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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Mothers and heroes

Every day, these women choose to fight for truth and justice alongside their roles as mothers

Every year, when August strikes, everyone’s ‘Filipino-ness’ seems to double.

This is most likely attributed with the festivities of Buwan ng Wika, the commemoration of Ninoy Aquino Day and the celebration of National Heroes Day all jampacked in a month.

One thing I have noticed though about National Heroes Day, whether it is with thought pieces or publication materials posted online, they often feature men.

Noble men of course, like Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Lapu-Lapu, and Apolinario Mabini.

Still, there is a glaring absence of women.

With this observation, I’ve decided to dedicate National Heroes Day to everyday Filipino women who I also consider Filipino heroes.

Being a good mother alone is already honorable.

It is difficult to choose to be a good mother every day.

It requires endless patience, discipline, understanding, and grit.

What’s even harder is having to be a good person too, outside of motherhood.

Motherhood is all-consuming, all-encompassing; to find time to help the marginalized while also being a good mother is a heroic act.

Yet, this is what these mothers do all the time.

Edith Burgos is known for being the mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos.

Sometimes, ‘wife of late press freedom icon Joe Burgos’ is added to the list.

However, outside of these, she is also a respected human rights defender.

From a Carmelite who had a vow of silence, she was pushed forward into activism when she began to search for her son and seek justice.

Today, she works with other victims of enforced disappearances to ensure they have the support that they need for their own journeys and fights.

In fact, some have resorted to calling her Nanay Edith. She is now not only the mother of Jonas, but the mother of those in the Desaparecidos community.

Another mother of a desaparecido is Dittz De Jesus. She is the mother of Bazoo De Jesus who was disappeared with Dexter Capuyan in Taytay, Rizal on April 28, 2023.

She has been calling for both her son and Dexter to be surfaced.

As an OFW based in Italy, she brings a new perspective on the plight of the families of the disappeared. While she asserts their human rights, she also shows the added difficulty of having to be abroad while she looks for her son.

A woman and mother working with migrants such as Dittz De Jesus has also passed away recently–Susan “Toots” Ople.

According to her daughter, Estelle Ople Osorio, she did not only lose a mother but a great friend.

Toots Ople was a genuine advocate for the rights of OFWs.

In fact, she was the pioneer Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers.

In 2004, she also established the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, an NGO focused on serving OFWs and their families.

Some women find their acts of heroism later in life, some find the call early.

Such is the case for Bibeth Orteza. Before Bibeth became a mother, she found herself deep in student activism during Marcos Sr.’s regime.

As an actor and writer, she was and continues to be conscious of using her talents to make a political stance.

She was a founding member of UP Repertory. In an article speaking of her belief that art is activism, she also says, “You need to say something in whatever you do.”

She is currently the chairperson of Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Carol Araullo found activism early in life too.

She was a student activist first, the mother of Atom Araullo second.

Joking aside, she did serve the student council in UP Diliman as a councilor of the College of Arts and Sciences and as vice-chair of the University Student Council.

After this, Carol proceeded to go underground to organize in other schools such as Miriam and Ateneo. Carol’s activism continues to this day as the chair emeritus of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Finally, I will be remiss if I do not include in this column my wife Titay, truly a mother and hero.

We met in the late 1970s as students in Ateneo de Manila University in the moral philosophy class of Dr. Manny Dy and became close friends and eventually romantic partners in the 1985, capping that relationship on May 4, 1985 when we got married.

We raised three sons together and are proud of what they have become.

Our sons know their mother is awesome as they witnessed recently how she supported me as I struggled with my physical and mental challenges.

She has forgiven me so many times — more than seventy times seven — for my many failures.

Titay has a doctorate in pastoral counseling and currently works with the Catholic Safeguarding Institute.

Their mission is to help the Catholic Church in reforming itself with new protocols and mechanisms to prevent sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. On a daily basis,

I have seen Titay’s dedication to this important work.

Every day, these women choose to fight for truth and justice alongside their roles as mothers.

We must honor them not only as mothers, but also as modern day heroes.

They truly show that women are stronger, braver, and tougher than what the world tells us women are. To exist at the same time as these heroes do is truly nothing short of an honor.’

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