Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Letter to the Women of Malolos by Jose P. Rizal

London, 22 February 1889


When I wrote the Noli me tangere I pondered long on whether or not courage was a common virtue of the young women of the country. Though I searched my memory diligently, though I recalled one by one all the young women I have known since childhood, only a few conformed to the ideal I longed for. It is true that many were endowed with sweet disposition, beautiful habits, gentle manners, modesty but withal were mingled complete deference and obedience to every work and request of the so-called fathers of the soul – as if the soul had any other father but God – due to excessive goodness, humility, or perhaps ignorance. They are like withered plants, sowed and grown in darkness. Though they may bloom, their flowers are without fragrance; though they may bear fruit, their fruit has no juice.

However, now that news arrived here of what occurred in your town Malolos. I realized that I was wrong, and my joy was beyond bounds. I should not be blamed, for I did not know the town of Malolos nor its young women, except one Emilia and this one only by name.

Now that you have responded to our vehement clamor for public welfare; now that you have shown a good example to you fellow young women who, like you, desire to have their eyes opened and to be lifted from their prostration, our hope is roused, now we are confident of victory. The Filipino woman no longer bows her head and bends her knees; her hope in the future is revived; gone is the mother who helps to keep her daughter in the dark, who educates her in self-contempt and moral annihilation. It is no longer the highest wisdom to bow the head to every unjust order, the highest goodness to smile at an insult, to seek solace in humble tear. You have found out that God’s command is different from that of the priest, that piety does not consist in prolonged kneeling, long prayers, large rosaries, soiled scapulars, but in good conduct, clean conscience and right thinking. You have discovered that it is not goodness to be too obedient to every desire and request of those who pose as little gods, but to obey what is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is the origin of crooked orders and in this case both parties sin. The head of the priest cannot say that he alone will be responsible for the wrong order because God gave each one his own mind and his own conscience so that he can distinguish between right and wrong. All are born without chains, free and no one can subject the will and spirit of another. Why would you submit to another your noble and free thought? It is cowardice and an error to believe that blind obedience is piety and arrogance to think and reflect. Ignorance is ignorance and not goodness and honor. God, fountain of wisdom, does not expect man, created in his image, to allow himself to be fooled and blinded. The gift of reason with which we are endowed must be brightened and utilized. An example is the father who gave each of his son a lamp to light his way in the darkness. Let them intensify its flame, take care of it, not extinguish it to depend on the light of others, but to help one another, seek each other’s counsel in the search of the way. He is exceedingly stupid and he can be blamed if he stumbles in following somebody else’s light, and the father could say to him: “What for did I give you a lamp of your own?” But one who stumbles by following his own light cannot be greatly blamed because perhaps his light is dim or else the road is very bad.

The usual reply of those who want to fool others is this: He who depends on his own reason is arrogant. I believe that more arrogant is he who wishes to subject another’s will and dominate all men. More arrogant is he who poses as God, who pretends to understand every manifestation of God’s will. And exceedingly arrogant or blasphemous is he who attributes to God everything he says and desires and makes his personal enemies the enemies of God. We ought not to depend on ourselves solely. We should seek advice, listen to others and do what we believe to be the most reasonable. The habit or the cassock does not add anything to a man’s learning. Even if the wild mountaineer is clothed in layers of habits, he remains wild and he cannot fool any other except the ignorant and the ill-willed. So that this can be proven, buy a habit of St. Francis and put it on a carabao. It would be lucky that with the habit on, he does not become lazy. Le me leave this subject and talk about another.

