“In my experience, I know, no matter how you faithfully follow a recipe to the letter, you don’t always get the perfect cup of joe each time. Love—that other four letter word I know—is much harder to concoct than coffee.” — Excerpt from “The Breakup diaries” by Maya Calica

MONICA Tanseco was in her mid-adulthood when she lost her identity and self-esteem. Her romantic relationship made her regress, and eventually put her life in total jeopardy. But as Monica realized her existence and purpose in life, what started out as a simple boyfriend-dumps-girlfriend story became a story of a woman’s journey towards self-discovery and actualization.

Monica is the principal character in Thomasian writer Maya Calica’s “Breakup diaries,” just one of the “chick-lit” books in the country. Chick literature (chick lit) is the emerging genre trend characterized by “feminism” and usually deals with stories of women’s power, independence, and romance amid social or career problems.

Starting from scratch

European-inspired, the chick lit eventually penetrated the Philippine reading public because of its affordability with most books costing at around P150.

Former Cosmopolitan Managing editor Tara Sering introduced chick lit in the Philippines through her novella “Getting Better,” which came out with the magazine’s October 2002 issue. Getting Better would later be published by University of the Philippines (UP) Press together with five other short stories by Sering resulting in “Reconnaisance” in 2003. A few months after Sering’s novel, Almost Married, was published by Summit Books, a division of Summit Media, which also publishes Cosmo. The second book won a National Book award in 2004.

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From then on, Summit published other chick lit by Abi Aquino, Melissa Salva, Claire Betita and Tweet Sering, Tara’s sister. Calica’s “Breakup diaries” is one of Summit’s most popular releases.

Down with love

But according to children and young adult literature writer and UP Professor Carla Pacis, chick lit does not deserve its present stature.” It is not considered as literature but should be classified into other genre,” she stated on her open letter to the Manila Critics Circle.

Pacis questioned some published materials from chick lit books because of inappropriate content for the young adults. She pointed that certain issues like sex were not presented with enough “caution and sensibility.”

On the other hand, Literature Professor and CCWS associate Nerisa Guevara believes that chick lit is an “alternative genre and a growing trend.” Same goes for some Thomasians, who have already made chick lit a part of their lifestyle.

Accounting major Mirvi Co says she learns a lot of life’s lessons from chick lit. “Aside from being humorous, it also teaches you about pursuing your dreams and confronting life’s problems,” she said.

UST Pay High school guidance counselor Christine Quita agrees with Co. Quita also believes that intense realistic stories triggered the youth’s interest in chick lit.

“People can relate to it (chick lit). The way it is written, yung makakatohanan siya, parang testimonial nu’ng totoong nangyayari,” she states. “It presents reality unlike other pocketbooks which obviously only invented by the authors.”

Literature major Elea Almazora is at the same thinking. “Chick lit fortifies my belief that you can be both a career woman and have a place for love,” she said. “And that one does not actually need to choose one over the other.”

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Quita also said that although chick lit presents truth about the realities of life its ‘naughty’ language only caters to mature readers. “Even though chick lit embodies truth its vulgar language may not be helpful to teenagers who are still developing their identity since it would have effects on them.” she said.

This emerging literary genre has also created an impact on every woman of different working classes. Who knows? This just might change our tradition-bound concepts of womanhood.

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