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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Josefa Llanes-Escoda

Josefa Llanes-Escoda
Social Worker
(1898 -1944)

          Josefa Llanes-Escoda was among our first women to engage in social work. This work aims to help the poor, the sick, and other unfortunate people. She also started Girl Scouting in the Philippines. She lost her life during the war while helping hungry prisoners and wounded soldiers in prison.

Parents and Education
          Josefa Llanes was born in Dingras, Ilocos Norte, on September 20, 1898. She was the eldest daughter of Gabriel Llanes and Mercedes Madamba. She finished her elementary and high school studies in Laoag. Then she went to Manila and studied in the Philippine Normal School, where she graduated with honors. She next entered the University of the Philippines and got a high school teacher certificate.
         The young teacher was soon chosen to go to America on a scholarship. In 1922 she was sent by the government to study in a school for social work in New York City. From there she went to Columbia University to get her Master of Arts degree.
Josefa readily made friends. She loved to help other people. This trait fitted her to be a social worker.

Public Service
         Upon her return to the Philippines, Josefa Llanes was appointed head of the home service of the Philippine branch of the American Red Cross. Her work was to know the problems of people who were in need and to help them.
         She also served with the Philippine Anti-Leprosy Society and in the tuberculosis section of the Bureau of Health.
         Josefa was soon recognized as a leader in welfare work. This energetic woman started the Girl Scout movement in the Philippines. She became the editor of the Child Health Magazine. She successively became the secretary and president of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. She also found time to work for women suffrage.

Service Projects
         Josefa planned and carried out different projects for the welfare of women and children. She organized schools for women who wanted to learn handicrafts. She started health clinics for children. She asked the government to put up playgrounds for them.

Josefa and World War II
        Josefa married a newspaperman, Antonio Escoda. He was one of the editors of the Manila Daily Bulletin. When World War II began, all Americans in the Philippines were captured and kept in prison camps by the enemy. As the war dragged on from year to year, the prisoners suffered. They lacked food, medicine, and clothes.
        It was dangerous to help the Americans, for the Japanese authorities imprisoned those who helped them. But Josefa Llanes-Escoda was not afraid. As social worker, she was not allowed to visit the Santo Tomas prison camp. She secretly brought food and medicines to prisoners.
       Josefa had helpers who also brought food, medicines and money to prisoners in their camps in Los Banos and Capas. The Japanese authorities suspected her of helping the prisoners. They watched all her movements.
       Josefa also cheered the prisoners with news of the victories of the Americans in the war. Her husband was a leader of the guerillas. She got the news from him.
       Then in 1943 her husband was arrested by the Japanese secret police. He was thrown into prison. Friends advised Josefa to hide, but she refused. She said, “Who will help the poor prisoners now that my husband is in prison? I must stay here to carry on our work.”
       So she stayed in Manila. In August, 1943, she was also arrested by the Japanese police and imprisoned in Fort Santiago. During her last days, she shared her prison cell with a nun who came out of the prison alive. To this nun Josefa told her dreams and plans for the future after the war had ended. Among her plans was to extend the Girl Scout movement, to organize more clubs for women, and to build more community kitchens.
       Fate did not allow Josefa to realize her dreams. She never left her prison cell alive. She was killed there in bombing of Manila in 1945.
      After the Americans freed the Philippines, the American Red Cross awarded a silver medal to Josefa Llanes- Escoda. This medal was to honor her even after her death. It is the highest honor given by the American Red Cross to men and women who have best served their country and fellowmen.

Leading Filipino Women: Gregoria De Jesus

Gregoria De Jesus
Lakambini (Muse) of the Katipunan
(1875 - 1943)

          Gregoria de Jesus was the wife of Andres Bonifacio. She helped him in his great work of leading the Filipinos in their fight for liberty in 1896. She shared his dangers and hardships. Gregoria de Jesus was as brave as any soldier who fought in the battlefields.

Early Life
          Gregoria de Jesus grew up in Caloocan, formerly a town under the province of Rizal but now a city, where she was born on May 9, 1875. Her father, Nicolas de Jesus, was a master mason and carpenter. He was very active in the town. He was first teniente de barrio, or barrio lieutenant, and then gobernadorcillo, or town mayor.
          In the public schools Gregoria proved to be a bright student. She won silver medals for excelling in different subjects. However, she was not able to finish her studies. She had to help her older sister in the latter’s business. Gregoria had to work so that she could help support her brothers and sisters.

Gregoria Meets Bonifacio
         When Gregoria was 18 years old, she met Andres Bonifacio in Binondo. Her marriage to Bonifacio led her to join the Katipunan.
The Katipunan was a secret society that Andres Bonifacio formed. Filipinos who wanted to fight for their country joined the Katipunan. The names of the members were kept secret because the government officials imprisoned the members who were discovered.

The Lakambini
          Gregoria de Jesus was called the Lakambini of the Katipunan. She kept important papers of the secret society. In August, 1896, the Katipuneros sounded the “Cry of Balintawak.” This was the start of the revolution, or fight, of the Filipinos to free themselves from the unjust rule of Spanish officials.

Gregoria’s Dangerous Life
          The life of Gregoria was now in danger. The secret police of the Spaniards learned that she was the wife of Andres Bonifacio. They tried to capture her. Gregoria gathered all the important papers of the Katipunan and fled. She often stayed in the homes of her friends.
          Sometimes Gregoria would learn that the police were looking for her nearby. Then she would get into a quiles, a vehicle drawn by a horse, and drive away as fast as the horse could run.
         At one time she stayed in the house of her sister-in-law, Esperidiona Bonifacio, in Clavel, San Nicolas. Gregoria was known there as Manuela Gonzaga. But she had to leave this place in order not to place her sister in danger.
         She followed her husband to the mountains. Andres Bonifacio fought with his brave men from province to province. In Cavite, however, he had fight with some soldiers and was killed. After the death of Bonifacio, Gregoria returned to her family.
        She settled down to a quiet life after having fought bravely side by side with her brave husband-hero, Andres Bonifacio. She married Julio Nakpil and settled a prosperous, comfortable living and died on March 15, 1943.

