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Tandang Sora: Hero of Heroes
melchora_aquinoWe know very little about Tandang Sora. Accounts in elementary books tell of Melchora Aquino, her baptismal name, as having fed and nursed Katipuneros who were fleeing from and/or wounded in fights with Spanish pursuers. The little we know of the legendary figure will soon be enlarged, for our grandchildren, nay, the country, to appreciate and regard her as a national hero.

The movement to have Tandang Sora declared by the National Historical Commission as a National Hero is being spearheaded by the Quezon City Council. The Council has already declared Year 2012 as Tandang Sora Year, based on the historical fact of her having been born on January 6, 1812 in Quezon City.

QC Mayor Herbert Bautista appointed Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte to head the committee spearheading the celebration of Tandang Sora Year from January 6, 2012 to January 6, 2013, and Joy has taken on the job with energy and enthusiasm.

Several subgroups have been created to start up the celebration. These have mapped out activities ranging from the exhumation on January 5, of Tandang Sora's remains at the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park in Barangay Banlat, their transfer to Quezon City Hall for an overnight vigil, and their interment on January 6, at the Tandang Sora shrine on Banlat Road, Barangay Tandang Sora, her original place of birth, where a formal program will be held, attended by prominent government and private persons, the relatives of Tandang Sora and barangay residents. At the center of the shrine is a huge sculpture of the hero, executed in 2004 by Abdulmari de Leon Imao Jr.tandangsorashrine

Who was this woman who is now belatedly honored and hoped to be acknowledged and crowned as a national hero? She was born to a poor family on January 6, 1812, during the fiesta of Baryo Banlat, Kalookan (now Banlat, Balintawak, Quezon City), her name taken from one of the Three Magi. She had good looks and was asked to be the Reyna Elena during the yearly santacruzans. She married Fulgencio Ramos, a cabeza de barangay, and gave him six children — Juan, Simon, Estefania, Juana, Romualdo and Saturnina.

Melchora was widowed early; she was a good mother, a conscientious, careful caretaker of the farmland and businesses her husband left behind. Her kindness and generosity were well known, and she did not turn away persons who asked her for material help. The Supreme leader of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, was a good friend of the Aquinos, and Melchora was in agreement with the movement's struggle for freedom for the country.

One day in August, the Supremo and his forces, tired and worn out, but determined to fight the enemy, came to the house of Melchora, now aging, and called Tandang Sora, who immediately gave them a hundred cavans of rice from her storehouse, ten carabaos and tools they would need. She herself had become a revolucionario. Her help extended from giving provisions to the movement; she took care of the wounded and sick freedom fighters, not fearing that she would be caught by the Spanish authorities.

The enemy did catch up with her when she was in Pasong Putik, Novaliches, and took her to the Bilibid prisons on August 29, 1896. She was tortured, but never did she let on about her helping the Katipuneros. Frustrated, the Spaniards deported her to Guam where she was in exile for six years. Why she was shipped to Guam, is still a subject for the researchers. On February 1903, at the age of 91, she was freed by the Americans. She finally came home to her Baryo Banlat, where she was happily met and embraced by her kith and kin and neighbors.

She died at the age of 107 in the home of her daughter Saturnina, and was first buried at the Cementerio del Norte, at the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion.

Joy, a museologist, talks excitedly about activities lined up for this Tandang Sora Year. Launch of a mini museum depicting the life of the hero; making a documentary on her; a travelling exhibition to all 141 elementary and highschools in the city; a travelling exhibit in the malls; a workshop attended by public school teachers, under the sponsorship of the QC Division of City Schools and the QC government; a conference on the hero, under the sponsorship of University of the Philippines departments of women studies, history, social work, social sciences and gender office.

Joy says posters for the traveling exhibit depict the seven virtues of Tandang Sora: katapatan, kasipagan, paglilingkod, palabra de honor, kagandahang loob, mapagmalasakit, and pagkalinga.

The exhibits, she says, are works of love, from the research to the writing and design by Eric Zerrudo, Nonie Cartagena, Billy Malacuraa, Bryan Paraiso, and Glenda Oris — museologists who have done exhibits for the Metropolitan Museum and some of whom are working on the Quezon City museum which will be opened at the end of this year.

Joy's fascination with Tandang Sora is quite infectious. She says: "Tandang Sora is already considered a national hero, because of her invaluable contribution to the cause of the Philippine Revolution.

"I am particularly interested in celebrating her legacy because she is the only revolutionary figure from what is now Quezon City. Because of her participation in the Philippine Revolution and her close friendship with Bonifacio, many significant events related to the revolution occurred in Quezon City. This includes the cry of Pugadlawin (where the cedulas were torn in defiance of Spain).

"Quezon city is therefore the birth place of many social movements, starting from the Cry of Pugadlawin in the last century, to the First Quarter Storm in the 70s all the way up to the Edsa Revolution.

"I am also proud because Tandang Sora is a symbol of the importance of the role of women in our nation's history, particularly our revolutionary history. Often only the men are given credit for 'heroic deeds' especially those having to do with wars for independence. But Tandang Sora showed us that women nursed the wounded, prepared nourishment for the frontline troops, and took care of many logistical concerns. All these aspects are often overlooked, forgotten or considered unimportant in traditional historical accounts. Yet these acts are of equal importance and must likewise be given due honor and recognition.

"The values she exhibited are also exemplary. She showed great strength of character and great courage during the revolution and beyond, thus shattering traditional stereotypes of gender and age."

 

by Domini M. Torrevillas

The Philippine Star

January 3, 2012

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