I was born in the late 60s, which means that I was too young to have truly lived the psychedelia that was the 70s. Sideburns, combos (live bands), and all those mind altering drugs. This book gives me a sneak peek at those groovy years I missed out on.
What I found most amusing was what was then considered “society.” Now, we say posh or “sosyal.” Back then, it was society for parents to name their male kids Willie, Boy, or Rene and their girls Susie, Margie, or Tess as opposed to picking saintly names from calendars.
Bobby, the name of the book's main character, was also considered a society name. Bobby Heredia is a teenager. The adults in this book seem to think that the whole teenage concept is a fairly newfangled thing. And Bobby's generation of teenagers is a generation more troubled, more complicated, more jaded.
The teenagers of the 70s were as concerned about being cool as today’s teens. To be graded uncool back then would be called “overacting” or “OA.” Like “scooters were fun, but motorcycles were overacting, especially if you dressed up for it in goggles and helmet and black leather jacket.” “Pants should be tight, but skintight pants were overacting.” Back then, it was cool to use street corner language like “diahe” and “tepok,” and it was overacting to use American idioms like “get lost” or “dig.” Also considered overacting were wearing red, drinking scotch on the rocks, dancing the twist, going to Baguio in summer, and drag-racing on Dewey. And Pompoy Morel, Bobby's enemy, exemplified all that was overacting.
Bobby hates everything that is overacting. He scorns hypocrisy, and as he starts looking for what is true and honest among all the fake people around him, he develops the ability to see beyond people’s layers, beneath their pretenses. First, he starts seeing people stripped off of their clothes, revealing all the ugly, filthy things they hide. Maybe I'm being obtuse because I don't want to spoil it for you. But what I'm saying is that he starts seeing naked people. And not in a fun way. Then, he starts seeing even deeper inside to their bare bones.
This magical ability, all that he sees, trouble him and cause him to run away from home and to act strangely and violently, especially towards Pompoy Morel. Eventually, he realizes how judgmental and self righteous he has been. He learns the lessons that help him to be more forgiving, more accepting. But I'm revealing too much now.
I found the ending and its explanation of the message a bit too spoon-fed. Though it, at least, confirms that I got the story and its message, I wish it had left more space for the readers to interpret the story differently.
Nick Joaquin is obviously a great, a gifted writer. But I'm not yet in love with him, even though I feel the pressure to be reverent of a National Artist. From what I've read so far (Woman with Two Navels, read ages ago, and this) I am intrigued to discover more.
Candido’s Apocalypse was first published in 1972 as part of Tropical Gothic, a copy of which is yellowing in my shelf. This book has convinced me to include Tropical Gothic in my 2011 TBR.