A century ago, Philippines has been under the colony of Spain. For 300 years, we’ve been held in our throats and had experienced many partialities from those Spaniards. During such time also, education was uncertain, it was only given to those who can afford and poor people were left behind, some educational institutions were biased, racist and debasing. To a point, Spain didn’t want Filipinos to learn Spanish, or even just the basic of it, because they were afraid it shall be used against them. Such unfortunate conditions have moved some Filipino scholars to grab education overseas, one of them was Rizal, because they felt that in the overseas, people are more liberal, government is more partial, democracy is tangible, unlike in our own country.
Women during those times were looked down by men, treated lower than men, and were largely deprived of the opportunities that every citizen of a country must enjoy. Only few of them were able to go to church and educate themselves. They were mostly kept at the house, given household chores, knotted in fixed marriages, and depressingly, became servants to higher class families.
Surprisingly, when Rizal was still in Europe, he had learned about the Women of Malolos. The “Women of Malolos”, a group of women that became famous because of their initiatives to fight for equality in education. Who fought for their rights to be educated despite foreseeable consequences the Spanish Government may implicate to them. This group, because of their courage, astounded Rizal, and made Rizal write a letter dedicated to their heroic and patriotic act and described how women should be acting, should be seen, and how they should bring their selves during those times of hardships. However, it turns out that the letters to the young women of Malolos was not only dedicated to such 20 young women, but the entire women population of the Philippines back then. Were the women of the Philippines now able to continue the legacy of how they were back then? Were they able to maintain to values, morals, and attitudes that Rizal wanted them to possess? Or did they dramatically change a century after? Let’s try to answer it by comparison.
1. Rizal said that women must view the will of God different to that of the priest. Back then, friars have made Filipinos believed that what they’re doing, they’re doing it in accordance to the laws of God. Despite being a bad action, they shall say it’s according to what God had said, naïve Filipinos were that time, they were likely to believe on the friars as they had viewed them as persons with authority, given that they are the messenger of God. Apparently, many women were in no exempt that time, and while it has become obvious as time went by that some of the actuation of the friars was becoming too abusive, Rizal has seen that such deviates from what God has given them the tasked to be. Rizal shared that women must be very cautious because the will of God is apparently different from the will of the priest.
Nowadays, women are more critical to what they believe in. Like in the latest fuss about the RH Bill where we can see a great debate from the Catholic Church and that of the supporters of the RH Bill. The RH Bill supporters, majority of which are Filipina women, had taken their stand and had been critical in their views and opinions. RH Bill, according to them, advantages them holistically for they are the ones who are in the vulnerable side when it comes to reproductive health- maternal issues, sexual issues, among others. The Catholic Church on the other side had been insinuating that such bill is Anti-Life as it may be promoting commercial family planning that may be abortifacient.
Pro RH or Not, we’ve seen that women nowadays are taking their individual stands to the different issues that concern them. Even to a point that they are risking their selves for excommunication. Unlike a century ago that women weren’t able to see the difference with regards to the actions of the friars, now, women are more involved, more educated, and more open to their views and stands.
2. Rizal said that women must have prudence, a good judgment of the just and unjust.
History will tell you how Philippines had succumbed to the abuses of the Spaniards, how good judgment of the just and unjust was lost in vain, how they had submitted their selves passively to the wrong doings of some. Because of this, Rizal tried to awaken the spirits of Filipina women regarding the changes, particularly the lost judgment of the just and the unjust.
Now, it’s like history repeats itself, not that severe though. Filipina women sometimes compromise their good judgment of the just and unjust taking into consideration the many factors that they’re considering, such as poverty. We see women trying to sell their selves, women engaging in social crimes, women allowing their selves to be taken advantage, because they sometimes believe that their compromising is for a greater cause. On the other hand, there are also women who had lived up having good judgment, who does not allow to be taken advantage, who does not allow to be trespassed.
3. Women must seek to be educated.
Remember the reason why Rizal wrote the letter, it’s because he got astounded by the courage of the women to have their selves educated, despite the disapproval of the Spanish friars for they were afraid to have Filipinos educated.
