By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(August 1996)

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HEN KAMALAYSAYAN undertook to spread the 14 lessons of the Kartilya ng Katipunan in a gathering ("Pagtitipon") process to unite our people with the Spirit of the Katipunan, we immediately saw problem areas in the texts of two of the lessons. Lesson No. 10 starts off with what looks like an assertion of men's dominance over their respective wives and children, while Lesson No. 11 includes what hits the eye as a concession to supposed weaknesses of the womenfolk. There were other problems, as well, like the use of the word "kabuhayan" to mean Life, while that same word now refers more to livelihood.

The original texts in Tagalog of the tenth and eleventh lessons run this way:

"Sa daang matinik ng kabuhayan, lalaki ang patnugot ng asawa't mga anak. Kung ang umaakay ay tumutungo sa sama, ang pagtutunguhan ng inaakay ay kasamaan din.

"Ang babae ay huwag mong tingnang isang bagay na libangan lamang kundi katuwang at karamay sa mga kahirapan nitong kabuhayan. Gamitin mo nang buong pagpipitagan ang kanyang kahinaan at alalahanin ang inang nagsilang at nag-iwi sa iyong kasanggulan."

A closer look at the tenth lesson reveals that the beginning sentence seeks to proceed from the social realities of the period as premise, that men and women were far from equal during the time of the Katipunan, and then delivers what is obviously the main point about responsibility of leadership. If the point that the men lead were the main point, a prescription, we would not have been able to do anything about it, and we would have propagated the Kartilya as a document which is "good despite some serious flaws." But, in our honest view, the parenthetical note we have added to point ten, that which explains the premise angle and suggests a substitution, is a valid version that keeps fidelity to the essential point of the lesson. The parenthetical explanation, which substitutes parents for men, goes this way:

"(Ang simula nito ay obserbasyon sa ugnayan ng babae at lalaki sa panahon ng Katipunan. Para sa kasalukuyan, iminumungkahing ipalit ang sumusunod: Sa daang matinik ng buhay, ang mga magulang ang patnugot ng mag-anak. Kung umaakay ay tungo sa sama, ang patutunguhan ng inaakay ay kasamaan din.)"

For point 11, we see the obvious intention of the Katipunan leaders in coming out with an unequivocal policy for gender partnership which implies equality. For this reason, we dared put in parenthetical qualifiers:

"Ang babae ay huwag mong tingnang isang bagay na libangan lamang kundi katuwang at karamay (ng lalaki) sa mga kahirapan nitong buhay. Gamitin mo nang buong pagpipitagan ang kanyang (pisikal na) kahinaan at alalahanin ang inang nagsilang at nag-iwi sa iyong kasanggulan."

Basically, the interpretation we have inserted qualifies the relative weakness of the women as one of physique. Although we recognize that this is not simplistically true, especially because women are known to have a higher threshold of pain and endurance, the women are generally weaker physically compared to the men. Before we put the qualifiers in, we interviewed women in the police, women soldiers (WACs) and women athletes, and they all, at least personally, attested to its validity.

There is also unease with the word "Gamitin" in the second sentence, but we interpreted this to be in the same league as the original use of the word "kabuhayan" to mean Life itself.

Our level of confidence in the validity of the annotated Kartilya texts we have been propagating is as high as that on our decision to use "buhay" instead of thew original "kabuhayan" to mean Life. Still, upholding the principles of faithful representation of historical materials as part of responsible scholarship, these gender-sensitive efforts at adjustment are clearly acknowledged in our one-paragraph introduction which also cites the provenance of these historical texts.

We are glad that the womenfolk are apparently satisfied with these efforts. Instead of allowing the "textual defects" to distract them from the integral essence of the Kartilya, they see the profound philosophy of the Katipunan shining through all the 14 lessons, a philosophy that is basically spiritual, holistic, community-centered, egalitarian, and eco-feminist.

Many women who have become familiar with the Kartilya and have even adopted it as a profound and practical guide to their own personal lives, appreciate not only the two lessons, much less only the eleventh lesson. But on the basis of these they proudly gush, "I never thought the Katipunan of a full century ago was already for gender equality and women's liberation!" The previous impresion was that feminist concerns were imported from European developments of only a few decades ago.

The women's appreciation of the Kartilya flows through all the points which they find very enlightening in how they are to play their roles as parents, spouses, daughters, sisters, friends, or team players. Emilio Jacinto's Kartilya has had that same even positive effect on most Filipinos who have learned of the Kartilya and have made the solemn pledge to live under the brightness of its light.

To them we direct this greeting: Mabuhay kayo, mga kapatid! At mabuhay ang ating panata!

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)

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