Filipina: A Woman Of Character

I always see her standing in the middle of her garden with a long broomstick clasped in her feeble and bony hands, sometimes alone, most of the times gleefully surrounded by her apos. She was always clad with an ankle length skirt and a blouse that is less elaborate than the traditional baro. Her hair was pulled tightly in a bun and her face was wrinkled with the years that passed her by. In spite of her old age, her back was as straight as a board and her mere glance could silence the rowdy teenagers that pass by. Although, the one thing that really struck me about her was her warm and gentle smile and her presence that commands nothing less than respect and reverence. I knew her as Manang, the old lady who lives in front of my parents’ house.

It was a very long time ago, I don’t even recall seeing Manang the last time I visited my parents. Indeed, it was a long time ago and yet my memory of her has never faltered. Manang was one of the first few women whose character I have truly admired. Maybe it was because she has always exuded this strong personality that can silence the untamed and yet a mere look into her eyes reveals kindness, care and compassion. As a kid, while staring at her contented in her garden, my young mind could not comprehend how her small and frail body could radiate such a sturdy and dignified yet gentle persona, she was an enigma to me.

Certainly, Manang’s personality is admirable but I have realized that her character was neither unique nor rare, not for Filipinas anyway. Only after several years and after living far away from my roots have I realized that Manang’s persona, the very same enigmatic personality that mystified my childhood, is embedded in each and every Filipina regardless of the country that they are in and the lifestyle that they lead. True indeed, all Filipinas that I have met possess a hint of Manang’s character in them albeit wrapped in different packages.

The modern Filipina has been influenced by so many cultures, customs, ethnicity and traditions. We have been exposed to knowledge and have acquired skills that our historic counterparts would have never imagined. Filipinas have explored corners of the globe that Gabriella Silang or Melchora Aquino knew nothing about. We have even taken up roles that were tabooed for women during Dona Teodora Alonzo’s times. Yet, in spite of all these influences, knowledge and modernization, the Filipina has never let go of the values inculcated in her by her forebears. She still values her family more than any luxury or comfort in life, she still offers respect to the elderly, she values hard work, honesty, integrity, courage, and above all, she finds solace and hope in her faith.

Throughout the years, the Filipino women have taken an active part in the fields of medicine, music, arts, business, religion and even politics. We have proven that our brilliant minds and resilience can be helpful in the betterment of not only our families but also our society. I believe that the Filipina’s greatest edge over the rest of womanhood is her passion which is fuelled by an unconditional love and care for others. This passion inspires her to excel in any field that she tries to conquer. I can’t help but be overwhelmed by pride as I see Filipinas from all walks of life stride on unfamiliar grounds to try to enhance their families’ or societies’ situation without succumbing to the pressures of the progressive world to compromise their moral fiber or loose their strength of character.

When I see a Filipina, I envision an oasis in the middle of the deteriorating image of womanhood in the modern world. The Filipina is a personification of equilibrium between a woman of conviction and a woman of heart Filipinas possess a character so strong it cannot be thwarted by poverty, struggles or norms. I wouldn’t have though it possible but the modern Manang’s character is even better than the one I have admired for so long. The modern Filipina is a radiant persona, indeed we Filipinas are all these and much more.

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