Without Seeing The Dawn

Stevan Javellana’s Without Seeing The Dawn is the story of a man, not a prince nor nobility from faraway lands but the story of a “common” man. It explores the development of a man under the circumstances bought about by society and the his inner struggles. I enjoyed the book’s down-to-earth narration of the Filipino culture with its use of local language and local color. Unlike other books of foreign minds made, I found that I could somehow relate my experiences with the protagonist’s (being made by a Filipino), enabling me to see what he saw, hear what he heard, taste what he tasted and feel what he felt. The book presents a colorful view of the world in the eyes of a common man made uncommon by the challenges he faced.

Ricardo Suerte, who despite his name is called as “a son of misfortune”. A tenant-farmer with a strongly-built body, he marries his childhood sweetheart Lucia at an early age of 18. After the unfortunate birth of their firstborn child, a stillbirth, and expulsion from their lands by their landowner after an incident you’ll have to know yourself, the couple tries their fortune in the city, where they quickly learn of its harsh way of life. The couple soon returns to their barrio after a quarrel involving Carding’s secret affair. The book continues with the couple’s high’s and low’s and the first part ends with Carding being conscripted to the military during the great turn of the century: World War II.

The story continues with Carding returning from Bataan to his old barrio, which he finds, has been tested by time. The Japanese have invaded Manila, and it was just a matter of time before they reached the Visayas to Panay, where Carding’s barrio was located. The book narrates of our protagonist’s military exploits, successfully eliminating a local warlord, joining the guerillas, capture and release, and his promotion to lieutenant. It also narrates of the experiences of other people affected by the war: Teniente Paul, the barrio’s capitan who faces the Japanese defiantly and gets beheaded, Alicia, who sees her family butchered in front of her eyes, ravaged, and carried away to a brothel, Gondoy, who chooses to let her sweetheart Penang marry another man due to his disability sustained from a shrapnel wound for he felt he was incapable of being a good husband, among many others. The ending is ambigous, it is up for the reader to decide. Read it and find out. It’s about time read our own.

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