Leading Filipino Women: Josefa Abiertas

Josefa Abiertas
A Great Leader
(1894 - 1929)

          Josefa Abiertas was a famous woman leader. She worked to make her country a better place to live in. She tried hard to improve her community and the lives of people around her.

Josefa’s Early Education
        Josefa Abiertas was born sometimes in 1894 in Capiz. She and her brother became orphans when they were young. A kind aunt, Guillerma Aday, took care of her.
        Josefa studied in Capiz. She was always at the head of her class, for she was very bright. She was always reading good books. She finished her studies in the high school as the valedictorian.
Josefa then studied law in the Philippine Law School. After graduating, she took the examination for lawyers. She was the only woman in a big group of five hundred graduates. To the surprise of many people, she received the highest grade in the examination.

Josefa Improves The Community
        As a lawyer, Josefa worked day and night to improve the condition of the people and the place where she lived. She worked to have gambling places and dance halls closed. She did this so that there would be no places for men to go and throw away their money. She also joined a society whose work was to stop young people from taking alcoholic drinks.
        Josefa helped poor farmers. The poor farmers did not own any land. They planted land owned by rich people. Josefa protected their rights. She prevented landowners from cheating them.
Josefa was offered a position with a big salary in a factory. She refused the position because the workers there well not well treated. She said to the owner: “If you wish me to accept the position, you will have to treat your workers better.”

Josefa, the Leader
        Josefa was always the best in everything she tried. She could make a speech very well. When she finished law in the Philippine Law, she delivered a speech called “The New Age For Women.”     This speech is still recited today by students.
       Josefa became a leader in the movement to allow women to vote. She gave speeches in many places and talked about this right. She was able to convince people that women should be allowed to vote.
      Her active life was cut short by death. As a child she was sickly. Her continuous work affected her health. She contracted tuberculosis and died on Christmas Day in 1929.
      Today there is a welfare home named after her. This home is called the Josefa Abiertas House of Friendship.
      Josefa Abiertas will always be remembered as a woman leader who worked to improve the conditions in our country.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Olivia Salamanca

Olivia Salamanca
The Unselfish Doctor
(1889 – 1913)

          Olivia Salamanca was a doctor who studied and worked hard in order to cure people of tuberculosis. She made many lives better and happier because of her unselfish service to those around her.

Her Training For Her Work
         Olivia Salamanca was from San Roque, Cavite, where she was born on July 1, 1889. Her parents were well-educated, so Olivia grew up in a home where she could do much reading and studying. Her father, Jose Salamanca, was a pharmacist. He encouraged his daughter in her studies.
         In the Cavite High School, Olivia was brightest student. She won the admiration of her teachers. She was so bright that she was asked to continue her studies in America, with her expenses paid by government.
        She first enrolled in St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then she studied medicine and finished this course in the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.

The Tireless Doctor
        When she returned to the Philippines, Olivia at once started to cure people sick of tuberculosis. She was appointed secretary of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society in 1911.
        Olivia helped many sick people. She was pleasant and thoughtful with her patients. She always had a smile for them even in her busiest hours. Her parents often said that her smile alone cured them.
        This unselfish doctor worked so hard with her patients that she herself got sick. She contracted tuberculosis. She fought bravely to cure herself. Her parents sent her to Baguio hoping she would recover there. But it was a losing fight.
       On July 19, 1913, at the early age of 24, the young and tireless doctor died. She had sacrificed herself to make other people well.

Leading Filipino Women: Maria Carpena

Maria Carpena
The Singer
(1887 - 1915)

Maria Carpena was one of our early good singers. Her sweet voice brought happiness to many people. Read the story of how she overcame many difficulties to become a great singer.

Maria’s Childhood

Maria Carpena was born on the farm of her father, Camilo, in Santa Rosa, Laguna on January 13, 1887. Her mother, Maria Evangelista, was a very industrious woman. She took good care of her eleven children.

But Maria did not have a very happy childhood. Her father was very strict. He did not like Maria to sing, especially before other people. He wanted Maria to get a good education and stay at home.

After little Maria learned her caton, or alphabet, she entered the Santa Rosa College. She paid for her education by working for the Sisters. The Sisters were fond of her as she was industrious and could sing well. She learned to speak Spanish after six months.

Maria wanted to improve her voice. The parish priest of Laguna, who had often heard her sing, gave her singing lessons. Then he asked Maria’s father to let her sing in the church during the mass.

The people who went to church soon grew to love and admire her singing. Many visitors came from neighboring towns to hear her sing. Seeing her growing fame as a singer, her father permitted her to take higher singing lessons. Maria then studied under an Italian music teach named Capucci.

Maria Sings for the Public

During a visit to Malabon, once a territorial town in Rizal province, Maria attracted the attention of Don Severino Reyes, who was then director of a dramatic company. This company gave zarzuelas, or musical plays. Don Severino offered Maria a part in a zarzuela, which she gladly accepted.

Maria was soon singing in such plays as Walang Sugat (No Wound) and Minda Mora in the famous Zorilla Theater in Manila. People crowded to the theater to hear her sing. They also went on Sundays to the Luneta to hear her sing in the public concert given by the Philippine Constabulary Band.

Although busy in her career as a singer, Maria did not neglect her family life. She married Jose Alcantara and had four children to whom she was a good mother.

For many years, Maria continued to sing for the public. But at last her health broke down. On March 14, 1915, after several days of illness at the San Juan de Dios hospital, she died.

