On Thinking Critically in Randy Ribay’s “Patron Saints of Nothing” 

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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay cries for the lives lost without due process because of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ and confronts the dominating ideology of poor people instantly being considered the culprits of drug-pushing and drug use.

Jay Reguero doesn’t exactly have his career path mapped out for him but plays along with what he thinks would be the best choice: go to the University of Michigan and change his major along the way while planning to play video games for the last semester of his senior year. But this changes when his favorite cousin from Philippines, Jun, dies as a result of the President’s ‘war on drugs’. He’s been told by his mother that Jun was shot by the police for doing drugs. With the rest of his family quiet and unquestioning, he goes to Philippines to discover the truth behind Jun’s death – where he faces the horrible truth that he has to deal with.

When Jay lands in Philippines, he goes to his uncle, Tito Maning, Jun’s father who is a high-ranking police officer and a proud supporter of the President’s drug war. Suspicious of his uncle Tito Maning’s possible involvement regarding Jun’s death, he holds his tongue to the subtle hostility he’s faced because of being Filipino-American all because of his uncle Tito Maning’s old harbored hatred for Jay’s father: who left Philippines for a greater opportunity abroad. 

With Jay strongly believing that Jun would never do or sell drugs, he can’t accept what happened and goes through searching for necessary details to clear his cousin’s name.

“Tell me, Jay Reguero, are you willing to die to find out what happened to your cousin?”

Jay gets accompanied by Mia, a journalism student, who helps him find the people closest to Jun before he died. Their pairing, along with the help of Brian Santos, Mia’s professor, leads them to Reyna, the trafficked girl whom Jun fell in love with and tried his best to protect. 

With this protection, they don’t understand why Jun left Reyna until at the latter part of the story when Jay and Grace talk to Tito Danilo, Maning’s brother and a priest, who happens to be the last person Jun got to talk to and bare his sins onto. As the three of them talk, both Jay and Grace not only find out that Jun left Reyna because he started using drugs and didn’t want to drag her into that life but also that Maning actually tried to ask Tito Danilo for help with Jun’s case, even bribing the police, he was in charge of, to remove Jun’s name from the list but to no avail, because Jun had found his way back to drugs.

Towards the end of the story, Grace tells Jay how Jun perceived the drug war and what the government is doing about it, explaining mostly how the government is only “trying to make it seem like they were solving the problem” and how “they used the poor to do this because the poor could not or did not know how to fight back.” 

Grace also tells Jay that Jun believed that “those pushing [drugs] needed to be employed, not to be killed, because most of them were only trying to survive” and that “none of these drugs could even make their way into our country, to begin with, if not for corrupt people in power—so they needed to be replaced, not reelected.”

“I don’t want to be another one of those people who just pretends like they don’t know about the suffering, like they don’t see it every single day, like they don’t walk past it on their way to school or work. I wonder, do you ever feel like this?”

Patron Saints of Nothing is a whole ride of frustrations, confusions, and understandings. Through this book, Ribay captures the perspectives of the characters who reflect the lives of actual people and their struggles and thus, urges readers to assess the situation by thinking critically. In times like these, who really is at fault? And who should be held accountable?


Ada Pelonia

Ada Pelonia (she/her) is an article writer for The Walled City Journal. Her works have appeared in 101 Words, Porridge Magazine, Philippines Graphic, Capsule Stories, Pulp Poets Press, The Brown Orient, Germ Magazine, among others.

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