There is no better time for women to be alive, than today.
Doors are opening up for us everywhere. In government and non-profits, in media and publication, in the academe and in the world of business: women trailblazers are celebrated, as well as stay-at-home mothers. Filipinas continue to enjoy more civil liberties than most women around the world; and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men at home and in our place of work.
We owe this to the many women—and Filipino men—who have come before us, letting the world know somewhat of the beautiful fire within a Filipina who is lighted up by her mission. Many of these strong women have passed on to faded memories, and it is just right that on this day, the International Women’s Day, we remember them once again.
There are so many of them, but let me give some names that your sons and your daughters should know. Gabriela Silang is an Ilocana warrior who took up arms after the death of her husband Diego Silang, and fought Spanish soldiers so well that they feared her name. Melchora Aquino, fondly called Tandang Sora, was a single mother who risked her and her children’s security to take care of Andres Bonifacio and other Katipuneros in 1896. Teresa Magbanua is known as the Visayan Joan of Arc, who has the distinction of fighting not one, but three oppressors: the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese.
Today, I think about the women I have met in the farthest and poorest barangays in the country, whose names will perhaps never be printed in any book, but who are no less fierce than the names I just mentioned.
Every day, they fight the tyranny of poverty, silently bear the secret oppression that comes from sexual and emotional abuse, stand up to misogynistic attacks, and proudly wear their scars from cyberbullying. They refuse to be defeated. And despite the continuous, arduous fight for their rights, they remain remarkably caring and creative, constantly calling a friend who needs a listening ear, or a colleague who needs logistic support, or a neighbor who is simply in desperation because of a busted pipe.
There’s Teacher Sabs, who gave up a promising career in the field of medicine, to teach in Culiat Elementary School because that’s where she found the greatest need for her talents. There’s Nanay Lorna, who sent her four children to school to become a teacher, a lawyer, a nurse, and an Intarmed student, all from the earnings of a turon vendor. There’s Judge Ave, a young orphaned child from Masbate, who worked as a helper and in the process, excelled marvelously in her chosen vocation.
These are ordinary women, burnished to extraordinary greatness by the hardships they had to bear. Look around you; there are many more like them. If you listen with your heart when they speak, their very existence will be shining examples that we Filipinas tend to shine in our darkest hours, cling to faith even in the direst of circumstances, and are thus meant for greatness even during challenging times. May you all continue to live with inspiration, empowered and empowering, every day of your lives. Happy International Womens Day to all of you great women out there!