4 Main Characters of the Story: Fr. Augusto Saenz (Gus) – The old priest who is an expert in autopsy and was the mentor of Fr. Jerome Lucero. He was asked by the Director to help him in dealing with the murder case in Payatas. Fr. Jerome Lucero – The companion of Fr. Saenz in dealing with the case. He was a very smart student who is now a psychologist and at the same time, a priest. Alejandro Carlos (Alex) – The serial killer of the story who was molested during his high school days by Mr. Isabelo Gorospe, his former P. E. teacher, because of his incapability of coping up with the group.
Benjamin Arcinas – The lawyer and the one handling the police force in seizing the suspect from his multiple serial killing. Other Minor Characters: Joanna Bonifacio and Leo (her cameraman) Wally Soler and Manny The Director Flora Carlos (mother) and his Father Isabelo Gorospe Emong Carding Setting of the Story: The story took place in the parts of Manila and in Payatas where the corpses of the victims were found. The year was about 2000 onwards because there were some exact dates mentioned in the story like for the case of the killing and the molestation of Alex, etc. Conflict of the Story:
There are a lot of conflicts in the story especially for the part of Alex Carlos. The person is forced to be special in the eyes of other well in fact he/she doesn’t want to be special. The trauma of a person can either lead to a state of psychological disorder or in the state of coma where he/she knows nothing anymore which Alex was turned into a serial killer. He kills just to get his wish to be ordinary like the others. We can also see the struggles of Fr. Saenz and Lucero in solving the case VS Mr. Arcinas who believes that his men are better (the church VS the government). Arcinas’ men think that they don’t need the help of both Fr.
Saenz and Fr. Lucero. Eventually, they merged up/ worked as one after the seventh victim was killed. Between Fr. Saenz and Alex Carlos, we cans see the conflict between them like the predator trying to capture his/her prey. A father lecturing his child into giving-up what’s bad and turn into the light but he refuses because there’s nothing left of him anymore and his life is now meaningless like a scar that’s lightened by the moonlight but still remains the same. Language of the Story: The language of the story was very similar with the western crime scenes and forensic investigations but in a Filipino environment and Filipino characters.
The zest of adding Filipino languages just strengthens that it’s an original Filipino writing well in fact it just traces the same elements of the westerns. The originality that can be only from the book is the way they say serial killers in the Philippines doesn’t exist and the two priest are trying to prove that they really exist and we must be aware of it and that the materials in our country really lacks the technology in solving crime scenes because the laboratories and chemical substance, computers and other important things are not fully provided by the government. Summary of the Story:
The story started in the Payatas area where they found out that there was a serial killer living there. He killed children who were about twelve to fourteen years of age during every first Saturday of the month. Father Emil, the priest in Payatas, asked help from Father Gus Saenz to lead them his support in solving the mystery. The Director also asked him to use his skills in finding clues and hard evidences to end the killing. Together with Fr. Jerome Lucero, they both try to crack the case and search for the unknown into leading them to their suspect. At first, it was difficult to join up with Mr.
Arcinas, the head of the police, but eventually he was awakened by the mistake he had done because of the wrong suspect that they had captured who was Crading the burglar. With the help of Mr. Arcinas, they now know who the killer was and the reason on why he had to kill and for what purpose. The serial killer who was Alejandro Carlos is a victim of molestation/rapeduring his teenage years. At the age of fourteen, he was the special child of his PE teacher, Isabelo Gorospe, because he’s his favorite in releasing his sexual desire as told by Emong who was also one of the eight victims.
From here, they now know why he killed his PE teacher together with the eight children as a sign of his way in releasing his anger. In the end, Fr. Gus Saenz tried to sweet talk Alex Carlos but he doesn’t respond to the help the Father was giving to him. Instead, he attacked Fr. Saenz and slices his way to salvation because he was shot by many policemen who have surrounded his trailer. He died smiling saying, “I didn’t like it. I didn’t like any of it. I. Didn’t. Want. It. ” meaning he was very sorry for everything for he forced to become what he didn’t wanted in the beginning.
Book Review: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan The novel Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan is a story about two Jesuit priests, who are also detectives, in pursuit of a serial killer who targets undersized and undernourished boys from the Payatas area. More than that, it’s an attempt to create an environment that is lacking in this country. There is not a killer as smart as Alex Carlos, police detectives as talented as Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero, nor a police workforce as dedicated as in the story’s NBI.
