Do names like Trinidad Tecson or Agueda Kahabagan ring a bell? How about Teresa Magbanua or Kumander Liwayway? If you aren’t familiar with these names, you’re not alone. Because history has been documented by mostly the male hero counterparts, there are only a few materials and references on women heroes. Because M2.0 Communications believe in women’s capability to become heroes in their own way and we are lucky to have lots of brave women on our team, we’re creating this article on the most courageous ones from history.
As we celebrate National heroes day, this rundown is a tribute to all our women heroes!
Women in Filipino Society
During the colonial era, the Filipino’s views on gender equality have been altered by western influences, which is patriarchal. It is only after the revolution that women’s role as equal to men has slowly been accepted by society.
When in fact the pre-colonial history of the Philippines tells us that women are seen and viewed as equal to men.
The Malakas-Maganda myth (which should be rightly corrected as Sicalac and Sicavay) tells that woman did not come from man, but both sprung into life simultaneously. This myth is replete with evidences that our culture venerates womanhood and treats the women as no better or worse than men.Moreover, in pre-hispanic society, the role of leading the people in spiritual practices is only assigned to women. Like the male datu who leads the Barangay in economic and military pursuit, the woman Babaylan or Catalonan leads the people in rituals. It is the woman who is given the important role of healing the sick and blessing the warriors who would go to raids and wars. The Visayan Binucot (cloistered princess) on the other hand, is considered her family’s treasure based on epics , tales and folklores.
However, during the Spanish colonial era, women’s role has been confined to the home and child rearing. These 6 Filipino women have not allowed society’s stereotype to get in the way in their role to nation building and liberating the Filipinos from Spanish, American and Japanese occupation.
6 Great Filipina Heroes We All Should Remember
1. Teresa Magbanua (October 13, 1863 - August 1947)
Often called the Visayan Joan d’Arc, Teresa Magbanua is the heroine who fought the longest for the independence of the Philippines. She’s one of the few Filipinos who actively carried out the struggle for independence against the Spanish and American colonization, as well as the Japanese occupation. Adding to her achievement is the fact that she is the only Visayan woman who is an expert marksman, equestrian and one who led a battalion during the fight for independence against Spain.
Teresa Magbanua was originally trained as a Maestra (Educator) from the pontifical University of Sto. Tomas. Later on, she volunteered to fight alongside her two brothers and uncle, General Perfecto Poblador, in the Philippine revolution. She led a troop of abled men in numerous battles including the battle of Sap-ong Sara, and the battle of Balantang where 400 Americans were killed. Then later during the Japanese Occupation, she still remained a champion for independence: giving her material possession to the resistance movement.
Learn more about her life here.
2. Remedios Paraiso-Gomez (1919 - 2014)
She's most loved for being the Filipina commander who never forgets to wear red lipstick when heading to a battle. Remedios Paraiso-Gomez or “Kumander Liwayway” as she’s fondly called is one of the highest ranking Huk during the Japanese occupation. In a 2009 book about her life, the author related an instance when her troops were stunned to see her well dressed and all made up with a bright red lipstick. For Ka Liwayway, it was her way of standing up for herself: “One of the things I am fighting for in the Huk movement is the right to be myself,” she told her comrades.
Her father's death in the hands of Japanese spurred young Remedios to join the Huk movement in 1942 when she was only 22 years old. In her 3 years of service for the liberation of the Philippines against the Japanese, she commanded troops in battles across provinces of Northern Luzon. Her military division was also tasked to mop up remaining Japanese army after the liberation.
3. Patrocinio Gamboa y Villareal (April 30, 1865 - November 1953)
Patrocinio Gamboa y Villareal, the woman behind the first Philippine flag raising in the Visayas, was one of the most important female revolutionaries in the 19th century. Like her female comrades in the revolution, she became a spy and held a position that can be compared to a chief military infiltration specialist. She was the one who made a copy of the Philippine flag and smuggled it in order to be unfurled in Sta. Barbara Ilo-ilo on November 17, 1898.
During the revolution, Spanish troops were patrolling the barrios. Only woman like her, from an affluent family, educated and seemingly docile, could move freely. She leveraged the privilege to supply food, medicine, arms and ammunition to revolutionary troops. She exemplified a heroic act when she was also the only one who courageously crossed a Spanish troop checkpoint to smuggle the Philippine flag, which she hid under her camisa. She also carried Aguinaldo's saber across the enemy line in order to give it to the commanding General of the revolution in Iloilo.
4. Maria Rosa Luna Henson (December 5 1927– August 18 1997)
If not for Maria Rosa Luna Henson, or Lola Rosa, the horrific story of Filipina comfort women during the Japanese occupation could have been forgotten in history. It was in 1992 when she broke a 5-decade silence about the grim and dark experience she had as a prisoner of the Japanese. In her testimony, she recalled her gruesome fate as a comfort woman. Lola Rosa revealed that everyday, for a period of nine months, she was raped by lines of Japanese army.
She also recalled that before her 9 months of ordeal, she was an active supporter and member of the Hukbalahap movement. However in that fateful day when she was transporting arms for the Huks, Japanese soldiers intercepted their cart. She was imprisoned and was added to a number of Filipina women who were forcibly raped by the Japanese.
She never forgot her experience. And in an interview she said, “I learned to remember everything, to remember always, so that I will not go mad...I am telling my story so that they [Japanese perpetrators] will feel humiliated.''
After she broke her silence, hundreds of Filipinas who experienced the same agony during the war surfaced to speak up and pursue a class action lawsuit against the Japanese government.
5. Agueda Kahabagan
Like Teresa Magbanua, Aguada Kahabagan is one of the courageous revolutionaries who fought with rifles and bolo against the Spanish forces during the revolution. Not only that, she earned the name “Henerala” for she was the first and only Filipina conferred with the rank of General during the period. Before her promotion to the Generalship, she led a detachment that fought side by side with Gen. Artemio Ricarte.
One of her early military successes was in the battle of San Pablo garrison in 1897. Two years later, she fought against the Americans, this time along with Gen Pio del Pilar. It is through Gen. del Pilar’s letter of recommendation to the Secretary of War that she was promoted to the rank of General on January 4, 1899 amidst the Philippine American War.
6. Trinidad Tecson (November 18, 1848 - January 28, 1928)
She was cited as the “Mother of Biac na Bato” for taking care of injured katipuneros in the Biak na Bato headquarters of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. But far from taking care of the sick and the bloodied soldiers, she fought alongside fighting men of the Katipunan at an advanced age of 47. She’s been to tens of battles in central Luzon including an ambush in a Spanish-held courthouse in Caloocan in order to seize arms and ammunition. She again victoriously did this heroic act in San Isidro Nueva Ecija, where she and her troop defeated jail guards in order to steal guns.
It would take tens of pages to list down all the significant contributions of the Filipinas for the Philippine independence and in uplifting the Filipino spirit.
Feel free to let us know about the unsung Filipina heroes that we all should remember and take inspiration from.
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"Maria Rosa Luna Henson: Woman of Courage" by Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
"Teresa Magbanua Woman Warrior" by Ma Cecilia Locsin-Nava
“Our Founding Mothers: Lest We Forget” by Quennie Ann J. Palafox
Women in Revolution by Ma. Luisa Camagay
Philippine Heroines of the Revolution:"Maria Clara they were not" by Robert L. Yoder