According Sarkistano, it was in Germany where Rizal grew into the intellectual giant that he was. When he arrived in Spain, he was drawn to churches which he realized had to do with being orphaned in one and not necessarily due to some spirtual yearning. In the church, he prayed for Jessie who he realized is the dearest person to him.

Buddy thought that the search for the Filipino's history was really about finding the self. The Spanish ruled its colonies with an iron fist and banish recalcitrant Filipino's to Guam a practice that American's continued after they won possession of the islands after the Spanish-American war. Malay was the trading language spoken when Magellen "discovered" the Philippines.

Buddy made up the story of Maisog based of a document that he discovered. Maisog later learned that reading and writing were useful skills that made him a scribe that were useful to leaders. He belonged to a land of sailors and traders and learned how to navigate that world around him. His marriage was arranged which was acceptable to both of them in order to unite both their families. One day a raiding party, stole both him and his betrothed and were sold into slavery.
As assistant to the Trade advisor of the Sultan, he helped with trade transactions and later learned European's yearned for spices as it showed their wealth. The Sultan sold him to Magellan, Maisog became Magellan's translators in turn Maisog got to sail around the world. Slavery started from people of the same color and whites introduced racial inferiority to it. The crew of the ships were all racially integrated and thus tolerance developed among the crew for people who are different from them. According to Maisog, Magellen lost to Datu Lapu-Lapu b/c Magellan as cocky about his technological weapons superiority. While the Datu knew their weakness which was the weapons would not be accurate @ long range while their armor would be too heavy when they were wading in shallow water making the sitting ducks. This is a lesson to American military never to underestimate the enemy and they should know how an enemy fights in order to rightly counter the enemy.

Maisog was conflicted b/w siding with his master Magellan and pride for the Mactan's resistance and showing the cocky Spanish military up after his advice was ignored not to attack the Mactans b/c of his race.

Before he left Spain, Feliza teased him in Cordoba and told Buddy that he would be searching forever b/c only people can give meaning to the past while life is meant to be lived in the present while looking towards the future. He decided that he went to Europe in order to experience life in this way he was like his sister, Jessie since they are financially independent they have nothing to live for. Later, Buddy was struck in a coma which Feliza led him out of. After a week, Buddy consummated his interest in Feliza with sex to which she was hot with passion one moment then cold with disinterest b/c she fornicated with Buddy.

With Feliza, Buddy found new sensuality infused into Seville that he was unable to leave as well as his new found interest in the global galleon trade that reshaped the world by shear commerce. With anywhere in the world, a skilled worker is treated differently from an unskilled worker which was more akin to slavery. The Indios were the ones who saved the trans-Pacific trade that made the Spanish rich by their perseverance. Apparently, sailing and traveling across the sea used to be a dangerous adventure that could kill>90% of the crew.

The Galleon Trade made the colonial rich @ the expense of the natives. Spains lasting legacy was its authoritarian impulse and Buddy realized that American subjugation of Blacks were similar to Spanish subjugation of Filipino's in either case with the complicity of the ruling elite as well as th subjugated people. The elites took with them more of the vices than the virtues of those that subjugated them.

Like early American colonies, the Filipinos search for reproachment with their colonizers before seeking independence through revolution. Rizal sought to reform the Spanish government in order to allow Indios like himself representation in government but to no avail. The real rulers in the Philippines were the religious orders and not the civilian government. Buddy related to Pilar's being a dilettante in experiencing life walled off from the actual dangers of poverty in favor of empathizing with the trials of his fellow Filipino.

Buddy imagines Pilar's opposition with the religious institutions b/c it is them who rule and use their power to have sexual relations on the natives all the while they are selling the virtues of morality to others. Pilar has divided loyalties to his country in pushing reforms as well as to his family in the Philippines in this he envies Rizal who has no family to think of and thus can dedicate himself to the cause of Spanish reform in the Philippines. Pilar criticized Rizal for wanting to lead alone the reforms that the Philippines needed. Pilar the enemy of freedom from any colonizers are the rich who profit from anyone who is on top.

