The Rush of the River
by Lilia Hernandez Chung
Vantage Press, New York
Comments about the book
Excerpts from the book
Comments about the book
Sylvia Mendez Ventura
University of the Philippines
This chain of stories evolves into an engrossing novel about life in a fictional but authentic Philippine town. Each of the novel's seven plots is like an eddy in the river that flows through Kaptan, each eddy revolving around a central figure, rich or poor, who either makes a meaningful discovery or must make a crucial decision. Martin, Soling, Alice, Jose, Susanah, Ponciano, Larry, all are linked by filial or feudal bonds with the Graciela family, particularly with Mario Graciela, provincial judge of the fictional island of Soledad.
The Rush of the River encapsulates a stretch of Philippine history beginning with the pre-war period and ending in the post-war fulfillment of the Filipino dreammigration to the U.S.A. Highlighted is the Japanese Occupation, which tests the physical and moral stamina of a people unaccustomed to economic hardship and a foreign opressor. Omitting the political minutiae that often burden readers of historical fiction, Lilia Hernandez Chung focusses on day to day concerns such as social inequality, human dignity, and the perilous road from innocence to experience.
You have caught the flavor of each of the "eras" and the running culture that belonged to each of those times. Yes, reading brought back a mix of nostalgia and amused realization of what a mixed cultural bag the Filipino people are beautifully told and rendered, I wish more people (especially Filipinos and those who want to learn about the culture) could get to read this one book, since it is a piece of literature that explains the many whys of the Fiipino angst!
(Excerpt from her commentary in the book.)
Her elegant sensitive, and rich writing; her eye for the human essentials, her delicacy, make her stories more than period piecesthey are fine literature.
Excerpts from The Rush of the River
Fable (From Alice)
When the girl child was born, they named her Alice. Alice, the mother said, instructing the housemaids, Alice. It was a strange name to them and they kept mispronouncing it: Alís, they said, Alís. Overhearing them, the father who spoke several native dialects was astonishedit sounded like alís! the Tagalog word for go away. No, no, that would not do at all!
At first he considered changing the childs name or perhaps making the maids call her by a second name which he would choose carefullya name from the calendar of saints. He considered Purisima, Aurelia, or perhaps Milagros, but these names often gave way to nicknames like Puring, Auring, or Miling which were not to his liking. Perhaps he could change the name a bit, change it to the curve of the native tongue, to its sounds and rhythms. Unfortunately, Alís was already on everybodys tongue, and nobody seemed to have caught the irony of calling a well-loved child Alís!
How strange, he thought, once upon a time, not too long ago, they gave children the names of all the good things in life: Ligaya (happiness), Bituin (star), Luningning (moonlight)names with poetic associations.
Perhaps we can pick out her name from this newspaper, said the father picking up an English newspaper that had replaced the La Vanguardia and El Renacimiento; but the turn of native tongues had imposed its own tyranny on vocal cordsElizabeth became Eelizabit, while Jennifer became Jeeniper.
He wanted to discuss it further with his wife. But she was engrossed in the newness of their child and gave it little thought. Theyll learn how to pronounce Alice properly, she said.
But they never did. Perhaps it didnt matter. As pundits say, New names for a new era. And the child grew up both Alice and Alís. He had to be content with that.
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Copyright © 2004 Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc