University of the Philippines Diliman Gender Office

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUALHATI BAUTISTA: Crying-out, Resisting, Asserting & Celebrating

Until women become conscious of their victimization and oppression there can be no resistance.

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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUALHATI BAUTISTA:

Crying-out, Resisting, Asserting and Celebrating

Lizette G. Tapia-Raquel

 

In the course of this paper, I propose that - First, a spirituality of resistance, and resistance as a response and a movement is essential towards the reign of God, as opposed to a spirituality of repentance and sacrifice so many women have been taught in churches and families. Second, women's voices and stories are sources of God's revelation. Particularly, I will argue that the women of Lualhati Bautista in her novels, Dekada '70 and Bata,Bata...Paano Ka Ginawa, are more empowering and liberating women constructions than Esther and Ruth in the Biblical text. Third, I propose a movement, method or construction for women's journeys from victimization to celebration – Crying-out, Resisting, Asserting and Celebrating.

 

When I was a child, whenever I would cry, I would be told to stop. As a youth, to answer back and to reason with somebody older and with authority was disrespectful. As a womanand an adult, I would always check my emotions when I was angry or frustrated. My heart would sometimes feel like it would burst but I said very little about what I truly felt and thought. I have cried very little in my life but in the rare moments that I have, it has been comforting, healing and liberating. In my 1st year in the seminary, Revelation Velunta was my professor in New Testament Exegesis. For my final paper I submitted interpretations on Matthew 22:23-33. In the text,Jesus had a theological discussion with the Sadducees on the matter of resurrection and the power of God over the living and the dead. They asked Jesus about a woman who married seven brothers, one after another after each one died without producing an heir.The question of the Sadducees was, “In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?” It was a discussion among men, about the resurrection of men, and about the ownership of the woman. The woman in the text is voiceless and nameless. I cannot imagine the burden of marrying seven brothers, the torture of reproductive labor to produce an heir and the hopelessness of barrenness. Nevertheless, I wanted to cry out for her. This is what Iimagined she would say after she marries one brother after another, when they die before having an heir, and this happens seven times. She begins with resoluteness but ends with hopelessness.

 

The Woman with Seven Husbands

“I could not believe my fate. My God has forsaken me.

He has allowed my husband to be killed in battle.

He has left me without a son.

What does the future hold for me?

No husband and no child.

Should I resign at my loss and accept my fate like a mendicant? 

No! My husband will not be without a descendant!

His sole hope is in me and I will not be deterred.

His brother will have to marry me.”

 

He pities me but has no affection for me.

He is with me only because his father compelled him.

He respects me and cares for my welfare

But when he lays with me, he does not care if he satisfies me.

Still, I will not be deterred. My husband's fate rests in me.

I will endure and I will do my part in God's design.

 

I did not want this union.

They threatened me so I would do my duty.

My husband hardly looks at me

And when he does he is filled with loathing.

He does not want to bed me and he humiliates my pain.

I am alone and I feel more alone with a husband like him.

 

My God, my God, I did not mean to ask

that you take him away.

But I could not help but curse

This man who had to be my husband.

He beat me up when he was drunk.

He spoke no kind word to me.

He called me 'barren' to my face

And took me against my will.

 

I moved among the shadows.

I wished they would not see me.

His family said I am a curse.

They are the curse – on me!

 

Do they not see that I am barren?

My God, why did you make me so?

My womb is empty.

I have no worth.

Can you not end my pain?

 

You gave and took away my seven husbands, God.

And still no child in me.

I live in the land of the living,

But dead I might as well be.

 

The gospel's authorship is attributed to Matthew and if he had heard this oral re-interpretation he would probably say, “Where did that come from?” As a feminist narrative critic, I am not interested in the author's intention. I am interested in the text itself. So instead of searching for the truth as intended by the author, I search for the truth that is meaningful for my context and my people. I search for 'truths' that will liberate, transform and empower. George Steiner differentiates the 'reader' and the 'critic.' The 'reader' is someone who 'honors, reveres and serves' the text. The 'critic' probes, questions,challenges and masters the text. I am not a reader. I am a critic. I am a feminist critic, to be exact.

