Who is Miguel Syjuco?

Article by Razel Suansing

Many juniors and seniors in ISM may be very familiar with the name Miguel Syjuco, because of his world renowned novel, Ilustrado. The novel presents layers of complexities that readers explore as they read the book. The novel begins when the corpse of Crispin Salvador is found floating on the Hudson River. Miguel, a student of his, aims to find the cause of the death through a series of interviews, poems, novels, polemics, and memoirs. In the process, he discovers himself immersed in 150 years of rich Philippine history.

However, there is so much more to unravel about Miguel Syjuco. Miguel Syjuco was born to Augusto Syjuco Jr., a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, and Judy Jalbuena. Mr. Syjuco went to the Cebu International School for his secondary education. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University. He then went on to complete his MFA from Columbia University. After his novel, Ilustrado, won a multitude of awards, most notably the Man Asian Literary Prize, he served as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University in 2013 and is currently a visiting professor in the Literature and Creative Writing department at New York University Abu Dhabi. At the moment, Syjuco is also an opinion writer for the New York Times. His articles touch upon the current political landscape in the Philippines, writing about the instances of corruption in the Philippine government.

Mr. Syjuco’s novel is not the only way he connects with the students from the Bearcat community. Mr. Syjuco also visits ISM every year to discuss his novel and enlighten students about correcting injustices through writing. He also leads a creative writing course in ISM.

Sophomore Nadya A. says that she appreciates the structure of the course as at the end of the course, Mr. Syjuco engages in a feedback session in which they will be able to go into finding their individual writing style. She states that “We are also able to engage in a personal interview where we can truly look into the mind of a creative writer.”

Nadya adds that the course is a refreshing take on the writing process commenting, “He is really great in making projects that are creative and unique. They are really open-ended, so we can input our own personality and perspectives. We have a lot more freedom in regards to what we write.”

Nadya says that she definitely recommends this class for all high school students. “I feel like it is a good way to give you an incentive to think more creatively and work on other things outside of school that are creative and more like what you want to do in the future. It is also ambiguous enough that it is not restricting,” she further remarked.

The ISM community is definitely very fortunate to have as many opportunities with an insightful, creative writer like Miguel Syjuco as it has. This is why everyone must take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about impacting society through creative writing or to become more aware of the political landscape in the Philippines through Miguel Syjuco.