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2021 was a landmark year for Filipino women.
Ana Patricia Non led Filipinos in providing basic goods as a response to government inaction through community pantries. Hidilyn Diaz brought home the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal. Rappler’s CEO, our very own Maria Ressa, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – also the first for a Filipino.
While I witnessed these historic feats, I also saw the women in my own life stepping up. A lot of my titas [aunts] mastered juggling their careers and households. A friend of mine set up her own business from the ground up.
Whether they’re broadcasted on the news or stories shared in family group chats, these women from different walks of life all had their own wins. One thing is for sure: we have much to learn from Filipino women.
So in celebration of Filipino women this National Women’s Month, the #RapplerReads team takes a step back from providing this month’s book recommendations.
This March, we asked some of our Filipino role models for a book written by a woman that they believe all Filipino women should read. Take a look at their answers below:
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
I recommend Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir. In her book, she recounted her journey from being raised in rural Idaho by traditional Mormon parents, who denied her access to formal education, to getting a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the UK. What I like about her story is that it doesn’t overly romanticize poverty and abuse, nor does it stray towards what could be a toxic narrative of individual effort, self-reliance, and personal redemption. Rather, it shows how the politics of poverty, exclusion, and abuse are both personal and systemic. As such, getting out of abuse, moving out of poverty, and attaining justice require personal effort and grit, community, and social programs designed to include those in the margins (e.g., scholarships).
I hope that by reading this book, all Filipino women could draw strength and inspiration from Ms. Westover’s fight for self-determination and agency through community and her journey of liberation through education. May all Filipino women be moved to take control of our personal agency and national destiny.
– Love Basillote, Executive Director, Philippine Business for Education
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Philippines is continuously making progress with breaking norms. Yet a lot of us are still trapped in ideas and practices relating to men’s view of women, women’s view of other women, and women’s view of self. This is why every chapter of Glennon Doyle’s Untamed is an experience of learning and unlearning about being a woman and about being ourselves. The book is an easy read and entertaining collection of anecdotes and reflections meant to break and heal hearts. If you are ready to re-examine your beliefs and to speak to yourself truthfully, then read this book.
– Kristine Gabriel, screenwriter, Star Cinema
The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995: Notes and Cases by Rowena Guanzon
I wrote The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995: Notes and Cases. It is in the UP Law Center bookstore. [I also wrote] Primer on Republic Act 9262 Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 and the Barangay Protection Order.
– Rowena Guanzon, former Comelec commissioner
The House on Calle Sombra: A Parable by Marga Ortigas
The House on Calle Sombra, written by renowned journalist Marga Ortigas. I’m still in the middle of it, but the story is riveting. The storytelling is so wonderfully done, it’s a book I cannot put down. Let’s read it together. ❤️
– Inka Magnaye, announcer, voice talent, and events host
Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn
Hagedorn’s internationally and critically-acclaimed novel Dogeaters, published in 1990, continues to resonate today and could be classified as a “must read” by this writer precisely because of its groundbreaking decolonizing non-linear approach to storytelling and because the characters, their stories, and what they represent are very much alive in the Philippines today. Dogeaters mirrors the past in the present and possibly in the future.
One could say that my recommendation of Dogeaters has simply to do with its relevance to the upcoming 2022 Presidential election – BongBong Marcos running for President and all that the possibility of him winning implies – who he brings with him (back) into power, how, where and what the repercussions will be. There is this sense of [unease] with his father’s reign as depicted in the novel repeating itself in the present. However, shifting this obvious spotlight, the heart of the novel foregrounds an array of multi-dimensional female and disenfranchised male characters’ diverse challenges and the strength needed to face them through the author’s uncompromising voice. It is these fictitious and real voices of women that dare to create and speak their truth/s, stand up for what they believe in, and take responsibility for their freedom that I wish to celebrate.
– Angel Velasco Shaw, media artist, educator, curator, and cultural organizer
Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
I’ve been thinking about motherhood lately, now that I live closer to my mama and ate – the two mothers in my life. And as a millennial with a ticking biological clock, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of becoming a mother someday. The socially-ingrained image that comes to mind, the “ilaw ng tahanan” traditional Filipino notion of motherhood, doesn’t align with the woman I want to become [as it] includes maintaining an independent, thriving career in foreign policy.
Angela Garbes’ book Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy is a beautiful reminder that pregnancy and motherhood are whatever we as women want to make of it and that we have agency in this experience despite what living in patriarchal society made us believe. In the book, she says “There is no right or wrong way to be pregnant, to become a mother, to make a family. There is only one way – your way, which will inevitably be filled with tears, mistakes, doubt, but also joy, relief, triumph, and love.”
Motherhood need not be a sacrifice, but an opportunity to transform. This book is so refreshing and liberating, and I recommend it to all women (with or without children!), and perhaps even more so to men.
– Lovely Umayam, writer, nuclear nonproliferation expert, founder of the Bombshelltoe Policy and Arts Collective
A Lolong Time Ago: A Prehistory of the Philippines by Divine Gil Reyes, Joonee Garcia, and Michelline Espiritu Suarez
It excited me when I heard my friends Michelline and Joonee were writing a book together on the beginnings of the Philippines. I know these books are for children but I can’t resist reading about [it]. Using a timeline format, they created the same feeling we get when we are about to uncover a piece of a puzzle we are solving. Truly entertaining, humorous, and well-researched, you put the book down feeling good, educated, and loving the Philippines a little bit more all at the same time. I recommend A Lolong Time Ago for both young and the young at heart.
– Anna Rita Varona, COO, Haribon Foundation
What makes a strong woman? Well, maybe the books they read can shed some light. – Rappler.com
*Responses edited for brevity