 

I find narrative criticism and reader-response criticism as powerful tools in seeking meanings and truths. As a feminist narrative critic, I seek to be a resisting reader. I look at how women's voices are revealed or concealed in the texts; how women constructions validate a culture of patriarchy; and how these can be re-interpreted and re-written to transform culture. For example, reading Esther in the Old Testament, I have asked: How were the virgins brought to the palace? Were they taken from their homes forcibly or did they line-up and filled up an application form to become a queen? When the virgins were brought to the king one by one, were they clothed or naked? Were they eager to 'perform' or were they drugged? What was Mordecai's role in the sex slavery of Esther? Was he really a protector or a manipulator? Why is it that even if Esther was a savior who averted the massacre of her people, she remained under the power of all the men in the palace and the empire?

 

Esther is glorified in Christian tradition. She offers her life for others but fails to lament the victimization and enslavement of women in the text. She fails even to cry-out for herself. Because she was part of God's plan? Because she was used by God to save her people? Such rhetoric justifies all the sufferings and sacrifice women go through in a world constructed by men.

 

In a world constructed by men, women's worth depends on becoming a wife and mother. That is why Ruth's story in the Old Testament ends when she marries Boaz and gives birth to a son, Obed. In a world constructed by men, women: virgins and widows, offer their bodies and lives to male authority. Jephthah's daughter submits to the killing by her father, Hagar and Sarah offer their lives to Abraham, Mary submits to God's design to conceive a savior. After God had already done the deed.

 

In the book “Possessing the Secret of Joy,” Alice Walker tells the story of a community and a family that deals with female circumcision. Tashi, the female lead character, remembers how as a child she heard a circle of men discuss women and their bodies.

 

MAN IS GOD'S COCK...The tsunga's stitch helps the cock to know his crop...The Woman is Queen...God has given her to us...We are thankful to God for all his gifts...If left to herself the Queen would fly...But God is merciful...He clips her wings...She did not see God's axe...God struck the blow that made her Queen...Beautiful enough for him to fuck..GOD LIKED IT TIGHTGOD LIKES TO FEEL BIG...WHAT MAN DOES NOT?

 

In a man's world, women's sexuality must be controlled. In the novel, Tashi kills theTsunga, the woman who circumcised her. The same woman who killed her sister andmany young women like her who were not able to survive the torture of female genitalmutilation. As Tashi is brought to her execution, a banner is unfurled by those who loved her to celebrate what she had done in the struggle for women and for her people. It read,“Resistance is the secret of joy.” Tashi was conditioned by religion and culture to submit to female circumcision. It was her identity as a woman of her people. It gave her great pride because female circumcision made her a woman. Until she began to cry for herself, to cry for her sister who died in the process, to cry for her mother who held her daughters down so that they could fulfill their destiny. Until women become conscious of their victimization and oppression there can be no resistance.

 

The most significant act of God's salvation in the Old Testament is the Exodus narrative where God heard the cry of the Hebrew people suffering in slavery. The Cry of Balintawak on August 23, 1896, ushered in the revolution of the Filipino people. Chung Hyun Kyungsaid, “a cry is the first prophetic utterance.” Kwok Pui Lan said, “feminist theology in Asia will be a cry, a plea, an invocation. It emerges from the wounds that hurt, the scars that hardly disappear, the stories that have no ending.”

 

While the Biblical and historical narratives have omitted women's voices, feminisms underline the centrality of women's experiences. In the emergence of women's voices today, they establish some permanence and visibility for women's experience in history.

 

Lea, in Lualhati Bautista's novel, Dekada 70, is in “a man's world,” being married to a macho man and having three sons. Julian has said in different ways... “Napakaraming importanteng bagay para sa isang lalaki: ang kaniyang trabaho, ang kanyang ambisyon, ang gutom niya sa lakas st kapangyarihan. Sa babae, tama na ang kanyang asawa't mga anak.”

