La Oveja de Nathán/Nathan’s Sheep
by Antonio M. Abad
translated by Lourdes Brillantes
Epic in scale, La Oveja de Nathán sweeps across three centuries and three continents, and ends in a Philippines beset by World War I. The bilingual novel traces the dramatic life story of the protagonist Mariano Bontulan, a typesetter in the government printing office, whose patron is Don Benito Claudio de Hernán González, a prominent Spanish mestizo and founder of the Federalista Party, that supported Philippine annexation to the United States.
Bontulan’s life takes a sudden turn when his rabidly pro-American chief requires him to write increasingly anti-Filipino tracts. Bontulan is haunted by the stinging questions his prophet-like mentor Don Benito asks of him: Who will be the Philippine Nathan who will fling into the face of the modern David the ugliness of his behavior (2 Samuel 11)? In this novel, the Philippines is presented as the sacrificial lamb lovingly cared for by Spain, and coveted by the rich and powerful America. La Oveja de Nathán is the worthy and rightful successor to José Rizal’s Noli Me Tángere.
Antonio Abad’s La Oveja de Nathán, now translated into English, is a major literary unearthing of the Fil-Hispanic contribution to Philippine literature. More than this, the novel echoes Philippine society’s contemporary ills, some 84 years after its publication, making this a work that is most enlightening and most germane to an understanding of Philippine culture and colonial history.
—Dr. Emerlinda Román
Former President,University of the Philippines, Diliman
La Oveja de Nathán displays a notable gift for characterization. The protagonists are recognizable as real people rather than bloodless symbols. They surround the hero as he makes his intellectual odyssey from a bemedalled World War I hero, to an employee for a colonialist paper, to his final transformation into a writer for a nationalist pro-independence publication.
—Dr. Benito J. Legarda Jr., historian