The Woman Who Had Two Navels

The Woman Who Had Two Navels Study Guide

Nick Joaquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a 1961 English-language novel about several Filipino characters grappling with their identities after the Philippines gains independence from the U.S. following World War II.

When Connie, a wealthy young Filipino woman, comes to Hong Kong to see Pepe Monson, the son of an exiled Filipino rebel, she asks him to perform surgery to correct her two navels. Pepe's sense of reality grows unstable as he listens to Connie's stories and sits in her surreal presence. Pepe then meets Connie's mother and learns of Connie's relationship with Paco Texeira, a jazz bandleader whom Pepe has known since childhood. Paco tells Pepe the story of how he was drawn to Connie's mother and Connie while performing in Manila. After becoming obsessed with Connie, who he accuses of being evil and driven to torture him, Paco returns to Hong Kong with a fatalistic belief that he is helpless against Connie and her mother's allure. The novel ends with Pepe reflecting on how his father was similarly disturbed upon returning from a trip home to the Philippines; like Paco, Pepe's father is a ghost of his former self. Now that the barrier between worlds has been breached, Pepe believes he isn't safe from the disillusion haunting Paco and his father.

Considered a classic of Filipino literature, The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a dream-like exploration of the themes of fatalism, ruin, wealth disparity, postcolonial identity, parent-child relationships, and the connection between worlds. More than a hallucination, Connie's two navels are a symbolic representation of how people can be torn between colonial cultures, parents, will and fate, and reality and fantasy.