The novel also magnifies the urban underbelly, with the garbage dumps, the slums, and the way people live in Payatas as seen in the opening chapter. The Boys: Lead by Father Gus Saenz, with the help of his former student and fellow forensic anthropologist Father Jerome Lucero, they track down and try to decipher the mind of a serial killer, who the police department doesn’t believe to be present in the country . Father Gus Saenz represents the tall, mestizo, and ruggedly handsome priest you hope would not be in front of an altar in your wedding, but beside you instead.
He is a product of an affluent, amiable family, is well-educated, and witty. Father Jerome Lucero is Father Gus’ former student, a forensic anthropologist, and his partner in solving the series of killings. He is much younger, but less likely to withhold his feelings when agitated or irritated. As partners, the two priests-slash-sleuths try to figure out the goings-on in the serial killer’s mind, how and why he kills the way he does. They delve into the psychological aspect of the case, and they are drawn nearer to the killer by the clues gathered.
Posing as a hindrance, the acting director of the police department is somehow a satire of the attention-seeking, media-loving police figure. He not only takes the case carelessly, but leads the people in the wrong direction just to make himself look good and seem in control of the case. The Rat: Alex Carlos is the resident dentist-slash-serial killer in this fast-paced novel. He works in the mobile clinic that provides dental and medical check-ups in the Payatas area. It is there that he is given access to the undersized and undernourished boys he needs to fulfill his sick plan.
His anger comes from being molested as a child by his PE teacher Mr. Gorospe. Unable to talk to his parents about the humiliating incident, and incapable of talking to any friends about his trauma, he grows up psychologically impaired and angry. He kills with cunning precision and every act is symbolic. He defaces his victims, and excises the genitals, signs that there is a sexual conflict and a need to rid off the identity of the kids, much like what happened to Alex Carlos himself. The Big Circle: The story opens to Father Emil—a fellow priest and acquaintance to Father Gus and Father Jerome—finding a dead boy’s body dumped in the Payatas.
A series of investigation has started, and over six bodies are already found suspiciously patterned to one another. Although Father Gus and Father Jerome are eager and most likely sure about the crime being done by a serial killer, the lawyer who heads the NBI’s investigating team Atty. Benjamin Arcinas is only focused on looking good before the cameras when he is interviewed about the development of the case. He prioritizes other cases that people can talk about, so he can gain media exposure. Figuring out the goings-on of a psychologically disturbed killer, especially if he’s very good at hiding it, is fairly difficult.
The sleuths go through some complicated twists in their quest to find truth and justice amidst the media-hungry personalities who don’t give much attention to the case. Unlike most of the major cases that happen in the Philippines, the case is treated with priority and care by Father Gus and Father Jerome, so it is solved in the end. Compared to the real investigations happening in the country, the investigation in the novel is more in-depth, and surprisingly, the detectives have the necessary supplies and equipment needed for the development of the case.
And they’re so smart, educated abroad and come from affluent families. The realist aspect of the novel is when the scene shifts to the life in the Payatas. One can almost smell the stink from the garbage, can almost feel the starvation of the kids, can sympathize with the victims’ mothers. This is one of the moving scenes in the novels, when they report to the mother of the boys that their sons have been, indeed, murdered, after being reported as only missing. The novel also shows how the police workforce concentrates on preferred cases.
Most of them just take up the more popular cases, or those that would certainly gain them much media exposure, leaving sometimes the more important and more urgent cases. The Smaller Circle: At the height of Father Gus and Father Jerome’s pursuit of the serial killer Alex Carlos, a small detail is noticed. At the earlier part of the novel, one would not mistake them for priests, lest they are dressed when conducting mass. Yes, they are good guys, but in all the suspense and the battle of good versus evil, they did not pray outwardly.
There was no mention of Father Gus praying while they discover bodies of little kids with their faces stripped off, or when another victim is identified. Father Gus only prays outwardly when he is finally walking towards the van where the killer is hiding. He calls on to God, for the first time in the novel, and prays. This is a curious part in the novel, but it doesn’t affect much the gripping twists that surround the world of the two priests. If anything, they get to show the exciting side of priesthood, not the dull, world in which we usually see them in.