She died poor, but she left many beautiful memories behind her.One of her friends said this of her: “Maria Carpena is gone, but her works remain. Her beauty, her sweet nature, and her wonderful voice made her a famous artist. She became great although she met many difficulties.”

Maria Carpena deserves her place among famous Filipino women.

Leading Filipino Women: Fausta Labrador

Fausta Labrador
Helper of the Needy
(1858 - 1942)

            Fausta Labrador lived only to help other people. She did not want anything for herself. She taught the people of her province that anyone can help the needy if he or she was willing to serve others. The life of Fausta Labrador can be a good lesson to all of us

Fausta As A Child
        Fausta Labrador was born in Lucena, Quezon on December 19, 1858. Her father was Policarpio Labrador. Her mother, Nemesia Zarsadias, died when Fausta was very young.
       As a child Fausta always went to church to hear mass. After mass she stayed in the church for a long time. She was a thin and sickly child who often fell ill while studying.
       She studied in the Santa Rosa College when she was twenty years old. Afterwards she returned to Lucena. She was now very religious. When the priest saw that she went to church very often, he gave her some duties to perform. She opened the church very morning. She was also asked to toll the bell, to fix the candle lights, and take care of the church equipment.
       Fausta practiced what she prayed. She started a hospital for the poor. To get money for it, she went from house to house every day asking contributions.
      She helped other needy people. She comforted and advised unhappy wives left by their husbands. She asked husbands not to gamble and drink alcoholic drinks.
      In 1907, when Manuel L. Quezon was governor of the province, Fausta went to see him. She asked for permission to visit the prisoners at the provincial jail. “Why do you want to visit them?” asked Governor Quezon. “I would like to teach them how to pray,” she answered. “Fine! You can see them every day,” was the governor’s reply. Since then her name was often on the lips of many unfortunate people.

Hermana Fausta
       Fausta was always ready to call a priest to attend the dying or get a doctor for a sick person.
      She was affectionately called Hermana Fausta by the people of Lucena. They tell a story of how Hermana Fausta tried to call a doctor to attend a very sick person. The doctor was playing tennis and would not see a patient until his game was finished. When Hermana Uta called him, he asked, “Is he dying? Do I have to go to him right now?” Hermana Fausta answered, “If he is dying, what is the use of seeing him? You better not come at all.”
The doctor left his game and went with her at once.

A Rich Man Helps
       A rich Spaniard of Lucena learned about her work of helping people. This man, named Don Gregorio Merchan, gave Hermana Fausta and her sisters a house and a piece of land which she could use to help other people.
       Hermana Fausta turned this house into a school. She taught children and old people reading, writing, and counting. On Saturday she taught them religion. As payment for teaching them, she accepted only vegetables and fuel which were used in her school.
Later on she taught sacred history, good manners, grammar, and arithmetic. In 1912 she started teaching English.
       Her school was recognized by the government in 1912. It was given the name of Jesus Sacred Heart Academy. The pupils then paid fifty centavos a month. This school progressed from year to year until it included the intermediate grades and the high school.

Hermana Fausta Retires
      When Hermana Fausta reached the age of seventy-three she thought of retiring from work. But she wanted to be sure her school would be taken care of. So she asked the permission of the Bishop of Lucena to turn over the school to Sisters of Charity.
      Bishop Verzosa readily consented. He asked the help of some Sisters of Charity from Europe. They arrived and received the school from Hermana Fausta.
      The industrious and aged teacher now spent the rest of her days visiting the school. The children loved to watch for the visit of the kind, old lady in gray.
     When she died on September 14, 1942, the whole province of Tayabas (now the Quezon province) mourned. They had lost one of their greatest women. A part of Jesus Sacred Heart College has been named the Hermana Fausta Labrador Memorial Hall in honor of this great teacher.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Librada Avelino

Librada Avelino
Woman Educator
(1873 - 1934)

         Librada Avelino was a great teacher. She founded one of the first modern universities for women.The story of Maestra Librada tells about the struggles and tireless efforts of one woman to build a school of higher learning which would train girls for good citizenship and ideal womanhood.

The Young Teacher
        Librada Avelino was born in Pandacan, Manila on January 17, 1873. Her father was Don Pedro Avelino, a pharmacist, and her mother, Francisca Mangali.
        Librada loved to study even as a child. In the early days many children did not like to go to school. But Librada went to school gladly. As she was bright, she easily learned her lessons.
       Her first teacher, Maestra Luisa Bacho, was very proud of her intelligent pupil. One day the Governor-General visited Pandacan. He was told about Ada’s good memory. The governor asked her to solve problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. She solved all the problems without a mistake.
       Ada always dreamed of being a teacher. To prepare herself for this work, she entered a private school for girls. She next studied in the school of Dona Margarita Lopez, where she prepared for the examination given to teachers. Ada passed the examination.

Maestra Ada Opens A School
      Then Ada opened her own school in Pandacan. Her school soon became well-known in the district. Many parents sent their children to study in her school because she was a kind and patient teacher.
      One of these parents, however, was doubtful about Ada as a teacher. He was a Spanish named Don Fernandez. He brought his daughter Felisa to the school and there met Maestra Ada, who was a small woman.
“How small she is,” said Don Fernandez. “Is she the teacher?”he asked someone in the room within the hearing of Maestra Ada. She pretended not to hear. She at once took charge of Felisa and took her around the school. Felisa soon grew to love and respect Maestra Ada. She asked her father to let her two sisters study in the same school. He consented.

