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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.

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