In praise of our Spartan women
“When some foreign lady… told her that the women of [Sparta] were the only women of the world who could rule men; ‘With good reason,’ she said, ‘for we are the only women who bring forth men.’” Thus the Roman historian Plutarch wrote, in “Parallel Lives,” of Gorgo, the resolutely fierce wife of Spartan King Leonidas.
I have had the precious privilege of having truly good men as my role models. My grandfather, who passed away in the middle of prayers to the Almighty, was universally renowned within his community. He was an earnest public servant who not only shunned millions (of dollars) of temptations, but also often, to the astonishment of his colleagues, even pitched in (from his meager income) whenever there was a shortage of office supplies.
A devoted husband, he built his house with his own hands, lovingly raised three beautiful children, and tirelessly pursued higher education through night school. My father, in turn, raised my sister and I while battling with decades of progressive immobility following brain surgery.
They say behind every great man is an even greater woman. In our case, however, the women were front and center. In moments of immense difficulty, it was always my inscrutably tough mother, an Ilocana with fierceness printed in her genes, who was the pillar of our lives.
A university professor, she has been at once a workaholic breadwinner who made sure her children will not lack the greatest comforts in life, as well as a loving mother and wife who selflessly devoted her life to her family’s welfare.
She took care of my ailing father throughout unimaginably desperate moments, most recently when my father fell into a long coma, with only a glimmer of hope tenuously lurking over the far horizon.
If not for her steely resolve, I’m not sure how we could have managed to visit my dad constantly and cope with the morbid despair of walking in and out of the ICU every single day for almost three weeks.
In her, I found the strength I couldn’t find in myself. In her love, I witnessed the boundless generosity of the Almighty. And I have been lucky to have had not only one, but numerous Spartan women in my life, including my sister, my aunts and my grandmothers, who brought forth and reared good men with divine inspiration.
As a Filipino, I feel also immensely privileged to come from a country of modern Spartan women, who have valiantly stood up to systematic misogyny, toxic masculinity and self-destructive machismo.
In the global Gender Gap index, the Philippines boasts the best gender equality conditions in the entire Asia. We have been blessed to have great female leaders who rose to the occasion when our men retreated in infamy.
Regardless of one’s political persuasion, few could deny the courageous resolve of many leading women of our times, ranging from former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former chief justice Maria Lourdes “Meilou” Aranal Sereno to Sen. Leila de Lima and Vice President Leni Robredo.
All these women, commonly seen as part of the “opposition,” have demonstrated unshakable resilience in the face of the greatest challenges, including the wrath of an authoritarian populist.
Yet, courage knows no partisanship, for even independent-leaning statesmen have shown similar fire. In recent months, Sen. Grace Poe has gone the extra mile, with incessant and undaunted determination, to shed light on the national security implications of China’s creeping entry into our strategic sectors. She has also raised alarm bells over the economic implications of the large-scale influx of illegal Chinese workers and online casinos in recent years.
In a time when currying favor with Asia’s behemoth has become the new political vogue, especially among our bottomless bucket of opportunist politicians, the likes of Poe have shown remarkable independence of mind and patriotic fervor.
And it’s also thanks to Spartan women like Mayor Sara Duterte that frontier cities such as Davao can hope for a better future, despite the dark clouds of terror and conflict bedeviling the beautiful island of Mindanao. So long as we have such women in our (private and public) lives, life is beautiful and there is hope for our country.