Buddy was summoned back to the US as his father died from a massive heart attack while his sister ODed on drugs. Jessie sought to reform her sexual and drug addicted ways for the sake of her dead father. Meanwhile, Felizia decided to become a nun.

Buddy decided to look over Old Tele's papers of his trials and tribulations as the 1st wave of Filipino immigrants. Old Tele tells of a sharecropping system in which his parents as tenants would forever be indebted to the landowners while the overseer could kick out any tenants whenever he would like. Again, education acted as a key to freedom for Old Tele. Old Tele went into laborers ship that brought him to Maui where he worked in the sugar fields. Although he tried to save himself for marriage to a girl named Aning, she eloped to Manila leaving him free to visit a fat white whore. From Hawaii, Old Tele went to California and during the height of the Depression and b/c they could eat anything and sleep anywhere they were relatively well-off compared to Americans.

He realized that education was key to their survival. So he went to a library in Alaska where he met a white brunette American, named Laura. They dated for a few years but b/c of the anti-miscegenation laws could legally marry her. Even though he had a green card, his ties to his native country prevents him from being a citizen. He became a union leaders of Filipino day-laborers b/c in unions the underpaid laborers have a voice. He says that his experiences taught him the value of work, savings, and education unlike the Filipino's @ home who just want to spend the money of their ancestors labors in the US.

Jessica is a mess b/c of an absent mother and father. Both Jessie and Buddy are both searching for something more out of their lives. B/c of his fellowship, Buddy took Jessie to Japan where she seemed to be in a better mood with the change of scenery. There they became close and Buddy said that Japanese are racist b/c they have a superiority complex. Jessie thought the Japanese were standoffish so she went back to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Buddy decided to live in a home of a former Geisha to experience what it is like to live in "real" Japan.

Buddy laments Filipino's lack of social cohesion unlike other Asians which had strong cultural identity. In Japan, he proceeded to look @ the life of General Ricarte who was a veteran of the Filipino-American war and refused to swear allegiance to the Americans but instead chose to go into exile in Japan. His convictions that Japan would show the light for Asian self-sufficiency made him scorned and forgotten by the history books.

General Ricarte wanted to model the Philippines after a unified Japan except for Japan had one language and culture whereas the Philippines had numerous languages and cultures that cannot form into a cohesive force. Despite hearing the news of progress in the Philippines, Ricarte placed his faith in Japanese Imperialism as a way for Asia to be rid of the Western colonizers. Looking into the eyes of defeat, Ricarte asks himself whether he was correct in defying America even after the reports were in that Americans helped the Philippines progress. He also questions the power of the Filipino oligarchy who seem to switch sides with whomever is in power.

Buddy wanted to get to know Chika better. Her back story was she was once a beautiful geisha and b/c of her love for a man severed his dick and he quickly died from bleeding out. Now Buddy takes baths with her and she is still very attractive. Chika took Buddy to the Geisha academy where her virgin niece was studying to be a Geisha. She subsequently sold Emiko to Buddy in order for her to lose her virginity to him. Although she paid for Emiko's services, Buddy desired Chika not Emiko but deflowered her anyway since that was expected of him. So, Buddy kept Emiko as a mistress. Although she was trained in the old ways of a geisha, Emiko was modern in her taste of music. When Buddy left for the US because Jessie tried to commit suicide, Emiko cried b/c she was losing her first lover.

Buddy realized that the problem with the Philippines is a structural problem in which the oligarchy elite keeps peoples natural talents from flourishing so they get stuck in either dead end jobs but the more fortunate ones among them go abroad like the US where sky is the limit. The whole immigration issue is that only immigrants who know what is like to be oppressed who can fully take advantage of the freedom the US gives them. This is the reason why America should continue to have a pro-immigration policy b/c new blood gives new life to a staid US economy.

