The first and last time I have read ‘Gapo was three years ago when I was in Grade 9.
I must say upon reading the book again after almost three years, a lot has changed.
The story has opened my eyes widely about the issue of enslavement of Filipinos in his own country; how the world- known Filipino traits tend to ricochet at some points; the never- ending battle on racial superiority and the history of Filipinas dreaming of marrying Americans and leaving a ton of ‘Gapo babies (Filipino- American children by US Navy officers) without knowing their real father.
Sad to say, these things are still evident in the Philippine society today, up untiil this year 2017.
‘Gapo is a novel written by Lualhati Bautista, one of the few female Filipino authors who spearheaded the use of sensitive social and political issues in her masterpiece. The complete title of the novel is “‘Gapo at isang puting Pilipino, sa mundo ng mga Amerikanong kulay brown” (translation: “‘Gapo, and a white Filipino in a world of brown Americans”), the title itself says much of what the novel is about.
‘Gapo is short for Olongapo, one of the two cities in the Philippines where American naval bases used to be located.
The novel was set during the operation of America in Olongapo— American soldiers dominating the highest positions in the base, Filipino prostitutes vigorously dancing for their customers that might one day become their ticket to the USA and Filipino- American children wandering the city, both confused and longing for the father they had never seen.
Bautista made use of the characters as representation of distinct kinds of people that existed during that time:
a Filipino prostitute who got old in her job, she is around late 20’s to early 30’s. She is a woman who unbelievably falls in love too fast with any of her American customers who show her a little affection, an ironic thing because she most of the time forget the rule of the game: ” You can have sex without giving your heart. ” She is the representation of all women who dream of meeting a serious US navy officer and actually be the “knight in shining armor” they have all been dreaming of.
Michael Taylor, Jr.
a ‘Gapo baby. He inherited the physical features of his father, white skin and blonde hair which makes him curse his father even more. He loathes anything atateside and it shows in the songs he sings in front of his US navy customers in Freedom Pad.
a typical Filipino father. He works in the naval base where he experienced firsthand the real discrimination that happens between Filipinos and Americans, whether you are of the same rank. He is called “yardbird” by Johnson, an arrogant US navy officer. Yardbird is the term Americans use to call birds who feed on leftovers. In tagalog, “patay- gutom. “
one of the few Americans who had real concern with Filipino officers in the base. He is one of a thousand US navy officers who stayed true to his promise. He married a Filipina and had a son.
Even though there are no more American soldiers in the naval bases in the country, the influence is still alive and kicking.
Filipinos tend to worship anything that has “Imported from the U. S.” in it. Our minds are surprisingly trained that any US- made products are no doubt better if not the best.
It is funny how Bautista could make such a novel, without a hint of exaggeration.
She used words which are realistic rather than creative ( “Putang’na nyo, putang’na nyo! ” said Modesto) which is her signature as for me. I noticed the same thing in “Bata, Bata , Pa’no Ka Ginawa? ” and “Dekada ’70.” She has this power as an author that plays with the reader’s emotions, by building the dragon inside of every character, like Modesto did, which was honestly my most favorite part, and putting cliffhangers all in the right timing and places.
Hands down to Ma’am Lualhati Bautista. I am giving it a 5 over 5. Definitely my most favorite and most relatable novel in the three I read.
Will I recommend it? Yes! I am encouraging everybody especially the millenials to read “‘Gapo at isang puting Pilipino, sa mundo ng mga Amerikanong kulay brown.” Please do not commit a shotgun reading, for this novel deserves all the time.
All the chapters are interconnected and a reader will only appreciate its beauty in its whole.
To those Americans who are having second thoughts about reading the novel, I highly encourage you do so. On the other hand, this is not about throwing all the stones to Americans, Bautista has consistently emphasized the fair share of faults of Filipinos that led to unfortunate decisions.
I dare every Filipino to read this novel and contemplate: Are we already free?
About the Writers and How Do they See Themselves 10 years from Now
Via Salazar Balinquit, Student – Pasig City Science Highschool
I’ll be 28 by then, I should have my own business, real estate is the first thing on my mind. Professionally, I would become a degree holder in one of the following: Psychology, Agriculture, Anthropology, Geology or International Studies. I would also want to have a peaceful and loving family of my own.
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