Killing Time in a Warm Place

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Killing Time in a Warm Place is Jose Y. Dalisay's Palanca-winning novel about life during and after Martial Law. Following the experiences and recollections of a former activist, the novel allows for the juxtaposition of persons and contexts. It was first published in 1992 and won that year's Manila Critics Circle National Book Award for Fiction. In 1993, it won the Palanca Awards Grand Prize for the Novel, and the UP President's Award for Most Outstanding Publication.


The novel has four parts which coincide with the four phases in the life of a man. The main character is Noel Ilustre Bulaong, a Visayan. The first part of the novel is dominated by images of his childhood in the quiet and simple province. The sense of innocence and simple happiness with being in tune with the rest of the world is prevalent until Noel's first encounter with the still-on-the-rise Ferdinand Marcos. The second part of the novel moves to adolescence and being a student in the university. At this point, Noel loses the sense of order and innocence as he and his comrade-activists struggle against the tyranny and cruelty of the already-President Ferdinand Marcos. This section paints a picture of how activist life was during Martial Law, describing the practices and routines--like secret huddles and singing of revolutionary songs with professors-- and the landscape of UP that sheltered activists and served as stage for the Diliman Commune. Noel, as he reminisces those times, reveals the future of his comrades as white-collar employees--a contrast to their fiery young selves. Noel proceeds to tell the story of his imprisonment as a political detainee. The predominant image that follows is Noel as an adult already incorporated into the capitalist-bureaucratic system he once fought. The sense of being lost to the cause after giving up his activism for a comfortable, ordinary life. At the end, however, Noel finds that in his heart, the struggle remains.


  • "Let my tongue be silenced, if ever I forget." is a verse form the Bible. (Psalm 137, verse 6)
  • "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." is a response in the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • In one passage, Noel mentions how he would lose knowledge of his Tatay's whereabouts but did not mind because Marcos was father to all Filipinos. This refers to Marcos' frequent use of his being the father of the country, of everyone, in his speeches.
  • The experience of Noel as a student-activist during Martial Law and his imprisonment are shared by the author, Jose Dalisay.

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