The role of women in the Philippines

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

On Jan. 7, 1975, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) was established and this year, we are a step closer to the golden year. As we celebrate Filipino women in commemoration of their valuable contributions to society, I would like to take the chance to honor one of the most remarkable women I had the privilege of knowing, a true lady of substance, former Justice Leonor Ines Luciano.

For those who did not know her, Justice Luciano was the daughter of Leon Ines of Sinait, Ilocos Sur, who was our country’s first hydraulic engineer who built major bridges and water dams. In her younger years, Leonor Luciano ran the UP Women Lawyer’s Circle, Inc. Legal Aid Center, where she and other volunteers devoted their time to helping indigent wives and mothers with their family problems and appeared in court on their behalf – pro bono.

After a period of time, and following her child rearing years, Justice Leonor became the the first judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Quezon City. Many years have passed since her death and in my personal experience with Justice Luciano, I not only had the privilege of knowing an empowered woman but also, and because of her example, I in turn evolved into the person I am today despite the difficult situation my children and I once found ourselves in.

In my younger days as a teacher up until I became my city’s spokesperson under the leadership of Mayor Joy Belmonte, public service has always been my primary mission and to serve my community in this capacity is an achievement I attribute to former Justice Luciano’s leadership and wisdom.

As a junior associate of then Attorney Ferdinand Marcos, Justice Leonor Luciano committed herself to women’s rights and was confronted by a huge number of divorce complaints. In November of 1967, she was sworn into office by her former mentor, President Marcos, and later in the 1980’s, she became actively involved in the amendment of the Family Code, which lifted the provisions that were quite discriminatory against women who were seeking an end to their debilitating and unhappy marriages.

As a judge, Justice Luciano made many innovations where she focused not only on implementing decisions but also on rehabilitating offenders and creating foundations for them and their families. Always on her feet and never wasting time, Justice Leonor Luciano pushed for the establishment of the Molave Youth Home which prevented the contact of minors with hardened criminals in jail and provided them with training on how to be moral, productive and upright citizens.

Justice Ines Luciano was a member of the ninth and tenth Congress, a civic leader, a women’s rights activist and, most of all, an all-around exceptional human being. She was always firm but tender-hearted and was involved in so many advocacies that were meant to strengthen the very core and promote the overall wholeness of a person, particularly those who needed help the most.

In a modern era when our youth are hungry for role models and good leaders, I have always been inspired by the women of the past, as it is because of their courage and dedication to public service and education that we are able to encourage our young people to become pioneers and innovators of their time.

I say that it was an honor to have known such a lady even as I had already met her in her later years. I will never forget her quiet but strong presence as she entered the room where I once found myself discouraged by life yet mustering every ounce of strength to be a brave single mother of two very young boys. It has been almost two decades since my crisis and I am what I am today also because of Justice Leonor.

To date, while life will never be easy, I continue to be inspired by women such as Justice Luciano, who taught me that success is never loud and that one day, we too shall serve as guiding lights for those who will need our services as well as sacrifice. Such was the life of Justice Luciano, who also served as chairman and long-time governor of the Philippine Red Cross, dedicated to helping those in distress and ensuring a more secure way of life for all.

As the Philippine Commission on Women marks its 49th year of unwavering dedication to advancing gender equality and empowering women, I look forward to more women nation builders such as former Justice Leonor Ines Luciano who was, and will always be, one of the greatest representations of Filipino women in both words and deeds.

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