CLUTCH Vol. 5: Fight Like a Girl


Gabriela Silang by Francisco Coching

As far back as I can remember, my first childhood female role models were the Spice Girls, Sailor Moon and her legendary team of sailor scout warriors, the cast of Charlie’s Angels (2000) and several notable hip-hop and R&B artists like Aaliyah, Ashanti and JLo.

Moreover, I can confidently say that I grew up surrounded by women who were very forward, very driven and strongly principled. I learned a great deal from the confederation of lolas, titas, nanays and atehs in my family.

Growing up I never gave much thought to the power differences between genders. I never felt that I was any less capable or less worthy than a boy. As I grew older, I became more keenly aware of the realities of the social inequalities that existed between men and women, and the plausible disadvantages I would face as a minority woman living in Canada. I became curious about the contributions of Filipino women in history, but in my own research I was disappointed by a lack of information available on the history of Filipino women.

I was immensely grateful to take part in this week’s Lecture and Workshop on the History and Current Conditions of Philippine Women with Mithi Esguerra. Mithi introduced us to many prolific women such as Josefa Gabriela Silang, the wife of Diego Silang who led her husband’s army into battle after his passing. We learned about Katipuneros such as Josefa Rizal, Gregoria de Jesus, Marina Dizon and Angelica Rizal Lopez; Teresa Magbanua, a military strategist who outfought Spanish legions in 1898 and supported guerrilla movements against Japanese forces during WWII. We also learned about the women of the Hukbalahap movement such as Felipa Culala and Remedios Gomez; guerrillas who fought against Japanese armies.

These women challenged traditional ideologies of gender roles. Learning about the accomplishments of Filipino women throughout history inspired great pride in myself, but it was evident that the current social conditions for Filipino women are precarious. Progress towards equality is a slow process, but as long as we are conscious of the struggles of women who preceded us, and act in a manner that would honour them and actively work to create change, we are making some advances. I am grateful for the accomplishments of these women, I now have more examples of great women to look up to (including my fellow Clutch army girls). I’m sure the Spice Girls would be proud.