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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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