Last year, I put a halt on my reading to give more time for work. Thus, I currently read at a much slower pace than I used to. To ease reading back into my habits, I decided to start with shorter pieces first and then gradually move on to longer pieces as I gain momentum. Hence, I picked this novella, thinking that if I could finish 83 pages in mere hours back then, then I would probably be able to finish this within 3 days.
Boy, was I wrong — I overestimated myself. Candido’s Apocalypse took me more than a week.
Or maybe, more aptly, I underestimated Nick Joaquin. Because you don’t simply bite off a Nick Joaquin — you take your time chewing on it, trying to sense a hint of sweetness off the bitter taste.
What took me more than a week to finish the novella was my insistence to read it as my teenage self because to be able to understand both Bobby and Candido, you, too, have to revert back to your most tumultuous years.
Candido’s Apocalypse tells of seventeen-year-old Bobby Heredia’s struggle to break free from conformity, which he openly mocks as phony and “overacting”. In his yearning for a rebirth and an identity free from the norms of a pretentious society (as he sees it), Bobby unleashes Candido.
Candido is a grimly special boy — he can see everyone in their filthy nakedness, revealing their clothed secrets and buried pasts. Candido is Bobby, had he been born unmarred by his parents’ pretensions and ambitions. Candido was Bobby, until in the end, he chose not to be.
The theme seems to be really simple — the novella shows the social awakening of an atypical adolescent in a typical society, a story line reminiscent of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye — and yet it felt unfamiliar. Candido’s uncanny ability stirred in me both fascination and disgust. Although intrigued, I found it too surreal for my taste that I had to keep coming back to past pages, trying to put myself in the shoes of Bobby and Candido. In the end, after much pondering, I did find a glimpse of myself in Bobby and Candido by forcing myself to recall the confused and angry teenage girl who once quietly voiced out some of Bobby’s rants and who seemed to perfectly reflect Candido’s smugness.
Seeing how it ended up with Bobby, Nick Joaquin has got me thinking, Was Bobby right for detaching himself from Candido? Was I right for doing the same thing?