detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

: . Imelda Marcos, Feminist, Part II

From The Compassionate Society and Other Selected Speeches of Imelda Romualdez Marcos (Ed. Ileana Maramag. Manila: National Media Production Center, 1975 [1973]. 23-28.):

    The New Filipina*

    In the beginning of time when God created Adam, He gave him everything he needed. He gave him the fields of paradise to play in, the friendly animals of paradise to play with, and the birds of paradise to listen to. Above all He gave him Himself, God, to talk with in the cool of the evening. Yet when all this was done, God realized that something was lacking. There was emptiness in the heart of Adam that not all the beauty of paradise, not even God, could fill. So God, said "It is not good for man to be alone. Let us make him a help like to himself." In that tiny word, that slender syllable, help, is mirrored the ideal of womanhood. For it implies that womanhood of its very nature, is a giving. God intended that for a woman to satisfy the deepest [end of page 23] demands of her nature, she must give herself. She must find fulfillment in the love of someone else through whom she acts, thinks and achieves, and to whom she offers wisdom, inspiration and companionship. Thus the poet** says:

      Man's love is of man's life a thing apart
      But 'tis a woman's whole existence...

    Therefore, it is altogether fitting and proper, and to me a source of wifely pride, that I receive your tribute to honor at the side and in the presiding presence of the man whose love has been a continual fountain of inspiration and encouragement to me in carrying out the tasks you have deemed worthy of honor.

    This honor I accept with sincere humility for I know full well how much the credit for what I have done belongs to others who have given so generously of their time, talents, resources and energy. This dedicated group of women have shown that properly inspired, and encouraged the women of our land stand ready to work and sacrifice in the public cause, not out of a spirit of rivalry with men or to exalt the cult of feminine superiority or for some political purpose, but in a constructive, side-by-side partnership in the service of our people. This is the new Filipina, who, without sacrificing her gracious femininity has become down to earth, practical, and industrious.

    It seems to me that this is a fitting occasion to say something about the New Filipina, and altogether proper that I should do so here within the walls of the Philippine Women's [end of page 24] University where for the last fifty golden years young women have been trained for a life of service and achievement. This nation owes a debt to the pioneering work done by Mrs. Francisca Tirona-Benitez who had the wisdom to perceive that a new ideal of Filipino womanhood was emerging, and had the courage to commit herself to forming it.

    This New Filipina represents a flowering of the cultures that have taken root and grown in the fertile soil of our islands: she is the daughter of those ancient Filipino women who long before the strangers came to these shores worked side by side with their husbands, active, industrious, even aggressive, the kind of woman Rizal eulogized in his letter to the women of Malolos; in fact, the kind of woman Rizal's mother was. At the same time she is also the daughter of Maria Clara, refined, intellectual, and self sacrificing. Thus without abandoning her ancient heritage, her warm out-going friendliness, her golden color, her industry and above all that happy sun-kissed, song-filled approach to life that is the gift of our islands. She is nevertheless a woman of the times, equipped intellectually and culturally to meet its challenges.

    Today we need such Filipino women, women whose character and education will prepare them to be the intellectual equal and closest friend of their husbands, women who will not look on marriage or motherhood so narrowly as to forgo for life all hope of personal and professional development, who no longer accept the idea that a woman's being is co-terminous with her maternal role, women who want, as all women have always wanted, to love [end of page 25] and be loved, to be true wives and mothers but who would rather serve their families and husbands and the world by the highest possible self-development and fulfillment.

    This new active role in society may bring the new Filipina face to face with a problem: how to reconcile the traditional role of mother and housekeeper with the roles that are now open to her in the modern world. It would be a tragedy if our women chose to sacrifice their husbands and family on the altar of their own personal ambition or pride. Such neglect may be at the root of much of the social unrest we find among our youth today. They badly lack guidance and authority, especially from their parents. These values are not communicated simply by parents and children living together in the same house. The house must be a home as well, and it takes time, and love, and patience, and faith, and being there to make a home.

    But especially love. And it is love that will enable the new Filipina to achieve harmony in her life and to resolve the conflicts that may arise out of her new roles in the modern world. It is love which will impel her, when it is necessary to subordinate her own individual interests and desire for self-development to the needs of her husband and family, for her nature will tell her that herein lies her deepest self-fulfillment, as a woman.

    It is also love which will most characterize and direct her activities in the world outside. She will be primarily concerned with the areas of basic human needs, to feed and give homes to children who are hungry or without parents, to be a daughter [end of page 26] to the old who are alone and have no one to care for them, to be a nurse to the sick, and a refuge to the homeless and the poor, to be what God intended her to be, a help to all who need sympathy, tenderness, compassion and love. This is why God made her.

    She will also, because she is a woman, find time, even if it is her leisure time, to be concerned with what a [sic] beautiful. She will encourage it in every form, in language, in music, in painting, in drama, in social manners, in customs, in the standard of values by which people live, for by nature she is the custodian of life and these things nourish life. She will see that beauty is as necessary for the soul of the nation without spirit, that it is not on bread or rice alone that man lives. The Philistines may wonder at this and may in their blindness echo the ancient complaint of Judas "Why this waste. This precious ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor." To this we can only reply with the poet:***

      A thing of beauty is a joy forever
      Its loveliness increases, it will never
      Pass into nothingness.

    Neither will the people who will cherish it.

    On a rocky mountain in Athens stands a building called the Parthenon. It was built more than 2,000 years ago. Even in ruins it stands in tribute to the gallantry and spirit of a people who had the courage to make an act of faith in the future, and whose gift of beauty is one of the world's most valuable heritages. [end of page 27]

    This is the challenge that faces Philippine Women's University as it moves into its second half century: to stay in the vanguard of education, to train women who will dedicate their intellectual abilities to the service of the nation without sacrificing the basic values of family life on which this nation is built.

    Thank you again for the honor you have conferred upon me. I accept it for and on behalf of all those who generously gave of themselves to help us realize in some measure our vision for our people's and our country's progress. [end of page 28]

    * Acceptance speech of the First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, following the conferment of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities, Philippine Women's University, February 20, 1969.
    ** Lord Byron
    ***John Keats

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