In travel writing and tourist guide books, it’s easily understood why readers are overwhelmed by the amount of information telling them where to begin, how to travel and what to explore. The more complex the terrain, the more paths there are to consider, the more stories there are to tell. The same is true about sociopolitical history and its peoples. The more complex the history, the more stories there are to tell. As author Denise Cruz appropriately uses the metaphor of unmapped routes and intersections to house the complexity of the Filipina, she funnels the vast metamorphosis process through the lens of Filipino/a writers who posited, presented, critiqued and praised the ever-changing Filipina icon.
In authoring “Transpacific Femininities: The Making of the Modern Filipina,” Denise Cruz presents the reader with the pivotal role the Filipina has played in the social and political realm throughout Philippine history and across oceans. With a literary scalpel, Cruz performs an intriguing autopsy on the making and remaking of the Filipina, and punctuates her chapters with superb, archival research and illustrations, recovering archaic sexism and imperialism depicted in graphics and cartoon material.
Although the text is clearly targeting an academically inclined audience, some non-academic activists — careful and devout readers of transpacific feminisms and femininities — will greatly benefit from Cruz’ work. From the influence of the Japanese and U.S. occupations on writers’ reimagining the function and futility of the Filipina, to the interclass conflict on domesticity, sisterhood and belonging, Cruz delivers what would likely be lost in Philippine history: the long, unmarked road of the Filipina’s bourgeoning identity, and its ties to political and feminist action.
As a Filipina-American writer, no other text centralizing on the Filipina has provoked more thought and feminist genealogy tracing than “Transpacific Femininities.” For second-generation Filipinas, this text situates itself as a natural precursor companion to Melinda de Jesus’ anthology, “Pinay Power: Peminist Critical Theory” which theorizes the Filipina-American experience. Cruz’s epilogue concludes with the advent of online activism, highlighting feminism of U.S. women of color that continues the legacy of resistance and coalition building. With de Jesus’s work quickly delving into modernity and theory, the two texts are complementary. Although Cruz’s work is more steeped in the academic and historical components, and some readers unaccustomed to such texts may find the road too scholastic or cerebral to digest, those who can navigate it will find a rare and heightened walk of enlightenment.