Throughout time, Filipinas have been characterized in different lights such as those described in Filipina feminist poet, Majorie Evasco’s “The Writer and Her Roots” from Women reading: feminist perspectives on Philippine literary texts (1992). In her work, Evasco shares the different archetypes that can be found in literature: The Niña Inocente, The Mater Dolorosa, The Bitch, The Kasama, and The Warrior and Healer. With literary and historical contexts, she gives background and examples of each archetype. She continues by critically analyzing them to express how each role is complex and unlimited.
The following is a combination of a lyric essay and poems that connect to Evasco’s archetypes. It is my personal reflection to how the womxn in my life have reclaimed each role through their lives. It is a piece about four generations, for generations.
i am the writer. these are my roots.
this is for the filipinas in my life:
the niña inocente, the mater dolorosa, the bitch, the kasama, the warrior and healer.
these are fo(u)r generations.
Mamang: “The Niña Inocente”
Women Mamang’s age would have been seen as docile in their youth.
Or obedient to the patriarchy.
Or “in limbo, pathetically unself-conscious of other alternatives to living” (15).
She is independent.
Not a Niña Inocente.
She is la Niña Invencible - the Woman as Invincible.
She is not like Estrella Alfon’s Rosa in “Servant Girl,” “a victim of society in her poverty and in her being a woman” (15). At first I thought Mamang fit Marjorie Evasco’s “Niña Inocente: Woman as Victim” because she would be willing to give “herself up to her need for the man” (16), but then I realized that she is not a damsel in distress. She has given what she needed for her family and husband while also caring for herself. My Mamang and Papang (my Great Grandpa)’s story actually challenges the Niña Inocente archetype. Evasco uses the example of Kerima Polotan’s character in “The Virgin,” Miss Mijares. Miss Mijares “had to fulfill society’s expectations of the dutiful daughter” (15). This is the driving factor that prevents her from pursuing her feelings. While she chose duty, my Mamang proved that a woman can do both.
My Mamang Nelly and Papang Mariano met because he was her Physical Education teacher when she was in High School. In love and sure of their feelings for each other, Mamang told Papang that he must wait for her to finish her education. Unlike the character Miss Mijares, my Mamang was not “losing her head over the man” (Evasco 15). She recognized her duty to her own goals while being honest to how she felt for Papang. Patient and mature, they both waited for Mamang to finish school. Unlike Miss Mijares who remained unmarried, Mamang and Papang were wed with the blessings of both of their families.
While contrasting their stories, I find it important to note how “The Servant Girl” was written in 1937 and “The Virgin” was written in 1952. My Mamang’s story took place in the 1940s. Even though some Filipina women characters in literature have been described as “vulnerable,” “pathetic,” and “lonely,” Mamang, currently a 98 year old Filipina, continues to be la Niña Invencible. By comparing Evasco’s examples of the Niñas Inocentes to a character in my own life, I have learned that women like my Mamang were changing the narratives in real time.
Mama Judy: The Mater Dolorosa
“If I could give you everything, I would,” Mama says.
“My family is my world,” Mama says.
“I will do what I can before I die,” Mama says.
“Mahal mahal kita,” she reminds me.
Mama has suffered.
With scoliosis in her back.
Bunions in her feet.
A pacemaker in her heart.
She grits and bears her physical pain.
Cries away her emotional pain.
“Affirms her strength by enduring her pain and her loss” (Evasco 14).
She is my Mama Judy, the Martyr in my life.
Contrary to her Mother, Mama Judy fits Evasco’s archetype of the “Mater Dolorosa: Woman as Martyr” -“mother, wife, lover, sister, or daughter, she is molded after the image of the ideal woman: the Virgin Mother who suffers in silence and denies her wounds for the sake of love” (Evasco 14). I did not think of Mama as a Martyr because I just thought that was how she was. It was only until reading Evasco that I understood that Mater Dolorosas are formed as results of social order, duty, and propriety of conduct (14). I recognized how Evasco’s examples, Paz Marquez Benitez’s “Dead Stars” (1925) and Paz Latorena’s “The Small Key” (1927), were written during a time of mass Filipino immigration from the Philippines to America. Duty and domesticity was pressured onto women, men were still seen as the breadwinners, and stress was high. Women’s safest bet was to “play their part.” In turn, “the act of giving through self-denial is taught to women very early in life as a virtuous thing” (14). Filipina women like Mama made sacrifices because they felt it was the right thing to do to maintain harmony in a time of chaos.
Because of Evasco, I can now see the parallels during my Mama Judy’s adulthood. In 1973, my Mama and Papa Celso had their last child, my Mother, and were living in the Philippines during the beginnings of the Marcos Regime. It was a time of martial law, which led to another wave of emigration. Not only was social order and duty being pushed again, there was a sense of urgency. While Julia Salas in “Dead Stars” had a dark metaphor of the stars representing “the deadening life she has chosen to live because she has lost the man she loved” (14), my Mama Judy’s metaphor was embodied in my Mother. Mama Judy’s new child represented a new beginning and a new life across the ocean. Her willingness to be a dutiful Mother and Wife connects to how Soledad felt powerless in “The Small Key”: Soledad had no power in how Pedro Buhay felt about his first wife, and my Mama Judy had no power in how Ferdinand Marcos was handling the Philippines.
