Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The Influence of Filipina Women": Pilar Hidalgo's high school valedictory address a century ago

In June 1905, one year before Pilar Hidalgo enrolled as a freshman at the Manila High School, Concepcion Felix de Calderon formed the Asociacion Feminista Filipina, the first women's association in the Philippines.  Both of them would later be the leading figures in the women's suffragist movement in the country when Miss Hidalgo was already Mrs Hidalgo-Lim and was the president of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs.

In June 1906, the Manila High School--originally the Escuela Municipal de Manila during the Spanish regime--opened as the first secondary school under the American system of public instruction.  In its first year, there were 60 students, not all of them freshmen since 25 of them would be graduating three years later in 1909, its first batch of alumni. 

Pilar Hidalgo could have been one of the freshmen because four years later in 1910, she would be graduating as valedictorian of her class, the second batch of Manila High School graduates.  Her teachers were Americans, 13 of them in 1907, and 9 in 1910, according to the the reports of the Municipal Board of Manila for those fiscal years.

She was seventeen when she went up the stage to deliver her valedictory address "The Influence of Filipina Women" on a Monday, April 1,1910. 

The graduation exercises could have been held at the Manila Opera House where the first batch of 25 graduates had theirs in the morning of April 3, 1909.  

A high government official could have been the "speaker of the day" of Class 1910 just like that of Class 1909 which had Hon. Leon Ma. Guerero, a member of the Philippine Assembly from Bulakan and the Chairman of the Committee of Public Instruction.  

We did not find any details about Class 1910's graduation exercises, except Miss Hidalgo's valedictory address, but some of her classmates could also have delivered speeches.  Class 1909 had five members speaking during their program like Manuel Arguelles who delivered the salutatory address, Aurelio Torres who spoke on "Opportunities of Youth", and Marceliano Montemayor who talked about "Survival of the Fittest".   

It's well known that Manuel A. Roxas completed his studies at the Manila High School in 1910 after going to the public school in Capiz and studying in Hongkong for a year.  Thus, he and Pilar Hidalgo were batchmates.

In the junior class was Elpidio Quirino who started his secondary education at the Vigan High School. He enrolled at the Manila High School in 1908 and graduated in 1911.  Thus, he belonged to the third batch of that school's graduates.  

Roxas and Quirino knew each other then from high school; they captained the rival debating teams in Manila High

Pilar Hidalgo could not have been into debates but she could have been a very eloquent speaker even when she was still in her sophomore year.  She was a member of the literary society.  Sometime in the last quarter of 1907, that society "gave a symposium on the subject of the Manila High School in four languages—Latin, English, German, and Spanish.  Pilar Hidalgo gave the Latin composition, Celedonio Estioko the English, Marcellano Montemayor the German and Aurelio Torres the Spanish”.  

On the evening of February 22, 1908, the Manila High School hosted its first annual reception with a literary program followed by a dance.  It was reported that the program featured, among others, "a recitation, which was splendidly executed by Miss Pilar Hidalgo".

The young woman of 1910 perhaps did not know, when she was expounding on the aspirations of the Filipina women, that the international women's movement was being conceived in America  This would be formally launched as International Women's Day in Denmark on March 8, 1911, it's centenary being celebrated this year. 

Pilar Hidalgo's "The Influence of Filipina Women" will be 101 years old this coming April.  A Class 2011 high school valedictorian can probably render an accounting of what the Filipina women had accomplished for the last 100 years, and raise the issues that they continue to fight for, after giving some time to listen to and ponder on Miss Hildalgo's thoughts --

The Influence of the Filipina Women
By Miss Pilar Hidalgo, Manila High School

"At this time when the influence of the Filipino woman is being felt in public life, when she is beginning to take her place in the world of activity, and to realize the important part she holds, I thought it a most fitting opportunity to speak about the extent of her influence.