To which Lea imagines she would say,“Dear Julian,“...hindi talaga sapat sa maraming babae ang maging asawa't ina na lang habambuhay! Turo niyo lang sa'min yon....Sa batas n'yo, basta maligaya kayo, dapat na maligaya na rin kami. Anak ng pating....Minsan tuloy, tinatanong ko na rin kung bakit pa ko pinanganak kung lahat pala ng buhay ko ay para lang sa iba. Hindi naman ako ikaw – ako ako! - bakitako para sa'yo samantalang ikaw ay para sa 'yo pa rin? Kung maibabalik ko lang talaga ang panahon, sasabihin ko sa'yo: iyo na pati 'yong iyo.”

In another scene, Julian asserts his masculinity saying....Julian: “At ayusin mo ang timbre ng salita mo, Amanda, pag akong kausap mo! Baka nakalimutan mo: ako ang lalaki sa'tin!

Amanda in her mind says...“...maigting sa bitaw niya ng salita na porke lalaki siya'y siya ang boss! At porke babae ko'y tauhan lang niya 'ko! May umalsa ng paghihimagsik sa loob ko. Magaling siya, ano'ng ibig niyang sabihin, boss siya at tauhan niya 'ko?” Pero kahit anong galit ko, iyon ang malungkot na katotohanan sa amin. Tagatimpla lang naman talaga 'ko ng kape ni Julian, a. Tagamasahe pag masakit ang loob niya. Live-inmaid...”Sa unang pagkakataon sa loob ng dalawampung taong nagdaan, gusto kong pagsisihan na naging nanay lang ako ng mga anak ni Julian.”

Lualhati's women cry out for themselves – they articulate the reality of their oppression and pronounce a need to change their situation. The Biblical women, Ruth and Esther, cry out for others, but do not cry out for themselves. Their responses to the men were silence and submission. Until women cry out for themselves, they cannot truly journey from victimization to celebration.

 

The second part of my theological construction is resisting. In the Exodus narrative, when the Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrew people go, God said, “Now, I will kill your firstborn son.” These words are attributed to God but I believe it was a instinctive response from a people who have suffered so much in slavery. By killing the firstborn of the most powerfulman, his bloodline is broken and his ability to perpetuate his power is likewise broken. This is a resistance text. And reading with an attitude of resistance has always been practiced by people struggling for dignity, justice and life. Furthermore, to resist is not just to respond in defense but to analyze and dismantle hierarchies, theologies and ideologies of domination.

 

Ruth in the Old Testament has been read as a conversion story because she chose the 'right' God and turned away from her own people. But a resisting reading would reveal the complex oppression of women: as extensions of husbands and sons, as properties to be possessed along with the land, and as women burdened with reproductive labor. It also gives us a picture of the dynamics between the landlord and the landless. Ruth is undoubtedly a construction of men. In the narrative, Boaz took notice of her but she couldhave been ignored. Boaz provided Ruth grain for picking but he could also have deprived her. Boaz had sex with her but could have rejected her to become his wife. Boaz impregnated Ruth and gave him a son but what if she had been barren? What if he had been sterile? What if there was no land to be possessed alongside Ruth? At every turn ofthe story, it could have gone the other way, as it does for so many women, and she could have become even more abused and persecuted as she struggled for life.

 

In a resisting reading and oral re-telling, I tried to give voice to Naomi and Ruth as they tried to make sense of their struggle to survive which depended on having a husband.

 

Naomi:
Wala nang asawa, wala ring tagapag-mana. Wala nang lupa, wala na ring pag-asa. 
Ano nga ba ang paga-asawa? Pagkapit sa patalim, paghabol sa pag-asa.Bakit ang tadhana hindi maasahan ng kababaihan?
Kaunting bigas sa lupa, ang kapalit ay katawan
Boaz na mayaman na ginagalang pa ng bayan
Naghagis ng uhay, upang ang 'sisiw' ay makamtan.

Ruth:
Pag-ibig nga bang maituturing 
ang kabutihan mo sa akin?
Pagpapala nga ba ni Yahweh 
ang nagbukas sa iyong damdamin?
Panghalina at pangaakit kinailangan kong gawin nang kinabukasan na mailap akin nang maangkin.