Now, education is not scarce anymore for it is being offered for free by the government, even some up to college. However, some women now are in direct opposite to how they were before. If before, they had struggled to get their selves educated, they had longed for education, now it seems that many youths (men and women) had totally forgotten the essence of education and had taken it for granted. We see young people not able to finish school, we see them impregnated earlier because of their peers, we see them asking for alms in the street. Poverty, always the reason that they say. But, what about those women back in Rizal’s time. They were not only poor, they were oppressed, they lack supplies that shall complement and supplement their needs for education, but they did not lose hope. How about some young people now? Where are we going? Are the actions we are doing will make us educated? Think about it.
4. As a partner, she must be loved not only because of her beauty and her amiable character, but also because of her fortitude and loftiness.
How common it is that when we ask some men as to how they got attracted to their partners would they say it’s because of the face, the looks. But Rizal has said that those shouldn’t be the only premises why you would court a girl, why you would try to have a relationship, you must also love her of her being fortitude and loftiness.
But what is fortitude and what if loftiness? Fortitude in my laptop’s dictionary is defined as the courage in pain while loftiness is defined us noble and exalted nature.
This message goes out to young men like me, we must not only consider loving a girl because of her looks, because of her character, but we must also love her courage especially in pain, in dealing with her problems and we must always respect her noble and exalted nature. Let’s not just chase her and immediately hurt her. Let’s not be polygamous and let’s make ways to get even with her love, courage, character and loftiness.
To the young women now, may you always maintain such character especially when you’re in a relationship. We see some of your sisters now exactly the opposite of it, chasing men instead of being chased, involving their selves in a relationship that doesn’t even last long, changing partners as often as they would change clothes. Remember that respect begets respect, and in order for us, young men, respect you as our partners, may you give us all the reasons why we have to.
5. As a wife, she must aid her husband, inspire him with courage, share his perils, refrain from causing him worry and sweeten his moments of affliction, always remembering that there is no grief that a brave heart ca not bear.
Dating back in the Spanish era, or even before it, wives have been perceived by the society as the counterpart of their husband. They are expected to be the support person in times of difficulties faced by the husband. And fortunately, such attitude has not been wiped off in our culture, only that there are changes now. If before, wives would have stayed in their homes, now, wives too are trying to make a living to support what the husband brings. It is just so fulfilling in our parts that we have such practice while some other countries do not. May we be able to maintain it, because in cooperation there is progress. If there’s cooperation there’s unity. And if there’s unity, problems would be easier to face.
6. Lastly, as a Mother, women should bring up her child the way God would want her to be, not the friars.
Rizal cited the example of Spartan mothers with this. Spartan women were known to have loved their children so much that they make it to a point to make the most out of their children’s , particularly their son, first 7 years before getting them go into concentration camps. Spartan women were known to be courageous, not afraid even of their king, and because of the courage they possess and the love of their children, no enemy was able to put his feet upon her, or hostile army against her.
Modern Filipina women are close to their children. It has been the tradition of us, the mothers would really take the lead role in rearing her child. Filipinas are not far from Spartan women. They both loved their child, and protected them. But time changes, everything changes inevitably, while we maintain the numbers of mothers just like that of the Spartan mothers, there comes this new generation of mothers, particularly those unready mothers, who had taken their children for granted, who had aborted them, who had deprived their children the privilege to live, who had prevented their children to enjoy their rights simply because they are not ready to be mothers and they cannot put their children’s happiness above of theirs. To the young women now, may you be enlightened with what has happened with your fellow Filipina sisters, how would you be able to be the Spartan Mother if you’re not ready yet, indeed, you must have a deep calculations of the actions you do, because as a child, I would want to see other mothers just like the Spartan Mother.
And so this brings us to the conclusion. Do we still have the women of Malolos now? Or were they lost in time? The answer for me would be yes but there’s a big BUT. While we still see women just like that of the women in Malolos, the number is slowly decreasing. If this is allowed to continue, we might not let the future Filipinos know how it is to have them, Women of Malolos in the Modern age, around. We need to think it over. We need to save this characters that Rizal would have wanted us to have. He never failed us, let’s not fail him.