My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The girl you said you loved died standing in the rain.
Salamanca is a magic realism set mostly in Tagbaoran in Palawan and in Manila across different decades. The novel starts in Los Angeles where Gaudencio announces to his friends that he is coming home to the Philippines. However, it is not only Manila he wants to come back to but also to the wife he abandoned years ago. And there’s more, he wants to have a baby with her. Gaudencio then starts to recount the story of his life to a man who actually wants to sleep with him.
The first part of the novel was all about Gaudencio and Jacinta’s love story. Upon arriving Tagbaoan to escape a love affair, he was immediately told about Jacinta who was said to be the most beautiful woman ever created. She was so beautiful that on her twelfth birthday the walls of her home became transparent. At first, Gaudencio was skeptical about the existence of such woman but the moment he saw her, he fell instantly in love with her. He then wooed her through his writings and after a storm, Gaudencio made a momentous decision to marry Jacinta. But after 11 days of marriage, he abandoned her and came back to Manila with another man. I was actually not surprised with this since Gaudencio’s attraction to her is physical and they’ve never really spoken to each other before getting married. I liked this part because the author shows that physical attraction is very different from love.
The second part of the novel would revolve around their time apart. Guadencio became a famous writer and was living with Cesar Abalos, the man he took with him when he abandoned his wife, while Jacinta was taken in by Cesar Abalos’ family out of guilt. Jacinta also meets Bau Long Huynh, a vietnamese refugee. The two fall in love, however, they’ve never consummated their love because Jacinta was still, technically, married to Gaudencio and Jacinta wanted to stay true to her vows.
Then, the third and last part of the novel is about the time after Gaudencio came back for Jacinta to have a child with her. This part, for me, has the most suspense. Will Jacinta agree? I guess you’d have to read the novel to find out.
Truth be told, it’s not the plot that drew me in. The storyline, for me, is typical. However, it appealed to me that Gaudencio is bisexual, something I rarely see in novels. For me, it is a very risk move for Dean Francis Alfar but it is a right one. Gaudencio is very interesting. He is such a self-centered person but it seems like he’s the most desired. The other characters are also very interesting since they represent different kinds of people in the Philippine society. The choice of characters emphasized how different the people who grew up in large cities and the people who grew up in rural areas think.
The structure of the novel also appealed to me. Aside from the center plot, there are a lot of subplots that are also entertaining. The pace of the events were just right- not too fast nor slow.
While reading, I initially thought that the novel is just about a self-centered bisexual man who broke a really beatiful (inside and out) woman’s heart. But then, after reading the last page of the novel, I knew instantly that Salamanca is a story about love and choices. Even with all the unexplainable events and sexuality, I really learned a thing or two about what love really is. The book is actually quite good. I think that the book is really different from the others even if the plot of a man leaving his wife is quite common.
Reading Salamanca is a good experience and recommend it especially to the people who would want
fragile borders of truth and make-believe.