Smaller and Smaller Circles: The novel provides the readers not only an exciting narration; it also gives the readers a look in the mind of the killer itself. At the start of most of the chapters in the novel, monologues of the killer or more possibly his thoughts are presented. This is the best part of the novel, as the reader gets to see both sides of the story. Here is an example of the thought/monologue of the killer: I can feel them. Scurrying in circles around me, smaller and smaller circles like rats around a crust of bread or a piece of cheese.
Waiting, waiting, waiting for the right moment. The moment when I slip up, when I make a mistake, when I get careless. I can hear their feet. Some of them pass by the gate on the sidewalks; they think I can’t see them. Some of them are brave enough to rattle the gate; they bring my mail, my bills, they ask fro donations. Some of them get into the house while I’m sleeping, and I wake up and I hear their feet on the stairs, yes I do. I can hear their thoughts. The tall man, he knows. He’s not far, he tells the others.
He will screw up and we will find him. There are no serial killers in the Philippines. In her Palanca-winning first novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles, Felisa Batacan plants a seed that disturbs this widely held assumption. She points out that “Philippine police and law enforcement authorities do not compile statistics on missing persons on a nationwide basis… Little attention is paid to determining patterns …serial killing is a far more prevalent phenomenon in the country than the police have the capability or the inclination to detect. She makes us forget about the serial killers roaming the corn fields of rural America or those stalking the back alleys of Europe because in her novel, the streets the serial murderer walks are now our own. Batacan brings the killer home and makes him haunt the comfortable world of Ateneo, Katipunan Avenue, and the small roads of Quezon City. The Payatas dumpsite, already notorious for the terrible landslide years ago, is now given an even more menacing air as the setting for a series of gruesome murders.
Hot on the trail of the slaughterer are two Jesuit priests who are arguably the most engaging men of the cloth to come out in Filipino literature. Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero are forensic anthropologists. Jerome, the younger half of this new dynamic duo, is rather serious and intense with a volatile temper. Gus, on the other hand, listens to Bach, Gregorian chants, the Doors, and the Sex Pistols when examining corpses. The novel begins insidiously and the first glimpse you have of this world is through the eyes of the killer. “I feel like I’m always being watched.
I hate being watched. ” There is no reprieve as the immediate succeeding scenes introduce us to the horror the book holds. Batacan does not disappoint us in our expectation of a crime novel. Blood, and lots of it. It is this dread that makes the book a wonderful and welcome addition to the body of Philippine literature in English. For the first time, an author deals with a theme very common in popular Western literature, much loved by many readers, yet largely ignored by Filipino writers. At first one is dubious about whether this kind of story could work.
A doubt that perhaps stems from the firm conviction that there are no serial killers in the Philippines. But as we’re taken through the novel, firmly grounded as it is in familiar surroundings, the story not only works, it frightens. It isn’t a dizzying action-packed book though. There are moments in which the author proceeds ponderously through a maze of detail. Laborious as these sections may seem at times, it is precisely these parts that allow us to appreciate the remarkable research the author did to preserve the scientific integrity of her novel. This does not mean that the author is incapable of kicking up her pace a few notches.
Once we wade through the detail, Batacan pushes her priests to draw their initial conclusions and, despite any resistance we may have to immersing ourselves further in the horrific quality of the book, we are plunged right in. At this point the author hits her stride. The gripping quality of the succeeding hundred or so pages makes the novel difficult to put down. Traditional whodunits have us at the edge of our seat guessing who the criminal may be. Other crime novels reveal the perpetrator and we turn the pages to find out how such an evil criminal will meet his end.
But the power of Smaller and Smaller Circles lies in neither of these. The solution to the mystery becomes incidental to Batacan’s story. It isn’t even the curiosity of what happens next that makes the novel compelling. It is the mind of the killer that is the driving force of the story. Throughout much of the novel, the murderer is a specter whose voice haunts us in alternating chapters. One feat accomplished in this novel is that the author filled it with the presence of a character we never see until the end; and by the time we do encounter the murderer, we are so deeply engrossed with the persona we find our sympathies lie there.
