State of War’s dominant story line portrays a failed attempt by young radicals to assassinate Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos (referred to only as The Commander). The book’s larger concern is with the effect of centuries of colonialism on the Filipino people’s search for national identity. Portions of the novel try to reconstruct the ancestry of the principal characters during centuries of Spanish rule and fifty years of American occupation. Even after independence is achieved in 1946, freedom still is withheld from the people by troops serving the Commander. “Internal colonialism,” controlled by the Filipinos’ own countryman, merely replaces the tyranny that formerly came from outside. Ninotchka Rosca describes a nation forever being betrayed and, therefore, forever in the process of only beginning to find itself.
The seriousness of the assassination attempt is masked by the resplendent color and the joyful sounds of the festival that surround the attempt. Annually, in the Ati-Atihan celebration, Filipinos celebrate the clash between the Spanish and the native islanders. Anna Villaverde, who during martial law once was detained by military authorities because of her closeness to Manolo Montreal, a radical oppositionist who is assumed dead, becomes aware that Colonel Urbano Amor, her original torturer, is securing the area for the Commander’s visit. Anna is protected from exposure by Adrian, a young member of the elite class....
(The entire section is 506 words.)