This is our dream, this is the desire we cherish in our hearts: to restore the honor of the woman, who is half of our heart, our companion in the joys and tribulations of life. If she is a maiden, the young man should love her not only because of her beauty and her amiable character, but also on account of her fortitude of mind and loftiness of purpose, which quicken and elevate the feeble and timid and ward off all vain thoughts.
Let the maiden be the pride of her country and command respect, because it is a common practice on the part of Spaniards and friars here who have returned from the Islands to speak of the Filipina as complaisant and ignorant, as if all should be thrown into the same class because of the missteps of a few, and as if women of weak character did not exist in other lands…
Why does the girl not require of her lover a noble and honored name, a manly heart offering protection to her weakness, and a high spirit incapable of being satisfied with engendering slaves? Let her discard all fear, let her behave nobly and not deliver her youth to the weak and faint-hearted.
When she is married, she must aid her husband, inspire him with courage, share his perils, refrain from causing him worry and sweeten his moments of affection, always remembering that there is no grief that a brave heart can not bear and there is no bitterer inheritance than that of infamy and slavery.
Open your children’s eyes so that they may jealously guard their honor, love their fellowmen and their native land, and do their duty. Always impress upon them they must prefer dying with honor to living in dishonor. The women of Sparta should serve you as an example in this.
Jose Rizal, Letter to the Young Women of Malolos, December 12, 1888.
Originally written in Tagalog and published in La Solidaridad, Rizal addressed this letter of encouragement and high praise to the Filipina women in Malolos who bravely petitioned Governor General Valeriano Weyler to open a “night school” for them. This was, despite the great resistance of the Spanish friars in Malolos. Numerous attempts at education were shut down by authorities. But at the time, the women heard of the news that the Spanish Governor General was in Malolos for a short visit, and immediately, these women organized themselves, went to the house where the Governor-General was (to his and the friars’ surprise), and handed to him themselves their petition.
When Rizal heard of the news, he immediately wrote this letter to them.
Even when the school was granted and was eventually closed again, this group of women made waves–some eventually joined the Katipunan, and many of them joined the first Philippine Red Cross in the First Philippine Republic. Some of them lived on and established local feminist organizations that paved the way for the championing of women’s rights in the Philippines during the American Colonial Period and the eventual passage of the women’s suffrage during the Commonwealth.
The musical docu-drama Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos (2014), directed by Kiri Dalena and Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena with screenplay by Nicanor Tiongson, was dedicated to them.