 

The book of Ruth is a sexual drama. It is about meeting and mating, and yet Ruth expresses no desire or pleasure. For many women, oppression is most evident in their sexual relationships.

Lualhati's novel "Bata, Bata... Pa'no Ka Ginawa" is a resistance text which rejects the objectification and sacrifice of women's bodies. She expresses a spirituality of sexuality. 

The most poignant scene in the life of the character of Lea happens in the home of her friend Johnny. In the preceding scene, she rushed to the hospital after her two children had a minor accident. Both were being attended to by their own fathers and Lea finds herself, for the first time, in the presence of her two 'husbands.' They take turns blamingher, telling her to give up her work to take care of the children, and it becomes a shouting match where the two men are united in their verbal attack on Lea. In defense, she walks away and the two men threaten to take her children away from her. In the comfort of Johnny's presence, which was very different from the demanding relationships she hadwith the fathers of her children, Lea says to Johnny: “Gusto kong magpa-ano...” Porke't ba sinasabi ng babae na gusto niyang magpa-ganun, mababang uri ng babae na siya?” Sana sa tuwing nagtatalik ang mga tao, nagtatalik din ang kaluluwa nila...” Sa daang ulit na ginanon ako ni Raffy, at sa daang ulit na ginanon ako ni Ding, kailanman hindi nila naabot ang kaluluwa ko. Dahil kung naabot nila ito, alam nila na kaloob-loobanko – ina ako! Putang-ina nila, Johnny! Hindi ako masamang babae! Hindi ako masamang ina!”

 

Women's bodies and sexuality have been possessed by men. Lualhati's text resists this and articulates women's need for wholeness and fullness of life in connection with their relationships with men.

 

One of the criticisms on feminist discourses is their overwhelmingly critical nature, sometimes at the expense of construction. As as feminist narrative critic, I take it upon myself to assert new ways of interpreting the text. By filling in gaps. In the book Ruth, I re-interpret Orpah's response and seek to give her a voice, reading it from the perspective of peasant farmers who are dispossessed of their lands.


Narrator 1:Ang Pagbabalik ni Orpah. Maikli lang ang bahagi ni Orpah sa kuwento. Masakit man sa kanya ang paghiwalay kay Naomi at Ruth, pinahalagahan niya ang kanyang pinanggalingan at pinili niyang umuwi sakanyang mga kalahi at sa kanyang sariling bayan. Orpah:“Huwag na ninyong hilinging sundan ko kayo.Hayaan na ninyo akong lumaya sa inyo.Saan man kayo pumaroon, hindi ako paroroon.Kung saan kayo tumira, hindi ako titira doon. Ang aking bayan ang aking magiging bayan.Ang aking Diyos ang aking magiging Dios.”Maraming humihimok sa atin na tuluyan nang iwanan ang lupa, ang bayan ng ating kapanganakan subalit may mga Orpah na handang balikan ang lupa at bayan kahit walang katiyakan.

Para sa akin ang mga karapat-dapat na maging lingkod ng iglesia at ng bayan sa mga panahong ito ay dapat kayang bigkasin at isabuhay ito. Kanino pa ba kakapit ang mga kasama? Sino pa ba ang mangangalaga sa lupa? Ang lupa na sininop ng mga nauna. Ang lupa na dapat sa mga anak ipamana. Dugo at pawis ang alay ng magsasaka. Para pagyamanin ang bigay ng May-likha. Kahit di tiyak ang lupang babalikan. Tiyak ang paghangad sa ating karapatan.Karapatan magpagal para sa yaman ng lupa, na siyang panggagalingan ng buhay at pag-asa.

Orpah:
Ako ay nagbalik dahil aking natunghayan, pait at lupit ng buhay sa ibang bayan.Matagal kong pinangarap ang pagbalik sa iniwanan. Pagyakap sa magulang, paggiliw sa mga kaibigan. Ako ay nagbalik na handa ang kalooban. Harapin ang pagsubok, harapin ang karimlan. Bukas sa pagsilip ng bukang liwayway, makikibaka ako para sa lupa at bayan.