Maestra Ada Studies English
      Maestra Ada wanted to study further so that she could teach in the high school. So she entered the Assumption College.
      At this time her mother died. But her sorrow did not stop Ada from continuing her efforts to improve herself and her school. She built another school in San Sebastian, Manila. But this school was ordered closed because English was not taught there.
     Ada now took lessons in English. She learned it very quickly. She also studied at night. Then she went to Hong Kong to learn more of the language from the people there. When she returned to the Philippines, she was given a job in a public school by the American Superintendent, Mr. David Barrows.

Ada Builds A University
     Maestra Ada did not teach long in the public schools. She left in 1907 to build her great school, the Centro Escolar de Senoritas. It started in a small building in the heart of Manila. With the help of good friends like Don Fernando Salas, Carmen de Luna, and Margarita Oliva, she improved the school.
     She started the idea of making girls take active interest in the government. She accompanied her pupils in visits to government offices and officials.
     She believed that it was a good way to teach her students the duties of citizenship. Ada was among the first educators to teach girls to know and to practice the duties of citizens.
     The Centro Escolar soon became known for teaching practical lessons in citizenship. Students from far and near came to Manila to study in this school.
    While she was busy with her work as a teacher, Ada never forgot her duties as a loving daughter. Every Christmas season she visited her old father and gave him a bag of coins. It was the joy of her father to give away these coins on Christmas day.

The Great Educator
     During the last years of her life, Librada Avelino received many honors. The University of the Philippines honored her as a great educator. The newspapers wrote about her accomplishments. When she died on November 9, 1934, the country mourned the loss of a great woman educator who had served her country well.

Leading Filipino Women: Teresa Magbanua

Teresa Magbanua
Joan of Arc of the Visayas
(1871 - 1941)

            Teresa Magbanua was a teacher who fought in the Philippine Revolution.

Teresa’s Early Life
            Teresa Magbanua was born in Pototan, Iloilo on October 13, 1868. She was the second daughter of Juan Magbanua and Alejandria Ferariz.
            Teresa had a good education. She studied for seven years in the Saint Joseph’s College at Jaro, Iloilo. Then, in 1887, she went to Manila and entered the Santa Rosa College. Later, she went to Santa Catalina College to be trained as a teacher.

Teresa, the Teacher
            Teresa took the entrance examination for teachers as soon as she graduated from the Santa Catalina College. She passed the examination.
            For several years she taught in different towns in Iloilo. She won the praise of everyone, for she was a hardworking teacher. She was not fond of going to parties.
           When she married Alejandro Baldera she stopped teaching and lived on a farm. Here she learned how to use a pistol and ride a horse. This knowledge proved valuable to her when the Revolution broke out.

Teresa Joins The Revolution
           When the Philippine Revolution started in Luzon in 1896, the Visayan Islands joined the revolt. The whole island of Panay became a battlefield. The rebels were under the command of General Martin Delgado. His assistant was Teresa’s brother, Pascual Magbanua.
           Teresa joined the rebels. She was the first woman in Panay to fight for Philippine freedom. At first General Delgado did not want to let her join his army. “Our country needs women as well as men in our fight for liberty. Can I not fight even if I am a woman?” Teresa asked him. The General gave in and Teresa joined his army. She was a good leader, and the general soon gave her the command of a small army.

Teresa’s Battles
           Teresa’s first battle was fought in the barrio of Yating, Capiz. In the battle of Sap-ong on a mountain near Sara, her men were almost defeated. They had few weapons and very little food. But Teresa led her men so well that they won the battle.
           Then came the sad news of her brother’s death. He was killed in Negros Occidental. His death greatly saddened Teresa, but she kept on fighting.

Peace Returns
          The Revolution ended. In 1900, Panay joined the rest of the islands in accepting the new American government. Teresa returned with her husband to their farm and she lived the rest of her days in peace. She died in August 1947.
          But she had earned a place in the history of our country.

Leading Filipino Women: Praxedes Julia Fernandez 2

Praxedes Julia Fernandez
The Famous Actress

          Praxedes Julia Fernandez was a famous actress. Through her talents in drama and music, she made the Philippine better known in many countries.

Julia, the Young Actress
      Today there are many well-known actresses. Through the movies and the television, people come to know great actresses and enjoy their good acting.
      In 1871 there were yet no movies or television not even a radio. People acted and entertained the public on the stage of a theater. One of the early Filipino actresses was Praxedes Julia Fernandez.
      She was born in Manila on July 21, 1871. Julia or Yeyeng, as she was better known, loved to sing when she was a child. She liked to pretend she was one of the people in stories that she read. She was seven years old when she joined a dramatic company, Compania Infantil, directed by Francisco Avellana.
      Yeyeng was determined to become a great actress. She studied singing and dancing under good teachers. She danced very well the Spanish dances, such as the jota and the fandango. She performed these dances in carillas or public shows.

The Great Actress
      When she was nineteen, Yeyeng was given important parts in long and difficult plays. She acted her parts well in La Viuda Alegre, La Mascota, La Cara de Dios, El Conde de Luxemburgo, Marina and Anillo de Hierro. She soon won the title of “Queen of the Drama.” A song for the army was named after her. It was called Yeyeng March.

Yeyeng Goes to Spain
       In 1894, Julia married Ricardo Pastor Paredes, a professor in the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Iloilo. Soon after her marriage, she went to Spain with her husband. She continued to sing and act in many places in Spain.
      She won much praise in Spain. The newspapers praised her fine voice and her good acting. Later, she performed in other places, such as Macao and Hong Kong.
      Everywhere she went, she became known as a great actress. In this way, she won fame not only for herself but also for her country. She died on August 22, 1919, of cholera, and her remains were interred at the La Loma cemetery in Manila.

Leading Filipino Women: Praxedes Julia Fernandez 1

Praxedes Julia Fernandez
The Famous Actress
          Praxedes Julia Fernandez was a famous actress. Through her talents in drama and music, she made the Philippines better known in many countries.