Towards the end, the killer says: “I. Didn’t. Want. It. ” And it is his salvation we wish for. The great number of horror films produced through the decades is an indicator that people have a strange fascination for the dark, the terrifying, the macabre. This inherent quality should in itself be enough to make Smaller and Smaller Circles a satisfying read; but in the novel this fascination pushed deeper than glimpses at horrifying images. The book becomes gratifying because our involvement goes much further than watching a terrifying story unfold.
We are taken into the mind of a psychopath and we realize, with a little shock of pleasure, that we understand just how it thinks. smaller and smaller circles I. Book data: Title of the book : Smaller and smaller circles By: F. H. Bantacan Publisher: University of the Philippines Press Date published: 2002 Number of pages: 198 pages II. Genealogy Lead by Father Gus Saenz , with the help of his former student and fellow forensic anthropologist Father Jerome Lucero, they track down and try to decipher the mind of a serial killer, Alex Carlos whom Atty.
Benjamin Arcinas the head of the NBI investigating team that doesn’t believe that serial killer exists. III. Description of the characters: Father Gus Saenz represents the tall,mestizo,and ruggedly handsome priest you hope would not be in front of an altar in your wedding, but beside you instead. He is a product of an affluent, amiable family, iswell-educated, and witty. Father Jerome Lucero is Father Gus’ former student, a forensic anthropologist, and his partner in solving the series of killings. He is much younger, but less likely to withhold his feelings when agitated or irritated.
Posing as a hindrance, the acting director of the police department is somehow a satire of the attention-seeking, media-loving police figure. He not only takes the case carelessly, but leads the people in the wrong direction just to make himself look good and seem in control of the case. Atty. Benjamin Arcinas. Alex Carlosis the resident dentist-slash-serial killer in this fast-paced novel. He works in the mobile clinic that provides dental and medical check-ups in the Payatas area. It is there that he is given access to the undersized and undernourished boys he needs to fulfill his sick plan.
His anger comes from being molested as a child by his PE teacher Mr. Gorospe. Unable to talk to his parents about the humiliating incident, and incapable of talking to any friends about his trauma, he grows up psychologically impaired and angry. Summary of the novel The Big Circle: The story opens to Father Emil—a fellow priest and acquaintance to Father Gus and Father Jerome—finding a dead boy’s body dumped in the Payatas. A series of investigation has started, and over six bodies are already found suspiciously patterned to one another.
Although, Father Gus and Father Jerome are eager and most likely sure about the crime being done by a serial killer, the lawyer who heads the NBI’s investigating team Atty. Benjamin Arcinas never believed in their theories. The two priests pursued the investigations of the crimes. Double checking all the evidence left by the killer on the corpses especially the facts that he kills with precision and with symbols—he defaces his victims, and excises the genitals, signs that there is a sexual conflict and a need to rid off the identity of the kids.
Figuring out the goings-on of a psychologically disturbed killer, especially if he’s very good at hiding it, is fairly difficult. The sleuths go through some complicated twists in their quest to find truth and justice amidst the media-hungry personalities who don’t give much attention to the case. Deciphering the crime isn’t easy…. they conducted investigations among the people of Payatas and also within the volunteer medical group members assigned there. They suspect that the killer is one of the men attending to the people’s health.
They ended up researching the records of one of the dentists—Alex Carlos. They found out that Alex was molested by his homo PE. Teacher when he was still in elementary school at Payatas. And as a way of bringing out his revenge he kills boys at his age during the abuse. Father Gus together with the troop conducted an arrest. They cornered him inside the medical van. Father Gus got inside the van alone and he tried to convince Alex to surrender but before he could speak the killer had injured him using a medical blade many times. He dropped dead outside the van.
When Father Gus dropped dead outside the van the troop immediately came forward for rescue and when they saw Alex still holding the blade they shot him. Alex died. And Father Gus managed to escape death after the fatal injury. The two priests proved their theory and the crime was solved. Reaction to the novel: The novel is really great,at first I wasn’t really interested in it because of my first impression on the title but then, when I read the summary at the back I found my self reading it even before I could let the teacher check for it. F. H.
Bantacan’s way of writing is really good. It drags you deeper and deeper, as if as you continue reading you were already in the scene and yet nobody sees or notices your existence but you know what is happening, you can see everything and you can hear everything, whisper or thoughts, that are being left. Naturalistic dialogue that’s also contributed to the essence of the story, it made it like a true to life story. And last, but not the least, is how the published it—the book is handy so it’s more comfortable to read anywhere, anytime. The novel was a thrilling detective story.
