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Literature / Banaag at Sikat

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Banaag at Sikat, variously translated in English as "From Early Dawn to Full Light", or more recently "Glimmer and Sunrise" or "Radiance and Sunrise", is a 1906 Tagalog-language Filipino novel by journalist, labour activist, intellectual, and politician Lope K. Santos (the "K" is pronounced "Ka"). In the Philippines it is considered the foundational socialist novel, or at least the first national novel to discuss and promote workers' rights and Socialist and related ideologies to improve the lot of the country, and in particular its proletariat. Interestingly, it was published the same year as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Santos initially wrote what came to be a huge Doorstopper of a novel in installations: prior to its 1906 publication it was serialised weekly from 1902 to 1904 in Muling Pagsilang, the Tagalog version (which he also put out) of the then-circulating El Renacimiento, a Spanish-language, radical-nationalist and anticolonial paper that would later be sued by American colonial officials for libel. The political atmosphere in which he was writing was a very volatile one: the Philippine Revolution to throw out the Spanish colonisers had come and gone barely a decade prior, from 1896-1898, after which American forces invaded Manila—ostensibly to help the Filipino Revolutionaries fight Spain, but in the end buying the entire Philippine archipelago direct from Spain behind their backs, and then turning on the Revolutionaries themselves. Thus ensued the long, bloody, and heavily lopsided Philippine-American War, which the Americans declared over by 1902, but which still continued to flare up for nearly another decade, mostly in the form of U.S. forces (and their newly client Filipino police, the Philippine Constabulary) hunting down what to them were mere "bandits", "savages", "insurgents" or "terrorists", but were just as often remnant revolutionary guerrilla units or messianic peasant movements still attempting to throw off American colonial rule.


Meanwhile, in the largely "pacified" (i.e., U.S.-colonised) cities like Manila, armed conflict had given way to popular elections, politicking, street protests, and organised demands for fair treatment, workers' rights, and immediate or at least guaranteed eventual independence, whilst American authorities and supportive Filipino lackeys denounced all these while rolling out and managing the products of "benevolent assimilation", like English-language public education, modern infrastructure and utilities, urban planning and public-health programs. In this first decade of American rule, Santos latched onto the popular demand for labour rights, and reading and learning from European Socialist and other Leftist thinkers like Karl Marx, Enrico Malatesta, and Mikhail Bakunin, as well as compatriots like labour leaders Isabelo delos Reyes and Dominador Gomez, he decided to put down his reflections in the form of a serialised novel, weaving in discussions of Socialism, class struggle and inequality, into a melodramatic, teleserye-esque plot filled with romance and family drama as much as it's filled with political agitation.


In December 2021, a modern English translation came out under the title Radiance and Sunrise, created by author and literary academic Danton Remoto for Penguin Southeast Asia.

Relevant Tropes:

