PALANCA awardee Katrina Tuvera’s The Jupiter Effect (Anvil Publishing, 2006) speaks of an apocalypse of sorts as the heavenly bodies revolving around the sun align straight, signaling the end of the world.

This apocalypse is the 1972 declaration of martial law while the planets are the different individuals who existed in such a time.

The story focuses on siblings Gabriela and Kiko Contreras who are fortunate enough to live a normal life during the martial law period because their father, Julian, is the minister of information of the president of the Philippines. Their father’s office allows the two to enjoy privileges not otherwise enjoyed by the populace.

This concept of loyalty is tried and tested throughout the book, most especially in the case of Julian. The minister must choose between his loyalty to the president and his friendship with Raul, who writes for the opposition paper. Like their father, Kiko and Gabriela must also choose between remaining biased or becoming critical of the martial law government, thus testing their loyalty to their father.

Although the novel talks about martial law, historical names are not mentioned. But allusions to real historical events give away the persons’ identities: “People were fascinated when, while in prison, the young man reviewed for and eventually scored the highest in the bar examinations,” which is an allusion to Ferdinand Marcos when he was charged and imprisoned for the murder of his father’s congressional rival.

Although the novel is able to tell the different stories of these characters without sacrificing their individuality, Tuvera fails to capture real emotions from the characters as a reaction to what is happening around them. Gabriela, even until the end of the novel, remains stoic and ignorant even after her realization of the woes of the people during martial law.

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But what the novel lacks emotionally it makes up for by conveying the individual stories of each character, human stories that transcend martial law and the People Power revolution. For example, Gabriela is still able to find love and refuge in Nilo, her classmate with “the clear, pensive, calm eyes,” despite the political chaos, proving that things such as love are not quelled even by the most straining events in society: “Lately, waking up in the morning, the first thought she had was of this boy now beside her watching the silky orange sun emerge.”

The Jupiter Effect depicts the alignment of both personal and interpersonal conflicts between people struggling to know on whom they should place their fealty; theirs is a test of faith–faith on family, friends, and leaders, and on the Filipino people whom they are ultimately a part of. Raydon L. Reyes

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