Babaye, babailan, bagani

Aurora Consolacion | Spice It!
Aurora Consolacion | Spice It!

It’s Women’s Month! A particular month in a year when we have this dedicated celebration to honor all the women in our country. Various advocacy activities are seen everywhere to promote women empowerment, women equality, women’s rights and the campaign to ‘make change work for women’.

Public places are turned into venues for dialogues and campaigns to increase the awareness of the spectators on issues and concerns affecting women. Advocates also utilize various media and platforms in order to lobby certain agenda or policies that are responsive to the needs of women.

With the many diverse happenings for and in behalf of women, I can’t help wondering if anyone really knows what does it takes to be a woman and what is the essence of being a woman or babaye?

Former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen have expressed her thoughts on the essence of a woman back then that really left a winning message to the ears of the judges and the public. According to her, being a woman is a gift of God. That the origin of the child is a mother and that women share and teach men what love, caring and sharing is all about. Even up to this present day and age, her words on the ‘essence of a woman’ continues to motivate and inspire women in all walks of life across the globe.

However, being a woman is not limited to bearing a child in the womb or teaching and sharing love to men.  Many great women across the globe have proven that women can also be great leaders, decision-makers, movers and ‘game changer’ in our society.

I can randomly remember the names of women that I regard highly in history. Florence Nightingale who is referred by most as the mother of modern nursing. Cleopatra, aside from her exquisite beauty, she is known as a diplomat, naval commander and influential ruler in Egypt.

Queen Elizabeth, the last in line from the House of Tudor, who became the Queen of England at her very young age and survived so many assassination attempts. Known in history as the Virgin Queen, she put England into the pedestal of greatness during her reign when she led the battle that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Another brave legendary woman warrior in history is Saint Joan of Arc who is considered the heroine of France during the Hundred Years War.

Anyone who remembers Margaret Thatcher? Her leadership style and uncompromising politics earned her the nickname “The Iron Lady”, the first woman British Prime Minister and considered to be the longest-serving Prime Minister in the 20th Century.

There is Mother Teresa or Saint Teresa of Calcutta who is known for inspiring the world with her wisdom and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor. 

In the case of the Philippines, if you look into our record in history, I believe we are the only country in the world, which made the President of the country stepdown from the office through a bloodless revolution, twice. For both revolution, we put a woman in the position of the President, that’s former presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Prior to colonization, the country have a very strong woman leader in the communities in the person of the female babailan who served as the village healer and the record keeper of the stories within the community. She also served as a medium of the village that helps maintain the harmony between nature and the people.

We also have our very own heroine or female bagani in the likes of Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora who is also known as the Great Woman of Revolution. Gabriella Silang, the first woman leader of the Filipino movement for independence from Spain.

Of course, we will also remember our Ilonggo version ‘Joan of Arc’ in the person of  Teresa Magbanua, a school teacher and one of the few female military leaders who led the Panay-based Visayan arm of Katipunan during the Philippine revolution against the Spanish Empire.

Being a babaye, babailan or bagani is quite a challenge for Filipino females and the role has been pass on to us through generations. I believe these roles are still crucial in the present day generations in order to face the new formed ‘enemies’ in our society.  It might not be the exact personality of a babailan or bagani, but we can look into our setting today and we will find that we still have the presence of strong women characters in our country that serve as healers and heroines in the fight against various ‘societal illnesses and enemies’.

Indeed, it is not an easy task to be a woman and be the catalyst of change.

The present situation requires us for a new courage and strength. Enhanced healing and heroic skills and knowledge are needed in order to face these new formed ‘illnesses and enemies’. A woman have to be steadfast if she decides to put up a battle against various faces of corruption, perversion and greed in the society.

Experience wise, I believe, that in the roller coaster battle of life in our society, the top most role of a woman today is to be a mother and how to raise a child to be a ‘good, conscientious and responsible citizen’ of the
country.

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