I read the novel because I was helping my cousin out with her thesis. She's supposed to pass 50 pages least, and I decided to assist her, I mean, hell, 50 PAGES? That's hard.
Kankong 1896 is a Filipno novel written in Tagalog, my first novel in Tagalog out of School curriculum. What I can say about it at the least is that I'm glad my cousin asked me to help, because if she hadn't I would have missed this great opportunity experiencing something out of the ordinary for me.
Kang Kong 1896 is basically a coming-of-age story set in the years of the Katipunan revolution. Think of it as a Filipino version of To Kill a Mocking Bird, mixed with a dash of social revolt. It's about a 15 year old named Plorante whose father enlists him into the legendary Kataas-taasang, Ka-blah-blah.. I forget what follows, not that keen on Philippine history haha.... I'm just gonna say KKK (for those foreigners whose gonna see this, this is not America's KKK mind you). So anyways, at first, Plorante was lazy, selfish, shallow in his view about life. Everything changes when the world of revolution enters his life. I don't wanna spoil anything so let's just say the stuff he's gonna go through will absolutely change the way he lives.
The book was good especially for those people who are avid fans of Philippine History. Meeting all those heroes, Tandang Sora, Emilio Jacinto, to mention some, was quite an experience because you get to see them not as textbook cutouts whom you should know to pass Araling Panlipunan but as human persons struggling to live under the terrible reign of the Spaniards. It tackles the matter of justifications to kill and hope under oppression. The Katipuneros, they did not believe killing was justified, but that it was needed for freedom. Their enemies brought guns and cannons in the fights but they only brought "guloks" or whatever it's called, the thing you use to cut high grass. That takes a different kind of courage. We see in the book the tremendous guts these men had to go against such a big enemy. To quote something from the book, inaccurately translated to English with all my best, "In order to keep hoping against hardships, you need to make sure that your fighting for what's right." That is my favorite line from the book.
Kang Kong 1896 does not only deal with those big adult themes, but also with the issues that beset the common teenager. I could very much relate to the main character, a teenager, like myself, having the same amount of enraged hormones as I do, but in a different setting. The only thing I can't relate to is the courage of the kid to take part in something that stakes his life. The book made me ask myself what I have done for my country, which really amounts to nothing. If a teenage kid could manage to risk his life for his country, why can't I? Actually, why shouldn't I?
The book is a great experience, especially for those who are more of a foreigner than a local. The tagalog used is not that deep, any person with an ample vocabulary in Filipino could understand. I would have given it 4 stars, out of 5, for the content, but the execution could have been better. It's boring for an average teenager, I bet, and my cousin was ranting all the time about the book being hell. I did not find it boring, mind you, but there was something missing about the book, I think its imagery. It was a bit direct to the point. Added to that, the words were repetitive, but, hey, I couldn't blame the author if she wanted to make her book to be fathomable by an average person.
So I think I'd just give 3 out of 5 stars for Kang Kong 1896. The message was good, but the execution could be better.