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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War


the end of their communion, she announces the time left for Maya

as if pronouncing a sentence to death: “Three years, two months,

and a week hence.” The sentence provides closure to Maya’s

feelings of shame.


As noted above, the historical novel promoted by Berlant

opens up a past historical moment and a moment in transition to

explore the affective life, which is at once plagued and energized

by crisis in the everyday life. By pivoting the story of the

Villaverde’s female ancestors upon shame and the event of its

transmission among generations, Rosca excavates moments of

colonial history which, while giving voice to the suppressed story

of the matriarch, unveils the ambiguous affective becoming of the

female characters. Due to shame’s self-critiquing potential, we are

moved to act to purge the sense of shame. Shame, therefore, can be

transformative and productive in realigning one’s relation to the

past and to others. The shame of the origin of the Villaverde family

demands improvised living strategies; in the meantime, it stages the

event for the resurgence of the Babaylan interpersonal healing.

wisdom-keeper and philosopher; the one who provides stability to the

community’s social structure; the one who can access the spirit realms and

other states of consciousness and traffic easily in and out of these worlds; a

woman who has vast knowledge of healing therapies” (as cited in Strobel,

2010: 1). In addition to this, a Babaylan is someone who “intercedes for the

community and individuals” and is also someone who “serves” (Strobel,

2010: 2). Any study of the Babaylan must take into consideration the

suppression of the Babaylan’s practice since the onset of European and

American colonialism in the Philippines.


It is important to note that Mayang’s positioning as a Babaylan priestess is

enabled by the encounter of the two bodies, it is therefore transient and

temporary. Later Mayang goes on to betray her husband and her

community by falling madly in love with the German chemist Hans

Zangroniz who is recruited by Carlos Lucas to help run the distillery Maya

establishes with him. Hans and Mayang’s affair produces Luis Carols, who

is to become Anna’s father. Hans flees the household of the Villaverdes after

Luis Carols is born; he changes his name to Hansen living in the south and

is to become Eliza’s grandfather. Anna and Eliza thus share a grandfather in