Bata, Bata, Pa'no Ka Ginawa?

Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa?

Ang Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa? (also known as Lea's Story) – literally, "Child, Child… How were you made?" although figuratively it actually surpasses its allusion - or reference - to the process of reproduction through the revelation of its true, symbolic question-message: "Child, Child… How were you molded to become a mature, grown-up person?" – is a novel written in Tagalog by the Filipino female writer, Lualhati Bautista, an author who is known to consciously use "Taglish" – a mixture of Tagalog and English, instead of pure Tagalog - as a stylistic device for her works. The novel is about the role of a woman, like its author, with Filipino society wherein the males were, in the past, assuming more dominant roles in society.

In a period in the past, Philippine women normally and simply follow the wills and whims of their husbands and other male members of society. The role of women were just to act upon their role as mothers who perform household chores, take care of the children, and take care of the needs of their husbands. They don’t and should not– based on previous customs – get involved with subject matters and discussions about livelihood and political issues. But the face and ambience of the perceived role of women in society changed, as society itself was transformed. The doors of offices were opened to give way to women workers. They were given a place where their complaints regarding women rights could be heard, as well as their concept about life and livelihood, earning them a voice within and outside the boundaries of home.

This is the subject discussed and revealed by Lualhati Bautista’s novel which is comprised of 32 chapters. The work narrates the life of Lea, a working mother, who has two children – a young girl and a young boy. And for this reason, the novel depicts the society’s view of women, how it is to be a mother, and how a mother executes this role through modern-day concepts of parenthood.

Main characters

  • Lea – the protagonist and heroine in the novel
  • Maya – Lea’s daughter to Ding
  • Ojie – Lea’s son to Raffy
  • Ding – Lea’s live-in partner, Maya's father
  • Raffy – Lea’s husband, Ojie’s father
  • Johnny – Lea’s fantasy and co-worker

Plot summary

The novel begun with an introductory chapter about the graduation day from kindergarten of Maya, Lea’s daughter. A program and a celebration were held. In the beginning, everything in Lea’s life were going smoothly – her life in connection with her children, with friends of the opposite gender, and with her volunteer work for a human rights organization. But Lea’s children were both growing-up – and Lea could see their gradual transformation. There were the changes in their ways and personalities: Maya’s curiosity was becoming more obvious every day, while Ojie was crossing the boundaries from boyhood to teenage to adulthood.

A scene came when Lea’s former husband came back to persuade Ojie to go with him to the United States. Lea experienced the fear of losing both her children, when the fathers of her children decide to take them away from her embrace. She also needed to spend more time for work and with the organization she was volunteering for.

In the end, both of Lea’s children decided to choose to stay with her – a decision that Lea never forced upon them. Another graduation day of students was the main event in the novel’s final chapter, where Lea was the guest-of-honor. Lea delivered a speech that discusses the topic of how life evolves, and on how time consumes itself so quickly, as fast as how human beings grow, change, progress and mature. Lea leaves a message to her audience that a graduation day is not an end because it is actually the beginning of everything else that will come in a person’s life.


The excerpts from Lualhati Bautista’s novels were included in the anthology, Tulikärpänen, a book of short stories collectively written by Filipino women and was published in Finland by the The Finnish-Philippine Society (FPS), a non-governmental organization established in 1988. Tulikärpänen was edited and translated by Riitta Vartti in collaboration with other authors. In Firefly: Writings by Various Authors, the English-language version of the Finnish-language collection, the featured excerpt from Bata, Bata, Pa'no Ka Ginawa? was given the title Children's Party. Tulikärpänen was the first book of writings by Filipino women to be published in Finland.


This long narrative also became a film, where the Philippine actress Vilma Santos (who went on to become the first female governor of Batangas) took the role of the character Lea in 1998, together with Filipino actor Raymond Bagatsing. The transformation of the story from novel to film was under the direction of Chito S. Roño.

After winning recognition by the Filipino Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Director) in the Philippines, Lea’s Story - the film version of Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa? - was shown in Manhattan in 2000 as a part of a “bi-monthly series of Asian and Asian American film screenings at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City”.


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