Tuesday, September 18, 2012


PARTAKERS OF THE WOMEN'S CLUB PROGRAM, Guagua Elementary School. Women's Clubs sprouted in schools as well as in communities, organized by Kapampangan elites mainly for social interaction and for their civic advocacies.  Dated Jan. 1931.

The selection of the first female (and second youngest) Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the person of Maria Lourdes Sereno by Pres. Benigno Aquino Jr. underscores the great strides women have made in their chosen fields, breaking barriers and rewriting history in the process. Her acclamation as the chief magistrate of the country recalls the gender-transcending achievements of the Kapampangan woman, who have always played important roles in the local society, empowered and privileged like no other.

Long before the terms “equal rights” became battlecries of feminists, the daughters of Pampanga were already enjoying certain perks with regards to land ownership. Like their male counterparts, women inherited land from their parents which they could buy and sell should they chose to. They could retain the land even upon marriage and could bequeath these property to their children, independent of their husbands.

Indeed, even in a society where patriarchs seem to dominate, women were vice-husbands, taking on the head of the family role if the father was absent. Women shared responsibilities with their men, be it in the household or out in the farmlands, swamps and fishponds. Described by priest-historian Fray Gaspar de San Agustin as being “very brave and strong”—both masculine properties, Kapampangan women certainly were as capable as the opposite sex in the execution of their duties.

When new settlements and towns were being established, the Kapampangan women stood by her man. Mabalacat, which started as a forest clearing, may have been founded by the Negrito chief Garagan, but it was his wife, Laureana Tolentino, who became the town cabeza, the first known female head of a Pampanga municipality. Dña. Rosalia de Jesus is credited in history books as the co-founder of Culiat in 1796, the future city of Angeles, alongside her husband, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda. Similarly, Botolan in Zambales owes its existence to a woman, known only by the name Dña. Teresa of Mabalacat, who secured a permit in Manila to establish the town in 1819.

The earliest Filipino nuns were also Kapampangans, led by the virtuous Martha de San Bernardo, the first india to be accepted by the monastery of Sta. Clara (founded by Bl. Jeronima de la Asuncion in 1621) around 1633. The Recollect siblings, Mother Dionisia and Mother Cecilia Talangpaz are recognized as the second foundresses of a religious congregration in the Philippines. Half-Kapampangans, they trace their ancestry to the Pamintuans and Mallaris of Macabebe.

Meanwhile, the first female religious to set up an orphanage came from one of the richest families of Bacolor--Sor Asuncion Ventura. A Daughter of Charity, she used her inheritance to put up the Asilo de San Vicente de Paul in 1885. In the literary field, the first woman author was a Pampangueña from Bacolor, Dña. Luisa Gonzaga de Leon. She translated the Spanish religious work Ejercicio Cotidiano (Daily Devotion) into Kapampangan, which was published posthumously around 1844-45.

During the Philippine Revolution, Kapampangan women came in full force to aid the revolucionarios. Led by Nicolasa Dayrit, Felisa Dayrit, Felisa Hizon, Consolacion Singian, Encarnacion Singian, Marcelina Limjuco and Praxedes Fajardo, members of the Junta Patriotica de San Fernando and La Cruz Roja (Red Cross), they also sewed the flag of the Pampanga Batallion in December 1898. Female financiers of the movement included Teodora Salgado and Matea Rodriguez Sioco.

Nursing was still a new course offered at the Escuela de Enfermas of the Philippine General Hospital when Marcelina Nepomuceno (b. 9 Aug. 1881 to Ysabelo Nepomuceno and Juana Paras) enrolled with one of the earliest batches of students. She is known as the first Kapampangan Florence Nightingale. Sharing this honor is Dra. Francisca Galang, the first female Kapampangan medical doctor.

In agriculture and business, a realm often dominated by male hacenderos, the names of Dñas. Tomasa Centeno vda. De Pamintuan (Angeles), Teodora Salgado vda. De Ullman (San Fernando), Victoria Hizon vda. De Rodriguez (San Fernando), Epifania Alvendia vda. De Guanzon (Floridablanca), Donata Montemayor vda. De Vitug (Lubao) and Antonina Reyes vda. De Samson were held in esteem during the Commonwealth years. Widows all, they carried on the work of their late husbands—as sugar planters and entrepreneurs—with grit, hard work and devotion, to successful results.

 In the same period, Women’s Clubs were organized by Pampanga matrons in Angeles, Bacolor and San Fernando, which counted Americans, teachers and army wives as members, for their socio-civic pursuits. Educational opportunities expanded with the establishments of colleges and universities. From the 20s to the 40s, elite families sent their daughters to schools in Europe and America, like Paz Pamintuan (daughter of Don Florentino Pamintuan) who finished her M.D. at the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia in 1925. Society girl Paquita Villareal was schooled in Hongkong and Germany, while Florencia Salgado went to Paris for her Arts degree. Today, some of the pillars of education are Kapampangan women—like Dr. Barbara Yap-Angeles, founder of Angeles University Foundation in 1962.

In 1976, a Kapampangan woman--Juanita Lumanlan Nepomuceno--broke new ground by becoming Pampanga's first female governor, a position that Lilia Pineda would win 34 years later. Lest we forget, two Kapampangan women have occupied the highest position of the land as Presidents of the Philippines: Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino of Tarlac (1986-1992) and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Lubao (2001-2004, re-elected 2004-2010).

All these accomplished names are proof positive that if you want the best man for the job, pick a woman. Better yet, pick a Kapampangan woman!

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