Raising the Philippines’ great sons

Published May 7, 2022, 4:45 PM

by Jules Vivas

Behind every great man—or woman—is a mother

Dr. Jose Rizal treating the cataract of his mother

Not much has been said about the mothers of heroes and movers but it’s clear that they’ve played a huge part in history. They were the catalysts that bred revolutionaries and forerunners in the first place.

Highly accomplished individuals attribute their success to their mothers. For instance, George Washington said, “I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her [mother].” Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln said, “all that I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Portrait of Teodora Alonso, Rizal’s mother

In the Philippines, Teodora Alonso, the mother of Rizal, is perceived as the polymath’s greatest influence. A philosopher herself, she opened Rizal’s heart and eyes to the world around him, including the injustices against the Filipinos, essentially molding him into one of the greatest heroes of the country.

In line with Mother’s Day, here are messages from Filipinos who made history to their moms.

Jose Rizal, Filipino nationalist

An hour before his execution, Dr. Jose Rizal wrote his last letter to his mother, which read simply: “To my dear mother, Sra. Da. Teodora Alonzo. 6 o’clock in the morning, December 30, 1896. Jose Rizal.”


Antonio Luna, Hero of the Philippine-American War

Luna’s last will were found mixed with his papers after his death. It is dated March 31, 1899, and written en route from San Fernando to Calumpit: “1. I leave whatever I have to my mother.”


F. Sionil Jose (Sofia Sionil), National Artist for Literature

(As told to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle editor AA Patawaran, during a nostalgic trip to Manong Frankie’s birthtown, Rosales in Pangasinan)

“My mother supported my love of reading. She was a dressmaker and she sold food at the market. If she had extra money, she would buy me books, but mostly she would borrow from neighbors or from people she knew who had books to lend or give away.”


A philosopher herself, Teodora opened Rizal’s heart and eyes to the world around him, including the injustices against the Filipinos, essentially molding him into one of the greatest heroes of the country.


Apolinario Mabini, first Prime Minister of the Philippines

Dedication in La Revolución Filipina:

“To My Mother: When, still a child, I told you that I wanted to acquire learning, you were overjoyed, because your heart’s desire was that a son of yours should be a priest; to be a minister of God was for you the greatest honor that a man could aspire to in this world.”


Carlos Bulosan, author, poet, activist

(Except from his semi-fictional memoir America Is in the Heart)

“I was writing to her what I had had in my mind and heart for years. The words came effortlessly, I was no longer writing about this lonely sick kid, but about myself and my friends in America. I told her about the lean, the lonely, and miserable years. I mentioned places and names. I was not writing to an unknown mother anymore. I was writing to my own mother plowing in the muddy fields of Mangusmana: it was the one letter I should have written before. I was telling her about America. Actually, I was writing to all the unhappy mothers whose sons left and did not return.”


Emilio Jacinto, Brains of the Revolution (Utak ng Himagsikan)

Emilio Jacinto, who also went by the pen name Dimasilaw, wrote an emotional ode dedicated to his mother, Josefa Dizon. Titled A Mi Madre (To My Mother), the lyrical poem imagines how miserable life would be without a mother.


Fidel Valdez Ramos, 12th President of the Philippines

In his book In a Class of Her Own:

“Closer to home and family, my sisters, Letty and Glory, and I are supremely grateful to the Almighty for the gift and the advantage of having a mother like Angela Valdez Ramos…

Our parents raised, nurtured, and challenged us, their children, to value education, honesty, hard work, and frugality. They also taught us to be respectful to elders and those in authority, to obey the law, and to love God, country, neighbors, and nature. Our loving mother we now know was in a class of her own among peers and contemporaries in her generation.”