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About the other woman.

There's no denying that the past few years have seen "the other woman" take center stage in Philippine pop culture.

From 2011 to 2012, the country saw three films about mistresses become blockbuster hits. "No Other Woman," "The Mistress," and "A Secret Affair" not only made a killing in the box office, lines from the movies were often quoted in social media.

Recent offerings from the country's television stations follow the same trend. ABS-CBN recently premiered "The Legal Wife," GMA has "The Borrowed Wife," and TV5 finished airing "For Love or Money."

And of course, Jullie Yap Daza's "Etiquette for Mistresses" has gone on to multiple printings since it came out in the 90s, and has even spawned a sequel entitled "Mistresses Play...Men Stray...Wives Stay."

It should therefore come as no surprise that a book like Anvil Publishing's "Querida" has come about. Edited by Caroline S. Hau, Katrina Tuvera, and Isabelita O. Reyes, the book is a literary anthology that brings together 22 stories, 18 poems, and two plays about "the other woman."

"We hear a lot about mistresses of politicians (including presidents) and we hear about the scandals surrounding the 'other woman' in the news and through gossip. As writers and academics, we three were personally familiar with literary works that dealt with the mistress, and we thought it would be a good idea to bring together some of the best literary portraits of the mistress. We believe that literature offers a multi-faceted view of the querida as a person and as an institution in ways that few scholarly and popular accounts can," says Hau.

QUALITY, VARIETY, NUANCE

Hau says she first approached Tuvera about doing a literary anthology on the querida almost two years ago, followed by Reyes. The three had previously worked together on the internet journal LegManila more than 10 years ago.

"We began discussing the overall concept sometime in August 2011 and issued the call for submissions in the same month. By end of 2012 we had the entire manuscript ready to send to the publisher, and the book finally came off the press in May," recalls Hau.

The lengthy time from conception to publication, says Hau, was because they not only had to find and secure permission to reprint stories and poems from writers like Nick Joaquin, Angela Manalang-Gloria, Ricky Lee, Raquel Villavicencio, and Ishmael Bernal, but they also had to sift through submissions from younger writers, whom they solicited for contributions.

This was just the first part of the process. The trio then had to decide which works were going to be included in the anthology, and Hau says they had a set criteria with which they measured the works.

"There were basically two criteria: one was that the works had to be well-written; and the other was that they had to deepen our insights into the querida," she says. "We were not interested in moralizing about the querida; instead, we wanted quality, variety, and nuance."

Even with all of the effort the trio expended in acquiring varied representations of the "querida" in Philippine literature over the years, some of the works they wanted to include in the anthology still eluded their grasp.

"We wanted to include more works in Filipino--Liwayway Arceo's 'Uhaw ang Tigang na Lupa' and an excerpt from Rosario de Guzman-Lingat's wonderful novel, 'Kung Wala na ang Tag-Araw,' but we had problems securing permission to reprint them," explains Hau. "We also wanted more works in other Philippine languages, but it would have taken far more time to track them down and arrange for translation into English or Filipino, and we were working with a tight deadline."

Even writing the book's introduction was something that the three of them fretted over.

"One of the most difficult things about the book was the research that went into writing the introduction. We wanted to write a substantive introduction that would give readers an overview of the mistress in Philippine history, politics, culture, and literature," says Hau.

NO MERE CARICATURE

Nevertheless, Hau says that all of the works that made it into the anthology were pieces all three of them agreed on, and accomplished what they had set out to do: Paint a three-dimensional image of the querida.

The three even have their personal favorites. Hau, Tuvera, and Reyes favor Kerima Polotan's Glo "for its sharply etched profile of the mistress who ruthlessly sheds one lover for another," and Ninotchka Rosca's Eliza Hansen "for giving us a taste of the querida's powers behind the scenes." Hau also enjoyed how Rizal portrayed DoAaAaAeA~a Consolaci as something more than just a cruel mistress, while Tuvera appreciated Lakambini Sitoy's story on Josephine Bracken "for providing an alternative portrait of that historical figure." Reyes also favored Shane Carreon's poem "because of its nuanced treatment of the querida's psyche."

Hau says she and her co-editors hope that readers of "Querida" will also see that there is more to "the other woman" than meets the eye.

"We want our readers to understand that the querida has a history, and that history has shaped how the querida is viewed and treated by other people. What we hope the readers will come away with is the idea that despite the moral disapproval and legal sanctions that are often leveled at the querida, the mistress is no mere caricature of sinful temptress. She has a life of her own and a place in society that varies according to what era she lives in and the kind of people among whom she finds herself," she declares.

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Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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