The Indios by Gloria Javillonar Palileo

the indiosThroughout history, there have been countless cases of unfair treatment against certain populations around the world (some more severe or widespread than others).  Gloria Javillonar Palileo’s “The Indios” illuminates one of those cases, and it’s perhaps a story you haven’t heard before.  Sprawling across the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Palileo’s debut novel for adults follows young Placido Mendoza, one of the Indios, or native peoples, of the Philippines as he attempts to navigate an increasingly turbulent time during his country’s rebellion against Spain.  Part of Spain’s subjugation of the Philippines was to bring over secular priests to control the local religious communities, and as a priest in training, Placido’s life is deeply affected by this.  After witnessing the public execution of one of his closest friends and mentors, Placido’s life is placed in peril and he is forced to flee the city, returning back home to his family’s estate.  But trouble follows Placido even there, and the conflicted young man is helpless to prevent the lives of his friends and family from unraveling around him.  Soon, Placido will have to decide how to respond to the growing revolution: he can either flee from it, or join it.

“The Indios” feels very reminiscent of other historical novels set during periods of revolution.  (Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables especially comes to mind.)  The characters here are fully fleshed, the setting both raw and realistic – at times you can almost feel the heat and humidity of a tropical evening bearing down on you.  We are provided, as readers, a lens into what may have once been an unknowable event; if you weren’t there, you would have missed it completely.   Thankfully, though, skillful writers like Palileo have begun to brighten these dark corners of our global history, and we are all the richer for it.

To purchase a copy of “The Indios,” click here to find it on Amazon.