A Prologue to the 2005 Centenary of Philippine Feminism: For Consideration of Educational Institutions

Manila Bulletin, November 14, 2004 | Go to article overview

A Prologue to the 2005 Centenary of Philippine Feminism: For Consideration of Educational Institutions


ONE hundred years of discovering, shaping and empowering Philippine Feminism. One hundred years of sharing, contributing, and participating in Philippine development thrusts, regional initiatives and international perspectives, above all, one hundred years of defining and actualizing what is unique and truly Filipino in Philippine Feminism; it is time to take stock of where we are now at present.

Amidst the flurry of the "breaking out" and "breaking out again" in Feminist ontology and epistomology (Liz Stanley and Sue Wise 1993); The Diplomacy of the Oppressed, New Directions in International Feminism (Georgina Ashworth et. al 1995); and Radical Feminism Today (Denise Thompson 2001), the recent views from the Roman Catholic Pontiff in Rome, notwithstanding, this prologue to the 2005 Centenary of Philippine Feminism aims to look into the uniqueness of Philippine Feminism from a historical and socio-cultural perspective and the current thrusts of where the movement may find a unique course to pursue, primarily as empowered women without getting bogged down in the popular pre-occupation on Feminist praxis, Marxist Feminism, Marxist centered feminism nor ideologies of domination and dichotomies of definitions. It is my assumption that Philippine Feminism has the uniqueness to show how herstory and empowerment do make a difference in approach, strategy, governance and general patrimony of a people and a country.

The uniqueness of Philippine Feminism may be rooted in the historical fact that "the Filipino woman of pre-Spanish times was her brothers equal in the home, in society, in government. She could hold positions of honor and prestige like him; born to a ruling family, she could succeed to her fathers rule; born to less, she still had as much as her brothers might inherit; her dignity as an individual was recognized, before and after marriage; her rights to her own property were upheld, even after her marriage; she could divorce her husband for cause; her judgment was heeded; her person was respected" (Tarrosa Subido, 1955)

Therefore, historically the Filipino women were free from restrictions, domination, and practices unlike women from other parts of the world. PreSpanish Filipino women had no repression to revolt against or limitations to free themselves from. Their position was revered by men and society, until the advent of codification and formalization of well-intentioned policies, rules, and regulations governing political, civil, economic state of affairs by western colonizers which perhaps unintentionally limited the Filipino womens rights and privileges, e.g. interalia, the right to vote, the right to hold office, equal pay for equal work, equal dignity in the conjugal partnership, favorable working conditions by reasons of sex (Ibid)

Thus came in prominently the Philippine Feminists movement when the Filipino women took on Social Welfare work until they gained government recognition and went from social welfare to government projects, into the suffrage movement, Paraphernal Property Law the new Civil Code all of which laid the foundation for a Philippine society sympathetic to revisions and amendments upholding the dignity of Filipino women and recognizing their capabilities to contribute to national development goals. Brought about by emerging social forces, the Philippine Feminism movement catalyzed legislation to protect abused and battered women.

Subido noted in her book to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Feminist movement in the Philippines in 1955, as a whole the men of the Philippines have been sympathetic to the cause of the Philippine Feminist movement and have supported their triumphs gallantly.

At the dawn of the Centenary of the Philippine Feminist movement in 2005, the Filipino women have gone a long meaningful way nationally and internationally as empowered women seeking to make a contribution towards a better world for everyone, men and women alike.

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