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A Fortunate Country, my first novel, probes the clashing passions of two powerful families as they try to surpass each other in acts of good governance. This unique premise heralds a literary subgenre of my own creation: Social Idealism, the antidote to toxic Social Realism, which has kept readers in dark despair for so long.
Set in West Maritesas, a fictional island chain in the Pacific, A Fortunate Country is a novel of optimism. No reputations and endangered species have been harmed in writing this book. Similarities with events and persons living or dead, or soon to be dead, are purely coincidental.
A brief introduction to the central characters is necessary as readers will meet a large supporting cast of benign kinsfolk jostling to be first to contribute to their patrēs familias’ good deeds. The key antagonists, shining embodiments of decency, are from rival clans obsessed with proving who does more for their nation and people even if it kills them. The clans, I mean. History has inextricably planted their family trees in the richly rewarding soil of civic duty.
There is President Segundo Lazaro, a decisive leader who detests hollow ceremonial duties, a fearless debater honed in pre-graduate studies abroad, and the scion of an eminent line whose dedication to democracy and the public good keeps bringing its members back from political demise.
Hounding the rich
Seriously addicted to transparency, President Lazaro is high on exposing top officials’ ill-gotten caches in offshore bank accounts. He mercilessly hounds the rich to pay their taxes and abhors costly travels that only net empty promises of foreign investments. He expertly dabbles in farm management, dismantling agricultural cartels and ensuring food staples at affordable prices.
Standing reservedly behind him is an unassuming first lady whose subdued comportment has been described as “so New Jersey.” Giving him steadfast support is ever-loyal sister Ines, a natural beauty who loves her sister-in-law very, very much, even to a fault, or several. The family’s unbreakable unity is an awe-inspiring model for the nation.
President Lazaro’s nemesis, the pious elder statesman Armando de la Fuerte, refuses to be overshadowed by the former’s unimpeachable behavior. Despite lingering pain from an old vehicular accident, he shuns any medication that could impair his mental faculty. Indeed, extremely concerned about the plight of drug-addicted citizens, Sir Andoy launched an effective program that brought them out of their misery without any possibility of relapse, earning him the high-end Delusionare Award.
Sir Andoy is also wanted by the International Criminal Court, as a potential judge in cases of crimes against humanity. His dedication to charity includes lobbying to give away the nation’s waterways for the sake of world peace and understanding. His angelic sons have also won elected offices, thanks to his authentic common-man persona. Despite his presumed wealth he lives simply, subsisting on meals catered by Aling Pacing’s Karinderya, and he still naps under a mosquito net in his private jet.
The apple of Sir Andoy’s eye is his daughter, Vice President Leah de la Fuerte. He disapproves of her closeness to the President, her purported bestie, a Montague to her Capulet, afraid that her extremely pleasant persona is only adding to the latter’s already high approval ratings. Ma’am Leah has inherited Sir Andoy’s refined demeanor and painstaking regard for the feelings of others.
She also shares her father’s philanthropic spirit, confidentially funding thousands of non-working employees she has rescued from soul-crushing government jobs. (Some readers might think this alludes to an actual person’s deed. Nothing could be further from the truth, because I truly do not know how our real vice president spent her secret funds in no time.)
VP Leah’s bete noire is eminent Lazaro-clan adjutant Rep. Primo Sobrino, her future rival for the presidency. He tries to outshine her philanthropic works by donating 20% of his declared assets to an American university, but he does it in extreme secrecy out of deep-seated modesty. Sobrino also doggedly rejects any attempts to make him prime minister, condemning those who would toy with West Maritesas’ Constitution to do so.
Sobrino, however, has a dark streak that could lead to his do-gooding clan’s undoing. He relishes tormenting his estranged, politically unsinkable mentor, former head of state and current lawmaker I.M. Soria, by sneakily tightening her neck brace and kicking her wheelchair out from underneath.
Readers will find my self-published A Fortunate Country a complete departure from demoralizing Social Realism. There was no need to rip from the headlines to drive this work’s narrative. Its characters, created from the fullest extent of my imagination, are highly original, if I may say so.
This two-family saga kindles hope by rejecting the literary allure of such themes as power-hogging dynasties, thieving public officials, clueless senators, well-connected hoarders of agricultural goods, weaponized prosecutions, extrajudicial killings, red-tagging witch hunters, deluded voters, smuggling customs officials, predatory pastors, or dejected citizens crushed by chronic poverty and social inequality. And in this fortunate country, aglow in its Golden Age, no one tries to obscure a tyrannical past or burnish a historically tarnished pedigree.
Such unsavory motifs, readers will agree, are best relegated to the trough of the journalism profession, the inconveniently rude cousin of Social Realism.
‘Praises’ for A Fortunate Country
“A point-blank shot of high-caliber optimism.”
– Homer Sydall, Extrajudicial Times
“Genre-busting. A deep dive into the banality of goodness.”
– Lucio Farr, Morality Today
“A quantum leap in science fiction with riveting characters from a parallel universe.”
– Deena Gheditt, Popular Cosmology
Rene Ciria Cruz is an editor at PositivelyFilipino.com. He edited the book A Time to Rise (UP Press), and was Inquirer.net’s US Bureau Chief from 2013-2023. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, and California Lawyer Magazine.