While you’ve been reading some of my posts about cats, yoga, chocolate and other randomness, I finally did finish this book. The reading of this work has been an enormous undertaking. It’s not the size of the work (although I might also be able to conquer a small island armed only with this book) but 400 years of a rape of an island, rape of a culture and rape of the Filipino psyche. I undertook this book in an effort to follow a rabbit down a hole. Primarily, it was a recommendation from Scott Walker, author of Edge of Terror, previously reviewed on this blog. Second, I wanted to know why my mother’s birth certificate was destroyed during World War II. Lastly, I sought to know about the rule of the Spanish and the Americans as a means to understand the “why” of the migration of my family from the Philippines to America. What I got was a mixture of war, politics, economics and culture. It makes sense that those things come into play since the reasons behind something as complex a human migration live in the decisions and actions of multiple generations, spanning multiple continents and how those stories, our stories, intersect. It was amazing to learn this history, yet I am fatigued by the images in my mind of war, poverty, imperialism and subjugation. Having lived through the People Power Revolution led by Cory Aquino or “restoration” as Mr. Karnow describes it, was just the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. Karnow has a very engaging writing style. It’s probably the thing that got me through his thorough and very impressive book. At times it was like reading war segments of Lord of the Rings. There were several instances of armies traveling, landing on a particular coast and engaging in battle. There were many accounts of unforgiving jungles and terrain that decimated foreign armies and natives alike. Yet the same jungles and terrain protected its inhabitants foreign and native alike. These conflicts were first waged with swords, spears and shields in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, guns in the 19th century and finally politics, psychology and economics in the 20st century. Actually, those last three occurred early on as well but more subtly with the hand to hand combat in the forefront.