Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan [sort of review]


You know how there are books that goes beyond your expectations? Well, it meets them, but not in the way you’d expect – hence, going beyond your expectations. Well, F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles was just that.

Truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of crime novels, even though I’ve only read David Baldacci. Always loved the thrill of how crime operatives work, having been an avid viewer of CSI as a kid – plus it was no secret that I wanted to be a crime investigator as a kid.

The first few chapters were very gripping, a small introduction of dirty politics, and severe poverty in the country, lackadaisical government people and the apathy towards the poor. What’s surprising is how dirty politics exists even in the Church. Batacan’s approach is something to be lauded for, since no one in the country is brave enough to even cross the church.

Although the book took place in 1997, all the issues tackled are still relevant to this day – corruption reeks in every corner, power and wealth weighing heavily over justice, and the oppressed being more oppressed each day. It’s honestly stressful, knowing that from the author’s perspective and frustrations (I read her acknowledgement) how she wished for the light to shine on the darkest pits of society, yet fails to just cause. For her, nothing’s changed. And for me, I can say some things have changed, but maybe I’m not seeing them very clearly. I mean, it’s so easy for a wolf to play nice so long as he wears lamb skin.

The world needs more Father Saenz, the epitome of a true Jesuit priest – with his strong faith, unselfish love for others, and intellect; Father Jerome, with his strong sense of justice and stands his ground; Ben Arcinas, for all his faults, still wants to do what’s right; Director Lastimosa, believes that the truth is worth dying for and that power and greed won’t get you anywhere.

Reflecting today’s issues – especially the war on drugs and people’s take on the Commission on Human Rights, it’s frightening how little has changed. Although our current president’s stance on warding us of illegal drugs to a healthier and more progressive change is admirable, his take on human life is not. Just because one committed a crime does not mean he deserves a second chance. It’s easy to understand that every crime starts somewhere – the frustration of poor living, a trauma so great it defied the person’s take of reality – these things that people paid little mind to which could actually lead to the crimes we are facing now. What many fail to understand is that the CHR is upholding human dignity – human life. It’s so easy to say that someone deserves to die, but under the person’s circumstance, does he really? Does he deserve to die when the root cause of him to do such an act is the simple reason that he’s poor? That he’s fed up with the higher-ups trampling down the poor because they can?

Through the efforts of Senator Risa Hontiveros, the Mental Health bill is in its final reading. With this bill, mental health will be more than just understand what mental health really is, it will bring awareness of how bad mental health can be to someone you know and love, will finally shed light to things we never noticed, could stop something bad from happening and could strengthen our love and support for them.

The killer in the book didn’t have that, he had to deal with his demons all his life until it brought him to kill because he thought it spared him less of the pain every day. Meanwhile, his parents suffered because they were helpless to help him. He couldn’t open up because the trauma was too much – for him and his parents.

I’m Catholic, but nowhere as devout as my grandparents and my mother. I get irked each time the national government has had to hold a certain bill because of the intervention of the church, when there was a clean line of separation between the two. As I see it, the church may mean well, but they can only do so as to guide the government how certain bill should go and not force them to go with what they want, that’s like subtly taking advantage over them. Quite recently, a priest was pardoned for his crimes of sexually abusing children while his said accomplice was imprisoned. It’s a scary world we live in now, never knowing who’s who. Sexual assault is prevalent still regardless of age and gender. But the scary part (which is also a sad part) of it all is how one can easily lure someone in just because of their status or influence.

After reading the book, you get a good look of what our country was going through then and now. Seriously, very little has changed. It’s not advertising Jesuit priests, certainly not subtly telling you to have your children go to Ateneo, but advertising the need of these people in the world – though they are little people, they are willing to risk it all for the greater good. They know what’s worth dying for.

I will forever be thankful for the chancing upon this opportunity months ago; for it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have come across this jewel. Truly, with its hard facts/true representation of the Philippines, issues it tackles, fictional people you wish to see in real life, it deserved the honors and the film adaptation (which I am yet to watch).

Rating: 10/10