Julia, the Young Actress
      Today there are many well-known actresses. Through the movies and the television, people come to know great actresses and enjoy their good acting.
      In 1871 there were yet no movies or television not even a radio. People acted and entertained the public on the stage of a theater. One of the early Filipino actresses was Praxedes Julia Fernandez.
      She was born in Manila on July 21, 1871. Julia or Yeyeng, as she was better known, loved to sing when she was a child. She liked to pretend she was one of the people in stories that she read. She was seven years old when she joined a dramatic company, Compania Infantil, directed by Francisco Avellana.
      Yeyeng was determined to become a great actress. She studied singing and dancing under good teachers. She danced very well the Spanish dances, such as the jota and the fandango. She performed these dances in carillas or public shows.

The Great Actress
      When she was nineteen, Yeyeng was given important parts in long and difficult plays. She acted her parts well in La Viuda Alegre, La Mascota, La Cara de Dios, El Conde de Luxemburgo, Marina and Anillo de Hierro. She soon won the title of “Queen of the Drama.” A song for the army was named after her. It was called Yeyeng March.

Yeyeng Goes to Spain
       In 1894, Julia married Ricardo Pastor Paredes, a professor in the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Iloilo. Soon after her marriage, she went to Spain with her husband. She continued to sing and act in many places in Spain.
      She won much praise in Spain. The newspapers praised her fine voice and her good acting. Later, she performed in other places, such as Macao and Hong Kong.
      Everywhere she went, she became known as a great actress. In this way, she won fame not only for herself but also for her country. She died on August 22, 1919.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Pelagia Mendoza

Pelagia Mendoza
Woman Sculptor
(1867 - 1939)

         Pelagia Mendoza was our first famous woman sculptor. As a sculptor, she made statues of people and figures of animals and other subjects out of clay, stone, and marbles. Together with her husband, Crispulo Zamora, she also started a business of medal-making. The business still exists today.

Pelagia as a Child
        On June 9, 1867 in the town of Pateros, Rizal, a girl was born who was to become a famous woman. She was Pelagia Mendoza. Her parents were Leoncio Mendoza and Evarista Gotianking, both of whom were of Chinese descent.
        Pelagia could draw and make statues while still very young. Her parents encouraged her in this. They sent her to study first in the Escuela Municipal in Intramuros, and afterwards in the School of Fine Arts. She studied drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Pelagia Wins A Contest
       In 1892 the Spanish government held a contest to celebrate the 400th year of Columbus’ discovery of America. The contest was to make the best statue of Columbus’ head. Pelagia won the first prize in the contest. The prize consisted of a gold medal called Cruz de Merito Civil and a diploma. Pelagia received her prize from Governor Despujol.

Pelagia Builds a Business
      In 1893 Pelagia married one of her classmates, Crispulo Zamora. Crispulo had a special talent for making beautiful medals. He was known as the “Platero de la Virgen del Rosario.” The couple decided to start a business of making religious medals and other ornaments.
     As they were thrifty and industrious, they were able to save money enough to improve their business. They bought machinery and built a modern factory. Their shop introduced the art of baked enameling in the country.

Pelagia as a Mother
     Pelagia was not only an excellent sculptor. She was also a good mother. She trained her children in the business built by her and her husband. Her children were also talented. One of them became a sculptor like her. The others built their own respective engraving shops for the making of medals and metallic ornaments. They carried on their mother’s artistic work in metal.
     Pelagia Mendoza’s chidren were the proof of her success as a mother and artist. She died on March 13, 1939.

Leading Filipino Women: Sister Asuncion Ventura

Sister Asuncion Ventura
Guardians of Orphans
(1853 – 1923)

          This is the story of Sister Asuncion Ventura. She built the Orphanage of San Vicente de Paul, a home for orphans. She devoted her life to helping the poor and the needy.

Cristina’s Youth
          Cristina was born on July 30, 1853 and was the fourth child of Honorio Ventura, a wealthy lawyer of Bacolor, Pampanga. He and his wife, Horcoma Cornelia Bautista, were deeply religious. It was but natural that Cristina should be a child that was quiet and very fond of praying.
         After Cristina entered La Concordia College, she told her parents about her wish to be a Sister of Charity. Her wealthy parents were against this wish.
         But her parents died soon afterwards. After their death, Cristina carried out her wish to be a Sister. She became a member of the Compania de Las Hijas de la Caridad. While she was waiting to become a Sister of Charity, she worked in a military hospital in Manila. She took on the name of Sister Asuncion when she was made a Sister of Charity in 1895.
        She now put into good use the money left by her parents. With the money, she built a home and school for orphans. It was called the Orphanage of San Vicente de Paul. This home was not only for orphans. It was also for children whose parents were very poor. All those admitted in the orphanage were given free food, clothes, shelter, and education up to the seventh grade.
        Sister Asuncion worked hard to make the orphanage a success. It was also known as the “Looban College.” One day the American Governor-General then, Cameron Forbes, visited it. He found Sister Asuncion in the kitchen preparing the food for the children.
        She told the governor about the needs of her orphanage. “We need more kitchen utensils and an ice box,” she said.
        “I will help your orphanage,” said Governor Forbes. “You are helping many poor people.” The governor kept his word. He asked the Philippine Legislature to pass a law giving some money to the orphanage. This was soon done.
        “The charitable acts of Sister Asuncion were many. Every month, she gave money to beggars. She helped people living far away, as those in China. She helped the Escuela Catolico de Paco, another school for poor children. She took care of her poor relatives and friends.
        She never rested in her work of mercy, and worked very hard even when she was already seventy years old.
       When she died on November 22, 1923, she left a will, or paper telling what should be done with her property. In her will she asked her niece, nephews, and other relatives to look after the orphanage. She wanted her work of helping the poor to be carried on after her death.

