Philippine national hero Jose Rizal wrote to the women of Malolos once, expressing his admiration for their courage in standing up to authorities for their right to education. I’ve never read that letter — I suppose the nuns and priests running the Catholic schools I studied at would not have thought it A Good Thing for us to be something other than Maria Clara types — till I saw Red’s article today at the Filipino Freethinkers site which had the full text of Rizal’s letter.
No longer does the Filipina stand with her head bowed nor does she spend her time on her knees, because she is quickened by hope in the future; no longer will the mother contribute to keeping her daughter in darkness and bring her up in contempt and moral annihilation. And no longer will the science of all sciences consist in blind submission to any unjust order, or in extreme complacency, nor will a courteous smile be deemed the only weapon against insult or humble tears the ineffable panacea for all tribulations, You know that the will of God is different from that of the priest; that religiousness does not consist of long periods spent on your knees, nor in endless prayers, big rosarios, and grimy scapularies, but in a spotless conduct, firm intention and upright judgment. You also know that prudence does not consist in blindly obeying any whim of the little tin god, but in obeying only that which is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is itself the cause and origin of those whims, and those guilty of it are really to be blamed. The official or friar can no longer assert that they alone are responsible for their unjust orders, because God gave, each individual reason and a will of his or her own to distinguish the just from the unjust; all were born without shackles and free, and nobody has a right to subjugate the will and the spirit of another. And, why should you submit to another your thoughts, seeing that thought is noble and free?
I always knew Maria Clara was a crock. Rizal wrote her as an example of how religion and our old ways have turned our women into spineless creatures and perpetual victims. Of course, Filipinos in general being hilariously irony-challenged, we embraced her as a shining example of the perfect Filipino woman: mahinhin, religious, obedient. Not only that, those even more irony-challenged named a bottled sangria after her. But then I’m a real woman and I drink (non-light) beer.
Happy Independence Day, Philippines.