Sunday, January 8, 2012

FILOMENA COLENDRINO and the Story "Why Women Wash Dishes"

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.


  1. Hi sis! regards Lola mini's things...sadly they are not available anymore here at kamias...even before tatay died...many of her things are gone...some(books and other things in paper form) were eaten by termites (as you know very well there are colonies here!!!) while some books were actually taken by "the other side" of the house so i really can't tell what happened to those things. I did try to keep the "old things" here at kamias as much as i could but natural deterioration is beyond my powers and 2ndly, I am really so allergic to dust and the like, that keeping them is "dangerous to my health". :(

  2. The people on the other side probably sold the royalties of the books to National Bookstore. Ok lang - at least, it went to relatives. It's just that I observed a lot of inquiries on google about her story and the author - I wish we could have gathered her things and preserved her memory better. I hope this blog is a start..

  3. Hello!

    I have a special concern re: Why women wash dishes. Would you mind if I send it to you through email? Pls give me your email address.


    Joseph M. Anavesa
    Southern Leyte State University-Tomas Oppus
    San Isidro, Tomas Oppus, Southern Leyte

  4. Hi! Can I ask when did your grand- aunt write this short story? A big thanks! It's just for my structural analysis.

  5. Can I ask a favor to write about the life story of filomena colendrino?

  6. Hello po, we were tasked to do a biographical montage about the authors of 5 selected topics. I personally selected "Why women wash the dishes?" because I really think filipino stories are amazing and the play is really beautiful. However, I am not able to find information about Madam Filomena that's why I am so thankful for this. I just want to ask if I can just use this to present the life of Madam Filomena po? And also may I request some pictures of her po kasi wala po talaga akong makita. Thank you very much po, and I am glad to wait for your response. :)