Young womanhood, the nursery of fruitful flowers, ought to accumulate riches to bequeath to its descendants. What could the offspring be of a woman whose virtue is to murmur prayers, whose only knowledge is derived from awit, novena, prayer-books, miraculous tales intended to fool men, with no other recreation but panguingue or frequent confessions of the same sins. What sons would she have but sacristans, servants of the curate, or devotees of cockfighting? The present enslavement of our compatriots is the work of our mothers because of the absolute confidence of their loving hearts and of their great desire to improve the lot of their children. Maturity is the fruit of childhood and childhood is in the lap of the mother. The mother who teaches nothing else but how to kneel and kiss the hand should not expect any other kind of children but stupid ones or oppressed slaves. A tree that grows in the mire is either light or only fit for firewood. Of by chance there should be a bold one, his boldness is concealed and he will use it for evil, like the dazed bat which cannot forth until it is twilight. The common reply is that foremost are piety and love of God. But, what is the piety that they have taught us? To pray and kneel a long time, kiss the hand of the priest, spend all the money on the church, and believe whatever occurs to them to tell us. Chatter, callous knees, rubbing of the nose . . . . With the regard to church alms, using God as the pretext, is there anything in the world which does not belong to and is the creation of God? What would you say to a servant who gives to his master alms consisting of a piece of rag borrowed from the same rich master? Who is the vain and foolish man who will give alms to God and believe that his miserable gift will clothe the Creator of all things? Blessed is he who gives the needy, helps the poor, and feeds the hungry , but cursed and censurable is he who is deaf to the entreaties of the poor, who stuffs those who are satiated, and lavishes his money on silver hangings for the altar, on alms of the church or the friar who is swimming in riches, on Masses with music and rockets, while he squeezes this money form the bones of the poor and offers it to the master with which to by the chains to bind him and to pay his executioners. Oh, blindness and shortsightedness.

True piety is obedience to what is right, happen what may. “Deeds and not words are what I ask of you”, said Christ. “He is not the son of my father, my father, but her who lives according to the will of the father.” Piety does not consist in a worn-out nose nor in Christ’s successor known for giving his hand to be kissed. He did not fatten the rich and proud scribes. He did not mention scapulars, he did not require the wearing of rosaries, he did not ask money for Masses, and he did not charge for saying prayers. St. John did not ask to be paid for baptizing on the Jordan River nor Christ for preaching. Why is it that now priests ask to be paid for every move they make? And still hungry, they sell scapulars, rosaries, belts, and other things to entice money and to hurt the soul; because even if you wear a scapular all the rags on earth, wear as rosaries all the wood in the forests, gird around your waist all the skin of animals and over all of them all the priests in the world take pains to make the sign of the cross and to murmur prayers, and sprinkle them with all the water of the sea, they cannot cleanse the dirty heart, they cannot absolve the unrepentant of sins. Likewise, for their covetousness they forbid many things, such as eating meat, marrying one’s cousin, compadre, and the like, which however are permitted if one pays. Why, can God be bought and is He dazzled by money like the priests? The thief who pays for a bull for composition can rest assured that he has been forgiven. Therefore, God wants to partake of stolen goods? Is it true that God is so needy that He imitates the carabineer or the civil guard? If this is the God that the friars worship, I turn my back to such a God.

Let us be reasonable and open our eyes, especially you women, because you are the ones who open the minds of men. Consider that a good mother is different from the one created by the friars. Raise your children close to the image of the true God – the God who cannot be bribed, the God who is not avaricious, the God who is the father of all, who is not partial, the God who does not fatten on the blood of the poor, who does not rejoice at the plaint of the afflicted, and does not obfuscate the intelligent mind. Awaken and prepare the mind of the child for every good and desirable idea – love for honor, sincere and firm character, clear mind, clean conduct, noble action, love for one’s fellow men, respect for God – teach this to your children. And because life is full of sorrows and perils, fortify their character against any difficulty, strengthen their hearts against any danger. The country should not expect honor and prosperity so long as the education of the children is defective, so long as the women who raise the children are enslaved and ignorant. Nothing can be drunk in a turbid and bitter spring. No sweet fruit can be picked from a sour seed.

Important indeed are the duties that women must fulfill in order to relieve the country of her sufferings, but they are not beyond the strength and character of the Filipino woman to perform. Everybody knows the power and the prudence of the women of the Philippines. Hence they blind them, chain them, weaken their spirit, so sure are they that so long as the mother is a slave, all her children can be enslaved also. This is the reason of the enslavement of Asia: the women of in Asia are ignorant and oppressed. Europe and America are powerful because there the women are free and educated, their mind is lucid and their character is strong.

