By Gloria T. Caoile, Tambuli


I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water!”

Isn’t that so true – the more challenges we face, the more we rise to the occasion… and it even amazes us when we face those challenges and conquer our fears.

And we even have a month (of course I think we should be honored all year round), March, that honors us as women. I would like to applaud the women in our community — yes, all the women, because each and everyone of you contribute to the richness of our culture and history.

I am also reminded of historical women who played a significant part in the building of a nation. Over a hundred years ago, when General Emilio Aguinaldo went into exile in Hong Kong, his family and loyal supporters accompanied him. The exiled revolutionaries included womenfolk: wives, sisters, daughters, kinswomen, patriots in their own way. Among them was Marcela Agoncillo, the wife of Don Felipe Agoncillo, diplomat spokesman for General Aguinaldo.

Marcela Agoncillo was asked to sew the first flag of the Philippines. She chose silk — a brilliant red, a bright blue, and pristine white, purchased from the bazaars of Hong Kong. She selected the touch of gold and used silken threads to match the brilliant swatches of silk cloth.

Together with her young daughter, Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, whose mother was a sister of Dr. Jose Rizal, the women labored hard. Their hearts were imprinted on the flag. Marcela never saw the flag fly in Kawit, Cavite. At the request of Aguinaldo, her husband remained in Hong Kong and she stayed with him.

The women of the revolution never took up arms although they fought their own battle. They were the wives who sustained their men in adversity; couriers who bore messages on their gentle, frail persons; volunteers who braved the battlefields to cook; nurses who searched the trenches for the wounded and the dead; keepers of secrets who hid husbands, brothers, relatives and friends in their homes and granaries. Like Melchora Aquino, known as “Tandong Sora” who was arrested jailed, exiled in servitude during old age because she opened her home to Andres Bonifacio and other revolutionaries. These are just some of the women that set the stage for us to reach our goals.

In the last 20 years, America has witnessed women moving into powerful political positions, and into prominent positions in corporations, participating as astronauts and taking their right places in many other career venues. Women in this country have not only had to learn to manage in the workplace, produce substantial work along with their male peers, but to change the culture of the workplace. Our challenge in this country has been made more difficult by the fact that we have had to face sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, attempt to pierce the glass ceiling, and yet at the same time, our traditional role as a nurturer of the family remain unchanged.

The strength of the Filipino women is embroiled in the courage, generosity and kindness shown by each and every one of you. The question that we face as Filipino women is whether we should relinquish our role. I believe we have too much to offer. In fact, I believe that Filipino women offer a model for what this country needs — women determined to succeed in their chosen professions while maintaining a strong commitment to family and to the community.


Reprinted with permission from Tambuli, a monthly publication for Filipinos and Filipino Americans in Washington, D.C., published by the National Federal of Filipino American Associations. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.