cover image Three Filipino Women

Three Filipino Women

F. Sionil Jose. Random House (NY), $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41360-8

Until now, the work of Jose, an author ( My Brother, My Executioner ), editor and head of the Manila PEN center, has been all but unavailable in the U.S. The novellas in this collection purport to explore the character of a Filipina and, by extension, the nation: Narita in ``Cadena de Amor,'' who rises to power from provincial origins; Ermi in ``Obsession,'' who leaves her career as an expensive call girl to marry a rich American; and Malu in ``Platinum,'' who dares to live up to her ideals as a political activist. More vivid than the women, however, are the men who tell their stories, hard-edged characters who take for granted the tangles of personality and sexuality permeating modern-day Manila's politics-and business-as-usual. Nontheless, each hopes for a transcendent experience with the woman who fascinates him--but cannot escape the sense of his own corruption, ``the onslaught of the malaise that had battered most of us, the dishonesty, the deceit that pervaded public life.'' Unable to connect except sexually, the men regard the women like children before a candy store, alternately tantalized and frustrated. Readers, in turn, will be tantalized by these glimpses of lives led on the margins of the elite. Jose's elegiac tone complements his narratives of the loneliness and loss that accompany disillusionment. (June)