Philippine history has never been written in this way. Angela Stuart-Santiago’s narrative comes to us in writing staggeringly effective, in prose clean and lucid. The book was initially a family history of the Herreras of Tayabas Province, but early on we are gripped by its account of “five stories of incarceration, exile, murder and betrayal.” As it turns out, Stuart-Santiago is unfolding the history of the country from the time of the Revolution of 1896 and the Filipino-American War, down through the American colonial years of Quezon’s emergence as a politician, the war years under the Japanese and the guerilla movement, and the postwar period of Magsaysay and Cold War campaign against the Communists. Revolutionary Routes is based on the voluminous Spanish memoirs of Concepcion Herrera Vda. De Umali who wrote, upon the prompting of grandchildren, about her parents in the 19th century and the generations that lived through the times when the republic was finding its footing in the path to national stability. What could have been a tedious recounting of the lives and vicissitudes of family members has been shaped by Stuart-Santiago’s method of interspersing her narrative with quotes from the individuals speaking in the memoir, so that the reader is engulfed in the words and thoughts of family members and the people who touched their lives, and made to experience the times and the community. The final “story” in the book is about Narciso Umali, the Nacionalista representative of Tayabas who was falsely accused of leading a bloody Hukbalahap raid in Tiaong and incarcerated for six years before he was exonerated and freed, six years of hoping and hopes dashed all because the administration, with its army and its courts, had latched on to an anti-communist campaign, and could not find a ready way of rectifying the injustice done to its “celebrity Commie captive.” Stuart-Santiago has not only told us about a family, she has laid bare a society with its staunch patriots, its crooked politicians, its respectable criminals, its corruptible insitutions and fallible dreams.
National Artist for Literature
Revolutionary Routes is both a collection and a recollection. These five stories mean more than five lives. It goes beyond the complexity, or ambiguity, of Concepcion Herrera Vda de Umali's travels and Concepcion Umali Stuart's translation. They, in a way, stand for the silent, and silenced, majority. Through this book, they are finally heard. When it speaks of incarceration, it shouts about freedom. When it deals with exile, it dreams of home. When it exposes murder, it explains life. When it remembers betrayal, it recalls loyalty. And love -- the first and only commandment. Tayabas Province simply mirrors the entire archipelago. Just as then reflects now. No writer can create this book other than Angela Stuart-Santiago, the incumbent torch-bearer! Genius runs in this family. Gifted, she succeeds in teaching us to read between the lines. Or between their lives. And our lives. In turn, or in return, we learn. Or is it tearn? Not just from our history's heroes but our villains as well. Dios no duerme, Dios no duerme!
This is a gripping narrative, in which history unfolds through the saga of five generations, leading to a tragic and unhappy denouement that mirrors the history of the nation over the past century. I strongly recommend Angela Stuart-Santiago’s latest, and so far, best work as a required reading for the introductory course in Philippine History. Not only is it an indispensable primary source, illuminating critical aspects of Philippine history not usually covered in standard history textbooks, it is also good literature—one that can be read with pure pleasure, for its own sake. Indeed the narrative becomes more riveting as it progresses. I must confess that the brilliant epilogue, “Family and Country,” affectionately addressed by the author to her Lola Concha, brought me to tears.
Author, A Nation Aborted (2008)
REVOLUTIONARY ROUTES is a must-read for those interested not only in the social history of Tayabas but of a feudal/colonial country marked by oligarchic and patronage politics – focused on five gripping stories of individuals representative of a class society. The book is creative non-fiction at its best.
Elmer A. Ordoñez,
literary critic and academic