SHE-LOGY: The last one for the project is a tribute to 3 powerful women I knew growing up. Three plain housewives, but nothing plain about their strength.
GABRIELA SILANG. She is one of the Philippine heroes, known for leading a revolution in 1763 when the country was occupied by Spain, after her husband, a revolutionary leader, was betrayed and killed. Although no victory for her, the image of a bolo-wielding, horse-back riding woman at the frontline is very empowering. If a woman can lead in a war, she can lead anywhere.
In the modern times, her name continues to be used to describe a woman who has a strong, fighting spirit. An organization and party list that advocates for women’s rights is named GABRIELA.
CORAZON AQUINO. She is the 11th President of the Philippines and the first female president of the country and Asia. She was the “plain housewife” of the opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, who was pushed to the leadership position after her husband was assassinated. She became the prominent figure in the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the 20-year dictatorship of President Marcos, and helped restore democracy to the nation. She was TIME’s Woman of the Year in 1986.
I was in kindergarten at the time she became the nation’s leader. And all throughout school life, I learned about her in our history classes. Because of her, I grew up without any doubt about a woman’s capacity to lead a nation. If she can be president of the country, I can be president of anything.
In my adult life, I realized even more what kind of courage it took for her to take that responsibility. How difficult it must be for a newly-widowed housewife and mother to take on a leadership position of that scale and historical significance, with the dangers involved knowing his husband was killed fighting for the same cause. Add to that the detractors who were constantly criticizing her decisions and her administration during a time when the country was struck by numerous natural calamities. It would’ve been easier to give up and pass it on to the other leader who was eager to take her place, but she didn’t. She completed her term. It wasn’t also about personal ambition. She didn’t hold office after that and kept a private life. I think it was a matter of her love for her husband and dedicating that part of her life to complete his cause and continue his legacy.
THELMA. She is my mother. To my eyes, even Gabriela and Corazon could not match the power that my mother wields. She is born on the Year of the Dragon, if that somehow helps define her powerful personality. She runs the family business and grew it into an establishment that I knew growing up, while being hands-on mom. She calls herself the majorette of the house. And true enough, every movement of her imaginary baton causes people around her to act and effect results. Our home is alive, so full of life, because of her. Growing up at home, I rarely see her in a weak moment (and to a child, these acts qualify as basis for strength) — rarely cried, rarely sick, rarely tired, never takes a midday nap, always up and about, always doing something. She’s the most hardworking and neatest woman I know.
Her strength is silent. She is down-to-earth and peace-loving. She can appear shy and often does not prefer public attention. But when she needs to fight for her family, oh what a formidable fighter she becomes. This is her quality I most admire. She’s this quiet character, who can put her enemies on their knees. Once I found her being confronted by this loud, abusive bully of a relative, who is known to embarrass his wife and whose condescending personality strikes fear in anyone. Instead of buckling, my mom remained her composure. In the end, it was this man who cried, realized his mistakes, and profusely apologized for his actions. In another occasion, our business received threats from a rebel group. And instead of giving in to their demands, my mom spoke to one of them, in person, and countered the threat. They stopped their harassment after that. She is Gabriela the warrior and Corazon the peacemaker rolled into one.
In my adult life living far away from them, she continues her influence, present in my conscience. Her strength continues to be felt, now in the form of prayers. She is my staunch prayer warrior whose faith in me remains unmatched.