Leading Filipino Women: Trinidad Tecson

Trinidad Tecson
Mother of Biak Na Bato
(1848 – 1928)

         One of the bravest soldiers who fought in the Philippine Revolution was a woman. Besides fighting as a soldier, she organized groups of women to nurse the sick and the wounded. This brave woman was Trinidad Tecson. Her life was filled with fearless acts of service for her country.

Early Life
         The family of Rafael Tecson, a farmer, and his wife, Monica Perez, was a large one. They had sixteen children. One of these, born on November 18, 1848 in San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan was named Trinidad. She turned out to be the prettiest and brightest of the children. The mother tried to add to the family income by keeping a store.
          In the evening the father taught his sons and daughters how to read and write. After learning the alphabet, little Trining was sent to school. But she did not stay long in school. Her parents died leaving her and her brothers and sisters too young to care for themselves. Relatives took care of them until they grew up.

Trining and the Revolution
          In 1895 Trining Tecson joined the Katipunan. Members of the Katipunan were required to sign their names in their own blood. Trining signed hers in her blood.
          Just before the Revolution, Trining got some guns from the prison in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. She buried the guns under a bamboo tree. However, someone told the Spanish officials what she did. Spanish soldiers were sent to her home to arrest her and to get the guns. But Trining had run away to hide. The guns were never found by the Spanish soldiers.
          By this time the Revolution had begun. Trining joined the soldiers of General Llanera, and they attacked the town of San Miguel. Trining carried food to the soldiers.
          Once on her way to get food, Trining was almost captured by the Spanish soldiers. She pretended to be hit by their shots and threw herself on the ground. Then she crawled on the grass until she reached the tall bushes beside a brook. She hid for a while and escaped when the soldiers went away.

Trining in the Battlefield
          Trining dressed in men’s clothers when she fought in the battlefield. She wore a wide-brimmed hat. She fought like a man. She endured all the hardships on the battlefields. She was badly wounded in the battle if Zaragoza, where she fought under General Soliman. After her wound was a treated, she went back to fight again.
          Some of the battles in which she fought were those that took place in San Rafael, Dagupan, Malabon, Manila, San Isidro, Zaragoza, and San Ildefonso. She also fought under the command of General del Pilar. At one time she and her husband, Julian Alcantara, and two servants defended the entrance to the fort at Biak-Na-Bato. The Spaniards with a strong force tried to enter the fort. Trining and her small group of defenders beat them off.

The “Mother of Biak-na-Bato”
          Then Trining turned to more valuable work for the soldiers. She gave up fighting. Instead, she organized groups of women to nurse wounded and sick soldiers of the Filipino army.
          The sick soldiers called her Ina ng Biak-Na-Bato, or “Mother of Biak-Na-Bato,” because she nursed them back to health. Biak- Na- Bato or Halved Stone in translation is a cave in Bulacan which is a military base camp of the Filipino soldiers during the revolution against Spain in 1897 but became a seat of revolutionary government of the first republic of President Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines.
          Trinidad Tecson may be said to be the first person to start Red Cross work in the Philipines. Her services to the soldiers of the Revolution were appreciated by General Aguinaldo. He said of her: “Trinidad Tecson of San Miguel helped the Revolutionists very much. Her work in caring for the sick during the years 1896-1897 was a great service. It was because of her work that she won the title: “Ina ng Biak-Na-Bato.”
          Trining’s group of nurses extended their work to the Ilocos and souther provinces. After the war, her nursing work was recognized by the American Red Cross. They gave her credit for starting Red Cross work in the Philippines.
         When Trinidad Tecson died on January 28, 1928, she was honored for her Red Cross work. As a recognition of her service during the Revolution .and of her bravery as a soldier, she was buried in the Veterans’ Tomb in the Manila North Cemetery.
         Today, the remains of Trinidad Tecson lie side by side those of other heroes of our country.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Leona Florentino

Leona Florentino
The Great Ilocana Poetess
(1849 – 1884)

       Leona Florentino was a great Filipino poetess. Her writings were known and praised not only in the Philipines but also in Europe.

Leona’s Parents
       In Vigan, Ilocos, Sur stands a simple statue. This statue was built in honor of the great Ilocano poetess, Leona Florentino.
Leona was born on April 19, 1849 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Her father, Don Marcelino Florentino, was the richest man in the Ilocos province in those days. Her mother, Isabel, also came from a wealthy family. Leona and Jose Rizal were distant cousins. Rizal’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Felix Florentino, was a cousin of Leona’s father.
       Leona had many brothers and sisters. They were all brought up in a strict manner by their mother. She punished them by whipping when it was necessary. She did not believe in letting her children grow up doing nothing. She taught them to work and often told them that work was good for children.

Leona’s Education
       Leona was a very bright girl. Her mother taught her to read. Leona wrote her first poem before she was ten.
Leona, however, was not allowed to study in higher schools although her parents were rich. In those days it was not necessary for girls to be highly educated. So Leona did not go to college.
       But Leona studied by herself. She learned to speak English from Father Evaristo Abaya, the parish priest of Vigan. Father Abaya encouraged her to go on writing poems.

Leona’s Poems
This is one of her poems written in her native dialect, Ilocano:


Essem quen yamanco
Diac mayebcas
No addaca laeng a sicacoes
ti salum-at
Naipangena itoy aldao a
ingret gasat
a pannag casangay mo
cas umis-urayco a

        The poem was written for Emilia, one of Leona’s friends, on her birthday. It expressed Leona’s good wishes. In English, it says: “I cannot describe my joy and thankfulness in finding you in good health, especially on this day, your birthday. I have been waiting for it for a long time.”
        Leona Florentino wrote not only poems but also plays. Her works were admired not only in the Philippines but also in Europe.
Some of her poems were shown at an International Exposition in 1887. A big library in Paris contains some of her works. But most of her poems were lost during the Revolution. Only a few of them have been saved.
       This great poetess wrote on many subjects. She wrote about love, good conduct, and religion.
       She wrote about the people around her whom she loved. Leona’s poems and plays described the life of the people in the Ilocos provinces. She praised what was good. She criticized what was bad.
      Among her great poems are To A Young Woman On Her Birthday, Castora Benigna, and Leon XIII.
      According to Eulogio B. Rodriguez, a former Director of the Bureau of Public Libraries, Leona Florentino was the greatest Filipino poetess of her time. She died on October 4, 1884.