"It is true history records no Filipina name such as that of Julia Ward Howe whose influence has been felt along so many lines of humanity that it is difficult to dwell on any one specially, but who stands out among modern women as a beacon-light guiding her sex to higher and nobler lives; nor have we a Florence Nightingale whose devotion to suffering mankind is recognized throughout the whole Christian world, and who because of her noble work during the Crimean War stands as the very personification of self-sacrifice;  nor do the pages of our literature record a George Eliot whose stories have left their beautiful influence on countless lives of English-speaking people;  neither do we find gracing our walls productions from the artistic brush of a Rosa Bonheur whose paintings have a place among the masterpieces of the world.  But each Filipina is a queen in her own home whose gentle sway the tendency for good will ever thrive.

"There is no nobler work than that of a gentle wife and a good mother.  For hundreds of years the Filipina’s energy and soul have been devoted to the home.  There her influence has been strongly felt and immensely appreciated.  Rizal’s poems, tender and sad dedicated to her mother, give full utterance to that appreciation which other less gifted than he have kept within their heart.  What an affection must he have felt for his mother when in the solitude of a country far from home he wrote,

'Sweet in one’s country it is to die,
Where e’en the sun greets from on high;
Dead are these tokens from above
To him without Mother, Country and Love'

"Times have changed; new fields of activity have been opened to women;  the home life no longer suffices;  ambition for a broader life has awakened in the bosoms of the Filipinas.

"I say it has awakened, because it has always been there though in a dormant state, pressed down by social conventions and hemmed in by mental bar[riers];  there are proofs of its existence in women who in spite of restrictions have given it an outlet.

"With pleasure I refer to the name of Margarita Roxas who donated the land and building so that the Concordia College might be established for the education of girls.  For two generations hundreds and hundreds of girls have entered that college and have gone out fitted to perform their duties.  Librada Avelino and Rosa Sevilla in their wish to uplift the minds of girls, founded the flourishing schools of Centro Escolar de NiƱas and Instituto de Mujeres.  Petronila Sequia, seeing the pressing need of a hospital for cholera-striken people, willingly gave away her home just for the establishment of the Santiago Hospital from where men almost dead, have gone out, with hope and life renewed.

"And when some years ago the mortality of children in this city rose to alarming numbers, some thinking women saw that something had to be done to stop the merciless hand of Death.  They organized entertainments and raised subscriptions to found an institution having for its noble purpose the care of infants.  The people of Manila responded liberally to their call and the Proteccion de la Infancia came into existence.  At present, how many mothers owe the lives of their children to the able women in charge of this beneficent institution?  Its founders may well be satisfied with their work.  Nor have women been entirely wanting in the business world.

"The jewelry trade of the district of Sta. Cruz and the sinamay cloth industry whose market is principally in Binondo, have been entirely managed by women.

"Are these not convincing proofs of the ambition and ability of Filipina women? Are they not true testimonies that there is something great in them, considering the limited sphere in which they were permitted to work?  May we not hope from them greater accomplishments now that the most favourable circumstances surround them?  Yes, we may hope, and I am confident that there will be no disappointment.

"The barriers that were formerly raised against the education of women have been entirely removed; and instructions in all branches of learning has [sic] been extended to all ranks of female society.  The Filipinas are taking advantage of every opportunity offered to them to acquire knowledge.  Now that their minds are permitted to develop in the precincts and purposes are budding in their hearts.  [sic]

"At present, many girls are attending school, working and reciting with boys.  Their ability in the classroom compares well with the boys.  By perseverance, they make up for the possible lack of mental quickness characteristic of the boy’s mind, the only one permitted to develop for centuries.  They are preparing themselves carefully to be teachers, nurses, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers and good mothers.

"When the present generation of girls goes out into the world their influence will be felt far and wide not suddenly, perhaps, but by degrees.

"The teacher within the walls of her classroom will not only inculcate in her pupils the knowledge contained in the books but will also instill in their minds that love for work and punctuality in duty so necessary for wordly [sic] success.

