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Gina Apostol in her Acknowledgements; Recuperated Pasts, The Revolution According to

Raymundo Mata, writes:

This book was planned as a puzzle: traps for the reader, dead-end jokes, textual
unexplained sleights of tongue; but at the same time, I wished to be true to
the past I was
plundering. My concept of Raymundo is cut out of imagined cloth;
but the details I conjured
had to breathe through the web of his actual history. In
addition, I needed to conceive
Raymundos memoirs on my own terms, and so I
banned theorists and many secondary
sources from my diet."
Magnify Blindness (or Let a Blind Lead the Blind)
A Book Review by Jophen Baui
The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata doesnt deviate from the usual hypothesis and
deductions regarding the events leading to the 1898 revolution. However, the protagonist is both
there and not there, always between involvement and simply knowing, calculating but never
decisive unless forced into a situation, and passionate about books and reading. The question,
however, is whether the chief protagonist's soul is 'too narrow' or 'too broad' in relation to
reality in this case, to the germination of the 1898 revolution.
The Revolution
In June 1896, a crucial time in Philippine history, Andres Bonifacio sent Dr. Pio Valenzuela as an
emissary to Dapitan to obtain Rizals opinion or agreement to an armed revolution. The Kataastaasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or KKK led by Bonifacio, the
Supremo, had, by then, recruited men and women from both the rich and poor classes of people
and was aiming for no less than the countrys freedom from Spain. According to records of
Philippine history Jose Rizal did not endorse the revolution, and is believed to have had remarked
that based on insufficient arms and lack of logistics alone, the time wasn't ripe for a people's
In Apostol's novel, Raymundo Mata is with Dr. Pio Valenzuela during this errand to Dapitan.
Raymundo Mata is Dr. Pio Valenzuelas decoy who will help him gain audience with Rizal. In order
to distract the Spanish wards, their script is that Dr. Pio Valenzuela will consult with Dr. Rizal
about Raymundo Matas night blindness so that the doctor's errand would come off as a medical
rather than a political mission.
At the time, Raymundo Mata works in a printing press, reads a lot, a college graduate who used
to dream about becoming a writer, but now finds it tragic that in spite of his diploma, he has
ended up as a regular blue-collar worker who is unpopular among his colleagues in the press.
Bullied when he was a student, he is simple and a coward due to others making him believe as
such. Nevertheless, he has become a member of the secret society KKK. He admires Andres
Bonifacio, who, he has long discovered, loves to read, too, and he envies Emilio Aguinaldo
Miong, his childhood friend in Kawit because Miong is a Mayor and commands authority
wherever he goes, in spite of the fact that he doesnt read that much at all.
Mata, witnesses and notes the details of Rizals Dapitan: a lush environment planted with fruit
trees where Rizal has installed a water system; green forest surroundings where he roams
around collecting butterflies to send to his friend in Germany; a wide clearing where he has built
a clinic and conducts daily medical consultations treating all sorts of illnesses that comes to him

from all the surrounding areas; and with a school where he teaches fencing and other practical
arts to young boys .
While noting the hero's busyness in detail, Raymundo Matas main question is implied: In the
thick of his activities, how is the man, Rizal, able to still find time to write? Matas preoccupation is with the writer the author of Noli Me Tangere, a book he has read, and El
Filibusterismo, which he hopes to read. In fact he steals a fictional third book still in writing by
the time he leaves Dapitan with Dr. Pio Valenzuela, because he is sure that like the Noli, this next
book will also be a good read. Raymundo Mata craves for Rizals words like a historian craving for
clincher details in minor events that inform on the major events.
Face to face with Rizal, Raymundo desires to discover the writer. But in Dapitan, Rizal, the
author, is not living up to his reputation as an author in the romantic sense, while Mata, the
participant in history is not being a historian. In Dapitan everything is a clock-ish routine of
practical, urgent matters and Matas desire for an autograph is always checked by his inferiority
over what Rizal would think of him -- he, a simple working man in a printing press, brought to
Dapitan not by his choice but by the bad condition of his eyes, which even Mayor Miong, his
cousin-kababayan in Kawit knows to be without treatment. In the end, he gets Rizals autograph
when Rizal signs the prescription pad with the medicines for his ailment.
Whats it All About
Apostols novel veers away from an inquiry on that historical mark that will lead to the 1898
Philippine revolution. As she stays true to the facts of the past, Apostol does not alter nor
validate what is already assumed in historical records. Instead hers is an exposition of the reader
Mata's attitude toward the writer Rizal. Mata sees irony in Rizal the novelist and Rizal the
MacGyver of Dapitan. While he is in awe of the novelist, he does not ask any question nor
comments nor reacts on any of the themes of the Noli.
Mata is not at all curious about history happening before him. He is more curious about the
reason for Josephines tears (crying over her stillborn child). He is aware that a revolution is
brewing, yet he doesnt go deep into any debate or discussion about it, before, during, or after
the revolution. Instead, like Forrest Gump, he just always finds himself at the right place or he is
forced into it. However, unlike Forrest Gump, he doesnt make the most of it, and misses the
point of it all.
The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata problematizes the engagement of minor voices in
history and parodies their chatter.
If Raymundo Mata were not a fictional character, why would one immortalize his memoirs into a
book? Who would take a second look on his vulgarities, his sexual fantasies with the major
women around that time of the revolution (Leonor, Oryang, K, and Segunda), his frustrations, and
his notes on the Katipuneros, who, in the novel, were his batch mates in college? Estrella Espejo,
the editor, sometimes hails him as a hero as long as she can relate with an experience. By virtue
of her age and wisdom, if she can recall a commonality in the experiences jotted, she would use
it as a gauge for authenticity. Diwata Drake, the reader, reads some psychological meanings into
Mata's dithering, procrastination, non-commitment. Mimi Magsalin, the translator, labors over
Mata's words and finds them linguistically challenging. She has translated literally and is the first
intervention between the memoirist (Mata) and an absent first reader. TrinaTrono, the publisher,
finds the memoir novel, and so it has got to be sold as such, something new, something organic,
or something ground breaking, which could win the publishing house a book award.Within the

novel's fictional space, nobody can categorically claim that he or she is the one closest to the
truth of the Revolution. Four unreliable voices poke at a historically known fact, peeking at
history's most ignored actors in the revolution, the Katipunero recruits. Then, Diwata Drake, Mimi
Magsalin, Tina Trono, and Estrella Espejo are pittied against each other -- in small italic fonts on
footnote trails, to muddle Mata's version of the 1898 revolution. It is amusing to listen to their
voices debate over trivial matters. The fictional footnotes reveal that their personal agenda are
also texts to be scrutinized. In fact, the novel basks in the luxury of setting out everything and
everyone under scrutiny -- the katipuneros and their women, Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken,
Dr. Pio Valenzuela, and Emilio Aguinaldo, and events in Philippine history which have not yet
found closures as to their validity. Only Raymundo Mata is not exempted from this gaze. But Gina
Apostol has set him up under a magnifying lens shrinking on one side and enlarging on another
any authoritative stamp on his memoir entries.