Most Filipino parents tell their children, “Sumasagot ka pa ha!” (How dare you talk back!) whenever their children do something wrong. In the Philippines, to “respect” the parents’ authority means to never talk back, never question, and never disobey.
In a way, this says something about our culture and hierarchy. Everyone—especially women—should “know their place” (Matuto kang lumugar!). In the Philippines, this means females should be submissive to the males of the household—that they should do the housework, cater to the needs of men and elders, and never question authority.
My mom didn’t raise me that way. She raised me to be a fighter.
One of my earliest memories was how she would tell me, “Sumagot ka! Magpaliwanag ka sa akin!” (Answer me! Explain to me!) whenever I did something wrong.
To be clear, when my mom taught me to “answer back,” it wasn’t for the sake of fighting back. My mom simply raised me to defend myself and to defend what is right. She taught me that what is right was not absolute, and that the motivations for my actions mattered. At the age of 4 or 5, my mom taught me accountability and to know the why to my actions—even if I was too young to understand the concepts back then.
So I learned to own up to what I did, to defend my actions when I thought what I did was right, and to apologize when I realized what I did was wrong.
I clearly remember this instance when I was 5 years old, at a time when we lived in the province. I gathered eggs from our chickens to cook 2 boxes of pancakes. There were 5 of us, and it took us a couple of days to finish all the pancakes I had cooked. We were really tight on money, and I totally threw off my mom’s budget. She got mad at me, but instead of going straight to a punishment, my mom told me to explain myself. I told her that she seemed really tired, so I thought she would be happy if I cooked all the pancakes, because it meant that she wouldn’t have to cook anymore. I didn’t get punished.
Over the years, many of my teachers also complained about me, because I had this tendency to “fight” them. My mother would simply ask me what I was correcting or defending, and as I explained them to her, I saw no anger—just a silent approval that she did not raise me to follow blindly.
However, there were some times when I was in the wrong, and my mother would always urge me to apologize. “Magpakumbaba ka” (Be humble), she would tell me. She always taught me the value of humility and compassion.
Being a fighter isn’t just about fighting blindly; It’s about fighting for what is right. It’s about standing up for what is worth defending. It’s about keeping in mind why we stand up to begin with and letting that guide the way.
By giving me a voice, my mother allowed me to give voice to so many other people and to stand up for persons with mental illness and children with special needs—two advocacies close to my heart.
I know that most people don’t raise their children to be assertive. But my mom taught me that even a child, a daughter, has a right to be heard and to make decisions of her own.
How different the world would be if we raised both our sons and daughters in an environment where they feel that their ideas and opinions are valid? When I raise my own daughter, I will raise her the way my mom raised me. I will also raise her to be a fighter, a listener, and an empath. She will always know that what she has to say is valid, and that her age and gender will never make her any less of a human being.
This submission was sent in to Edukasyon.ph by Wedu Global Rising Star, Marisse Galera.