Sister #Mary_John_Mananzan, the co-founder of women’s organization Gabriela, was a political activist in the Philippines before she became a feminist.
It was only when she went to a women’s conference in Venice, Austria and heard discussions about incest and wife-beating that she felt the need to call herself a feminist. “It dawned on me, ‘My goodness these [abuses] are in the Philippines too,” she says. “[I realized] you cannot have a social transformation unless this gender question is resolved.”
Another known feminist, #Ging_Deles, who helped develop one of the first laws protecting women in the Philippines, got into feminism in the ‘80s. She says that she was working in the social development sector, but after meetings of bigger social development conferences, women began gathering together. Through these smaller get-togethers, it became clear how the issues of women were largely different from men, urging them to further push for women’s rights.
Mich Dulce, a designer and co-founder of the women’s community collective Grrrl Gang, shares that she got into feminism because of music. In a previous interview with CNN Philippines Life, she said: “The [feminist music movement of the ‘60s] was what led me to become a feminist. I was not born ‘woke.’ I lived in a bubble for such a long time.”
Deles, Mananzan, and Dulce all call themselves feminists and yet they all had different access points to feminism. We all come from diverse contexts, so if you’re looking for an entry point towards understanding the women’s movement in the Philippines, here’s a list of literature, films, and video discussions that you can consume:
“The Woman Question in the Philippines”
According to Gantala Press’ Faye Cura, this booklet by Sr. Mary John Mananzan offers an introduction to the state of women in the Philippines. “It contextualizes the oppression of Filipinas within the country’s colonial/neocolonial history,” she says. “It [also] discusses the challenges faced by women today — inequality and discrimination, gender-based violence, trafficking, and poverty, as well as Filipina women’s constant efforts to overcome these through feminism and the women’s movement.”
“Daloy I” and “Daloy II”
Batis AWARE (Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment) is an organization that advocates for the rights of Filipino migrant women. In 2016, together with the publishing outfit Youth and Beauty Brigade, Batis AWARE published “Daloy 1,” a zine that features writings of Filipino migrant women. In 2018, Batis AWARE and YBB published “Daloy 2,” which dives deeper into the issues of Filipino migrant women — their day-to-day struggles, the abuses they face, and the continuous fight for their rights, among others.
“Centennial Crossings: Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines”
While there is a scarcity of recorded historical data on pre-colonial Philippines, there have been pieces of literature that reveal the central role women play during this era. A significant icon of pre-colonial Philippines is the babaylan, a healer or shaman who is usually a woman. In the book “Centennial Crossings: Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines,” the editors Fe Mangahas and Jenny Llaguno shine a light on how babaylanism is the inherent source of a Filipina’s strength and that babaylanism may perhaps be the forebearer of the women’s movement in the country.
“Amazons of the Huk Rebellion: Gender, Sex, and Revolution in the Philippines”
Written by Vina Lanzona, this book details how women in the Philippines were central to the revolution against Japanese occupation. “[This] provides an in-depth narration and analysis of the life and heroism of women warriors of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap),” says Faye Cura. “[It begins] at the onset of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines until after the war has ended and the ‘Amazons’ were vilified in popular imagination. A must-read for all Filipinos.”
... and so on...