Things I won't discuss: the significance of the language used in the novel's time and the significance of activism in the novel's time.
Thing I have to mention right off the bat: this is probably the most sexist work I've ever read from Jun Cruz Reyes. But then again, I've only read four of his works. The fourth one, I'm not even sure if he's really the one who wrote it (it was a photocopy for a Humanities class). Now, I had one class under the author (was it two years ago already?) and I can attest that he has said a lot of anti-sexist stuff without being even aware of it. I even made a critical paper on Etsa Puwera saying it has a feminist tone in it. But Tutubi, Tutubi is just so easy to criticize, feminism-wise, and can be recommended to students who want to study Feminism 101. Women in this novel fall under the virgin/whore dichotomy. The only good women are mothers, patronized by the lead character Jojo. The rest are prostitutes and crazy old women and Jojo does not even try to hide his disgust around them. And there is of course, Jojo's object of affection, Tess─which is just who she can only be, an object. He loves her so much even if he's relatively poor, from the province, and an activist. He loves her so much even if Tess is rich, likes buying him things as a sign of her love, and uses Jojo as a rebound boyfriend. Their break-up is one source of many rants from Jojo. Of course, it's always the girl who's at fault. The girl just used Jojo as a rebound and went back to her ex. That fucking whore.
Anyhow, to the meat of the novel: it's about a student-activist who gets caught up in the thoughts inside his head, the bourgeoisie world, and the violence-driven society of martial law. The novel started off really annoying. Because one, it was boring me and two, Jojo was asking me too many questions. I swear to god with the small g, there are three straight pages with paragraphs full of one question after another. No rest declarative sentences. Pure questions. Just why is the world stupid? Why is the world ironic? Why is the world mean to me? Where is Tess? Blah di blah di blah.
But when I got to the part where he was trying to escape from getting caught, and I finally got a dose of non-annoying movement from Jojo (instead of him wandering around the city in circles), when I finally understood why he's so sad for like a whole first five chapters, I also finally realized that the questions are actually what's important in the novel. Questions challenge the norm. Questions are meant to disturb what people are used to. I was annoyed because I was disturbed. I was disturbed because I didn't know the answers. And when I did know the answer, I was even more disturbed because it really takes a whole lot of courage to do something about the answer.
Tutubi, Tutubi values the need to think and think and think, but it also warns readers not to be like Jojo and drown in these thoughts. Though I believe this "moral lesson" was delivered quite hastily in the ending (which is kind of...bad), it does not lessen its truth. I stand by the opinion that the author writes better short stories than novels but even so, Tutubi, Tutubi remains significant in today's post-martial law society. Which really says a lot about the author. And which really says a lot about a fucked-up country where─the people who are supposed to protect you are the ones who kidnap you, torture you, murder you, and make it seem that it was an accident, or worse, it's your fault─20 years after, things seem to change but they really don't.