I was only supposed to mention this book in passing coz I wasn’t really confident with my book review skillz, but fuck it, this book deserves more. I chanced upon Smaller and Smaller Circles
by FH Batacan in National Book Store in UP Town. I really wasn’t supposed to be buying any more books, but it was so hard to resist a novel that, okay, major bias here, featured two Jesuit priests. And it’s not just any novel, it’s a crime novel. I was still a bit hesitant coz aside from the required readings in high school, I haven’t really read Filipino literature but colonial mentality kicked in – it was published in my favoritest city in the world, so it should be good. It wasn’t good, it was great.
“Serial killing is not as impossible a phenomenon in the country as popular perception and opinion seem to suggest, but one that local law enforcement has barely any capability or inclination to detect.”
– FH Batacan
Set in Quezon City, the year is 1997 and a serial killer is running around killing pre-teen boys. Killing doesn’t even begin to suffice what he does to them – he disfigures their faces, takes off their hearts, cuts of their genitalia, and disposes them into the Payatas dumpsite. The new head of the National Bureau of Investigation, Director Lastimosa, reaches out to Father Saenz, a Jesuit priest trained in Anthropology, to assist in the case.
Aside from the thrilling murder mystery, Smaller and Smaller Circles‘ strength lies in its spot-on observation of the consuming desire to socially climb up the ladder and the increasing apathy towards “undesirables”. It gives a brutally honest commentary on how Manila is ran by authorities who would much rather serve their self-interests than that of the people’s – especially those who have nothing and need them most. That even if there are good people, the bureaucratic, underfunded, toxic system can get the best of them. But even so, one mustn’t just throw in the towel because it’s hard. It sucks, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the right thing.
Once in a while, there’s a chance to do more. And you take it.
Right. I get it. My life can’t just be interesting. It has to be meaningful.
Something like that, yes.
I’m no crusader, Gus.
No, my boy. You’re just an ordinary man.
Be sure to check out Smaller and Smaller Circles! Seriously a literary gem, and I don’t mean it just because she’s Filipino. I mean, sure, check it out because she’s a Filipino author published in New York – I’m ashamed to admit that this was my primary drive – but I guarantee you, her work’s own merit far transcends my affinity to her for sharing the same race. Well-developed murder mystery plot with an even better social commentary, the only thing you’ll want more is well, more. More from the author, and more from and for the Filipino people.