In connection with International Women’s Day 2021, Cebu-based Sun Star publication highlighted five influential Filipinas it said “did not only make the Philippines and their fellow Filipinos proud but also empowered women all over the world,” namely: 1) Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray; 2) The late “Iron Lady of Asia “Miriam Defensor Santiago; 3) Internationally renowned Broadway performer Lea Salonga; 4) Angeline Tham, founder of the motorcycle taxi service Angkas; and 5) Filipina actress Angel Locsin, who was named one of Forbes magazine’s “Asian Heroes of Philanthropy” in 2019. So, okay, some have this global connotation appended to their descriptions. Yet limiting itself to such a meager list seems a disservice to the many other Filipino women worthy of the accolade. How about the achievements of other modern-day Filipina achievers such as the late Corazon Aquino, Pia Wurtzbach, Maria Ressa, Charice Pempengco, Sharon Cuneta, Regine Velasquez, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Charo Santos-Concio, Monique Lhuillier, Loren Legarda, Kuh Ledesma, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Laila Delima, to name just a few.
The country’s original suffragist, Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, also deserves credit as well as our women heroes like Gabriela Silang, who took the place of her husband, Diego, after the Katipunan leader was killed fighting against Spanish occupiers; Melchora Aquino, the Tandang Sora who looked after Andres Bonifacio and the other Katipuneros; Teresa Magbanua, the Visayan Joan of Arc who had seen battles against three periods of invaders: the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese. There are also the Filipinas profiled by Rappler: Encarnacion Alzona, the pioneering Filipina with a doctoral degree, a national scientist, historian, Rizalist, and also a feminist; Paz Marquez-Benitez, a co-founder of the Philippine Women’s University; Trinidad Tecson, a revolutionary fighter who is also considered the Mother of Biak-na-Bato and the Philippine Red Cross; Maria Orosa, an inventor and guerilla fighter; Agueda Kahabagan, the only female general of both the Katipunan and American eras; Magdalena Leones, an intelligence officer for the U.S. Forces during WW2 and the only Asian female to receive the Silver Star Medal; and Remedios Gomez-Paraiso aka Kumander Liwayway not only responsible for caring the sick but also a fearless warrior who led troops to many victories against the Japanese invaders.
But for the China virus, feminists all over the world would have taken to the streets as a show of strength during International Women’s Day. In the U.S. March is also Women’s History Month and for the duration the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. Elsewhere, events are also virtual such as the Women’s Private Equity Summit and the International Women’s Day Global Virtual Summit both held in the U.S. on March 10. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) has scheduled a Women Building Bridges virtual forum with California’s women political and civic leaders on March 12. In the Philippines, they had a Press for Progress Sports Symposium in Makati. However, Gabriela is not a group easily intimidated such that even amid a pandemic hundreds rallied in Manila on Monday airing their anti-establishment protests. In 2018 Vice President Leni Robredo wrote in her Facebook account: “Doors are opening up for us everywhere. In government and non-profits, in media and publication, in the academe and in the world of business: women trailblazers are celebrated, as well as stay-at-home mothers. Filipinas continue to enjoy more civil liberties than most women around the world, and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men at home and in our place of work.” However, about two weeks ago Michael de Guzman of Philstar, quoting as source the World Bank, reported that “The Philippines has failed to improve in giving women equal economic opportunities.” The report added that this country scored 78.8 out of 100 on the WBL 2021 index, lower than its 81.3 average score in the previous year regarding women’s economic opportunity.