Orpah asserts her identity and defends her people and her land. In Lualhati's text, Lea, a single mother, asserts her value as parent, in a moment when her son Ojie blames her for the absence of his father. She says to her children..."Di ba nga ako ang tatay at nanay dito? Siguro hindi ninyo naiisip yon, pero tatay at nanay n'yo ako. Ang dapat ngang itawag n'yo sa'kin, natay! Siguro galit kayo ngayon sa akin pero mas dapat niyo nga akong ipagmalaki dahil dalawang papel ang ginagampananko sen'yo! Siguro, sa tingin ninyo meron akong ginagawang masama pero mas marami akong ginagawang mabuti! Hindi ako masamang nanay at hindi ako masamang tatay! Putang-inang mga tatay n'yo; buhay kayo kahit wala sila, di ba? Buhay kayo...at andito ako!”

So many women are extensions of men as wives, daughters and sisters. In Lualhati's text, she asserts the life-giving capacity of women as women. Lea's character refuses to be diminished as a mother just because the father of her children are not present. Women's lives are a dichotomy between celebration and victimization. In Dekada 70, Amanda's eldest son, Jules, is imprisoned by the Marcos regime. Amanda constantly visits her son and Julian criticizes her actions....

 

Julian: Lagi ka na lang na kay Jules. Napapabayaan mo na ang iba mong mga anak. Parang wala ka nang ibang anak,a. Amanda: Mas nakakapag-open-up ako kay Jules. Julian: Bakit ano bang gusto mong i-open. May reklamo ka ba sakin? May reklamo ka basa ibang mga anak? Sabihin mo na lang. Ano ba ang reklamo mo? Ano ba ang gusto mo?Amanda: Gusto ko nang humiwalay sa'yo.Julian:.... My God, Amanda, anon'g nangyayari sa'yo?...Amanda: Wala...No'n ko pa gustong sabihin sa'yo yan..Julian: Come on, Amanda, hindi mo ibig sabihin yan! Pag gustong humiwalay ng babae sa asawa niya, hindi niya sinasabi! Umaalis na lang siya! Amanda: Umaalis lang ang babae pag hindi niya gustong humiwalay sa asawa niya! Dahil gusto niyang magtaka ang asawa niya, sundan siya, habulin, pauwiin! Gusto lang niyamagpapansin sa asawa niya! Julian: ...You did it! You got my attention! You even shocked me...Ano talaga ang gusto mo? ...Malapit na ang birthday mo. Gusto mo ng party? Gusto mo ng alahas?...Kung may gusto kang sabihin sa'kin, sabihin mo sa'kin nang hindi ka naglolokong parang bata! Putang-ina. Amanda: Ang hirap sa'yo akala mo lahat nabibili ng pera. Hindi mo nga ako maintindihankasi buong buhay ko puro nanay lang ako. Hindi naman ako mahusay na ina, a. Alam ko.Nababasa ko sa'yo! O ano ngayon, Julian? ....Bat di mo isumbat sa akin ng direcho na hindi ko mahal ang mga anak ko ng pantay-pantay katulad ng pagmamahal ko sa panganay kong anak, para masabi ko sa iyo – hindi tutoo yan! Hindi tutoo yan!Akala ko lang kasi mas kailangan ako ng anak kong panganay...Pero hindi mo pa rin naiintindihan, kasi buong buhay na mag-asawa tayo, iniisip mo kung nasa tama ba o maliang ginagawa ko. Kung nakakasunod ba ako sa panuntunan mo o hindi! Kung eksakto sagusto mo ang kinikilos o sinasabi ko! Julian: Sandali lang...Amanda: Sandali lang din! Tapos na ako diyan Julian. You can just stop being proud of me! Nagsawa na ako sa ganon. Gusto ko naman ngayon, ako mismo, just for a change,maging proud sa sarili ko.

 

In the narratives of Ruth and Esther, there is no confrontation with Boaz and King Ahesuerus and Mordecai. At the end of the narratives, Ruth's son was Naomi's and the people honor Mordecai, not Esther. There is no change in relationship and while they bothcry-out, resist, and assert, their celebration can only be for others, and not for themselves as women.

