01 August 2016

Women in Translation Month: Novels from the Philippines

Women in Translation (WIT) Month, celebrated every August, is an opportunity to take stock of one's reading habits and focus on the women. I once made a survey of novels translated from Philippine languages. The list has since grown (see Annex below). This post enumerates the Filipina novelists who were already translated. So far, their number could only be counted by the fingers of two hands.

First, some general statistics:

  • To date, a total of 23 novels were translated from Spanish or a Philippine language into English. 
  • Majority of the English translations (and retranslations)—86% (20 out of 23 novels)—appeared only in the last 10 years (2006-2016).
  • All English translations save for the two José Rizal novels (91%) were published and distributed in the Philippines. Hence, they can only be accessed by a small readership. The novels of Rizal are available in Penguin Classics edition. A very limited number (3 or 4) are available in a digital format (Kindle or Kobo).
  • Looking at the publication year in original language, 10 of the novels were published in original language between 1885 to 1947, eight of them appeared after the war (1960-1975), and only five (21%) were by contemporary novelists (1991-2013). 
  • Only four languages were represented: nine were translated from Tagalog/Filipino; six from Spanish; and four apiece from Cebuano and Hiligaynon.

Gender-related statistics:

  • Of the 23 translations into English, nine (39%) are by women novelists.
  • The 23 translated novels were written by 15 individuals, only four (26%) of whom were women.
  • About 60% of the "primary and latest" translators were women.  
  • Of the nine novels by women, seven (77%) were translated by women. 
  • The novels by women were translated mainly from Tagalog (4), Cebuano (3), and Hiligaynon (2). None were translated from Spanish.


Magdalena G. Jalandoni (1891-1978)


1. Juanita Cruz, tr. Ofelia Ledesma Jalandoni (University of the Philippines Press, 2006). 

2. The Lady in the Market, tr. Edward D. Defensor (U.P. College of Iloilo, 1976). 

Jalandoni was a very prolific female writer in Hiligaynon language. She also wrote in other languages and was considered a proponent of feminism. I recently bought a copy of Juanita Cruz, translated by her niece. The Lady in the Market was out of print and only available in libraries.

Austregelina Espina-Moore (1919-2000)


3. Ang Inahan ni Mila (Mila's Mother), tr. Hope Sabanpan-Yu (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2008).

4. Diin May Punoan sa Arbol (Where a Fire Tree Grows), tr. Hope Sabanpan-Yu (USC Press, 2010). 


5. House of Cards, tr. Hope Sabanpan-Yu (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2013).

Austregelina Espina-Moore (aka Lina Espina-Moore) wrote several novels in Cebuano and three novels in English: House of the Lotus; A Lion in the House; The Honey, the Locusts. I have already read the three translations above and will probably post about them in this blog. They are all available from the Cebuano Studies Center.

Rosario de Guzman Lingat (1924-1997)


6. The Death of Summer, tr. Soledad S. Reyes (De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013)

7. What Now, Ricky?, tr. Soledad S. Reyes (Anvil Publishing, 2013) 


8. The Cloak of God, tr. Soledad S. Reyes. (De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013)

Lingat's novelistic voice was one of the most profound during the Marcos dictatorship. What Now, Ricky? [review] recently won for its translator Soledad S. Reyes the triennial award A.L. Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize (yes, there's such an award). Reyes also wrote a biography of the writer, Rosario de Guzman Lingat, 1924–1997: The Burden of Self and History. An article by Reyes about Lingat's fiction can be read here (pdf).

Of the three translated novels, the best is probably The Cloak of God [review], which I also read in its original Tagalog.

Luna Sicat Cleto (1967-    )   


9. Typewriter Altar, tr. Marne L. Kilates (University of the Philippines Press, 2016)

Luna Sicat Cleto is the only contemporary Filipina novelist translated to date. The original work, Makinilyang Altar, appeared back in 2002. She also produced a second novel, Mga Prodigal (The Prodigals). Translator Marne L. Kilates is a poet and a seasoned translator of poems, notably the multiple poetry collections of Rio Alma.

