What It Means To Be Malaya by Emmily Magtalas Rhodes follows the moral and psychological growth of Bunny, a young woman on the brink of adulthood as she negotiates her various relationships with her family and with friends in school.
The popular and attractive Malaya stands out among these friends. A sensitive introvert who dreads socializing and endures the sterility of a regimented life with her mother, Bunny sees Malaya as the epitome of unfettered youth, who awakens in her a yearning to belong.
The novel is a social commentary that holds a mirror to Philippine society, casting a critical eye on our definition of success; obsession with beauty contests; on beauty-enhancing products; on Western standards of beauty and fashion; on the advertising and PR industry; on church-going people unaware and unmindful of the disconnect between their religious practice and their behavior toward other persons.
All told, an engaging, compelling read.
—Susan Lara, Award-Wining Fictionist