The national imaginaries in Philippine novels

Gabriel Jose Gonzalez, Fordham University


A theme running through many Philippine novels is the transformation of identity from a colony to a nation. This recurring theme runs through novels produced from the late period of Spanish colonization at the end of the Nineteenth Century up to the Twenty-First Century and by authors from different ideological, economic, and gender affiliations. The lingering preoccupation with this theme may be explained by the fact that establishing a Philippine national identity has been especially complicated by the absence of pre-colonial cultural formations which some other colonized nations have employed to launch their self-definition. In this absence, the Philippine people have been trapped in the paradox of using cultural formations borrowed from colonizers to establish freedom from and equality to the same colonizers. By examining novels from various historical periods, Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891), Gonzalez's The Winds of April (1941), Joaquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961), Jose's My Brother, My Executioner (1973), and Hagedorn's Dream Jungle (2004), this study traces how the Philippine people have engaged the national imaginary. This study analyzes the texts by unearthing the workings of Freudian family romance within them. Freudian family romance aptly provides the basic allegorical figure by which the national imaginary is textually represented. The family romance has in fact been suggested as a determinative metaphor that western nation-states have utilized to structure relations of power both within their own boundaries and with their colonies. Just as the family romance operates on the creation of narrative discontinuities, the struggle of postcolonial nations to transform from colony to nation consists of authoring discontinuities that the novels discussed in this study brings to light. Presented in chronological sequence of textual production, the analyses of the novels reveal a progression in the nature and depth of necessary discontinuities: from a discontinuity in narrative authority and form, to a complete discontinuity from already established including indigenous narratives of the past, and ultimately to a complete discontinuity from patriarchal narratives including the nation narrative that usurp the power of self-definition. The growing scope of the discontinuity involved reveals a deepening understanding of the core structural social forces impeding the attainment of true freedom and equality of the Filipino subject.

Subject Area

Asian literature|Asian Studies

Recommended Citation

Gonzalez, Gabriel Jose, "The national imaginaries in Philippine novels" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3495889.