 

Women compete against each other. Women are pitted against each other. In many families, churches and communities, many women demand the submission and sacrifice of other women. Some women serve, protect and defend men. In a culture where union is associated with marriage and sex, two women in Dekada70 find each other and experience an intercourse that is healing and fulfilling. Amanda reflects on her newfound sisterhood with her daughter-in-law Evelyn.“Sa umpisa'y naasiwa ako sa hawak ng kamay niya. Nadiskubre ko na hindi ako sanay sadantay ng kamay ng kapwa ko babae. Siguro'y dahil walang babae sa buhay ko. Sigurodahil minamasama nila pag magkahawak ng kamay ang dalawang babae...”“Pero napaiyak ako sa suyo ng tinig ni Evelyn, sa concern ni Evelyn, at naawa siyang lalo sa'kin at niyakap niya ko at umiyak ako sa balikat niya.Umiiyak ako't umiiyak siya at hindina kami nag-uusap pero meron kaming ugnay. Dalawa kaming babae, at parehong ina.”

 

Ruth and Esther cannot celebrate sexuality. Their survival depends on the pleasure they give men. In Bata, Bata...Pa'no Ka Ginawa,” Lea meets with her first husband, Raffy...Raffy: Hindi ka ba nagsisisi, Lei? (pertaining to her failed relationship with Ding)...Lea: ...hindi naman ako basta nagpaano lang. Nagmahal ako. Ikaw ang halimbawa. Minahal talaga kita, Raffy...mula sa iba't ibang lugar ng pagkatao ko'y magmamahal pa rin ako, sa iba't ibang katangian ng pagkatao nila...Huwag mo akong tingnan ng ganyan.Sinasabi ko lang kung ano ang tutoo sa akin. Ginagawa ko lahat ng tutoo at niyayakap kolahat ng karugtong nito. Hindi ako laging maligaya pero hindi rin laging malungkot.”Lea: Raf, maligaya ka ba? Raffy: Minsan.Lea: Magagawa mo ba'kong mahalin ng isang araw pa? Baka hindi na tayo magkita uli...ipahiram mo sa 'kin ang isang araw mo.Raffy: Anong gagawin natin?Lea: Kahit ano! Punta tayo don sa mga dating pinupuntahan natin. Kain tayo ng bibingka,inom tayo ng Coke! Kuwentuhan tayo, biruan tayo! Sabihan tayo ng mga pangarap! Sigena, Raf...magpakaloko naman tayo minsan!

 

 In the next scene, Lea and Raffy are in a tight embrace in bed. Both are crying. Both are celebrating. In an earlier scene, Lea laments that in the most intimate acts of love that she has shared with Raffy and Ding, she remained untouched and unknown by them. In this last scene, I think Lea and Raffy experience 'being' and knowing another, which they hadnot experienced before. Despite the ironies and impending separation, it is a cause for celebration.

 

I am tempted to celebrate this scene and present it as a novelty in the life of Lea. But while it is a crucial moment in her journey, it is not “the” moment: while there is an awakening, there have been and will be other revelations; while it exhibits a fullness, it does not complete her. Lea embodies our hopes, fantasies, visions and dreams of more meaningful lives and more life-affirming partnerships.

 

By validating that Lualhati Bautista's novels, particularly Dekada 70 and Bata, Bata, is gospel, meaning, 'good news,' I provide a concrete example of God's revelations outside the biblical texts and propose a new material for theological discussion. More importantly, I submit new models of women who genuinely reveal women's voices, struggles and lives. 

 

I have discussed how a movement from victimization to celebration must be a process that begins with crying out. Before I can cry with and for others, I must cry for myself. Like Ruth and Esther in the Biblical text, many women do not cry out because they are conditioned to sacrifice for others. Lualhati's women, Lea and Amanda, do cry out. For themselves and with others. This is my first conclusion, women must cry out over their own victimization before they can genuinely cry out, resist, assert, and celebrate with others. It is only when they become conscious of their vulnerability and victimization that they can begin to truly journey towards wholeness and celebration for themselves and their people. It is not easy for women to cry out. But when they do, they reveal genuine women's voices, women's experiences, and women's lives; reveal genuine women's thoughts and dreams, pains and struggles, desires and joys; create a consciousness, a culture, a community and a movement that will begin to denounce domination and victimization, and transform relationships, institutions and communities. This is the power of genuine women's stories. There is a need to differentiate 'genuine' women from women 'constructions.'

