Women hold up half the sky. (Photo: Expanded Animation)
I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.
— Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
CALOOCAN CITY, METRO MANILA — Ex-general and the 12th president of the Republic (after Corazon Cojuangco Aquino) Fidel Valdez Ramos has passed away. He was 94.
Hailed as the most iconic hero of the EDSA 1986 revolution, many call him ‘Eddie’, others ‘FVR’ or for some in the media as ‘Tabako’, but there is one tag that stuck with him—‘Busy Eddie’ for being the most hardworking president our nation ever knew.
I was just a new reporter of the Philippine Journalists Incorporated (PJI, or else the Journal Group of Publications) when I first met him personally and at close quarters. It was in the wake of one of my mentors, our hard-hitting columnist, and People’s Journal Tonight news editor Danny Hernandez.
There was a funny incident at Boss Danny’s wake, but I’d rather talk about it on some other occasion. Still, one memorable time I brushed elbows with the president they called ‘Viajero’ was also the last time we met. He was a guest panelist at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum and I had the distinct honor to sit with him after the forum.
For those who covered Boss ‘Eddie’ when he was chief executive, I am sure they can attest he was truly a hard-working president. In fact, a colleague said: “If you cover him, be ready to meet him at the event earlier than usual.”
History books knew FVR as a hero of the Korean War as he led a Philippine contingent in annihilating 50,000 Chinese and North Korean soldiers despite being overwhelmed and under gunned.
For such a brave soul, we give praise and bid him adieu to his final ‘viaje’ (journey) to the afterlife.
When he was alive, Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong gave respect to women and even quoted: “Women hold up half the sky.”
The truth, though, is that women hold up much more than half.
This certainly is in the case of the Catholic Church, where women get too little recognition or any authority at all for the functions they often do. Indeed, women in religion may get a bit more recognition than their sisters.
They are frequently marginalized by a general focus on bishops and the clergy and their paternalistic and often misogynist authority.
But the real backbone of the Church in Asia (and the rest of the world, for that matter) is our Christian mothers, who along with fathers are, in the words of blessing at the end of the baptismal rite, “the first teachers of their child in the ways of the Faith.”
Here, it is a mother who usually teaches her child to know all about God and how to pray. Mothers, actually, model God’s encompassing love and they give their children their first experience of unconditional love and so teach their children to love.
Still, many mothers are forced to live in far-from-ideal situations and in occasions of extreme poverty, they struggle to provide food, education, and medical care for their families, to the extent that some are prompted in ways that are adverse to Christian teachings in order to provide for their children.
There are those who are forced into prostitution after experiencing a lack of employment or livelihood. And we cannot fault them for this because of the economic situation in many countries. This is probably why Jesus told those who wanted the adulterer Mary Magdalene punished by stoning to choose among themselves anyone who was sinless to cast the first stone.
Recent conflicts, like the one now ongoing in Ukraine, have seen mothers and their children as the majority of victims and refugees.
In Asia, like the Philippines, millions of mothers have left their children behind to support their families by working as near-slaves in foreign lands.
And in much of the Asian continent, the trials of motherhood are worsened by discrimination and even persecution against them as religious or ethnic minorities or members of a low caste or social group. This is experienced here by mothers belonging to so-called indigenous peoples’ groups.
But we must realize that, indeed, Christian mothers are today’s unheralded heroines of the Church who keep and pass on faith in Christ. This may be especially so in places where they are least noticed by the world at large: in rural communities and in marginalized sectors of society.
They are the unsung heroines who are fully worth recognition and praise, though, seldom do they seek the honor.
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