  • America Takes Over the World: Why the United States is in the Philippines in the first place—this is its newest and biggest addition to its rapidly expanding overseas colonial empire.
  • Author Tract: The novel doesn't exactly hide Santos' sympathies for the Filipino working classes and criticism of the country's greedy, capitalist, land-and-factory-owning oligarchy, even under American rule; in fact, this was arguably the novel's whole point.
  • Catholic Schoolgirls Rule: They don't dress like the (slutty, modern) Western stereotype, but many of the named girls going to school here go to an elite, private, Catholic college—La Concordia in Paco, Manila, run by nuns. Justified since this is, after all, a Catholic-majority American colony just recently freed from 300+ years of Spanish-Catholic rule.
  • Character Filibuster: At several points characters will make their ideologies known. Delfin, a journalist and law student, is more of a moderate and socialist in his support for the working classes, but his friend and printing-press coworker Felipe pushes more for radical solutions, like actual revolution or anarchism.
  • Christianity is Catholic: For the most part, given this was set barely half a decade after the overthrow of 300 years' worth of Spanish-Catholic colonial rule. It's most obviously seen in elite girls like Meni and Marcela going to elite, Catholic, nun-run, private girls' schools like La Concordia, as well as in lavish weddings like that of Talia and Honorio Madlang-layon, but even among the masses it's seen in invocations to Jesus, Mary and Catholic saints to help Tentay's ailing father hang on (though this last probably falls more into the classification of folk Catholicism, i.e. Catholicism influenced by older, precolonial beliefs and traditions).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The natural antagonists in a novel like this, such as tobacco-factory magnate Don Ramon.
  • Doorstopper: Typical Tagalog editions can run to 600 pages, especially including the handful of original illustrations of certain scenes. Even Remoto's English translation runs over 370 pages long.
  • Eagle Land: Leaning, of course, towards Type 2, considering the Americans just waged war on the Filipino Revolutionaries under the pretext of "liberating" them from Spain, and are as of the novel's writing and setting, consolidating their own colonial occupation of the Philippines.
  • Fictional Document: Reproduces several in-universe letters, like those between Meni and Delfin, to name a few. Also the newspaper Bagong Araw ("New Day").
  • Filibuster Freefall: Played with; readers who were focusing on the love story aspects of this novel may think this since the ideological speeches and debates in between them can run on for several pages. Delfin, for instance, gets into lengthy and heated debate with oligarchs Don Ramon and Don Filemon, as early as the first setting—on vacation in the Antipolo springs resort. Then again, it's not like Santos had set out to write something apolitical.
  • Gratuitous English: One of the things Felipe plans to study as opposed to Commerce is English, which could be a stepping-stone to teaching, especially since English is the new medium of instruction under American rule. He and Delfin throw around a bunch of mangled Anglicisms as proof of what they've picked up so far.
  • Gratuitous Spanish
  • Historical Domain Character: Doña Margarita Roxas, the Real Life oligarch founder of La Concordia College, is the subject of urban legends where she purportedly uses children's blood to water a garden from which she later harvests gold and precious stones.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Technically the opening chapter actually counts as this: it opens in Antipolo, a highland town east of Manila which even in the early 1900s was already a popular inland resort town with its plentiful springs, including hot springs.
  • I Have No Son!: Kapitan Loloy basically threatens to disown his son Felipe for deliberately trying to fail or give up the Commerce course his father expects him to finish (but which Felipe himself, of course, chafes greatly at). Don Ramon later disowns Meni when she and Delfin insist on marriage.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Working-class Delfin loves Uptown Girl Meni, daughter of landlord-capitalist Don Ramon Miranda. In reverse, Felipe, son of town chief Kapitan Loloy and brother of Catholic schoolgirl Marcela with her exorbitant jewellery, loves poor Tentay.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Delfin works as a journalist for the Tagalog paper Bagong Araw ("New Day").
  • Latin Land: Naturally, since the Spanish colonisers had been kicked out barely a decade prior. Rich families' houses and dress styles have strong Spanish influence, Spanish-Catholic names are still widespread amongst Filipinos, and many of the major cast, such as the Mirandas, directly have Spanish descent—sometimes from celibacy-breaking friars, as strongly implied with Don Filemon. Then of course, Manila and environs are tropical, too, like many other ex-Spanish colonies in the tropics—which also fell under U.S. imperialism around the same time, like Puerto Rico, Guam, and (more indirectly) Cuba, for starters.
  • Loan Shark: One of the predatory tactics of big capitalists, of course. Even Don Ramon in his youth built up his massive portfolio by lending at 25 or even 50 percent to desperate fishermen, fish vendors and farmers, and seizing their farms or fishponds as collateral when they can't repay their debts.
  • Meet the New Boss: The U.S. colonisers just recently took over from the Spanish ones. Philippine independence barely got a squeak in between.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Spanish and Tagalog (and possibly other Philippine languages) are represented in people's names here, sometimes in the same person.
  • Missing Mom: The Miranda matriarch, jeweller Aling Tanasia, died three years prior to the story's beginning.
  • Multiethnic Name: This being the Philippines, many characters here have combinations of Spanish and Tagalog (or other Philippine language) names; see for instance Atty. Honorio Madlang-layon—first name Spanish, last name very Tagalog (not to mention his nickname, "Yoyong", is also a typically-Filipino diminutive of "Honorio").
  • Official Couple: Delfin and Meni. Their love letters to one another even take up whole chapters of the novel.
  • Philosophical Novel: The philosophies being advocated for in this case being Socialism in both moderate and radical variants, and more generally a defence of the Filipino masses and working classes.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: What rich women wear by default. In one chapter Felipe's sister Marcela goes back to school in finery and jewellery that, as the narrator pointedly, er, points out, could feed several poor families for an entire year or pay off her family's servants' debts many times over. Even Meni when she does marry Delfin has on a dress that, while ordinary and everyday for her, is still fancier than most anything the working classes could ever hope to wear, even to their most formal events.
  • Red Scare: A very early version of this, a decade before The Russian Revolution and long before the Cold War, is naturally espoused by the landed and capitalist classes, including Meni's and Felipe's own families.
  • Shout-Out: To several Socialist or otherwise Leftist authors and philosophers for one: names like Kropotkin, Malatesta, Bakunin, etc. are sometimes rattled off in rapid-fire as among the works that Delfin and Felipe have read.
    • Also to Walang Sugat, a revolutionary and anticolonialist play by Santos' contemporary Severino Reyes (most Filipinos know him better as children's storyteller "Lola Basyang"), which the Americans censored for "subversive/seditious content".
  • Shown Their Work
  • Slobs vs. Snobs
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Kapitan Loloy, Felipe's father, mayor of a Laguna town south of Manila.
  • Spiritual Successor: To other Filipino versions of the Spanish costumbrista genre, which details local cultures and customs; particularly Nínay, the first Filipino novel. Banaag at Sikat even shares with Nínay detailed descriptions of Antipolo town, its flora and fauna and its vacationing families—in Tagalog this time, of course.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Delfin and Meni get this treatment a lot, what with the inevitable clash in opinions between Delfin and Don Ramon, Meni's dad. One chapter even has them meeting secretly in a garden while Don Ramon has forbid them from seeing each other, and when writing one another they have to avoid Meni's family intercepting their letters.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: Set in the Philippines, so naturally.
  • Uptown Girl: Filomena "Meni" and Natalia "Talia" Miranda, daughters of capitalist Don Ramon; particularly the former who becomes girlfriend to working-class reporter Delfin. Felipe's sister Marcela ("Sela") also counts.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Spanish empire has been defeated by this point, briefly overtaken by the Filipino Revolutionaries until the Americans took over, but the classist, conservative and reactionary cultures they inculcated for 300+ years remain well entrenched with the Filipino populace.
  • Write What You Know: Delfin's newspapering job is patterned after Santos' own Real Life newspapering job.