“Honor and Respect for Philippine Women, Whose Feminism Is Pure Poetry Of Resistance”
Feminism is many things: it is struggle, it is sisterhood, it is questioning oneself, it is telling oneself and communicating. There are a thousand ways to contribute to the cause and creativity is a powerful tool, never to be underestimated. On this we have much to learn from Filipino women because, over the years, their feminism, as well as enriching themselves with battles and political victories, has fed on literature, art, but above all, poetry.
In the Pacific islands women have always actively participated in public life: from the pre-colonial phase, when the female figure of the babalyan (a sort of shaman with healing powers) acted as a spiritual guide for the community, during the period of Spanish domination, when many women have joined the struggle for independence; from the Second World War, which made Filipino women victims of atrocious violence, after the war, which saw them organize themselves into a movement that over the years has become increasingly strong.
Filipino feminism, therefore, is inextricably intertwined with the country's colonial past, as well as the strong tensions and class disparities that characterize it. However, it also has another characteristic: it knows how to amplify women's voices to launch important messages and, to do so, it uses literature and, in particular, has a close connection with poetry. Whether it's talking about independence from colonial rule, stereotypes, violence and patriarchal society or freedom and pursuit of one's own female identity, Filipino women have never pulled back, using their own verses as a tool for social struggle. The landscape is vast: from the mid-1900s poets like Angela Manalang Gloria or Marra Lanot - who have put in the verse the frustration of having to look like a perfect and unreal female model - to contemporaries, like Barbara Jane Reyes and Eileen R. Tabios.
The result is a cultural background that has roots in the past, but continues in the present and that constitutes the soul of the movement, its most intimate part. Precisely for this reason the independent publishing house Gantala has decided to protect this heritage, recognizing its cultural and political value. "We want to promote poetry and essays as research, investigation and documentation tools. We do not want these forms to be exclusive to writers, academics and award-winning artists who have participated in "prestigious" national seminars, "explained co-founder Rae Rival. The project is openly feminist, but it also has a strong link with the rural world according to the principle dear to Rival that "the feminist struggle goes hand in hand with the struggle of the people".
Of course, the road to equality, in the Philippines as in the rest of the world, is still long. Demonstrations, strikes and political battles will be needed, but the value of words should not be forgotten. Poetry can be the means - personal and profound - to express anger and pain, to support each other, to resist, to fight.