Near the beginning of a prolific and productive career as a writer and statesman, Claro M. Recto (1890-1960) authored two prize-winning dramas that were performed at the Manila Grand Opera House. Each of the plays—La ruta de Damasco (1913) and Solo entre las sombras (1917)—is a drama that represents the interactions of an ilustrado family in its relationship to the imposition of cultural practices and power structures under American rule. This essay proposes that in these dramas written by an ilustrado and performed for an interpellated ilustrado audience, the ilustrado home stands as a metonym of the nation, its family a synecdoche of the national community. As such, whereas the plays express the nationalist stance identified with members of the ilustrado class of educated elite, the dialogic enactment of tensions and conflicts among their ilustrado characters serves to work out the contradictions within the class and at the same time to legitimate the class’s hegemony and accommodationism in a Philippine society subjected to American colonial rule.

The protagonists of La ruta are nationalist newspapermen who, facing persecution and censorship under the colonial government, are offered the choice between collaborating and resisting. The central character of Solo is a medical doctor who, in his struggles to conceal the fact of an adulterous relationship, reveals the effects of a “violent saxonization” that has undermined Philippine custom and identity. Both dramas thus complicate the post-1899 reimagining of the Philippine nation: as a community to be represented and led by what Osmeña called the “directing class,” which would declare nationalist objectives and defend the notion of a “Philippines for the Filipinos” while testing the limits of resistance to the American colonial institutions and registering the effects of their newly introduced values and practices on Philippine society during a time that saw the rise of the Partido Nacionalista of Osmeña, Quezon and Recto.


Nationalism, ilustrado hegemony, American colonial rule

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)