From reading the novel I got to the idea that, the antagonist seeks for justice like most of Filipinos (especially those who are under the poverty line). The police force only pays attention to those cases that will bring them media exposures, I believe this really happens to the kind of society we have now. Justice men should at least look to every case equally. As a student I’m also an observer of the happenings in our country and I admit there have been many cases that I watched over the television that had been solved but it is also true that most of them are cases that involve high profile persons.
The story opened my eyes to this kind of harassment that maybe a lot of people have been experiencing and yet they can’t talk about it to anybody so they tend to let it out trough killing/ violence. This novel changes my view of priest from stereotype to more exciting and analytic life of priest. I love reading books but previously I read only those that is written by foreign writers but after reading this novel I appreciate it a lot that I am convinced to read more and more Filipino books. My understanding towards people grew deeper and wider. I learned lot of things.
The Filipino values that were depicted in this novel were the tight family ties- they continuously search for their love ones even though there’s a high possibility that they were dead already, warm family and loving- pictured in the family of Father Gus. XII. Bibliography of the author: F. H. Bantacan has a degree in broadcast communications and a master’s degree in Art studies, both from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. She worked asa policy researcher, broadcast journalist, web designer and musician, and is currently a business copy editor for theThe straits times in Singapore.
She previously won a prize for her short story “Door 59” in the 1997 Palanca Awards, and her work has appeared in local magazines, as well as in online literary magazineWeb DelSol. Synopsis: Winner of the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel award in 1999, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan narrates a story about two Jesuit priests, who also happens to know a thing or two about forensics, that were tapped to solve the mystery surrounding the gruesome murders of young boys living in Payatas, Quezon City — one of the poorest areas in Metro Manila, Philippines.
Review In A Nutshell: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan is an elegantly-written piece of fiction that definitely packs a wallop despite its pint-sized thickness. Since I did a “Scoring The Book” post before this book review, I just felt it was appropriate to open it up with that video. All things considered, I was heavily reminded of Crime Scene Investigation the moment I started reading Smaller and Smaller Circles. The award-winning mystery novel penned by Filipino novelist, F. H.
Batacan, tells of a story of two Jesuit priests, Father Gus Saenz and Father Jerome Lucero, who were tapped to help solve a series of gruesome murders of young boys who lived in Payatas, Quezon City given their knowledge and experience in forensic work. As the two Jesuit priests dig deeper into the murders, they both discover how perplexed the case was. In their journey of trying to prevent more young boys from being killed, they are followed (and somewhat aided) by Joanna Bonifacio, a TV producer and host that could give any local female newscaster a run for their money.
Despite their experience in forensics and dealing with some irritatingly arrogant local officials, nothing prepared the two Jesuit priests of their discovery of the elusive killer, who may or may not have been lurking in their shadows for quite some time. Okay, I know this video is completely off-topic but the how murders were written in the book were like this: quick yet precise. The Duel between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, Kill Bill No. 1 If I were to sum up my thoughts about this book, I can keep it to as many as the number of those poor, murdered boys discovered in its first few pages: an elegantly-written piece of fiction.
It is no wonder why Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan received the accolades it got. The book is sarcastically funny, gritty, thought-provoking and completely entertaining. Despite its pint-sized thickness, it packs a wallop. It’s a complete page-turner; you will not stop until you get to the end of the story. When I started reading it, I was so frustrated that I didn’t have any colored tabs with me that I had to re-read it as soon as I bought a set.
Well, you can definitely say that the proof is indeed in the pudding. However, as with any piece of work, Smaller and Smaller Circles is definitely not beyond perfect. If there’s one bone I’d like to pick with it using a really sharp scalpel, it’ll probably be the liberal use of Latin, French and German phrases in the book. Because I wanted so much to dig deeper into the story, I had to ensure I was beside my laptop while reading the book so that I can google the phrases’ meanings to understand their significance.
There were times that I was distracted by it; whether out of envy or the need to know, I’m not sure. This was one of those rare occasions wherein I wouldn’t mind seeing footnotes inside a book if only to make understanding those foreign lines easier. Nonetheless, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan is definitely worth the read. And I’m hearing some buzz in the local book blogging community that the author is currently penning a prequel. I cannot wait to get my hands on that.