by Quennie Ann J. Palafox

      Rizal’s immense respect to Filipino women on their vital roles as wives and mothers, being the source of values in ensuring the progress of the nation by nourishing the youth with proper values and needed knowledge and molding them to become useful and responsible citizens can be envisaged from his illustrious Letter to the Young Women of Malolos.

       On December 12, 1888, a group of twenty-one women of Malolos, belonging to the well off families in the town, sought authorization to Governor-General Weyler to open a night school so that they could learn the Spanish language under Teodoro Sandiko. The parish priest Fray Garcia went up against it for fear that such would open them up to progressive or seditious ideas from abroad. Luckily, these young women triumphed in the end to their project on the condition that Señorita Guadalupe Reyes, a nun, will serve as their teacher. Marcelo H. del Pilar, admiring these young women for their bravado, requested Rizal a letter commending the bravery of the women and with hopes that this valiant struggle against friar hegemony in the affairs of the Filipinos will enthuse all compatriots. Hence, Rizal sent del Pilar on February 22, 1889, the letter written in Tagalog for transmittal to the 21 young women of Malolos.

       The message conveyed to the young women of Malolos centered on salient points such as the denunciation of the abuse of the friars in exercising his spiritual authority bestowed upon him by the church, traits Filipino mothers must have, duties and obligations of Filipino mothers to their children, functions and errands of a wife to her husband, and guidance to young women on their choice of a lifetime partner. Rizal also expressed his philosophy of freedom and independence that he believed would be a key for the emancipation of humankind from slavery, and the necessity for education as the fundamental source of liberation. In the letter, Rizal’s enunciated his great desire for Filipino women to enjoy the privileges in education with men. Moreover, he appealed to women to be heedful over their rights and not to be docile towards many injustices forced upon them. Men are born equal, naked. God did not create men to be slaves, nor did he embellish them with reason in order to be blinded by others.

       Perhaps having experienced firsthand the warmth of his mother’s love, he defined in his letter the obligations and roles of the Filipino mothers to their children. As Rizal made mention, the youth is a flower-bed that is to bear fruit and must accumulate wealth for its descendants. The mother must raise her children according to the image of God and acclimatize the mind for pleasant idea. A mother must teach her children to prefer death with honor to life with dishonor. Rizal, nevertheless, necessitated the mothers to inculcate the following values to their children: love for honor; sincere and firm character; clear mind; clear conduct; noble action; love for one’s fellowmen; and respect for God. Ever patriotic in his views, he warned that the country will never be free and flourishing as long as the children and the women remain ignorant. With this, the education of the children should not be limited to religious activities. He stressed that obedience and reason as the highest virtues that one must posess.

       Rizal as well brought into the fore the topic of love, discussing the reputation of Filipino women being called by some peninsulars and friars of being “easy” women. He rejected this generalization, arguing women of weak character are endemic in all parts of the world. The Filipino maiden should be the pride of the country and should command the respect of everybody. As for married women, they should cooperate with their husbands, encouraging them and lifting their spirits, easing their burdens.

       This letter depicts Rizal as pioneer in advocating the promotion of the welfare of women in the society, thus, making him a true gentleman. He strongly believed that women can exert great influence towards the emancipation of their country. Rizal used the term “emancipation” as the Philippines was still under the bondage of colonialism when he wrote this letter.  This work of Rizal manifested his liberalist ideas by making us realize the indispensability of women in molding the country’s destiny by way of what the children see from them.