I’ve seen the Story of “Why Women Wash Dishes” acted out on stage and on Television in several versions, but I’ve not heard from any of these versions the acknowledgement of the author of this famous story. I tried to google the story and the author but all I get are questions about who wrote the story and what it is all about. Someone even wrote that it’s probably an “Alamat”, a legend. Well, my dear reader, it is not.
The Story of “Why Women Wash Dishes” was written by my grand-aunt Filomena Navarro Colendrino, the sister of my fraternal grandmother, Antonina Colendrino Castillo. She was a prolific short story writer and has a collection of these stories in a book entitled “Home to the Rice Fields”. I remember our home in Quezon City (which was her home before she died and gave it to my father) had a whole bookshelf of copies of her book of that title. Through the years the copies dwindled until only one was left – and even now I’m not sure if it’s still there. I found out recently that National Bookstore made a publication of that collection but I’m not sure who’s getting the royalties for that. Nevertheless, it warms my heart to know that there seems to be a growing interest in her and her works not just in the Philippines but also around the world where people are curious about the author of that story. Unfortunately, there are only a few websites that can give any information about her and her works. I wish was in our home in Quezon City now and be able to dig up all the things about her in the hidden junks back home.
All I can remember is she trained in the UK back when people traveled to places by boat and rarely by plane. Whenever I came to visit her in her home then in Quezon City, I would always look at her photographs of her travels in UK as well as the other places where the boat and indeed sometimes the airplane would take her – all around Europe and some parts of the Middle East. I understood then that she went to Cambridge on a scholarship grant after she won several awards for her story writing – I believe the best awarded was this story we are talking about. When she came back from the UK, she went into teaching in Private schools and later became Superintendent of Private Schools in one of the upper Luzon regions (where Baguio City is). She would show me pictures of her leading PRISAA meets because she was the Private Schools superintendent. When she retired, she either spent her time in her home tending her plants or off somewhere visiting some exotic country at first and then much closer home later in our native land. The best thing I can remember about her in my childhood is she promised to take me with her when she said she would travel all around Asia. But of course, she died before this could happen and I felt really sad about losing her even before I could know her better and I could ask her everything there is to know about writing the way she wrote.
I hope after this, I’ll be able to find more information about her on the web. Well, the story wasn’t legend, just fiction – but the author was not fiction, she is right now legend.