Buddy's imagining what Vladimir's life is like as a hesitant expat. He imagines Vladimir was the son of poor man who admired Lenin and is partial to communism. His father was a morally upright man who lectured his son on the evils of Filipino society and played by the "rules" and expected his son to play by them too. B/c he saw many educated unemployed, Vladimir did not see the need to go to school but instead decided to become a cook. Vladimir learned early on that the cook was the most important person in the ship b/c food broke up the tedium faced by the crew on the ship. The first time he went sailing he was fortunate to have an all Filipino crew.

Orly had a girlfriend at every port. From the women, Vladimir heard of abuses and masters of the home in which they tried to rape the hired help. Most of the time the maids were better educated than their masters which added to the tension felt in the household. In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, filipina were routinely raped. Saudi's shria law conducted their punishment like it was still the middle ages including beheading of a Filipino who consensually fornicated a Saudi woman b/c of her family's honor was jeapordized. While the men who worked there suffered from boredom while their wives and girlfriends were unfaithful when they were away. From his experience with his cuckold friends, he could not fuck the married Perla though he loved her. Filipino seamen are in demand b/c they are willing to accept lower pay, they can speak English, they can adjust to any circumstances like water and can get along with anybody in any culture.

Seamen who do not have a regular port have to get their sexual needs met by prostitutes. Like other sexually trafficked people, Filipinas were recruited by a company promising them jobs abroad for money that they paid them then when there isn't they turn to prostitution as a way to survive in a foreign country. For Vladimir, Filipinos run away from a country who denies them honor to live. Filipino's help each other in times of distress otherwise each man is on his own.

When a Pakistan man insulted all Filipino's, Vladimir snapped and stabbed him in the chest. After which, he ran to Kyoto and was helped by a Filipino prostitute named Anita, a Japayuki. They were both illegal aliens in Japan in constant fear of being separated and deported. Vladimir started falling for Anita the prostitute. 2 months after they moved in together, they had sex. Vladimir became a lover to Anita and a manong to the other filipina prostitutes.

Unlike Filipino workers in the Philippines who can only think about their survival, Vladimir can at least give back to his parents and plan for his future with Anita. Again, Jose theme of the Filipino oligarchs are the ones oppressing their own people is repeated here. He asked why Filipino skilled laborer has to go abroad in order to find work instead of building the Philippines b/c of the lack of opportunity available to them by the oligarchy. It turns out that Vladimir and Anita were ready to get married in the Philippines with them having a baby.

On the last night Buddy was in Japan, Chika arranged it so Emiko was gone so she could seduce Buddy. When they were alone, she proceeded to tell Buddy her relationship with her father with hints of sexual molestation by him towards her. But despite her love for her father, her father tortured Filipino men, women, and children and wrote about it in his journal that is her father had a sadistic side to him.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gabriela Francisco.
460 reviews10 followers
March 13, 2021
"Viajero" is the Spanish for "Wanderer." First published in 1993, it is only my 3rd F. Sionil Jose book and the 2nd of his novels that I have read.

The book is an attempt to answer the age-old question: "Why are Filipinos driven to leave the country of their birth? Why do so many choose to abandon it to its fate?"

The frame narrative is simple enough: we have a Filipino orphan saved from the Japanese and taken in by an African American soldier, raised in California, then embarks on what starts out as a global quest for identity that becomes an all consuming passion, and finally ends with him going back to the land of his birth.

We follow Salvador dela Raza (nicknamed Buddy) as he travels all around the world, researching about his country of origin. A few chapters are his imaginings of what it would have been like to be a datu crossing the West Philippine Sea to take back his kidnapped daughter, or to be a galleon ship builder making the deadly crossing to Acapulco, or what it must have been like to be Artemio Ricarte, general in three wars. I think these "intermissions" were the best bits in the novel.

"When will Filipinos realize that it is themselves who are often their worst enemy? My people are vindictive... they are petty, and they pride themselves in baubles... We are a nation of show-offs, and Imelda has captured all that is in the Filipino character."

