State of War

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State of War is Ninotchka Rosca's first novel which was published in 1988. It chronicles the experience of three friends who go off to an island festival during Martial Law while at the same time tracing the intricacy of Philippine culture and history. It juxtaposes the images of a festival and a constant state of war. Imaginative and revolutionary, it was considered as one of the best books published in 1988.


  • Anna Villaverde- a tacit yet dissident academic
  • Adrian Banyaga- a bachelor from an influential family
  • Eliza Hansen- a beautiful woman who enters into affairs with powerful men
  • Colonel Urbano Amor- Eliza's lover and Anna's interrogator
  • Maya- Anna's ancestor
  • Manolo- Anna's former sweetheart


The main narrative focuses on the festival on an island called "K" attended by Anna, Adrian and Eliza. Anna is just recovering from a terrifying experience after having been interrogated by the intelligence unit of the military, with Colonel Urbano Amor leading the mental torture. During her stay, she teaches the children of the island. Meanwhile, Eliza tries to make Adrian and Anna fall in love and become a couple. Colonel Amor, who is Eliza's patron-lover, arrives at the island to hound Adrian and discover the young man's connections. Anna, who has not lost her dissidence, cooperates with an innovative rebel group planning to bomb the festival. In the midst of the chaos and disorder, Anna discovers that she is with child and names her unborn baby boy Ismael Villaverde Banyaga.

The novel also traces the violent colonial history of the Philippines, showing similarities and relationships in historical events through the memories of the characters. One prominent tracing back is that of Anna's relationship with Maya, a former babaylan or priestess. Maya was the mistress of the village priest, Friar Villaverde, and was protected by the priest's powers. However, she suffers from tauntings. To redeem her stature, she collects favors villagers want to ask from the priest, but for a fee.


  • Syncretism

The novel sought to portray the resulting culture of the Philippines after centuries of colonization. In the novel, traditions such as festivals are shown as having changed in meaning and significance over time.

  • Militarism

The character of General Amor personifies the militaristic quality of society during Martial Law. Through him and his affairs, the abuse of military powers was shown in the novel, especially the interrogation and torture of political detainees and innocent citizens.

  • Sexuality and Power

Dolores de Manuel analyzed the experiences of Maya and Anna as representative of the female body politic. Both emanate a certain degree of power drawn from mysticism and sexual empowerment while at the same time suffering abuse; Maya, from the priest's sexual enslavement, and Anna, from General Amor's mental rape. The female image is redeemed, however, by Maya's descendant Anna, and Anna's bearing a child.


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