Filipina Feminists, Firebrands and Freedom Fighters

Type the word “Filipina” into Google and you’ll be inundated by a bounty of sleazy websites hocking mail- order brides, sex tours, and a host of other salacious services allegedly proffered by the “exotic” and “submissive” women of the Philippine Islands.

But the country’s unsavory reputation as a one-stop sex shop for lecherous American and European men belies a robust, militant women’s movement and a centuries-old precedent of gender equality.

With that in mind, two women legislators from the GABRIELA Women’s Party are pushing for the creation of a national museum honoring “the heroism, martyrdom and achievements of Filipinas in society.”

Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana De Jesus are hoping to recognize the achievements of notable women in Philippine history such as Gabriela Silang, a 17th-century revolutionary who led 2,000 Filipinos in battle against the Spanish army, as well as recognizing historic feminist organizations such the Association of Ilonga Feminists, which began fighting for suffrage in 1912.

The museum would be the first of its kind, and an important step in recognizing the oft-forgotten contributions and struggles of women in Philippine society. The nation certainly has no shortage of feminist firebrands and freedom fighters, and today Filipinas continue to fortify the front lines of the country’s most pivotal social justice movements.

A few fun facts about Filipina feminist history:

  • Prior to Spanish colonization in the 1500s, women practiced pre-marital sex, divorce, abortion and actively participated in trade.
  • The first Filipina “feminist” organization was established in 1901: Asocacion Feminista Filipina.
  • Filipinas became the first women in Asia to obtain suffrage, in 1937.
  • Because of the Philippines’ colonial legacy, Filipina feminism is inherently nationalistic—advocating for the rights of women while fighting for liberation and autonomy of the Filipino people as a whole.
  • GABRIELA Philippines (named after Gabriela Silang) is the largest network of women’s rights organizations in the country. Its U.S.-based sister organization, GABRIELA USA boasts active, vibrant chapters in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

ABOVE: During GABRIELA’s 2010 satirical fashion show, a political protest of government corruption, an activist walks the runway representing the rampant extrajudicial killing of journalists in the Philippines.


  1. 'as a one-stop sex shop for lecherous American and European men'

    American and European men only? What about the South Korean men who buy these women as mail-order brides, is discrimination and sexual slavery suddenly ok when it's practised by Asians? Don't be so myopic and bloody stupid. I'd also point out that the Phillipines rank among the top most gender equal countries on earth according to the Gender Equality Index – higher than the countries of many of the men who take advantage of the women of these isles. But those men have money. That's the issue here.

    • South Korea is a beneficiary of US imperialism in the face of the threat of socialism from china and North Korea. So no, it’s not okay when Asians do it. It’s western subversion and capitalism that drives it though. Just FYI, thanks for playing. As long as capitalism is the dominant system, socialist resistance must maintain a gendered military state to keep their economy running efficiently as a psuedo capitalist socialist entity. Still even in such a stream line front of capitalist socialism, China still rates higher in gender equality than the US.

  2. Arab women: Stand up for your Right and save the arabs from this absurdity cirkle.. Please

  3. Filipino women are anything but “submissive”. Like women the world over they will come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. However, there is a pervasive stereotype that a Filipino woman will be some kind of perfect wife (once described as: a lady in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom), which I think will one day be proven to be far from the truth.

  4. ” pushing for the creation of a national museum ”
    i would LOVE to see this come to full fruition!!

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