Speech delivered at "Celebrating Herstory",
under the umbrella of a UP-wide program, "Womancipation"
March 12, 2007
First things first: I’d like to thank the women who have brought me here, and made possible the way my life has been so interesting these past 5 years: Dr. Amy Guevarra, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, who referred my request to Dr. Letty Ho, who accepted my credentials, recommended me for admission, and closely monitored my progress, then-Chancellor, now President Emerlinda Roman who allowed these things to happen, then-Vice President Serena Diokno, for sponsoring my case at the Board of Regents, and of course, my mother, who taught me to ask the questions: “What if?” and “Why not?”. These women are all extraordinary iconoclasts: they went around the rules so this promising then-little, and still little, girl, could be what she could be. And I hope they’re mighty pleased with the results. To them (and the enlightened men who agreed with them), my profound “Thank you”.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dr. Lucero to talk about my story, in connection with Women’s Month. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I learned that this event was actually under the umbrella of a University-wide, month-long activity, with the theme “Womancipation: Ending the Impunity of Violence Against Women.”
What is women’s liberation? A few days ago, on International Women’s Day, a DJ said on air, “Kung kaya rin ng lalaki mag-drive ng jeep, kaya rin yan ng babae.” Is that women’s liberation? Is women’s liberation about women doing the same things as the men? Is women’s liberation about equality?
I must confess that I wasn’t aware of women’s rights activist groups until a few years ago. I didn’t know that there were women here in the Philippines lobbying for women’s liberation. I didn’t even know what women’s liberation was – probably because I was never bound.
All throughout my school life, I had more female classmates than male ones, and more female teachers than male ones. And in school, the girls surpassed the boys in academics. I was told once that one of the reasons why there are separate rankings for boys and girls was that if there were only one ranking, then almost all in the cream class would be women. By hard work, determination and intense study, I was able to excel in my studies and even be among the top students in class, all the way from elementary to college.
But never did I desire to be equal to a man. I did not dream of doing what men can do. It never dawned on me to gauge my achievement with respect to that of my male classmates. And no, I never dreamed of driving a jeepney, although I know that if I have to, I can learn to do it – or make enough money to drive a car or fly a jet instead.
But I do consider myself a liberated woman.
One of my mother’s favorite phrases is, “All men are created equal. Women are created superior.” Why? My mother’s argument is very simple. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man on the sixth day of creation. God made Adam first, and then Eve next. But when you create something, do you create something worse? In advertisements, do you ever hear: New! As good as before? Or, “New, worsened!” It’s always, “New, improved!” And who was created later? Eve. New, improved.
In industry, or in making research, do you ever submit something that wasn’t the best you did? Do you make a second draft that is worse than the first, and then present it to the public? No! And what did God make after Eve? Nothing.Why? Because with Eve, the Creator has created perfection.
“All men are created equal. Women are created superior.” To me, women’s liberation is not the equality of men and women. Rather, it is about being who we really are, as women, without comparing ourselves to men. And if all we try is to prove that we can do what men can do, and that we should have what men have, that is not liberation.
I have achieved what I have achieved, not in spite of being a woman, but because of being a woman. And I was lucky to be raised by my parents in an environment where I was allowed to be who I want to be, to be who I am, to reach my full potential. To me, that is liberation.
Ladies, you have achieved much, and have broken many barriers. I now ask that you help my generation go to the next level – to believe in who they are, to achieve because of who they are, not in spite of it.
(Before I end, I would like to share with you a song sung by Helen Reddy in 1972. I hope that it will inspire all of us to dedicate our energies to be the best women we can be, instead of the best male counterparts to ever exist.)
Thank you very much.