December 8, 2022

When asked to name Filipino heroines,three come to mind: Gabriela Silang, Melchora “Tandang Sora” Aquino, and the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Gabriela is perhaps the most well-known among all the Filipino heroines. She was a fearless Ilocana warrior who became commander of rebel troops after her husband Diego’s assassination in 1763.
While in refuge in Tayum, Abra Gabriela appointed her first two generals, Miguel Flores and Tagabuen Infiel. Her popular image as the bolo-wielding La Generala on horseback stems from this period.
On Sept. 10, 1763, Gabriela attempted to besiege Vigan but the Spanish retaliated forcing her into hiding. She retreated once more to Abra, where the Spanish later captured her. On Sept. 20, 1763, she and her troops were executed by hanging in Vigan’s central plaza. She is remembered as the “Joan of Arc of Ilocandia” for her courage in fighting for the independence of Ilocos.
More than just a barangay and a road in Quezon City or a street in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., Tandang Sora, who is now known as the “Mother of the Revolution” and “Mother of Balintawak,” was a widow who managed the farm left by her husband while raising her six children. She risked her life by providing food and nursed wounded Katipuneros.
Her bravery was best displayed after she was arrested by Spanish authorities, who subjected her to grueling interrogations in hopes that she would reveal the location of the Katipunan hideout. She refused to give in and was deported to Guam under the decree of Governor General Ramon Blanco.
After the U.S. took control of the Philippines in 1898, Tandang Sora returned to the Philippines in 1903. She died at her daughter Saturnina’s house in Banlat on Feb. 19, 1919 at the age of 107.
One influential Filipina was the late Santiago. She was the first Filipino named judge of the International Criminal Court. She was also the first female editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, the University of the Philippines student publication. Many revere her for her intelligence and courage in fighting corruption in the country and served all three branches of the Philippine government: judicial, executive, and legislative.
From March 1 to March 31, the country will celebrate National Women’s Month which highlights the gains achieved for women and girls, assess actions towards gender equality and look forward to steps that must be taken to ensure progress in empowering women.
With the country still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, studies show that the health crisis stalled movements towards gender equality, worsened inequality further exposing gender gaps, and exacerbated vulnerabilities in social and political, and economic aspects.
The Philippine Commission on Women calls on government agencies and stakeholders to celebrate the gains and be proactive in preventing backsliding from what we have achieved in gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also serves as an opportune time to give Juana’s the power to lay down the blueprint for future leaders regarding essential gender issues that demand immediate attention and solution.
To cap our six-year theme “We make change work for women,” this year’s will focus on the sub-theme: Agenda ng kababaihan, tungo sa kaunlaran. It will be a celebration of women exercising their choices, taking chances to make their voices heard, and benefitting from and trailblazing changes. It is a celebration of Filipino women’s power to take the narrative, raise priority issues that matter to them, and call for concrete actions.
On International Women’s Day on March 8, all women deserve to be celebrated for their extraordinary contributions to society, remarkable triumphs and unmatched fearlessness. Despite gender inequalities across all sectors, women continue to thrive and beat the odds.