"To-day we see hundreds and hundreds of poor families living in filthy low houses where the sunshine, that purifier of nature, hardly penetrates, where the damp, stifling air remains from day to day finding no escape through the closed windows, where one child after another dies for lack of good care. This is the great field of work for women nurses, pharmacists and doctors.

"Filipina girls, a voice is calling us to the assistance of the poor, to the mission of spreading among the destitutes of fortune the doctrine of good honorable living.  Let us respond to it and we shall find a noble life-work to do.

"The coming generation greatly depends upon the youth of the present one.  A great part of this responsibility weigh upon the girls.  Do you realize the weight of this responsibility?  Do you realize that weak mothers can not have strong intelligent children?  The importance of physical culture has never been rightly estimated by the women of this country.  If we want a strong race of Filipinos, if we want wise and intelligent citizens to make and obey better law, if we want vigorous and energetic men to cultivate and improve our material resources we must recognize the importance of physical exercise and l]]ay stress upon its fulfilment, because without health there can be neither happiness nor success.  Let us develop our bodies as well as our minds to as great a degree as possible so that if ever the cares of a home devolve upon us we shall be a source of help, comfort and happiness.

"Since our happy youth opens in an age which offers us all the opportunities of learning and renders ]accessible every field of activity hitherto closed to us, let us enter into the world with noble aims, let us strive and work with zeal and interest so that our influence will be felt not in the home alone but in the outside world as well;  that history may not say that we remain sleeping in the midst of the general awakening;  that its pages may record the names of some of us for having contributed to the welfare of our country in particular and of humanity in general.
"Teachers:  To you we owe the joy that we now feel;  to you we are indebted for the ability we now possess to pursue any course in life whether of study or of work;  under your able guidance we have acquired learning which will be of great and permanent value to us.  We are about to separate; we will travel on different highways, each of us where ambition points the way.  But before leaving you we wish to express to you our sincere appreciation and deep gratitude for your untiring interest and hard labours  Farewell teachers, farewell to you.

"To you under graduates [sic] who are to remain we bid adieu with the wish that you will work to keep up that school spirit which has won for the Manila High School cups, laurels and fame, and with the hope that some day each of you will receive with joy a diploma of your own.

"Classmates:  to-day for the last time we meet as a group of students.  Our duties to families and our country demand this separation and oblige us to face the responsibilities of life.  This is a crucial time in our lives.  When after our minds and bodies have rested from toil, we select the courses we shall pursue, let the selection be ruled by a purpose noble and pure; and the selection is made let us begin the journey with our class motto “Excelsior” engraved on our hearts.

"And now after wishing one another success and happiness after giving our alma mater our oath of loyalty, we say good  bye to our dear school and farewell to each other."

In the next school year, she enrolled at the University of the Philippines.  She was one of the 127 freshmen at the Junior College of the College of Liberal Arts, which included Maximo Kalaw (Law), Vicente Lava (Preparatory Engineering), Bienvenido Tan (Law), and Vidal Tan (Preparatory Engineering).

There were twelve--including Vicente Lava and Vidal Tan--who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from that College in 1913; she was the only one who graduated with honors. 

She joined the mathematics faculty (there were just three of them, and two were Americans) of both the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering as an instructor. Miss Hidalgo taught Mathematics 1 (Advanced Algebra), Math 2 (Advanced Algebra – Convergency and divergency of series), Math 3 (Solid Geometry), Math 4 (Plane Trigonometry), and Math 5 (Spherical Trigonometry).

Much has been written about Pilar Hidalgo--her achievements, and the honors she reaped not only for herself and her family, her country, and the Filipina women in particular--after she moved out of the University of the Philippines in 1917 and got married to West Pointer Vicente Lim also that year  until she passed away in 1973 at the age of 80.

We close this article with two incidents in the life of Pilar Hidalgo-Lim as woman activist culled from the News Summary sections of the Philippine Magazine of 1936 and 1937 as these are still issues confronting the Filipina women today.