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Leading Filipino Women: Teodora Alonzo

Teodora Alonzo
Mother Of Our National Hero, Jose Rizal

       Teodora Alonzo was the mother of Jose Rizal, the greatest hero of our country. Rizal owed his early education, his character training, and love for truth and liberty to his talented and industrious mother. Teodora Alonzo was well fitted to be the mother of a hero.

Teodora’s Childhood
     Teodora Alonzo came from a well-to-do and educated family. Her parents were Captain Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo and Brigida de Quintos. Teodora, like the rest of her sisters and brothers, was born in Manila. They grew up in a pleasant, orderly home where industry and kind acts were the rule.
    When Teodora was a little girl, the Alonzo family moved to Calamba, Laguna. Her mother taught her the alphabet and how to read from the cartilla and the caton. Then Teodora entered the Santa Rosa College, a school in Manila for girls. At this school, the girls studied Spanish, religion, and ways of keeping the home.
Teodora was very talented. While still a student, she wrote poems and translated Spanish stories into Tagalog.

Teodora’s Marriage
     Teodora was to make use of her talents in later life. She married Francisco Mercado of Calamba. They had eleven children. One of them was Jose – the future hero. When the children were older, the family’s name was changed to Rizal.
     Dona Teodora devoted her life to the education of her children. She taught them how to read. She taught them their prayers, and good manners. She told them stories which had good lessons.
The most interested listener was her son Jose. One of her stories that Jose never grew tired of hearing was the story of the foolish moth and the bright lamp. The little moth was attracted by the light and flew around the lamp. Its mother told the little moth not to go near the light. The little moth did not listen to its mother. It went close to the light and was burned to death.
     Jose never forgot this story. When he was a grownup man, he wrote; “The story showed me things I had not known before. Moths were no longer insignificant insects. Moths talked, they knew how to advise, just like my mother.”

Mother of a Hero
     Dona Teodora helped her husband manage their farm. She worked hard and saved in order to be able to send her children to school in Manila and in other countries. She soon realized how bright Jose was.
      She taught him how to write poems. To his mother, Jose showed the poems and the stories he wrote. When he was five years old, he wrote a play that pleased the Capitan del Pueblo, or mayor of the town. For his play, little Jose was given a prize of two pesos. He went to school in Binang, Laguna. Later he studied in Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas.
      Dona Teodora continued to save money so that Rizal could go to Europe to continue his studies.

Dona Teodora’s Sufferings
      While Rizal was away, Dona Teodora was accused of a crime she did not do. She was sent to prison. While in prison her eyes contracted a disease. She almost became blind. Later on Rizal, who had now become a doctor, cured her eyes. He operated on her eyes and helped her to see again.
       During this time Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere, his famous book attacking unjust Spanish officials. Because of this book, the officials considered him an enemy of Spain. All his relatives were suspected of being against the Spaniards. His mother was often in danger of being thrown into prison again. So were his sisters and brothers.
       Her friends advised Dona Teodora to go away and hide from the Spaniards. She refused to go away. “I will stay here,” she said bravely. “I will not run away because I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice.”
       Like his mother, Rizal did not run away when he was accused of being an enemy of the government. He was arrested, but his enemies gave him a false trial. He was sentenced to death, and on December 30, 1896, he was shot on Luneta, in Manila.
      Dona Teodora lived through that awful day, and for many years afterwards. She had the comfort of seeing her son recognized as a great hero. The Philippine government offered her a life pension, but she refused it.She said, “No, I cannot accept the money. I do not want to be paid for what Rizal did for his country.”
     When Dona Teodora died at the age of 85, the government had her remains lay in state for several days at the Marble Hall, the principal government building then. Many people attended her funeral as their last act of respect to the mother of the greatest Filipino hero.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Melchora Aquino

Melchora Aquino
Mother of the Revolution

        Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora, is known in Philippine history as the “Mother of the Philippine Revolution.” This revolution was the successful fight of the Filipinos to win their freedom from Spain. It started in 1896 and ended in 1898. During the Philippine Revolution Melchora Aquino gave help to many Filipino soldiers.

Tandang Sora
      Melchora Aquino was born on January 7, 1811 to a hardworking couple Juan Aquino and Valentina Hanule and they live in the little barrio of Pasong Tamo in Balintawak, north of Manila. She kept a little store by which she supported herself. She was already 85 years old in 1896, the year when she started on her great work. She was, however, far from weak and helpless. In fact, at this age she was a vigorous, industrious old woman. She tended her store and helped her neighbors. The poor around her often got many things from her store without paying for them. Her neighbors affectionately called her Tandang Sora.
       The year 1896 was a troubled year for the Philippines. The Filipinos could no longer endure that unjust government of Spanish officials and were ready to revolt or overthrow the government. Many Filipinos led by Andres Bonifacio had formed a secret society called the Katipunan, whose purpose was to make plans for the revolt.

