by Rose Churma
The month of March is designated as International Women’s Month, and to acknowledge this, we are featuring an anthology published close to 40 years ago – a first in local publishing history in the Philippines – “a book exclusively by women, but of and for women and men.”
The editors were aware then that, given more time, they could come up with an anthology thatx may be more representative of women’s writings in the country. But in the early 1980s, the need for such a collection was urgent.
The women writers felt that to procrastinate would be “to hinder the first step forward…” as written in the preface by the three editors, one of which is the late Lilia Quindoza Santiago, whose contributions as a faculty member at the University of Hawaii in Manoa and as a multi-lingual writer and poet will always be remembered.
The editors of this anthology, published in 1984, lament that “the inclusion in anthologies of women writers is a merely patronizing or token gesture. Above all, for women to be accepted in both journalism a literature, they must think and write like men.”
In four decades, things have changed, not only in women’s writing but in every facet of society. For us to appreciate the distance we’ve traveled, it is imperative to see where we’ve come from – thus the review of this book.This book is dedicated “to our mothers, sisters and daughters – that they may keep the fires burning.”
This anthology of works written mostly in the 70s includes new contemporary themes such as feminism, identity, and ethnic connections. Social inequities and nationalistic stirrings are themes that had inspired Filipina writers since the Spanish times and continue as a recurring topic.
However, this is the first time that bilingualism is celebrated in an anthology. Before this publication, the inclusion of English and Tagalog/Filipino in the same volume is rare. But in this anthology, easy bilingualism can be gauged by the shift to English from Tagalog/Filipino by the authors.
What is constant throughout are the writers’ desire to strive for originality, style and relevance – traditional criteria in any literary or artistic form which earlier women writers also strived for.Aside from poetry and fiction, the anthology also includes a one-act play in Tagalog/Filipino. The one poem that stood out as we celebrate International Women’s month was written by Marra PL. Lanot in Tagalog/Filipino entitled “Babae Kami.” The last stanza is shown below:
nagluwal ng sanggol
Na tagapagmana ng mundo
Marunong kaming umaninag
Ng hugis ng araw at gabi
Ng kulay ng bahaghari
Sa kaluluwang babagsak
Sa pusong maalalahanin
At magwasto ng baliktad
Sa ikagaganda ng daigidig
ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (facebook.com/kalamansibooks), promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.