Filipinas, More than Meets the Eye

Woman. Filipina. Her functions, value, ideals and expectations change with each and every culture. To the Filipinos, women are seen as an essential part of the community and the country, not just as wives, sisters and daughters, but as fearless and independent creatures of skill, intellect and beauty.

The views of  Filipina women change as time progresses. This all begins with the motherly Filipino figure, rooting from the Filipino creation story ‘Si Malakas at Maganda’ (‘The Strong and the Beautiful’).

Filipino women are caring and compassionate, bearing her responsibilities in silence, supporting her husband and being a good mother and wife. Older Filipino women are seen as wise and experienced, a bearer of stories of myths and legends, of olden times. A very concrete example is Lola Basyang, a grand storyteller kids of all ages would listen to. She exemplifies the Filipino trait of curiosity and love for stories and literature.

Then comes Maria Clara. Maria Clara is a character from Dr. Jose Rizal (the Filipino hero)’s novels El Filibusterismo and Noli mi Tangere. Maria Clara is said to be the ideal image of the Filipino Woman. She is sheepish, shy, very religious, very conservative and coy. She is said to radiate with feminine beauty and grace. Whenever people see ladies from the generation today, it is always in contrast to Maria Clara. The ideal. Yet, it is good to note that this image was created also in lieu of the Spanish era, thus she carries Spanish (and devoutly Catholic) bearings and ideals with her.

Other notable women (which changed the ‘Maria Clara’ concept of Filipino women), are Melchora Aquino, Teresa Magbanua and Gregoria Montoyo, among others. These are revolutionary Filipinas. They fought for freedom and peace, dying as heroes for the revolution and for their beliefs. These women used their tact and skills to bring successes and help in the successes of the Philippine revolution. These tact and skills are not only limited to fighting and strategizing, they also carted for the sick and the wounded, they smuggled weapons under their skirts, they fought alongside their husbands and their brothers, knowing the risks of death and slavery. Fast-forward to the Filipino-run government. During the Marcos regime, which was said to be terrifying beyond compare (but, I must also admit, was quite beneficial economy-wise), a woman also stood and fought against tyrants. She was Corazon Aquino, wife of then-senator Benigno Aquino. She fought for freedom from the dictator, the reinstatement of human rights, and led the Philippines through a shaky after-martial-law-term. She was a figure of strength, knowledge and authority. This was followed by several intellectual and strong-willed Filipinas which brought honor to the country in several fields such as science, sports and the likes.

Fast-forward to present. How are  Filipinas seen now? Are they still seen as the strong-willed warriors they were before? Or as the conservative Claras?  Well, they’re all of the above and more. Filipinas nowadays are not to be messed with. Filipina women are strong, but cautious, making waves and taking names in various fields. There are Filipina athletes that bring home trophies and medals. Filipina entertainment celebrities manage to wow thousands of people from all over the globe with their talents either in singing, dancing or acting (like Lea Salonga in theatre, etc). Filipinas are well-versed and well educated. They are outspoken and proud. But they do not forget the essence of a true Filipina, or of a true woman. They are also compassionate, kind and caring. Willing to nurture and be patient. They are loving companions, and dedicated mothers, true to themselves and to others. Women with a lions’ courage and bravery, but with hearts of gold. I salute the Filipina women.