F. Sionil Jose does not want to coddle his reader. He wields his pen as if it is a knife, as if with the intent to wound, and I found myself exclaiming "ARAY!" aloud in some parts as he tore into the faults of the ordinary Pinoy, even as he exalted the virtues of the best, most self-sacrificing of us, whom he calls "above all else, a heroic people."

"The modern Filipino has no morality, which after all, is the basis of politics, and the democratic state... As the king, so the people? No! As the people, so the king! ... Unless collaboration with the enemy, with Marcos and his rapacious oligarchy, was considered the ultimate crime against the people... on this moral bedrock will then rise an idea of a shared community."

To wander is to be an exile of sorts. There is also the exile of the uprooted Filipino like the protagonist... "an exile from his own self." Eventually, Buddy makes his way to Manila and witnesses People Power firsthand, then settles down in the tiny patch of land high up in the mountains where his American stepfather found him, and lets his chosen destiny play out as it will.

I found the last line quite poignant: "He hoists me on his shoulders. I am very glad, for up there, I can see much more."

That is what this novel does for Filipinos... it encapsulates practically all of our history in only around 300 pages... short enough for perspective, without sacrificing the important twists and turns in our moral history. And after reading it, we can see much, much more. Written in F. Sionil Jose's trademark Filipino cadence, it makes it come alive for this Filipina reader in particular, although again his descriptions of women may be considered controversial by modern standards.

"What is history? It is our capacity to remember, to make the past useful and more so for Filipinos who have permitted themselves to be lobotomized by their own willfulness... if the past can be inlaid in the living flesh, then the past becomes alive as well, perpetuated in the collective mind."
7 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2021
We read this in 8th grade I think and it was wonderful. I am content that at least one Filipino writer got this far in writing. I am so proud.
Profile Image for Shweta Kumar.
Author 12 books123 followers
August 14, 2014
"There is so much that is not in the books, documents, frayed or well preserved they may be. Their lives are not described in this at all- Vladmir, Anita, the helmsman of yore, and now, those thousands in the desert, those maids strewn wantonly all over the world; it is they who have supported all these years the profligacy of the rich, the creaky functions of government . I can see them so clearly, the dead soldiers in the trenches felled by American guns ; they are barefoot because they are farmers. Who will tell their story, recognize their ultimate devotion to Filipinas?"

Sionil Josè sets out to narrate exactly that in the Viajero.
The story of Filipinas and her people - multiple stories of Filipinos through the ages, are aided in getting their version of history told, in the words of the protagonist Salvador Dela Raza, an orphan adopted by an American captain. Viajero takes us through Salvador's life as he grows up to be a professor and a traveller, in search of his roots, giving a voice to those stories that history ignored.

A highly recommended book for anyone who would love to know more about the Philippines and her people.
Profile Image for Maria.
353 reviews10 followers
December 15, 2015
I would've never known this book had it not been for my professor, who required us to read this for class. It was required for our finals, and, most importantly, served as an example for Metafiction. Furthermore, it was an introduction to memory studies (although we did not concentrate on this in class).

Here I was, a reader, unaware of the existence of this novel and Metafiction in general. But this book opened my eyes. It is wonderful.

Viajero is not only rich in prose, but also in symbolism, in history, in Philippine patriotism, and a lot more that is not sufficient to put in an online review. (All my efforts to describe the novel accurately has been put to my finals.) As I finished this novel and closed the last page, I said “Wow,” out loud.

Wonderful things happen when you allow yourself to read new kinds of books.
Profile Image for Lik C.
133 reviews6 followers
August 1, 2019
Reading Viajero made me feel like a Viajero again, travelling around the world with Salvador dela Raza, and discovering parts of Philippine history. I enjoyed the journey, reacquainting with the history I’ve learned in school, through Salavdor’s researches in libraries, and his encounters with Filipinos overseas and in the Philippines. I’d say it was too neat, meeting Filipinos while following the sequence of our history –pre, during, and post-colonialization - and reaching the end of the journey, in peace.
Profile Image for Eyana.
12 reviews20 followers
April 11, 2016
Historical fiction enhanced with vivid and dramatic storytelling.

