The Lust of Exploration

Europe first encountered the Philippines in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan claimed the archipelago for Spain—and ended up dead after a battle with local chieftain Lapu Lapu. Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle starts with an excerpt from a contemporary account of Magellan's Philippine visit, which describes comely native women clad in nothing but thin strips of bark "before their privies," suggesting that conquest can be inspired as much by lust as God and king.

The novel that follows is set in the Philippines under strongman Ferdinand Marcos—as was Dogeaters, Hagedorn's first novel—but the themes go back to Magellan: explorers...

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