The Filipinas of history you need to know about

Art and Animation by Marvinne de Guzman


It’s Women’s History Month — a twelfth of the year dedicated to acknowledging the accomplishments and capacities of half of the population. This is a time for celebration and protest. Celebration of the beautiful, smart, and tenacious people who have made the world a better place. Protest against the systematic subjugation that many are forced to endure.

A sad reality persists such that most of the time, ladies who put in the work tend to be reduced to footnotes in our history books. These are people who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of society, but they deserve more.

Young STAR presents some of the country’s finest thinkers, workers, and fighters worth remembering. Special thanks to legendary komikera Dead Balagtas for helping formulate this list.

The women who engineered the Huk Rebellion

The tale of this group is an earnest reminder of why we fight. Generally, not too many are familiar with the Hukbalahap,  but a quick Google or message to your comrade friend would refresh your memory. The Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon was a group of rebels that fought for change in imperialist structures. Known colloquially as the Huk Rebellion, this communist uprising against the Japanese Occupation is enough evidence to prove that women are the revolution. Several peasants in Central Luzon began organizing and dissenting against the Japanese-led government. And from 1946 to 1950, many women were instrumental to the execution of the Huk Rebellion. One of the most notable was Felipa Culala, also known as Dayang-Dayang. Dayang-Dayang was a core member of the group in 1942. She remained in a leadership position for most of its existence, forming a sub-group within the Hukbalahap. She often rescued soldiers from capture, and conducted several attack missions against the Japanese.

Maria Lorena “Laurie” Barros

Lorena was a voice for the people from start to finish. As a student of Anthropology in the University of the Philippines during the Marcos presidency, Laurie was exposed early to activism through groups such as Kabataang Makabayan. She actively took leadership roles during her stay in college, even becoming the president of the UP Writer’s Club for a time. Once she got her college degree (with honors) and finished her post-graduate studies, she founded MAKIBAKA, a group dedicated to the feminist and socialist cause. The founding of a separate women’s group was extremely important in the Philippines, and paved the way for the founding of similar groups such as GABRIELA. In addition to her contribution the women’s rights movement in the Philippines, she led an anti-Marcos insurgency during Martial Law. Because of her activist and nationalist ties, she was imprisoned for a year, but later escaped. Laurie died fighting fascist soldiers in 1976.

Magdalena Jalandoni

Language can be a powerful instrument. The Hiligaynon pioneer Magdalena Jalandoni exemplifies this in her writings. She is best known by her poem, “Ang Guitara”. However, her body of work is much more than this. In fact, many consider Jalandoni as one of the most prolific Filipino writers in history. She penned over 150 books, plays, and poems through the span of her 75 years of writing (she started publishing poems at 12 years old). One can certainly call her a historical woman, having lived through the Philippine Revolution, The Filipino-American War, and Japanese Occupation. She was forced to leave home twice, and still persisted in her writing. Many of her works have feminist overtones and are centered around the lives of different women.

Maria Ylagan Orosa

They say the woman’s place is the kitchen, Maria Orosa did this and took it to the next level. Working tirelessly to ensure that the Filipino got proper nutrition, she tested hundreds of recipes that would utilize native Filipino crops in order to import less food. We owe many aspects of cuisine that are distinct to the country to her. She spearheaded food preservation to benefit Filipinos in World War II. The soy-based “magic food” she invented also stopped many poor people from going hungry. She even invented banana ketchup. Maria briefly worked in Washington as a state chemist, but soon returned to the Philippines to fulfill her duties. She died a war hero during combat.

Maria Rosa Luna Henson

It takes immense courage to be vulnerable. Maria Rosa Luna Henson, or Lola Rosa, confronted these fears and inhibitions when being the first person to open up about her experiences as a “comfort woman” in World War II. During the war, she joined the Hukbalahap, and was kidnapped in the line of duty by Japanese soldiers at 14 years old. She was a sex slave for the Japanese before her rescue by the Hukbalahap. She kept this experience a secret for most of her life, and only at the age of 65 did she reveal what happened. Her husband left her because of this, but she still persisted in her activism. Her book, Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny was the world’s first glimpse into what it was like to survive the atrocity. She soon became an advocate for other women who had similar experiences. In the five years before her death, she fought for justice from the Japanese, which she somewhat did receive in the form of compensation.


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