1.  On women's right to vote:  “Sept. 30 [1936].-President Quezon signs the woman's suffrage plebiscite bill in the presence of a number of woman leaders, stating over the radio that in any democracy the women should be permitted to participate in the management of the government as a matter of political and social justice, it mattering little how the women will vote and whether they will exercise the right or not. "What matters is that they can use the ballot if they so choose in their desire to help run the government and take a part in choosing the men who guide public affairs." He warns provincial executives not to interfere if they do not sympathize with the women's political ambitions, stating it would be dangerous for men seeking public office to oppose woman suffrage. Mrs. Pilar Hidalgo Lim in a brief address states that the women do not desire to infringe on male rights and privileges, but only wish to collaborate better in the management of public affairs which go a long way to shape not only national but family and individual life. She declares that making a plebiscite conditional to the grant of woman suffrage is unfair, but that it is a challenge that women must resolve to meet, otherwise their cause is lost. ...”

2.   On reproductive health (it might not have been called that before World War 2):  "July 22 [1937].- ... Mayor Juan Posadas of Manila announces he will not permit Mrs. Margaret Sanger, expected to arrive in Manila in October, to lecture on birth-control except to audiences limited to scientific men. "I am strongly opposed to birth-control as both immoral and impractical, especially in the Philippines", he says. Mrs. Pilar Hidalgo Lim, President of the National Federation of Women's Clubs, recently wrote Mrs. Sanger that her organization would be "unable to cooperate with you for the spread of your movement in our country.... Our objective now is better babies and more intelligent parenthood."

  1. Hidalgo, Pilar. (1910, April). The Influence of the Filipina Women. The Filipino teacher. 4(SPI):12-13.[Valedictory address delivered by its author at her graduation from the Manila High School, April 1, 1910.] Retrieved from
  2.  Lim, Laling H. (2008, Jan 06).  House on Vito Cruz:  Family's heritage to nation began here. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from
  3.  National Historical Institute. (n.d). Pilar Hidalgo-Lim (1893-1973)/Outstanding Woman Leader.  Retrieved from
  4. Annual Report of the Municipal Board of the City of Manila for Fiscal Year 1907. (1907).  Manila: Bureau of Printing.  Retrieved from
  5. Annual Report of the Municipal Board of the City of Manila for Fiscal Year 1909. (1910).  Manila: Bureau of Printing.  Retrieved from 
  6. Bulletin No. 2.  (1912). The University of the Philippines Catalogue 1911-12/Announcements 1912-1913.  Manila: Bureau of Printing. Retrieved from  
  7. Bulletin No. 4.  (1914). The University of the Philippines Catalogue 1913-14/Announcements 1914-1915.  Manila: Bureau of Printing. Retrieved from  
  8. Biographical Sketches of President Roxas, Vice-President Quirino, and Members of the Cabinet.  (1946, July).  The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Journal. 22(4):6. Retrieved from  
  9. Ladea. (1909, March).  A Prominent Educator.  The Filipino Teacher. 2(9):6.  Retrieved from 
  10. Manila High School Notes. (1907, October).  Philippine Education. 4(5). Retrieved from  
  11. Manila High School. (1909, April).  The Month in Review.  The Filipino Teacher.  2:10(10). Retrieved from  
  12. Department of News. (1908, February).  The Filipino Teacher. 1(11):12. Retrieved from   
  13. Month in Review, The. (1909, April)Manila High School.  The Filipino Teacher.  2:10(10). Retrieved from   
  14. News Summary—The Philippines. (1936, November).  Philippine Magazine.  Manila: Philippine Education Company. 33(11):525. Retrieved from 
  15. News Summary—The Philippines. (1937, September).  Philippine Magazine.  Manila: Philippine Education Company. 34(9):384. Retrieved from 
  16. Philippinensian,The. (1917).  University of the Philippines.  Retrieved from 
  17. Postcard Picture of the old Manila High School retrieved from

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