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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", 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.


Currently a modern English translation is set for publication, recently completed by author and literary academic Danton Remoto for Penguin Southeast Asia.

Relevant Tropes:

  • 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.
  • Character Filibuster: At several points characters will make their ideologies known. Delfin, a journalist and law student, is more of a moderate 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.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous English
  • 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.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Delfin works as a journalist for the Tagalog paper Bagong Araw ("New Day").
  • 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.
  • 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 Delfin's and Felipe's own families.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs
  • Tropical Island Adventure: Set in the Philippines, so naturally.
  • Write What You Know: Delfin's newspapering job is patterned after Santos' own Real Life newspapering job.


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