Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize

Miguel Syjuco for Ilustrado

Miguel Syjuco was born in Manila, Philippines in 1976. His fiction and poetry have appeared in national publications and anthologies. He co-founded and edited an online publication, He has written poetry, fiction and journalism for national and international publications. The manuscript of his debut novel, Ilustrado, has also been awarded the Grand Prize at the Palanca Awards. 

The panel of judges for the 2008 prize praised Ilustrado

“The shortlist for the Man Asian prize testifies to the great vitality of the novel in Asian societies undergoing hectic and unexpected transformations. In the end, we had to choose; and Ilustrado seems to us to possess formal ambition, linguistic inventiveness and sociopolitical insight in the most satisfying measure. Brilliantly conceived, and stylishly executed, it covers a large and tumultuous historical period with seemingly effortless skill. It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humour.” 

The distinguished panel of judges for the 2008 Prize includes The Rt Hon Adrienne Clarkson (Chair), Pankaj Mishra and Nicholas Jose.



Ilustrado begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River – taken from the world is the controversial lion of Philippine literature. Missing, too, is the only manuscript of his final book – meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the corrupt roots of power behind the Filipino ruling families. His student, Miguel, investigates, journeying home from a city still in shock from terrorist attacks to a country caught between reckless decay and desperate progress. To understand his mentor’s death, Miguel scours the life, charting Salvador’s trajectory via his poetry, stories, interviews, novels, and memoirs. The literary fragments become patterns become stories become epic: a generations-long saga of revolution, familial duty, political intrigue, and a people’s enduring struggle against their own worst tendencies. This is a clever, bravura, and exuberant debut novel from a new literary sensation.

Praise for Ilustrado

‘a real revelation.’ - Independent

‘Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Prize before it was even published, this dizzying and ambitious novel marks an auspicious start to Syjuco’s career. The apparent suicide of famous, down-on-his-luck Filipino author Crispin Salvador sends narrator Miguel Syjuco home to the Philippines to come to terms with the death of his literary mentor, research a biography he plans to write about him, and find the author’s lost manuscript. With flair and grace, Syjuco makes this premise bear much weight…Though murky at times, this imaginative first novel shows considerable ingenuity in binding its divergent threads into a satisfying, meaningful story.’ - Publishers Weekly

Ilustrado will provoke audible oohs and ahhs from readers … The writing is gorgeous. Plus, there’s an O. Henry twist in the epilogue. This is a great book. Read it.” —Luis Clemens, Senior Editor, Tell Me More

“Syjuco’s exceptional novel exceeds its heightened expectations, serving notice that a brilliant new talent has arrived, somehow fully formed.” —Jared Bland, The Walrus

“Dazzling … It is a virtuoso display of imagination and wisdom, particularly remarkable from a 31-year-old author; a literary landmark for the Philippines and beyond.” —Michele Leber, Booklist (starred review)

“This imaginative first novel shows considerable ingenuity in binding its divergent threads into a satisfying, meaningful story.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Through his vivid use of language, Syjuco has crafted a beautiful work of historical fiction that’s part mystery and part sociopolitical commentary. Readers who enjoyed Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will enjoy this literary gem.” —Library Journal (starred review)

‘From the ruckus of rumors, blogs, ambitions, overweaning grandparents, indifferent History, and personal crimes, Miguel Syjuco has innovatively re-imagined that most wonderfully old-fashioned consolation: literature. Ilustrado is a great novel.’ - Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances 

`Ilustrado is a fantastic literary mystery that draws from the politics and poetics of Manila. It’s written in a smart pastiche of fictional newspaper clippings, interviews and novel excerpts, and in the captivating voice of Miguel, a young writer who, far from Manila in his new Manhattan home, wants to piece together this puzzle of his hero’s death. Ilustrado is global in all aspects of the story, and frank and unpretentious in every right-on detail. With originality and insight, Syjuco writes of romance and ambition between grad students and lit stars who connive to form a literary island of their own—one that threatens to distract and estrange Miguel from a deeper responsibility to his literary father and their shared past.’ - Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game 

`Vulnerable and mischievous, sophisticated and naïve, Ilustrado explores the paradoxes that come with the search for identity and throws readers into the fragile space between self-pursuit and self-destruction. A novel about country and self, youth and experience, it is elegiac, thoughtful and original.’ - Colin McAdam, author ofFall and Some Great Thing 

`This is an author who is exhilarated by the creative process and provoked by rage at injustice, corruption and hypocrisy … The novel fizzes with his expertise in language … In Ilustrado, Syjuco uses the potency of words to illuminate the reality of the world that both inspires and disappoints him. His novel, written from the heart, will excited and delight you.’ -WBQ

‘Miguel Syjuco’s dizzyingly energetic and inventive novel views his native Philippines with a merciless yet loving eye, its chorus of voices illuminating the many facets of this chaotic, complicated country. An ambitious and admirable debut.’ - Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

‘From the ruckus of rumors, blogs, ambitions, overweening grandparents, indifferent History, and personal crimes, Miguel Syjuco has innovatively re-imagined that most wonderfully old-fashioned consolation: literature. Ilustrado is a great novel’ - Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

Ilustrado now suddenly reminds some of … the best of Roberto Bolaño; and many readers will soon be able to marvel, as I did, at the richness and depth of human experience it reveals’ - Pankaj Mishra, Guardian

‘Through virtuoso use of language and a dazzling array of fictional techniques, it achieves all of its lofty objectives … It deserves all the accolades it has won. It is among the finest novels written by a Filipino. Perhaps, even, by any writer’ - Antonio A. Hidalgo, chairman of judges of the 2008 Palanca Award for the Novel



Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US Edition)

Picador (UK Edition)


Buy Ilustrado online


Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US Edition)

Picador (UK Edition)



National Bookstore, Fully Booked (Philippines)

Swindon Book Co.Paddyfield (Hong Kong) (Taiwan)


News Archive on Miguel Syjuco