Visiting Author: Miguel Syjuco

Article by: Melissa Dy

Video by: Bernice delos Reyes and Xavi Ablaza

It’s been an exciting semester for ISM’s English department. First came writing queen Amy Tan, author of the outstanding Joy Luck Club and many others and now, another renowned writer has graced ISM with his presence and equally outstanding book for an entire week: Miguel Syjuco, author of the critically acclaimed novel, Ilustrado. For a whole week he answered ISM students’ burning questions in Q&A sessions with IB Literature students on his novel as well as with Bamboo Telegraph, Newsflash and Liham on journalism and creative writing respectively. And he even read to us an exciting excerpt from his new unpublished novel during our All School assembly.

As part of their IB classes, the Juniors and Seniors are reading Miguel Syjuco’s book, Ilustrado. Therefore, his visit was an invaluable opportunity for them, as well as for people thinking about taking IB Literature. It helped students understand his novel on a deeper level, allowing them to notice the nuances and the details that they had not seen before.

IB Lit student Juliana Ching says that his visit was “a great opportunity to ask him questions and get some insight on some of the choices he made as a writer” and that it was especially useful because Ilustrado has not (yet) reached the level of classics like Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, and it may be difficult to find additional help and information online.

With the dreaded Individual Oral Presentations (IOPs) inching closer and closer, students definitely benefited from going to one of Syjuco’s Q&A sessions. Candice Hodges, another IB Lit student, thinks that “having Miguel here inspires us to ask more questions about the book, and these questions can be answered in the IOP” and that Miguel’s insight can lead to a “more creative, original and engaging IOP”.

Syjuco’s visit wasn’t just an opportunity for IB students. Future journalists and writers definitely should have grabbed this chance to talk to him. Juliana Ching describes Syjuco as being a friendly and captivating speaker who gave great answers to any questions students had. She says that his Q&As were definitely worth going to for anyone interested in journalism or creative writing. “It really opened my eyes to the reality of journalism and made me think about whether or not I would like to pursue it in the future,” she says. IB Lit student Liana Lopez describes Syjuco as having a passion for writing that inspires other young future writers. She says “the most important thing we can gain from his visit is the knowledge and experience he can share with us”, especially with his “interesting points about the different writing processes involved in producing a novel, his thought processes, his inspirations, as well as the limitations of writing a Philippine novel abroad.”

Even for students who are not taking IB and who have no interest in writing, Syjuco’s engaging personality alone was enough reason for students to come along to his Q&A sessions. Candice Hodges says that just talking with Syjuco was an inspiring and thought provoking experience that gave students a different perspective of the world. “Miguel is definitely a talented journalist and author,” she continues, “but more than that, he is inspiring and engages in really interesting conversation about world issues, and I think it’s these traits that helps make him an amazing writer.”