Five Women Authors Making Change Work for Women

To celebrate the 2018 National Women’s Month, Anvil Publishing in partnership with National Book Store and Filipinas Heritage Library held the first-ever women’s forum entitled, “Her Voice: An Afternoon Conversation with the Women of Today,” on March 21 at the Ayala Museum.

The forum aims to inspire women to go forward and spark a change in their fields. Among the speakers were National Book Store’s Managing Director, Alexandra Ramos-Padilla; Assumption College President, Dr. Pinky Valdes; freelance writer and co-author of Subversive Lives, Susan Quimpo; author and freelancer, Karen Ferry-Fernandez; and award-winning author and translator, Beverly “Bebang” Wico-Siy.

Dr. Pinky Valdes’s topic was violence against women. She shared her own experience of being abused by her 14-year old cousin when she was six years old for a period of two years, and then later on, being abused by a La Salle brother – experiences which she first revealed in her book, Educating Women Leaders.

“The best friend of abuse is silence. You need to speak up,” says Valdes. Most girls and women, out of fear and shame, would not let anyone know the abuse they have experienced. Valdes wants this norm to be changed. She wants to end the patriarchal norm of treating women like they are inferior and an object of men.

An important lesson she imparted was the only way to fight violence is through kindness. Valdes opens up a space for women to be able to break the silence and share their experiences through Assumption College, where she is currently the president. The most important thing for Valdes is to make their school a center of kindness.

Meanwhile, Ms. Susan Quimpo talked about her family’s experience during the martial law in the 1970s. As the siblings were very bright, some of them became student leaders in their schools, and at very young ages experienced injustice. Quimpo recalled being familiar with most jail cells and detention camps at a very young age as she used to visit her imprisoned siblings.

Out of the 10 Quimpo siblings, 7 were victims of the era. One of them disappeared, the body was never found; one got murdered; and the rest of them were tortured and imprisoned including a brother who had polio. The family’s memoir can be found in the book, Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years.

The next speaker is Karen Ferry-Fernandez, who talked about being a girl boss in this modern age. She was at the top of her game, being the creative director in a multi-national ad agency. However, she felt like she wasn’t exactly in charge. It was then when she took a risk and braved to become a freelancer. She shared four tips to aspiring freelancers:  change your mindset, have a masterplan, expect to fall, keep getting back up, aim for balance, and lastly, be someone’s hero.

Ferry-Fernandez believes that as women, we shouldn’t let society dictate who we should be. She is now the author of two books that aim to guide freelancers: WHATDA! Anong Petsa Na?! and 7 Stages of… Good Grief! Freelancer Na Ako?!

Award-winning writer, Bebang Siy, talked to us about her “leading lodis” of Philippine literature and how they have inspired her to become the writer that she is. Among these were Edith Tiempo, the only female National Artist for Literature; Genoveva Edroza Matute, writer and critic; Ligaya Tiamson-Rubin, writer and critic; Lualhati Bautista, author of award-winning book Dekada ’70; Almayrah Tiburon, a writer from Marawi.  Some of their common characteristics include being versatile, prolific, and that they continue to write in whatever situation they are in. They continue to write whether they are under the Japanese occupation, under Marcos’ dictatorship during Martial law, and even under the Marawi siege.

Alexandra Ramos-Padilla, Managing Director of National Book Store, shares life lessons from her grandmother, Nanay Coring, the founder of National Book Store. She recalls the days when she was under her lola’s guidance, and Nanay Coring wanted her to go through all the departments like being a cashier, being in the finance department, in the warehouse. Nanay Coring even wanted her to clean the restroom of SM Megamall once, according to Nanay Coring, it’s the only way she would know if restrooms were clean. Some of the life lessons Nanay Coring taught Ramos-Padilla is to always be humble and that knowledge is power. Nanay Coring believes that one must never stop learning, and that’s how she succeeded in life. Ramos-Padilla’s favorite quote from her lola is “You can’t take an elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”