We know that you lack instructive books; we realize that nothing is injected into your mind daily except what will serve to dim your inherent light. We are aware of all this so that we are endeavoring to make the light that is shining over your fellow women in Europe reach you. If you will not be bored with these few words that we are going to say and you will read them, perhaps no matter how thick the fog that envelops our country, the brilliant light of the sun will penetrate it and it will shine however faintly. We shall not falter if you help us. God will help us to dispel the mist for He is the God of Truth; and the former brilliance of the Filipino woman will be restored undiminished. She lacks nothing but a free mind, for she had an excess of goodness.

Such is the longing that is constantly in our thoughts, that we dream of – the honor of the woman who is the partner of our heart, who shares our happiness and our misfortune. If she is a young woman, let the young man love her not only for her beauty or the sweetness of her disposition but also for the firmness of her character, her lofty ideas that invigorate and encourage the weak and timorous man or arouse brilliant ideas. That she may be a young woman of whom the country can be proud, a young woman of who inspires respect. It is the common talk here among Spaniards and friars who came from there that the Filipino woman is weak and ignorant, as if all were weak because some have fallen; as if in other countries there were no women of weak character, whereas in fact the Filipino women possess more virtue than those of other countries. Nevertheless, the Spaniards and the friars who return to Spain, perhaps because of the looseness of their tongues, broadcast first of all in print and by word of mouth, accompanied by shouts, laughter and insults that So and So was like that in the convent, like that to a Spanish houseguest, and many other things that are irritating whenever we remember that many of the failings are due to naïveté, excessive kindness, meekness, or blindness, which is their work. There is a Spaniard here, who is now an important personage, whom we fed and housed during the time he was wandering about the Philippines. As soon as he came back to Spain, he had it published that once he sought hospitality in Pampanga. He ate and slept there and the lady of the house was this and that to him. This was how he returned the kind hospitality of the lady.  Likewise the returned friar regaled his Spanish callers with stories about his obedient hand-kissers and other things accompanied with smiles and significant winks. In the book published by Mr. Sinbaldo de Mas and in other books written by friars are related the sins confessed by women, which the friars did not keep secret, recounting them to their Spanish callers and embellishing them at times with incredible tall and lewd stories. I cannot repeat her what a friar unashamedly told Mas he could not believe. Every time we hear or read about these things we ask if the Spanish women are Holy Marys and all Filipino women are sinners. However, if it should come to a point of settling accounts and exposing, perhaps . . . But let me abandon the subject for I am not a father confessor nor a Spanish house-guest who destroys the honor of his hosts. I lay this aside and continue relating the duties of women.

In countries were women are respected as in the Philippines, they ought to recognize their true position so that they may be able to perform the duties expected of them. An old custom was that when an student went courting, he threw away everything – studies, honor, money – as if a young women sowed nothing but evil. The bravest when he got married, became a coward; the coward became shameless, as if he were waiting only to get married before proclaiming his own cowardice. The son had no other excuse for his pusillanimity except his concern for his mother, and because of this he swallowed gall, endured blows, obeyed the most idiotic order, and he became an accomplice of traitors. It must be known that when no one flees, there will be nor pursuer; if there are no small fish there will be no big ones. Why does not a young woman ask of the man she is going to love for a noble and honorable name, a manly heart that can permit him to be the father of slaves? Instill in his mind activity, noble behavior, worthy sentiments, and don not surrender your young womanhood to a weak and timid heart. When she becomes a wife, she should help her husband in every difficulty, encourage him, share with him all perils, console him and drive away his woes, always bearing in mind that a heroic heart can endure any suffering and no legacy is bitter as the legacy of infamy and slavery. Teach your children to guard and love their honor, to love their fellowmen, their native land, and to perform their duties. Tell them repeatedly to prefer death with honor to life with dishonor. They should imitate the women of Sparta and here I am going to cite some examples.

