I Am… Woman: Historic Filipinas


August 7, 2014 | BY Beatrice Celdran

Clemencia Lopez was a feisty Filipina from Batangas who fought for her rights and that of her country when women did not yet have a voice. Following in her footsteps, learn about some Filipinas whose stories make it to history's pages.

Clemencia Lopez y Castello was born in the town of Balayan, in the province of Batangas, in 1873. Her mother was Maria Castello y Apacible and her father was Natalio Narciso Lopez, the gobernadorcillo of the town, known to have a strong stance against Spain. Natalio's sons took up his cause after his death, funding the revolution and supporting their brother Mason, Jose Rizal, and even getting arrested in 1901 during the Philippine American war. It was with the appeal of her brothers' release that at 29, Clemencia was the first Filipina to step into the White House and hold an audience with the president of the United States. 

In February 2013, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines installed a Historical Marker in the Lopez home in Batangas. Clemencia stood for the Philippines in America as well as in her homeland, impacting the role of Filipinas in history.

(Read the inspiring story of Clemencia Lopez as told by her descendant Victoria Lopez in the August 2014 issue of Philippine Tatler. Available in leading newsstands and bookstores. Download the digital magazine on Magzter and Zinio.)

The unsung heroes of the Katipunan were not just the unnamed soldiers of the Filipino front, but also the women that had given up their lives in the belief of real independence. These women omitted in our history books, these women that fought the oppressors and fled with their children; these are the Filipinas that Mabini held such high regard for in La Revolucion Filipina. Modern womanhood has been in the blood of every Filipina in her choice to take on a myriad of roles, break stereotypes, and stay true to her motherland.

Melchora Aquino (Tandang Sora)

Monikered the “Mother of the Katipunan,” Melchora Aquino proved to the world that age is never a factor. Joining the Revolution at age 84, she opened her home in Balintawak as a recluse and made provisions available to the revolutionary fighters of the Katipunan before the uprising. With her actions, Spanish officials detained her in Bilibid prison after heavy interrogation. Keeping her silence during the questioning, she was then banished to Guam with a number of Filipino prisoners. Despite her financial inability to send herself to school, she was considered very wise and highly educated. Following her husband’s death, she continued his businesses and raised their six children by herself.

Generala Agueda Kahabagan

Known as the only female general in the Katipunan, Agueda Kahabagan was appointed by General Emilio Aguinaldo himself. A native of San Pablo, Laguna, she was remembered to have fiercely defended her locale against the Spaniards, even launching successful offensive attacks. Her legendary skills were at the time considered “man-like” as she outdid her own men. Elders of San Pablo recall her jumping over trenches high and wide during the ferocity of battle. Generala Agueda, as she was called, was known to hold a gun in one hand and a dagger in another on horseback. Although a poet during her time, none of her works were preserved and none survived until the present.

Trinidad Tecson

A Bulacan-born Katipunera, Trinidad was dubbed as the “Mother of Biak na Bato”. Joining the Katipunan at 47 years old, she fought valiantly alongside the revolutionary fighters using intellect as her prowess. A Freemason, a messenger, a soldier, a nurse, and most of all, a leader, Trinidad took on multiple roles during the revolution and fought even until the Filipino American War in the company of General Gregorio del Pilar. Moving from one battlefield to another, she had been wounded many times but never showed fear nor weakness in front of the soldiers. Her fervour for independence left her ill after discovering that peace had been made with the Americans.

Josefa Rizal

Sister to the country’s national hero and the ninth child in the Mercado (Rizal) family, she is probably the first handicapped indvidual to join the ranks of the revolution. Diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age, seizures had become characteristic of Josefa. Because of the lack of any medicinal advances at the time, she was never accurately treated. She breaks both stereotypes of woman and handicap, and was elected as the president of the Katipunan’s Women’s Chapter, where she took on the appellation “Sumikat.” Also a convert to Freemasonry, she promoted ideas of liberalism through the Logia de Adopcion. She died at the age of 90 in 1945.

Gregoria de Jesus

A true portrait of a woman’s courage and endurance, Gregoria de Jesus joined the revolution as early as 18 years old. As the wife of Katipunan leader, Andres Bonifacio, she was dubbed as the “Lakambini of the Katipunan,” or muse of the revolution. Her cunning and alertness saved her countless times from capture and was praised by her fellow allies. Pregnant with Bonifacio’s first born, the couple returned to Manila, where their home was destroyed by a massive fire. A few months after her son was born, the infant died due to small pox. She was captured along with Bonifacio and his brothers by Aguinaldo’s men and was believed to have been raped as well. Widowed after having survived the ordeal brought on by Aguinaldo’s treachery, she fell in love with her designated caretaker, Julio Nakpil, a Katipunan commander and Bonifacio loyalist. The two were married in 1898, shortly after the Philippine Revolution.


Clemencia Lopez's biography based on text by Victoria Lopez. Photos courtesy of Victoria Lopez. Illustration courtesy of Kristine Caguiat. 

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