Clemencia Lopez, the extraordinary woman of courage
PERSONAL CHOICE - Frannie Jacinto (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2013 - 12:00am

Filipinas have always played an important role in our country’s long colorful history and rich culture. There is no field left that a woman has not entered — be it in the business, medical, political, legal or the military arena. 

Casa Grande, the grand old Lopez house in Balayan, Batangas, provided an apt background for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring courageous and intelligent Clemencia Lopez y Castelo who in 1902 (when she was only 26 years old) became the first Filipina to visit the White House  to meet with President Theodore Roosevelt  on behalf of her brothers who were exiled from the Philippines for refusing to pledge allegiance to the USA as well as being supporters of the Philippine revolution. 

Her speech before the Massachusetts Association for Women’s Suffrage created a voice not only for a woman’s right to vote but for our independence as an American colony.

“Philippine women also desire the independence of our country as much as the men, for we understand that happiness can come in no other way.  America, we have no doubt, will concede it to us in the end, for we cannot forget that she also loved independence and fought for it.”

 Upon Clemencia’s return to the Philippines in 1905, she became one of the founding members of the Philippine Feminist Association, which was dedicated to the promotion of social welfare and the encouragement of the participation of women in public affairs. Our suffragette movement finally bore fruit during the 1937 plebiscite that gave women equality in voting.  At that time, the voters were all males, yet 90 percent of them agreed to give women the voting power. 

Grandniece Vicky Lopez spearheaded the move to honor this extraordinary woman together with her  cousins — Ike Lopez and Petty Benitez Johannot. Requests were made for guests to come in Filipiniana wear. Dr. Maris Diokno, chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, unveiled the marker and opened the exhibit “War and Dissent: The Philippines and the US 1898-1915”  in Balayan, the oldest existing town in the Southern Tagalog region since 1570.

Tatat Lopez spoke of how his tita Memeng pleaded for his life during World War II as he was about to be sent off on what proved to be a deadly military mission against the Japanese.  Other descendants spoke lovingly of this courageous lady who never seemed to grow old, possessing intellectual curiosity yet always dignified and correct in her demeanor.  

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To learn more about this woman ahead of her time and view the exhibit at the Lopez house in Balayan, call or SMS 0916-6363304. 

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For comments and ideas, please e-mail: jacinto.fa@gmail.com.

BALAYAN CASA GRANDE CLEMENCIA LOPEZ DR. MARIS DIOKNO GRANDNIECE VICKY LOPEZ IKE LOPEZ AND PETTY BENITEZ JOHANNOT LOPEZ MASSACHUSETTS ASSOCIATION
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