When a mother handed the shield to her son who was going to war, this was all she said to him: “Bring this back or they bring you back”, meaning “You come back a victor or you die” because it was the custom to throw away the shield of the fleeing vanquished warrior or bring back his corpse on top of the shield. A mother heard that her son was killed in the war and the army was defeated. She said nothing but gave thanks that her son had been saved from ignominy; but when her son came back alive, upon seeing him, she put on mourning. A warrior told a mother who had gone out to meet the returning heroes that her three sons had been killed in the war. “That is not what I am asking”, the mother replied, “but, did we win or did we lose?” The hero replied, “We won.” If that is so, let us give thanks to God!” she said, and she went to the temple.

Once a defeated king of theirs hid in the temple for fear of popular indignation. The Spartans agreed to close him up and starve him. When they sealed the door, the mother was the first to bring stones. These customs were common among them and therefore all GreeceSparta, no enemy was able to set foot on her soil and no Spartan woman ever saw an enemy army. respected the Spartan women. “Of all women”, remarked one, “only you Spartan women wield power over men.” “Of course”, replied the Spartan women, “of all women we alone give birth to real men.” Men, said Spartans are nor born to live for themselves but for their country. So long as this manner of thinking and this type of women prevailed in

I do not expect to be believed because I say it. Many people do not respect reason and truth, but the priest’s habit, gray hair, or lack of teeth. But if old age is venerable because of hard experience, my past life though a short one, dedicated to the welfare of the country, also has given me some experience. Far be it from me to compel others to believe me, to pretend to be a little god, a successor of God, to expect people to take my word with closed eyes, bowed head, and folded arms. What I ask is for all to think, to reflect and meditate, investigate and shift in the name of reason the following that I am going to state:

First and foremost. Some become treacherous because of cowardice and negligence of others.

Second. Lack of self-respect and excessive timidity invite scorn.

Third. Ignorance is bondage, because like mind, like man. A man without will of his own is a man without personality. The blind who follows other’s opinion is like a beast led by a halter.

Fourth. One who wants to help himself should help others, because if he neglects others, he too will be neglected by them. One mid-rib is easy to break, but not a bundle of many mid-ribs, tied together.

Fifth. If the Filipino woman will not change, she should not be entrusted with the education of her children. She should only bear them. She should be deprived of her authority in the home; otherwise she may be unwittingly betray her husband, children, country and all.

Sixth. Men are born equal, naked, and without chains. They were not created by God to be enslaved, neither were they endowed with intelligence in order to be misled, nor adorned with reason to be fooled by others. It is not pride to refuse worship a fellow man, to enlighten the mind, and to reason out everything. The arrogant one is he who wants to be worshipped, who misleads others, and wants his will to prevail over reason and justice.

Seventh. Analyze carefully the kind of religion taught you. Find out if that is the command of God or the teaching of Christ for alleviating the suffering of the poor, for comforting those in pain. Consider everything taught you, the aim in every sermon, the underlying reason for every Mass, novena, rosary, scapular, image, miracle, candle belt, and other things that are forced upon you, dinned daily into your ears and dangled before your eyes, and discover the beginning and their end, and then compare that religion with the pure religion of Christ, and see if your Christianity is not like the milking animals or like the pig that is being fattened, nor for its own sake, but in order to see it at a price and make money out of it.

Let us reflect then, study our situation, and ponder. May these few loose lines serve as an aid to your natural intelligence and enable you to proceed along the path on which you have started.

Tubo ko’y dakila sa puhunang pagod, and I shall welcome whenever may happen, the usual reward for anyone who dares to tell the truth in our country. May you realize your desire to learn and may you not gather in the garden of knowledge the unripe fruit but select what you pick, think about it, taste it before swallowing it, for on the face of the earth all are mixed and it is not unusual for the enemy to sow weeds together with the good seeds in the middle of the field.

This is the sincere wish of your compatriot.


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