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Freeze: Inspirational Women

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a focal point for the women’s rights movement.  (There is an International Men’s Day every November 19 but that’s another story.) The Philippine Commission on Women says the National Women’s Month Celebration every March is part of the worldwide observance of the International Women’s Day.

GABRIELA SILANG. María Josefa Gabriela Cariño de Silang (19 March 1731 – 20 September 1763) was a Filipina revolutionary leader best known as the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence from Spain. She took over the reins of her husband Diego Silang’s revolutionary movement after his assassination in 1763, leading the Ilocano rebel movement for four months before she was captured and executed by the colonial government of the Spanish East Indies (image source:

I grew up surrounded by strong women and I did not know much about gender inequality until I read about it and heard it in a song – particularly Woman Is the Nigger of the World by John Lennon. My school life was dominated by female teachers and I mean I had very few male teachers. It was impressed upon my mind before Beyoncé that, contrary to Lennon’s song, women really ruled the world.

Let’s take a look at some of the strongest women in history.

TANDANG SORA. Melchora Aquino de Ramos (6 January 1812 – 19 February 1919) was a Filipina revolutionary who became known as “Tandang Sora” (“Elder Sora”) because of her age during the Philippine Revolution. In her native town of Balintawak (Quezon City), Tandang Sora operated a store, which became a refuge for the sick and wounded Katipuneros (revolutionaries). She gave medical attention and food to revolutionaries and also gave motherly advice and prayers. Secret meetings of the Katipuneros were also held at her house. Thus she earned the names “Woman of Revolution”, “Mother of Balintawak”, “Mother of the Philippine Revolution”, and Tandang Sora.. When the Spaniards learned about her activities and her knowledge to the whereabouts of the Katipuneros, she was interrogated but she refused to divulge any information. She was then arrested by the guardia civil and was deported to Guam, Marianas Islands. After the United States took control of the Philippines in 1898, Tandang Sora returned to the Philippines until her death on 19 February 1919, at the age of 107 (Wikipedia). (Image source:
TERESA MAGBANUA. Teresa Ferraris Magbanua (October 13, 1868 – August 1947), dubbed as the “Visayan Joan of Arc” was a Filipino schoolteacher and military leader. Born in Pototan, Iloilo, Philippines, she retired from education and became a housewife shortly after her marriage to Alejandro Balderas, a wealthy landowner from Sara, Iloilo. When the 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spanish Empire broke out, she became one of only a few women to join the Panay-based Visayan arm of the Katipunan. Despite opposition from her husband, Magbanua followed her two younger brothers and took up arms against the Spaniards, leading troops into combat and winning several battles under the command of General Martin Delgado. Magbanua is credited as the only woman to lead troops in the Visayan area during the Revolution. Shortly thereafter, Magbanua shifted to fighting American colonial forces during the Philippine–American War. In her later life, she provided supplies to guerrilla fighters in the resistance movement against the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War (Wikipedia). (image source:
JOSEFA LLANES ESCODA. Josefa Llanes Escoda (September 20, 1898 – January 31, 1945) was a prominent civic leader, social worker and Filipina war heroine. She is well known as a Filipino advocate of women’s right of suffrage and was founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. Together with José Abad Santos and Vicente Lim, she is memorialized on the Philippines’ 1,000-Peso banknote depicting Filipinos who fought and died resisting the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during the Second World War (Wikipedia). As an active member of the suffrage movement of the Philippines, Josefa Llanes Escoda was quoted as saying that “The modern woman is no longer the wife that clings; she now helps the husband. The women’s demand for independence is motivated by their desire to help their husbands in governmental affairs which always required the moderation and wisdom of women.” ( (image source:
LEONA FLORENTINO. Leona Josefa Florentino (19 April 1849 – 4 October 1884) was a Filipino poet in the Spanish and Ilocano languages. Also known as the Mother of Philippine Women’s Literature, Leona Florentino became the first internationally recognized Filipina poet at a time when Philippine society was largely patriarchal. Born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Florentino started to write poems at the age of ten. Her works–written in Ilocano and some in Spanish–include Naangawan A Kablaaw (“A Jolly Birthday Greeting”) and Nalpay A Namnama (“Blasted Hope”). A prolific poetess, satirist, and playwright, Florentino braved all adversities to express her creativity–sometimes even at the expense of her family. It is said that due to her feminist views, her husband and son opposed her writing. For this reason, Florentino was forced to leave her family and had since led a life of solitude until her untimely death in 1884 at the age of 35. Florentino’s 22 poems were later exhibited posthumously in the Exposicion General de Filipinas (Madrid, 1887), Exposition Internationale (Paris, 1889), and St. Louis International Exposition (Missouri, 1904). Her name, as well as her works, were also represented in Madame Andzia Wolska’s anthology, Bibliotheque Internationale des Oeuvres de Femmes, edited in 1889 ( (image source:
ENCARNACION ALZONA. She is known as the first Filipina historian and also the first Filipina to obtain a doctoral degree. In an era when Filipinas were somehow considered intellectually inferior to Filipino men, a woman named Encarnacion Alzona (1895-2001) refused to be defeated. Her fight for gender equality opened a lot of opportunities for women that would not have been possible if she had refused to take a leap of faith.In 1919, Alzona participated in the pensionado program of the American government which, for the first time in many years, provided equal opportunities for middle- and upper-class Filipinas to study in the US. She eventually earned a master’s degree from Radcliffe College as well as a Ph.D. degree from Columbia University in 1923, the first Filipina to do so. Her achievements gave her the necessary credentials to serve as the chairperson of the Department of History in U.P. Even while pursuing her career, Alzona never stopped fighting for women’s rights. Believing that education is the key to gender equality, Alzona helped other Filipinas–including Fe del Mundo, then a medical student–to pursue studies in the US. She also fought for Filipinas’ right of suffrage, going as far as hosting tea parties for members of the Legislature just to convince them to grant such right. Fortunately, her efforts soon paid off. In September of 1937, the election bill that grants the right to vote to all citizens (male and female, 21 years of age and who can read and write) finally became a law ( (image source: Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings)
MARIA YLAGAN OROSA. She is known as a war heroine, banana ketchup inventor, and the first Filipino nutritionist. A native of Taal in Batangas, Maria Ylagan Orosa (1893-1945) was a pioneer in food technology, nutrition, and preservation. In fact, she was credited for inventing some of the most amazing foods we know today–banana ketchup, Calamansi Nip (a powdered form of calamansi), Soyalac (powdered soya beans), just to name a few… At the age of 23, she went to the US as a stowaway armed with a dream of getting a college degree. After doing odd jobs to support her education, Orosa finally earned degrees in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Food Chemistry, and Pharmacy. Hard work soon paid off for Orosa when she became the first Filipino to be appointed assistant state chemist of Washington in 1920. However, she left the position in 1922 and went back to her country instead. As the chief of Plant Utilization Division of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Orosa started to bring local food technology into a whole new level. Among Orosa’s countless innovations include the use of Philippine fruits in wine-making; coconut in preparing honey, flour, cassava, cooking oil, and candy; and pineapple in making vinegar. She also pioneered the making of catsup from banana, extracting insecticide from tobacco dust, and making toyo from soy.
As a war heroine and humanitarian, Orosa devised a process of canning food for the guerrillas. She was a captain in Marking’s Guerillas during WWII and supplied food to soldiers, prisoners of war, internees, and religious communities in UST and concentration camps. When her family decided to leave Manila for Batangas, Orosa refused to join them, saying “I am soldier and soldiers do not leave their post, I cannot in conscience abandon my work and my girls.”
Orosa died when she was hit twice by shrapnel during a bombing raid in Manila on February 13, 1945 ( (image source:












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