The Women of Ateneo salutes Rizal on his 150th Birthday: Rizal and the Education of Women by Lizza Guerrero Nakpil

Rizal and the Education of Women In a century when “women” and “education” were not to be heard in the same sentence, Rizal became one of the first advocates for women’s lib, challenging both the establishment and women themselves to remove the yoke of ignorance.  He would have no doubt relished the co-education of the Ateneo    By Lizza Guerrero Nakpil

Nearly one hundred and twenty-three years ago to the day, on December 12, 1888, twenty intrepid Malolos signed a formal petition (the 19th-century equivalent of a signature-campaign) addressed to the Spanish governor-general, seeking the right to learn Spanish and to do so in a school of their own.  For any woman to make this demand, in a time and place when the teaching of Spanish was denied to plain folks, of either gender, was nothing short of sensational. The plan was not surprisingly vetoed by the local parish priest (who subsequently blackballed their intended maestro) and was initially turned down by the colonial powers-that-be, but the women would simply not take no for an answer. They   used the millennial tactic of networking and found an ‘in’ through Marcelo H. del Pilar, then based in Madrid, who in turn knew the Spanish Minister of the Colonies, who overturned Manila’s refusal.  The women’s audacity caused such an international stir, it attracted the attention (and admiration) of Jose Rizal, then in London and in the midst of his landmark annotation of Antonio de Morga’s 17th-century history of the Philippines, ‘Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.’

Thus, it was to women impelled to find an education and make something of themselves, that Rizal wrote perhaps his most famous letter.

On the occasion of Rizal’s 150th anniversary, ‘The Women of Ateneo’ reference this inspirational work, whose voice carries through the ages, across time and gender, as incisively as it were written today. Rizal, then and now, asks not just for equality for women, but expresses his utmost trust in them and acknowledgement that the Filipina is an essential partner in nation-building.

To bring Rizal’s words to life, ‘The Women of Ateneo’ have furthermore selected from its members, the co-ed graduates who exemplify Rizal’s own devotion to both the arts and the sciences, having been a writer, poet and novelist, as well as a doctor, surgeon, linguist, and anthropologist.

‘The Women of Ateneo’ likewise acknowledges the 20 young women of Malolos, who were ages 12 to 28 at the time — Elisea Tantoco Reyes, Juana Tantoco Reyes, Leoncia Santos Reyes, Olympia San Agustin Reyes, Rufina T. Reyes, Eugenia Mendoza Tanchiangco, Aurea Mendoza Tanchangco, Basilia Villarino Tantoco, Teresa Tiongson Tantoco, Maria Tiongson Tantoco, Anastacia Maclang Tiongson, Basilia Reyes Tiongson, Pax Reyes Tiongson, Aleja Reyes Tiongson, Mercedes Reyes Tiongson, Agapita Reyes Tiongson, Filomena Oliveros Tiongson, Cecilia Oliveros Tiongson, Feliciana Oliveros Tiongson, and Alberta Santos Uitangcoy — who began their journey towards education (which Rizal equated ultimately with freedom), in the same way ‘The Women of Ateneo’ began their journey when first entered the portals of this august institution in 1973. Then as now, for the women of Malolos went on to be revolutionaries and suffragettes, “The Women of Ateneo” continue to excel not only as professionals, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs but also as political activists and citizens who are women for others.

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The Women of Ateneo performers in Brindis/The Women of Malolos

Voice 1: Atty. Eirene Jhone Aguila. Eirene is a lawyer, activist and entrepreneur. She finished Management Engineering in 1999 at Ateneo de Manila University and obtained her Juris Doctor at Ateneo Law School in 2004. Her numerous socio-civic involvements include being one of the prime movers of ‘Right To Know, Right Now’ which is pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in the Philippines, and being part of the core of ‘Kaya Natin’, a movement for good governance. Eirene is currently consultant at the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Voice 2: Ms. Pilar de Guzman Palabrica. Pilar graduated AB Communication Arts and AB Economics in 1977, having been recognized by as Kapisanan ng Mga Broadcaster ng Pilipinas Awardee – Most Outstanding Communication Arts Student. She was the first female President of Tanghalang Ateneo (1975-77). She achieved feats in academics and the arts, particularly in theater, oration, acting for television, dance and opera. She also directed plays for Tanghalang Ateneo, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Metropolitan Theater. From theater, she shifted to advertising and marketing. Pilar is married to SEC Commissioner Raul Palabrica and blessed with a child.

Voice 3: Charlotte Kendra Gotangco, PhD. Kendra graduated BS Physics, both summa cum laude and class valedictorian, 2004, and one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines. She went on to take her Masters in Environmental Management at the Ateneo de Manila University, jointly with the University of San Francisco, class of 2007. She next finished a PhD in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University, 2011. Kendra is now the Program Manager of Klima Climate Center at the Manila Observatory, and a lecturer of the Physics Department, Loyola Schools.

BRINDIS, a multi-sectoral Rizal sesquicentennial cultural gala night show to be held on December 2, 2011, Friday, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at Henry Lee Irwin Theater, Ateneo de Manila University.

Ateneo presents “Brindis”, a multi-sectoral Rizal Sesquicentennial Cultural Gala Night Show

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