 

I have argued that Biblical women like Ruth and Esther are constructions of men. Lea andAmanda can likewise be argued as constructions but what validates their characterizationin the narratives is that they were constructed by Lualhati, a genuine woman. This is my second conclusion – Genuine women's stories which reveal a consciousness of their victimization and being promotes wholeness, liberates individuals, creates communities, transforms culture, and upholds life. Lualhati Bautista's characterization of Lea and Amanda presents genuine women's stories which do the same. Thus, Lualhati's texts are revelatory of God's purpose of wholeness and liberation for women and must be called “the gospel according to Lualhati.”

 

Thirdly, resistance as a theological discourse, a manifestation of spirituality, animperative for people who say they are children of God and followers of Christ, anda counter discourse to women's submission and sacrifice must be affirmed and pursued. Lualhati's stories are texts of resistance. Many women's stories of struggle today are texts of resistance. Affirming women's voices, stories and lives are acts of resistance.The four main women characters in this thesis had reasons to celebrate. Lea celebrated that her children chose to stay with her when both their fathers could offer a 'complete' family with a mother and father and her love for three different men with different depths which provided her no security but allowed her to cherish and dignify what was true for her.Amanda celebrated - how she transformed her relationships “in a man's world” so that she no longer lived by the standards of her husband but sought to be proud of herself; how she had begun to understand her needs and desires as a woman which was more than being a mother and wife; how she connected with women like herself and joined the struggle ofthe Filipino masses at a time of political repression. Ruth celebrated her courage – to journey with Naomi even as she left her home and people for a future that was uncertain;to use her beauty and strength to survive in a culture where women could have nothing without men; to find a place in a society even if her son Obed was Naomi's and the land that could be hers would always belong to her husband. Esther celebrated that she couldsave her people from massacre even if she could not save herself from servitude and sex slavery in the palace of the king. All women can celebrate something - sometime, someplace, somehow. Our celebrations as women are not defined by absolute power, undeniable triumph or complete lives. It is in our commitment to continue to cry-out, resist, and assert that

we know we will always find ways and reasons to celebrate. At every stage, there is a reason to celebrate. And even if our journey takes us back to the very beginningwhere we need to cry out again for ourselves and with others, it is just another opportunity to be all that we can be. This is my fourth and final conclusion.

Finally, Lualhati Bautista says,

So many women own up the story of Lea Bustamante. Vilma Santos, the actress, said to me, “Are you sure that is your novel? It seems to be the story of my life...” I am happy to know that many women identify with my characters. When I won the GMA Telecine Bahaghari Award about a battered woman, which was produced by Pilita Corrales, she said on-stage, “Half of the story is my story.” I was so surprised. I did not even know she was a battered woman.

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Lualhati Bautista is one of the most celebrated and read Filipino contemporary writers today. Her characters, Lea and Amanda, have mirrorred the lives of so many women whohave experienced sacrifice, domination, and abuse. We are them and they are us. Lualhati has shared with us 'her' stories. But really, she just shared with us 'our' stories.

Lualhati shared stories of women crying-out, resisting, asserting and celebrating self,sisterhood and sexuality. That to me and many women is 'good news.'

This, then, must be called 'the Gospel according to Lualhati Bautista.'

1     Rosario Torres-Yu. Sarilaysay: Tinig ng 20 Babae sa Sariling Danas Bilang Manunulat. (Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2000) p. 126 

      So many women own up the story of Lea Bustamante. Vilma said to me, “Are you sure that is your novel?It seems to be the story of my life...” I am happy to know that many women identify with my characters.When I won the GMA Telecine Bahaghari Award about a battered woman, which was produced by PilitaCorrales, she said on-stage, “Half of the story is my story.” I was so surprised. I did not even know shewas a battered woman.