The power she did have was in becoming the Mater Dolorosa. She could have stayed in the Philippines, but she and Papa agreed to start anew in America; Mama’s sacrifice to leave her hometown was for the sake of her family. While her decisions are heroic, Evasco observes how a woman as Martyr often experiences psychological effects. Julia Salas in “Dead Stars” became a maid and experienced “deadening life,” and Soledad fell sick from guilt and fear (Evasco 14). Mama Judy may be a Martyr, but I do not believe her decisions ailed her. They moved her legacy forward.
Nana Elena: The Kasama
Her hands are coarse and graceful.
From the needle and thread.
The rolling of lumpia.
The nursing of anaks and apos.
Touch her hands. They feel like sand.
Washed over with waves of tribulations;
Refining the shells that have touched her shores.
Each of her grains embody “kinship, equality, and her awareness” (Evasco 19).
She has shaped me into the Pinay I am today.
My Father’s Mother is a Matriarch. Nana Elena personifies “the transition of women’s perceptions of roles from traditional ones to the radical alternatives for self-fulfillment” (19). With a husband who served in the military, I would have thought he would be the head of the house - but Nana and Papa Rudy’s relationship illustrates that it takes two to change tradition. Evasco notes that women writers began to protest against the status quo in the 1960’s during the People’s struggle for national liberation.
Although Nana Elena may have not been directly involved in the struggle, it is obvious that her environment influenced her views on the world and those around her. In Lorena Barros’ poem, “Sampaguita,” a new order is presented as one “wherein mutual respect and protection between human beings, regardless of sex, status and creed is possible” (Evasco 19). Knowing this, I have seen the connections of my Nana’s life to the new order.
She continues to love and provide for my Kuya who identifies as gay. She has housed and fed my Dad and Tita’s friends when they had no place to stay. She openly talks about how our current social and political climate is corrupt. She personifies Marra Lanot’s “Tribeswoman” because even though she fulfills her traditional roles, she demands more (Evasco 20). She questions what is unjust and educates her family on how they can live their daily lives to make things right. Nana Elena is the kasama in my life because she challenges Patriarchy. Her pen is her parenting and her poetry is the food and crafts crafted by her hands.
My Mother: The Bitch
I used to call my Mom a Bitch.
For the wrong reasons.
For the worst reasons.
Because I was angry.
Because she was angry.
Little did I understand it was because she was bitter -
That’s what a broken heart can do.
When it’s cuckolded;
When it’s lied to;
When it forces you to become a single Mother.
My Father was not the best husband.
My Mother was a loyal wife.
Who turned into the person I could not stand;
To now become the person I admire the most.
I still call my Mom a Bitch. Not because she is shameless (Evasco 16). Because she is
I understand Evasco’s explanation of “The Bitch: The Angry and Bitter Woman” as a process of reclaiming oneself. I see the similarity in struggles that my Mom faces with Evasco’s examples. My Mother was not la mujer esa, “a shameless bitch,” like in Aida Rivera Ford’s story “The Chieftest Mourner,” but I have seen my mother “in a final burst of anger and bitterness” because of a partner (Evasco 16). My Dad is not deceased, but in my Mom’s eyes, their love has died. Her mourning is for their broken vows, the knowledge that there was someone else.
Connected to Kerima Polotan’s “The Woman As Writer,” anger and bitterness result from the fact that women are shortchanged. When a woman’s nurturing nature is abused and taken for granted by the men in our lives, we lose trust in them. And “that is the reason why we all become bitches in the end” (Evasco 17). We become like my Mother, going through a phase of bitchiness before understanding that we deserve more than what has been taken from us.
Me: The Woman Coming to Terms with Herself, The Warrior and Healer
this is where I am today.
listening to my elders.
living through my elders.
learning how to come to terms with myself and herstory.
a warrior because my Mamang is invincible,
and my Mama is resilient both physically and emotionally.
a healer because my Nana’s hands have shaped me,
and my Mother has shown me her self-worth.
i am the writer.
these are my roots.
this is the story of four generations.
Evasco, Marjorie. “The Writer and Her Roots.” Women reading: feminist perspectives on Philippine literary texts, 1992, pp. 9-26.
Jazlynn G. Eugenio Pastor is a performer, activist, and aspiring educator. Raised in Alhambra, California, the most she knew of her culture was through her family. Before discovering her Pinayism, she wrote poetry and danced Hip Hop competitively. She began to find her roots when she moved to San Francisco in 2014 to study at the University of San Francisco. Through Kasamahan at USF and USF’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, Jazlynn has connected to the Fil/Fil-Am community. She is currently following her passions for culture and the performing arts by serving as Kasamahan’s Cultural Director, an Asian Art Museum Intern, and a member of Parangal Dance Company. She hopes to one day bring her experiences to higher education curriculum.