The Philippine Revolution

Filipino Women Revolutionaries

Like ethnicity, gender played a significant role during the Revolution. As early as 1892, the Katipunan had a women’s chapter, Katipuneras, which was mostly made up of the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of the Katipuneros. While the Katipuneros men held clandestine meetings in the interior or back of a house, the Katipuneras provided the diversionary tactics in the living room for passers-by to see. Some of these Katipuneras were Gregoria de Jesus, Andres Bonifacio’s wife, who became known as the Lakambini or First Lady of the Katipunan; Jose Rizal’s sisters; and Melchora Aquino who was also called Tandang Sora (Old Sora). Tandang Sora became a legend because she was a  medicine woman who stitched the wounded and cured the sick. Her home was used by the Katipunan for their clandestine meetings and she served the Revolution by rendering her "medical" expertise to Katipunan members.

There were also numerous Filipinas who distinguished themselves in the battlefield. In 1896, Gregoria Montoya y Patricio, upon the death of her Katipunero husband, led the charge of a thirty men unit while holding a Katipunan flag on one hand and a sharp-bladed bolo (machete) on another hand. She used a white piece of cloth, commonly used during mass, to ward off bullets. Another Filipina revolutionary was Agueda Kahabagan who fought the Spaniards armed with a rifle, brandishing a bolo and dressed in white. Teresa Magbanua, on the other hand, earned the sobriquet "Joan of Arc" of the Visayas for the valor she displayed in many battles.

But Filipino women’s participation during the Revolution was not confined to actual fighting. Rosario Lopez, a scion of the wealthy hacendero Lopez clan of Negros, donated firearms to the revolutionary cause. Similarly, women of Cavite utilized their business connections to form a network of contacts for the Revolution. The Filipino Red Cross, established in 1863, became another venue for women participation in the Revolution. In 1899, the Red Cross, under the leadership of the wife of Emilio Aguinaldo, had thirteen chapters spread out from Ilocos Norte to Batangas. Conventional female activities such as sewing and cooking were utilized outside the homes to serve the needs of Filipino troops.