Last February, 2, 2013, four inspiring women gave insights on what womanhood meant in relation to their faith. The event entitled “The Gift of Womanhood” and held at the Bayanihan Center Annex, Mandaluyong City, was sponsored by Teodora: In Defense of the Authentic Woman, Inc., as appointed by the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Interfaith Dialogue.
The said forum, organized in celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week, gathered more than a hundred women of different ages and religions. Present in the all-women gathering were Teodora Chair, Gerry Padilla, and Teodora President, Maribel Descallar.
WOMEN AS BEARERS OF GOOD WORDS
The first guest speaker, Venerable Jao Ming, a Buddhist priestess, left the audience in awe of her peaceful disposition and kind words of advice, especially to the mothers present. She stressed the importance of “words that come out from our lips.” She said that the words we say have the power to cause a “ripple effect,” especially if we are not cautious about what we say and how we say it. She gave an example of a mother, stressed from all the chores at home, hearing four seemingly ordinary words from the husband who just came home, equally stressed from office work: “Dinner isn’t ready yet?” “These four words made the mother so irritable she unconsciously shouted at her son, who in turn became irritable too. Your words should be like sunshine,” she advised. “They should bring about smiles.”
Giving more depth to the Buddhist perspective was Luisa So, a single mother. She shared how religion helped her in raising her son, who lost his father at eight years old. “I brought him to the temple regularly and that made him a better person.” Ending her speech she declared, “I am proud to be a woman because I am behind a successful son someday!”
WOMEN AS DIVINE
Ms. Shakuntala Vaswani, Trustee of the Bharati Women’s Circle of the Indian Ladies Club, gave light on the woman’s importance in the Hindu religion. Having lived in the Philippines for twenty-eight years with her family, she said she didn’t have a hard time adapting to the Filipino way of life since the culture here in the Philippines, especially involving family life, was very similar to what they used to have in India. “In Hinduism, the mother is divine. She is next to God. This is why, like Filipinos, the people in India are very close to their mothers.” She shared how important pregnancy is in their religion. “We have ceremonies for the pregnant mothers. We bless the child in the womb so they can grow up with good values,” she said. “The pregnant Hindu mothers take time, too, to go to the temple to pray and read a lot of spiritual books.” Another similarity in traditions is the Filipino “mano po.” “We also do that,” she said, “although instead of the head touching the hands of the elders, Hindu children bow that the head touches the feet of the parents.”
She says women are highly esteemed in the Hindu culture since one of their gods and goddesses, Lakshmi, the embodiment of wealth and wisdom, is a woman. “Women are then given high respect. A man is incomplete without a woman. Without a woman, he is like a bird that only has a single wing.” She then challenged everyone in the audience to embrace the gift of womanhood because women have the “power to hold the family together, especially in times of crisis.”
To end her talk she shared why, even if they were Hindu, she agreed that her children be schooled in a Catholic institution: “I didn’t see a problem with that. I believe that all religions are pathways to One, Almighty God.”
WOMEN AS PEACEMAKERS
The speaker who gave light regarding women in the Filipino and Catholic point of view was Debbie Nakpil-Rodrigo, a mother of five boys and a champion of Natural Family Planning (NFP), specifically the Porsuello Method. She started off by declaring that women are peacemakers, especially in the home. “No mother would want their sons killed at war,” she said. “This is why I advocate NFP. NFP leads to peace in the home; it teaches the husband and wife about marital intimacy.”
A devout Catholic, she relayed how Catholics give importance to sacred traditions that involve the family such as baptism and first communion. The Catholic faith, she said, teaches women to love not only their families but others as well. “As women, we have a role to take care of each other…and of other women too,” she continued, and ended with this pro-life statement: “Women are bearers of a life-giving love. This love makes women desire to bring forth more life.”
Other distinguished guests present were Renelyn Tan, former director of World Youth Alliance, who spoke briefly about the role of the young women in protecting and defending human dignity, and Maria Fenny Tatad, wife of former Senator Francisco Tatad, both strong advocates for life.
The organizers thanked the following: Sisters Sanitary Napkins and Pantyliners, Sugar Crafts, Inc., Quantumin Plus, Cafepino Instant Coffee, Pink Plate Food Company, French Vanilla Events Services and Dance Plus, for their generosity and support in making the event possible.
– By Lee-an Rosal, FliQ Media