High literacy rate is ‘Women of Malolos’ legacy


CITY OF MALOLOS—Officials mark with pride and joy this year’s 135th anniversary of the famous “Letter of Rizal to the Women of Malolos”as their legacy continues in this generation after the city’s youth has achieved a milestone in its literacy development and advancement programs.

Mayor Christian Natividad who led officials in a simple wreath-laying ceremony at the House of Rufina Reyes, one of the 21 Women of Malolos, in Barangay Sto. Nino on Thursday, Feb. 22 said the city is now reaping the legacy of the 20 Women of Malolos who championed the fight for education and learning as a way to help achieve freedom during the Spanish-American revolution.

On February 22, 1889, national hero Dr. Jose Rizal wrote a letter to the 21 Women of Malolos entitled “Sa Mga Kababayang Dalaga sa Malolos,” and expressed his admiration for their initiative, bravery and nationalism out of their decisive move to put up a school and learn the Spanish language. The said women gathered on December 12, 1888 at the house of Rufina Reyes in Barangay Sto. Nino where they made the initiative of writing their letter to then Governor General Valeriano Wyler.   

According to the mayor, Malolos was adjudged by the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2023 as among the Top 5 Most Literate Cities in the country.

The recent development can be considered as a milestone achievement from the city’s record fourteen years ago in 2010 of being one of the cities and municipalities in the country with the highest percentage of dropouts and incompletion rates.

“Today, the City of Malolos from having the record with the highest dropouts and incompletion rate in 1998, the City of Malolos is now in the country’s top 5 cities and municipalities with the highest literacy rate. Malolos is reaping the legacy of our very own Women of Malolos, their courage, yearning for education and freedom,” Natividad told the media in an interview on Thursday.  

“Sa kasalukuyan, we have come a long way from that petition ng mga Kababaihan ng Malolos to then Governor General Valeriano Weyler and the debate with the Spanish friars na hindi sila pinayagan sa kahilingan nilang mag-aral ng wikang Kastila,” (Today, we already had come a long way starting from that petition made by our very own Women of Malolos to then Governor General Valeriano Weyler and the debate they had with the Spanish friars for refusing to allow them to put up a school and learn the Spanish language), the mayor said.   

City of Malolos Mayor Christian Natividad (7th from left) and Vice Mayor Miguel Alberto Bautista (on his right) were joined by other city officials and luminaries Matilde Natividad, mother of Natividad, Ruel F. Paguiligan Sr. Shrine Curator of Museo ng Republika ng 1899 in Barasoain Church, Casa Real Curator Jacinto Salvador, Department of Education Schools Division Superintendent Leilani Samson Cunanan, CESO V, Arman Sta Ana Tourism Head, Vicente Enriquez WOMFI President, City Health Office OIC Dr. Eric Villano andCity Councilors Troi Aldaba III and Ayee Ople. Photo by City of Malolos PIO

In 2010, he said, when he was first elected mayor, the City of Malolos was number one in dropout and incomplete percentage rate in the Philippines in secondary schooling with 1:98 classroom-student ratio but when he ended his nine years term in 2019 and until today, the ratio improved to 1:40 which is way above the DepEd’s 1:45 ideal ratio, the mayor said.  

Today, Natividad said, there are public schools that offer senior high education in every 3 barangays out of its total 51 barangays.

Leilani Samson, DepEd Superintendent in City of Malolos said Natividad was very supportive and continued to look for available lots and spaces to build more secondary schools so that each of the 51 barangays would have their own,  she told NEWS CORE on Saturday. The efforts had contributed a lot to the high literacy rate of the city, she said. For 2024, the city is aiming further to elevate Malolos in the National Literacy Award. 

The inner front view of the house of Rufina Reyes in Barangay Sto. Nino, one of the Women of Malolos hailed by Rizal in his letter in 1889. Photo by Anton Luis Catindig

The leading and highest academically-performing students of Bulacan State University (BulSU) Malolos-Main Campus are also residents of the city, confirmed BulSU President Teody San Andres.

“Iyon ang legasiya ng kadalagahan ng Malolos. We should bridge the transition from the time na nagkaroon ng sulat ng paghanga si Rizal sa mga kadalagahan ng Malolos at sa katapangan nila para sa edukasyon at pagkakapantay-pantay sa karapatan ng babae at lalaki noong panahon na iyon, iyan naman dapat transition natin na panatiliin natin sa mga darating pang henerasyon,’ (That is the legacy of the Women of Malolos. We should bridge the transition from the time Rizal wrote that letter of admiration to the Women of Malolos for their courage to become educated and literate and their fight for equality between men and women during that time that we must also preserve for the next generation), the mayor added.

Eighteen from the 21 Women of Malolos were Cecilia Tiongson, Merced Tiongson, Aleja Tiongson, Agapita Tiongson, Filomena Tiongson, Paz Tiongson, Feliciana Tiongson, Anastacia Tiongson, Emilia Tiongson, Basilia Tantoco, Teresa Tantoco, Maria Tantoco, Rufina Reyes, Leoncia Reyes, Olimpia Reyes, Juana Reyes, Elisea Reyes, and Alberta Ui-Tangcoy.

At the fence of the Reyes house were markers respectively of the Philippine Historical Commission and the City Government of Malolos.

An outside view of the house of Rufina Reyes in Barangay Sto. Nino, one of the Women of Malolos hailed by Rizal in his letter in 1889. Photo by Anton Luis Catindig

The marker of the Philippine Historical Commission reads “Pook kinatatayuan ng bahay paaralan ng mga kadalagahan na nilihaman ni Jose Rizal buhat sa Londres noong ika-22 ng Pebrero, 1889 ng kanyang bantog na sulat na pinamagatang “Sa Mga Kababayang Dalaga sa Malolos”. Noong ika-12 ng Disyembre, 1888, ang 21 dalagang taga-Malolos ay humingi ng pahintulot sa Gubernador Heneral Weyler, na makapagbukas, sa sariling gugol nila, ng isang paaralang panggabi na magtuturo ng wikang Kastila. Sa kanyang sulat ay pinuri ni Rizal ang mga naturang dalaga dahil sa kanilang pagkukusa, sigasig at diwang makabayan”.

The City Government of Malolos marker reads “Sa Pook na ito dating nakatira ang angkan ng mga Reyes na kinabibilangan ni Rufina, isa sa mga kababaihan ng Malolos na naghain ng petisyon kay Gobernador Heneral Valeriano Weyler na makapag-aral ng wikang Kastila, 1888. Dito isinasagawa tuwing gabi ang pag-aaral ng mga kababaihan sa ilalim ng pagtuturo ni Gudalupe Reyes.

Ang panandang pang-alaalang ito ay pinasinayaan noong ika-14 ng Setyembre, 2014 bilang bahagi ng pagdiriwang sa ika-116 na guning taong pagbubukas ng Kongreso ng Malolos, 15 Setyembre 1898, muling isinaayos, ngayong 23, Enero 2022, kaalinsabay ng pagdiriwang ng ika-123 guning taon sa pasinaya sa Unang Republika”.   

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