Review of Galaw ng Asoge by Jason Chancoco

Review of Galaw ng Asoge by Jason Chancoco
Book Review: Galaw ng Asoge
By Cirilo F. Bautista
443 pages
UST Publishing House

"Asoge", otherwise known as mercury or Hg is described as silvery white and weighs 298K, making it the heaviest elemental fluid. Heavy but swift and dexterous, just like the nearest planet to our sun, or Mercurius, the messenger of the gods and god of traders. A poor conductor of electricity, it is sensitive to temperature and thus used in making thermometers, barometers and other heat measuring devices. When absorbed through the skin, it can be hazardous to health but still it is used by some people as talisman, injecting the fluid in their system believing that it can prolong a person's lifespan, even delaying death during the last hours of life.

"Asoge" has all this reputed properties, thus the term quicksilver, but it could very well be National Artist for Literature Award top contender Cirilo F. Bautista's latest Tagalog novel. Galaw ng Asoge has all the qualities and ways of mercury, plot-wise and character-wise.

The narrative has sudden playful shifts in the point of view.

From deliberately writing boring sequences (except the sex scene) and off humor lines in the first three chapters, the author jolts the readers through a sudden shift in POV in chapter four. Here Bautista talks to his readers and explains some points-that it was a case of wrong choice in POV and some details were missed out because of it. Very modern. A sort of creative acrobatics or literary discourse combined. Reading those parts would seem like the author was doing a lecture on how to write an effective story.

Ending almost like the way it started (as the author finds the first person POV of Amado, the main player, as misleading), the narrative restarts in chapter forty-four, employing the third person POV once again. Obviously there will be a sequel, and in fact Galaw ng Asoge is conceived to be part of a trilogy.

From here we can say that it has the "birtud" of mercury as talisman. A sort of a delaying tactic that leaves the readers craving for more, even if it is just a cycle or repetition of the same storyline but only with varying POVs. Each sequence is well planned and with inputs on the philosophy of the author as articulated by his characters.

But these characters tend to hide certain truths that only the author knows.
Thus we not only have a deceptive narrative but also some characters whom we cannot trust such as the corporate tandem of father and son Carlos and Amado Ortiz.

Amado's Weak Voice
Again, this is deliberate. As this novel is designed to play tricks on its readers, it is easy to fall into the trap of Amado's narrative. A poseur, a poet, and a romantic, his lines are metaphorical, dreamy and unreliable. He is the novel's weak voice and he sees, feels and says only what he finds necessary in building up his image around his selfish motive, and he is so good a pretender that he sounds so sincere-and so perhaps he believes himself.

As the author himself pointed out later in the novel, Amado's viewpoint is limited. For instance, he kept on referring to his mother as "Mama", which is understandable, but almost missed out on mentioning her real name, Rosario. Also his detached relationship with his mother deprived the readers of Rosario's greatness as a woman and mother.

Being a poet, he tends to exaggerate on some details. Not to say that all poets are like this and that in effect they are liars like Amado. Perhaps this goes to say that the dreams of a poet are much different from the ambitions of a politician or business tycoon.

When he says that he adores his sister Clara he also tries to paint a picture of them as soul mates, if we could call it that. He says they could read each other's minds. However, if this were true, how come he did not learn of Mita's (Amado's girlfriend) early relationship with this father? It was later revealed that Clara actually knew all about it.

Amado's younger brother, Gerry is the only character allowed to witness his confused side and this was after Mita's suicide. In the same way that he looks up to his father Carlos for guidance, Gerry also tries to emulate him, as he seems to be so at ease even when in times of trouble. But of course this is just a pose. He still has to learn the "birtud" of his poet-boxer friend, Ben.

Even during his most triumphant moment, Amado is still unimpressive. Sure he was able to trick the corporate trickster Don Agustin. But he was lucky the old man did not have a gun with a silencer when he was trying to blackmail him. He could have easily been shot and disposed of in Manila Bay. Who would suspect a president maker like Don Agustin? Not his Mama who was the fiancé of Agustin in their youth.

Among Amado's exploits was his portrayal of Carlos Ortiz in the novel as a loser and a quitter so that only he would gain glory for their redeemed fortune. Perhaps the sequel will have Don Carlos as voice so that we can hear his side. When he calmly took his own life, there was an attempt in his part to recover his honor.


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