Cry of Balintawak
       The Katipuneros, or members of the Katipunan, had their meetings in Pasong Tamo, in a house near the store of Tandang Sora. Then the Katipunan was discovered by the Spanish government officials. The officials sent the Guardia Civil, or government soldiers, to arrest the Katipuneros. However, someone was able to warn the Katipuneros, who were having a meeting in Pasong Tamo.
       The Katipuneros broke up their meeting. But they did not have much time to run away because the Guardia Civil were almost upon them. Some of the Katipuneros ran through the back fence and escaped. The others ran to the store of Tandang Sora.
“Please hide us Tandang Sora,” the Katipuneros cried. “If we get caught, we shall not be able to continue our fight for freedom.”
Tandang Sora at once took the Katipuneros to her bodega. She covered them with rice sacks and told them to hide behind her big jars. The Guardia Civil did not find them.
      Then the famous “Cry of Balintawak” was sounded by Andres Bonifacio. The Filipinos had decided to fight. The Revolution was on! Then Tandang Sora was a busy woman, day and night.

Tandang Sora’s Heroic Acts
      Often after dark, wounded soldiers would knock on her door. She took them in and nursed them until they got well. Sometimes the soldiers were hungry, dirty, and ragged. She fed them and gave them clothes and money. Some of the soldiers were often discouraged. They wanted to stop fighting. Tandang Sora cheered them.
      The Spanish officials soon heard of the brave and kind old woman who was helping the Katipuneros. Government soldiers were sent to arrest her.

Her Exile
      Tandang Sora was caught. She was sentenced to prison and kept at the Bilibid Prison for a while. Then after another trial she was sent to the Marianas Islands. These islands are far away in the Pacific Ocean. She was exiled there with other Filipinos who had fought for their country.
     Meanwhile her countrymen continued their fight. The Americans arrived in the Philippines and got the islands from Spain. The Americans set free all the exiles in the Marianas Islands. Among them was Tandang Sora.

Her Last Years
     Tandang Sora came back poor and homeless. But she was not discouraged. She looked for work and lived many more years. When she died on March 2, 1919 at the ripe age of 108, she ended a useful life to be proud of and worthy of being followed by others.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leading Filipino Women: Margarita Roxas

Margarita Roxas
Friend of the Poor
(1826 - 1869)

       Maria Margarita Roxas was the daughter of a rich man. She used her father’s wealth to help the poor. She was one of our first philanthropists. Philanthropists are rich persons who give some of their money to hospitals, schools, and orphanages and for other charitable work. They are kind-hearted and unselfish people.

Margarita Learns About Kindness
      A child who has kind and thoughtful parents is lucky. Such a child is surrounded by kindness that can teach him or her how to be good and kind. Margarita Roxas was more than lucky. She had rich parents who were also kind and thoughtful of others.
     Margarita’s father was Don Domingo Roxas, a rich businessman. Her mother was Maria Saturnina Ubaldo. Margarita grew up in San Miguel, Manila, where she was born on July 29, 1826. She saw how her father helped the poor. Many of these poor persons worked for Don Domingo.
     Even when she was a child, Margarita helped her father in his work for the poor. Don Domingo often told her, “I wish we could do more for the poor. I wish we could help improve the way they live.”
     Don Domingo also taught Margarita how to run his business. “If you have plenty of money,” he said, “you can give more help to people around you.”
     Margarita learned her father’s business well. It was good that she did, for the kind ideas of her father did not please the officials of the government. They accused Don Domingo of helping the poor so that these people would become discontented and ask help from others. The officials of the government forced Don Domingo to go to Spain and stay there.
    “Don’t worry, Father,” said the young Margarita as her father left for Spain. “I know how to run your business now. I know, too, how to help the poor.”
     To fit herself for her great work, Margarita first travelled in Europe. She saw how the poor, the old and the orphaned were taken care of in the countries in Europe. She gained much knowledge of how to help poor people.

Helping the Poor
    When she returned to the Philippines, she opened a coal mine in Cebu. She gave work to poor people at the mine. It was one of the first coal mines in the country. But the mine soon closed, because the coal obtained from it was of poor quality.
    Margarita did not become discouraged. She next built a factory which later became the San Miguel Brewery. This factory in Manila still stands today, employing thousands of people.

A Free Ward at the Hospital
     How to help the poor receive free medical care was Margarita’s next project. One of the biggest hospitals in Manila was the San Juan de Dios Hospital. Only well-to-do people could stay in hospitals then. The poor could not, because they had no money to pay the doctor or for the medicine and the cost of staying in the hospital.
     So Margarita Roxas gave the San Juan de Dios Hospital enough money so that one of its wards would be a free ward. In the free ward, sick people were admitted and treated without charge. Many poor people who were sick entered the hospital. Some could not be admitted as there was no more room for them.
     The kindhearted Margarita next thought of setting up a charity bazaar to raise money for the hospital. The bazaar was a fair where goods were sold to rich people. The fair was successful. It raised P29,000 pesos for the hospital. The beds in the free ward were increased and more poor people were admitted to the hospital.

A School for Girls
     Margarita next thought of helping orphans or children without parents, and the old and insane. She contributed money to the Hospicio Real de San Jose, which took care of these people.
But giving money and setting up hospitals would not end the sufferings of poor people. So Margarita decided on another way to help them. She believed that the poor should be given a chance to have an education. There should be schools for them. Margarita planned to build first a school for girls. If girls were educated, they could help make better homes for their parents. In this way the life of the people would be improved.
     She wrote to some Sisters of Charity in Spain. She told them that she was planning to build a school for girls. She asked the Sisters to run the school. She offered to pay their expenses from Spain to Manila.
    The Sisters arrived and set up a school in a beautiful building in Sta. Ana, Manila. The school was named La Concordia College. This school still stands today, a monument to the great heart of a generous lady.
   Margarita Roxas did not live long. Her many activities for the poor made her health break down. When she died at the age of 43 on November 1, 1869, the whole country mourned. A faithful and tireless friend of the poor had passed away.

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