I started reading it though I'm not sure if I can finish it within the month, let alone post something about it. Based on the first chapter alone, I believe this is worth translating and reading.

Women in Translation Month is initiated by Biblibio.


No. Title Author Gender Translator Gender of Latest Primary Translator Original Language Pub. Year of Original Pub. Year of Latest English Translation
1 The Golden Dagger  Antonio G. Sempio Male Soledad S. Reyes Female Tagalog 1933 2016
2 La Oveja de Nathán (Nathan's Sheep)  Antonio M. Abad  Male Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes Female Spanish 1928 2013
3 Ang Inahan ni Mila (Mila's Mother) Austregelina Espina-Moore FemaleHope Sabanpan-YuFemaleCebuano1969-19702008
4 Diin May Punoan sa Arbol (Where a Fire Tree Grows) Austregelina Espina-Moore  Female Hope Sabanpan-Yu Female Cebuano 1960 2010
5 House of Cards Austregelina Espina-Moore  Female Hope Sabanpan-Yu Female Cebuano 1973 2013
6 Fort: A Novel Buenaventura S. Medina Male Buenaventura S. Medina Male Tagalog 1991 2006
7 Eight Muses of the Fall  Edgar Calabia Samar  Male Mikael de Lara Co & Sasha Martinez Male Tagalog (Filipino) 2008 2013
8 El Folk-Lore Filipino [vol. 1 of 2] Isabelo de los Reyes  Male Salud C. Dizon & Maria Elinora Peralta-Imson Female Spanish 1889 [vol. 1];
1890 [vol. 2]
9 Ang Diablo sa Filipinas ayon sa nasasabi sa mga casulatan luma sa Kastila  Isabelo de los Reyes  Male Benedict Anderson, Carlos Sardiña Galache, & Ramon Guillermo Male Spanish 1886 2014
10 Noli Me Tangere  José Rizal Male various Male Spanish 1887 2006
11 El Filibusterismo José Rizal Male various Male Spanish 1891 2011
12 Orosa-Nakpil, Malate Louie Mar A. Gangcuangco  Male Carla Mae Sioson & Louie Mar Gangcuangco Female Tagalog (Filipino) 2006 2009
13 Typewriter Altar  Luna Sicat Cleto  Female Marne L. Kilates Male Tagalog (Filipino) 2002 2016
14 The Gold in Makiling  Macario Pineda Male Soledad S. Reyes Female Tagalog 1947 2012
15 The Lady in the Market  Magdalena G. Jalandoni  Female Edward D. Defensor Male Hiligaynon 1935 1976
16 Juanita Cruz  Magdalena Gonzaga Jalandoni  Female Ofelia Ledesma Jalandoni Female Hiligaynon 1966 2006
17 Nínay Pedro Alejandro Paterno  Male E. F. du Fresne Male Spanish 1885 1907
18 Margosatubig: The Story of Salagunting  Ramon L. Muzones  Male Edward D. Defensor [1979]; Ma. Cecilia Locsin-Nava [2012]
Female Hiligaynon 1946 2012
19 Shri-Bishaya Ramon Muzones Male Maria Cecilia Locsin-Nava Female Hiligaynon 1969 2016
20 What Now, Ricky?  Rosario de Guzman Lingat  Female Soledad S. Reyes Female Tagalog 1971 2013
21 The Cloak of God  Rosario de Guzman Lingat  Female Soledad S. Reyes Female Tagalog 1975 2013
22 The Death of Summer Rosario de Guzman Lingat  Female Soledad S. Reyes Female Tagalog 1969 2013
23 Driftwood on Dry Land   T. S. Sungkit Jr.  Male T. S. Sungkit Jr.  Male Cebuano unpub. 2013

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