Novel has comprehensive coverage of Philippine history - from pre-colonial times to Cory Aquino administration. Tackles social injustice, racism, various cultures and a bit of romance.

Plot is however unrealistic, but what matters more is Sionil's socio-political commentary, spoken through his characters.

Literature is for scholastic pursuit rather than for pure entertainment.
Profile Image for voice.library.
11 reviews16 followers
June 15, 2008
A must read! Deepened the meaning of heroism. . .involving and captivates a Filipino heart on their pain with what really matters to you and nationalism itself.
Profile Image for Roberto D..
330 reviews3 followers
June 7, 2022
Book 59 out of 200 books
"Viajero" by F. Sionil Jose

"Viajero", in the broadest sense, means "Traveler" or in Filipino, "biyahero" or "byahero". Basing on the novel's title, it talks of the story of Salvador de Raza, a Filipino-born American who retracts to his roots to the Philippines, in order to get his home-born nation better.

The novel also has chapters dedicated to the Acapulco trade, the story of a socialist revolutionary, the story of OFW workers across nations, the story of Artemio Ricarte who reposits his revolution in Japan, only to turn traitorous during the second world war, then the story of Ninoy Aquino and his exile to the USA, but more calculating is Buddy's (Salvador's nickname) friendship with Pepe Samson, the main character of "Mass"- F. Sionil Jose's last novel of the Rosales Saga, then to the overthrow of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino's ascesion to the presidency, as well as the restoration of democracy in the country, then to the more controversial Mendiola massacre that happened barely before the first year the country got its democracy back, and culminating in Salvador de Raza's romance with a local Filipina.

"Viajero" was written on the dedication of the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal's 100th death anniversary, as well as commemorating his heroism. This novel was published in the year 1993. This novel could be considered a spin-off of the Rosales novels, as Pepe Samson himself is just a minor character in this work.

Out of all F. Sionil Jose novels that sticked with me the most, I'd pick this. Unlike the brooding atmosphere of "Po-on" or the dystopian plotting of "Mass"- "Viajero" resonated with me the most. Because of the novel's symbolisms and entire chapters dedicated to the hardships of Filipinos. I strongly believe that we have a lot to go before becoming a great, let alone, descent country.

Buddy de Raza's motive is clear, the man just wants to be in contact with his native soil once more. Though getting ensnared by the charms of women while getting to the Philippines, he still is the type of hero who is Chaotically good.

I felt a lot more from Buddy de Raza's conversations with Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. I mean, I few months after their talks, Ninoy was assassinated, therefore strengthening the opposition.

Then Artemio Ricarte, I know that Sionil Jose never actually met Ricarte but I felt sympathy for him too. Ricarte was like our version of Phillippe Petain because the fact that he was already hailed a hero pre-WW2, he still thought that he was fighting for our independence as a nation, only to be toppled of his hero status at the end. Yes, I agree that he was a villain because he still sided with the enemy, so it doesn't make a difference.

Then finally Reviewing Ninoy Aquino Jr. Well, because of Misinformation I use to despise him but then I decided to reconsider him. All of what's said of him being a communist and a terrorist are all false. I really should've been more vigilant about fake news. Social media is a curse when not regulated properly.

I am writing this book review late into the night so I need to sleep, still, An F. Sionil Jose book I recommend! It is enjoyable.

"You are an American, with the Filipino dream."- Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., A quote that was glued to me ever since I read this work. It is, in my opinion, the greatest quote of the book and Ninoy and Raza's conversation was essential for his character development.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
140 reviews
April 25, 2021
3.5 stars
Not my best read from Sionil but I liked how story was tied-up with one of his books (Mass). Basically the story of Salvador (badong) Dela Raza, his adventures, travels and search for his Filipino roots.
7 reviews
July 22, 2021
We read this in 8th grade I think and it was wonderful. I am content that at least one Filipino writer got this far in writing. I am so proud.
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