Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

I bought this book back April 10, 2010 in National Bookstore located at Glorietta 5 during the author's book launching. I'm happy it was signed by the author Miguel Syjuco himself. I learn about the book from 2008 Palanca Awards and latter it won Man Asian Literary Prize too. That's my deciding factor why i bought it.

Eventually after i got home, I forgot to read it because of hefty school work. It's almost 4 years already and it's just this month, while cleaning my bookshelf, I notice this book and decided to read it.

Signed Ilustrado novel by Miguel Syjuco. Photo from Instagram post by Literateknolohitura's Otakore.

I expect, It would be a great book to read because it won prestigious awards but let's find out if it really is with my book review (continue by clicking the 'Read more' or scroll down).

Book Details:

Title: Ilustrado
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG)
Publication Date:
ISBN: 9780374941031
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Edition: Philippine Edition
Suitable Age: 18+

Local Store: National Bookstore
Price: 385 php.

Back cover of Ilustrado

(review may contain spoilers so SPOILER ALERT!)

The main character is named Miguel. Miguel went back to Manila on his task to write the autobiography of his mentor Crispin Salvador (CS). The novel actually starts with dead Crispin Salvador floating in the river. CS died of unknown cause. They suspect it's a suicide. After several months, Miguel received an e-mail from e-mail-ID'ed [email protected], telling him to save Crispin Salvador's reputation from his haters. And so he went back to Manila from New York, to research his mentor's life and soon publish it. (Note: as an IT guy, I can't help but notice that there's no such domain exist in the real world; well... it's fiction)

Reading Ilustrado is like reading multiple-books-in-one. I was confused with the structure and chronology of stories in this book. You may need to read the end note first before you realize it was Crispin Salvador work or if you're currently reading Miguel's world. There are several stories in this book, mostly are literary works of Crispin Salvador. The change in Font Style didn't help too in determining what you're reading. The book gives me headache. I almost abandon the book but i didn't. If it wasn't a prestigious award winner I won't waste my time reading it. I keep reading the book and tried to appreciate it til the end.

Ilustrado is not that bad and either not that good. I like some of the excerpts from CS' Kaputol Trilogy, Erning Isip dirty-joke stories, I like the humor and the sarcastic parody in 'Ilustrado' about the politics in the Philippines. As a whole, It's not a book i would brag about or recommend to. Perhaps, If someone mentioned this book, I'll just stay quiet, pretending i haven't read this book yet. Or if they ask if i already read it, I'd say 'Yes' and 'read my book review post about it at [THIS POST'S URL]' - I have no time to explain. The book is hard to summarize.

I praise the author for being very linguistic. The words he used in his novel are highfalutin. The author overly observed things. I'm a keen observer too and i like to observe simple things, I can relate with the author but they're just not that really important with this novel. Things like spam messages from Marcel Avellaneda's blog, using drugs at your village, etc. they're too redundant for 'Ilustrado'. What am i reading here really? I realize and got the point of 'Ilustrado' in Ilustrado. Ilustrado was characterized from Cripin Salvador's descendants and even Crispin Salvador himself, a modern Ilustrado perhaps? Characterization of 'Ilustrado' was minimal. I don't think the title Ilustrado suits the title of the novel itself.

So my final rating is: 3.0 / 5.0

I'd give it an exact 3.5 if and only if the author decided to reconstruct the book properly. Instead of putting the title of collected stories at the end note, put it at top and titled the story as is.

It doesn't deserve 3.6 and up. Why? Just read my review or read the book yourself to find out why.

Here's a video of the author himself, introducing you the background of the story:



  • Ilustrado won the Man Asian Literary Prize in the year 2008 ('Man Asian Literary Prize' now called 'Asian Literary Prize')
  • the book also won the 2008 Palanca Awards - Novel - English Division
  • Miguel Syjuco is the son of Augusto "Bobby" Syjuco Jr., a former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General and former Representative of the 2nd District of Iloilo. Kind of resembles Bobby Simplicio, Miguel's father in the book.

  • Miguel Syjuco wiki -
  • Augusto Syjuco wiki -
  • Ilustrado meaning wiki -
  • 2008 Palanca Awards winner -

Want to buy the book? It's available online in (purchase the book directly below):


  1. Thanks for the honest review. I really appreciate it. God bless :)

  2. I haven't read Ilustrado yet and it's already on my bookshelf. Thank you for giving some tips to help me understand the story line :)

  3. I will make sure that it is in my list.

  4. I've always been curious about this book and it's great to read your review!

  5. It's good to know that you are reviewing a pinoy book. First time to heard about this one and I love your spoiler alert! Cheers for the share!

  6. The book sounds so interesting and yes you're right it is fiction but sometimes fictions become reality :)


  7. Awesome review! Heard about this book from a friend, good to know about it before actually getting it myself, thanks! :)

  8. I've seen this book in store and heard about this from a friend. Worth reading I guess.

    1. Sorry. Don't guess or you'll experience what I experienced.

  9. I've seen this book in the shelves and was quite interested because of the design of the cover but reading your review about it made me decide to pass. I don't think I'd enjoy this book.

    1. Thanks for heeding what I reviewed. Reading it is like you can't get out of your seat not because it's good but you keep re-reading the previous pages to understand "what just happen to story". It's hard to read.

  10. I thought this Ilustrado was something similar to the TV series in GMA7. But upon reading your review, looks like its different pala. Great reviews though, very truthful :)

  11. First its good to know you've read the book.
    To those who have not read it yet, as with any other book, its appeal and allure depends on the readers interest and persona. Admittedly the book is not an easy read, however with so small number of printed/commercial Filipino books in the market, this books stands out as one that had broken into the international market. Miguel Syjuco works presented to the world our story (since what comes to their mind about our revolution are Imelda’s shoes) and to as Filipinos that the possibility is boundless.