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What makes a woman empowered?

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 09, 2021 4:00 pm

Where is it written that Filipino women hold power in their hands as provocateurs and change-makers in our social, economic, cultural and political spheres?

Perhaps in the history pages on Gabriela Silang, the placards of Lorena Barros and the Makibaka women, the writings of Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Gilda Cordero Fernando and Jessica Zafra. And in eloquent bursts of female farmers in the countryside or workers in the urban scene.

Or perhaps  it was heard from Malala Yousafzai, who said: “I raise up my voice — not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” Or aired by Madonna thus: “I’m tough,  ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.”

It is written in our wounded but steely hearts, and our invincible souls.

Maxine Syjuco, artist and poet

My grandmother used to say, “Dare to be different.” That’s something I’ve learned through the virtues by which my mom lives her life. An empowered woman doesn’t follow trends — she creates her own. She is independent and courageous in her insatiable pursuit of seeking depth, rather than merely skimming surfaces. Her beauty radiates from within — where she has no time for things that have no soul.

Agnes Arellano, sculptor

She is one who is now free from centuries of guilt and repression, one who fully recognizes that there need be no conflict between her sexuality and her spirituality. She feels mandated to freely express herself, her innermost longings, and her ability to rise from desperation so she can encourage others to be free. 

A young female artist, when asked to name her favorite artist, named me, and I was elated by her remark, that she was “empowered” by my art, for art has truly emancipated me.

Through it I have been able to exorcise many of my demons. I think the girl was talking about my inscape “Three Buddha Mothers,” my statement and testament that women can also be Buddhas; that deep inside, one can and must connect to the Sacred Feminine, to see the Divine in our everyday life.

Mariana Zobel de Ayala, vice president and head of retail marketing, Bank of the Philippine Islands

Empowerment of women happens through the luxury of a support system — whether a partner, family, or friends.

Crickette Tantoco, consultant, Royal Duty Free Shops Inc.

An empowered woman does not need external validation to know her self-worth. She is not afraid to carve her own path or to take the road less traveled in journeying to reach her highest potential. 

She is not influenced by the culture in forming her beliefs or in ascertaining truth. She sees herself as part of an interconnected whole in which she helps others along the way, as she has been helped by others who came before her. She uplifts others and takes joy in the successes and victories of others.

She understands her unique feminine identity and does not fall into the trap of trying to compete with men.

She is a lifelong learner, knowing that learning does not cease for as long as there is life. In all this, she acknowledges the beginning, the means and the end of life — that is, God.

Pauline Suaco-Juan, CITEM executive director

What makes a woman empowered? Education, definitely. And I don’t mean just formal education, although that obviously plays a big part.

Especially in this day and age of rampant misinformation, we have to take it upon ourselves to learn by verifying our sources, and making sure you read a plurality of opinions. With the way algorithms work, social media (which is really the way news finds us nowadays) feeds us information we (and our friends and network) like, so it becomes our responsibility to seek out other points of view so we get a semblance of the whole picture.

Whether you are learning about COVID-19 vaccines or trying to plan a healthy menu for your family, it pays a lot to make informed decisions. Life, as they say, is a continuing education.

Patis Tesoro, artist, fashion designer, social activist

To be an empowered woman you have to be focused on a mission and a vision on how you want your life to play out until you pass on to the next world; to realize that life gives and takes, and that you cannot bring material things with you, so be kind, share your bounty with others and this will be your happiness.

Ana Lorenzana-De Ocampo, president and CEO, Wildflour Cafe and Bakery

A woman is empowered when she knows her strengths and embraces them, not letting the doubts of others or dictates of society get in the way.

Elena Coyiuto, artist and entrepreneur 

An empowered woman is one who has confidence in herself and her self-worth. She loves learning new things and making decisions for herself and for the collective good of others. She is one who lives out her passion, be it in the arts, sciences, business, or running the family.

For me, I found my power in living out my passion when I decided to take up painting, had three solo exhibits, and eventually took up my master’s in fine arts, majoring in painting at the Art Academy of San Francisco before I turned 60. It was the happiest and most momentous decision of my life. I really believe age is not a barrier to learning.

To me, women empowerment means having the courage to live out what one believes in, whether it’s your passion or in yourself.

Marielle Santos-Po, entrepreneur

Over the years my idea of an empowered woman/person has changed. Now I see kindness as a true force, silence and knowing when to speak up as a strength. The importance of being prudent and remembering one’s values in making decisions by not letting society dictate your thoughts and actions.

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, artistic director and CEO, Ballet Manila

The answer to this question is complex and evolves with the times. Generally speaking: Passion, purpose, love. These emotions propel you to make sacrifices, work harder, and drive you towards accomplishment. When you genuinely care about someone or something — be it family, children, a professional or personal ambition — there is certainly power in these emotions. Almost like a force from within.

The answer to this question is complex and evolves with the times. Generally speaking: Passion, purpose, love. These emotions propel you to make sacrifices, work harder, and drive you towards accomplishment.

Women can be very patient as well — patience makes you plan and wait, work steadily and meticulously, with a whole lot of heart. I think it’s because women are more in tune with their emotions, acknowledge these emotions and are not afraid to show these emotions — this is what makes them empowered.

Patrice Ramos-Diaz, fashion designer

Certain roles or positions in society in themselves contain a level of influence that provides a woman an opportunity to affect people, communities or industries. That kind of empowerment comes with the position.

However, there is another kind of power, which I feel is just as important, and that comes from within. An empowered woman is a mindset (not to invalidate the fact that there are underlying societal issues and cultural barriers). She is of a mind that is not limited by social constructs and cultural norms. She is free to live life on her terms, aims to be self-reliant, and relentlessly pursues her dreams, even if it means breaking gender stereotypes. 

She is of a mature mind, not trapped by her ego, pressures of social media, and other psychological barriers such as lack of confidence and self-criticism. She appreciates the great strides women before her have made in breaking the proverbial glass ceiling and understands that it is her duty to do the same for future generations of women.

She has got her own back, uses her voice courageously, and is unapologetically true to herself, so that she is able to live her life with intent, fully, freely and joyfully, to achieve her highest potential and purpose.

Rachel Renucci Tan, co-founder and president, Chen Yi Agventures Inc.

An empowered woman has self-knowledge and knows exactly how to leverage her strengths and compensate for her weaknesses. She understands the economy of her needs and her desires, knowing when to give and when to take. She decides when to capitulate and when to take control. She chooses her battles wisely. She also accepts defeats gracefully and learns from them. She understands that wars and not battles must be won.

An empowered woman always listens to the murmurings of her heart, knowing what she wants and how to get what she wants. Nonetheless, she also accepts that not everything she wants is possible to have and therefore she will knowingly make sacrifices. She understands the costs and benefits of the economy of her desires and her needs: fulfilling some and forgoing others as she reigns over a nexus of relationships, each one having his/her own economy of needs and desires for which she is partly responsible.

She is, after all, at least one of the following: daughter, mother, wife, partner, homemaker, employee or business owner.

An empowered woman knows intuitively that happiness can never be perfect and that deep personal fulfillment can only be earned in time based on the choices she makes for herself and for others. She — nobody else — is the master of her universe.