Searching for an Authentic Filipino Voice: F. Sionil Jose's Dusk

Article excerpt

The space that I inhabit is not my own. It is a space that shifts: where imperial and native cultures mingle, where traditions of the past and imaginings of the future coalesce in the present, where a sense of belonging eludes definitive place. As a Filipino American, I empathize with this problem of identity that many students experience. In our increasingly diverse classrooms, Dusk is an excellent choice, for it invites inquiry on race, religion, gender, and power--F. Sionil Jose addresses the complex nature of identity.

Set during the end of the nineteenth century, Dusk is the fifth novel that tells the story of the Rosales family. F. Sionil Jose is one of the most eminent writers of the Philippines. Dusk underscores the challenge of the subaltern: the search for an authentic voice. The postcolonial voice is one of intersection and juxtaposition: where past, present, and future collide, where the displaced search to find both a real and ideal homeland, and where the imperialist ideology and native sensibility compete for space and dominance within the heart, mind, and soul of the subaltern and the land itself.

The physical journey is resplendent with archetypal imagery--students will find Jose's use of monomythic elements intriguing, l ask my students to consider what is "universal" versus "particular," specific to culture or era. The hero Istak, obedient and innocuous, is called upon a journey that takes him from his humble town through the jungle in search of freedom and salvation. After his father kills a Spanish priest to avenge his family's suffering, Istak must reconsider his loyalties. …