10 Sep 2021
Banaag at Sikat ”, the monumental novel that Lope K. Santos published in 1906, is the first great novel of the proletariat in Asia. Its two main characters, Delfin and Felipe, represent the twin poles of socialism and anarchy; the novel oscillated between these two poles. I translated this novel under the title “Radiance and Sunrise”, which will be published in December by Penguin Random House as part of their South East Asian Classics series.
In the chapter titled “Darkness and Light”, the characters come to bury the rich and greedy old man, Don Ramon, who is the father of Meni, the wife of Delfin. The two men are abandoned in the cemetery.
Felipe said, “Shouldn’t we commemorate all of Don Ramon’s evils, his greed, his carnal ways, his oppression of the poor? I have always hated the hypocrisy of our old ways. When a rich man dies, his life should be an open book where all his misdeeds are exposed, so that no one follows in his footsteps. “
“I don’t agree with you, Felipe. On the contrary, exposing a man’s wickedness would only awaken the evil that lies dormant in others. But I see the benefit of extracting socialist teachings from the life of Don Ramon, because our country can learn a lot from the death of a rich man.
“Yes. The death of a man like Don Ramon should mean freedom for the oppressed, not the death of his source of sustenance.”
“And even with the death of Don Ramon and your father, Captain Loloy, the cycle of oppression will remain unbroken as long as the legacy agency is in place. It’s just money and authority changing hands.
“But when will that day of change come?” Will it ever happen? “
“I’m just as tired of waiting. But we have to be patient and let things take their natural course. Nations and their peoples, like everything else, change over time.
“But we can act now, Delfin.” Felipe’s eyes sparkled. “We can certainly bring about change through revolution! “
“Yes, Felipe, but a revolution cannot take place before an evolution. A nation will only take up arms if it can no longer bear to be oppressed. A revolution must first gain momentum before it can explode.
“That’s why I say it’s high time we took up arms. The oppressed masses are already desperate.
“I don’t think this is the right time. Look at them, they are not yet part of an organized movement. They don’t go wild. They will not move without a leader or a martyr to rally them to action. The revolutionary movement must come from below if we are to bring down oppression. “
“Let’s not forget the government,” Felipe added. “We can succeed in bringing down capitalism, but it will be for nothing if there is no change in our local government. We must also prevent the transfer of wealth and power to the government oligarchs. “
“I assure you, Felipe, the rise of the revolutionary system will also lead to the rise to power of the socialist republic which will ensure the common well-being.”
“But what good is having an alternative system of government? We will always put the power to rule in the hands of a few. We should abolish all form of government altogether and allow an autonomous system to flourish instead. “
Delfin froze as he waited for Felipe to speak. “It is true that our lives are still dictated by religious beliefs, but that will change soon. We are taking our first steps into the era of revolutionary heroes. We have seen figures like José Rizal and Andres Bonifacio stir up the revolutionary sentiments of our masses, and we have come to shape our ideals after them. They have already changed the course of our history. But I believe we need more heroes to wake our masses from their slumber. Only then can we say that we have made good progress in the second phase. And then we can move on to the third phase, which is when a real social revolution can take place. “
“And then, what comes next, Delfin?” “
“Then we will achieve a true egalitarian state. The time will come when we no longer subscribe to the notion of a supreme being as the all and the end of all things, where we no longer worship individuals but instead consider each member of society as our equal.
“I believe what anarchist Grave said about socialist revolutions. He stressed the importance of disseminating socialist ideas beyond geographic borders. Respect for human rights must be universal, which means that the same socialist ideals must also be upheld in other countries. Western civilization in the twentieth century has already seen the dawn of socialist reform.
Felipe was elated. “Yes, thanks to the martyrs of anarchism, we now have the instrument to oppose the ruling class and dethrone false kings.”
– You speak of means which can only lead to bloodshed, Felipe. We cannot achieve peace and harmony by violent means.
“Not if it means liberating the oppressed masses.”
“However. We are talking about lives at stake …”
“Lives! What about the lives of the ruling class martyrs? What about the millions whose blood they shed?
“I understand where you come from. But that doesn’t mean we should be just as cruel.
“Yes. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Only death can put an end to the abuse of power.
Delfin pleaded his case. “But what you say is unlikely to happen in the future, especially in our country. What will become of humanity if you get rid of the government?
“At your first point, I say, why not? In the second, after having plowed the land, the harvest will be abundant, and the wealth can be evenly distributed among our people. “
“We have to start somewhere. The seeds were sown, thanks to the revolutionary movement of the Katipunan in 1896. We must establish our own ways of governing our affairs. Once these are in place, we can work towards establishing a socialist state. I am optimistic. The future of our society is in the hands of the heroes and of our country. But you can’t force the hand of fate. We have to be patient and let things take their course. The wheel of fate will inevitably turn. The old regime will die, and in its place will arise a new regime that will shine like the day.
The shine, the sunrise and a new day are recurring images in this redemptive novel of hope.