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Marcelo H. del Pilar’s letter to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán

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Below is a letter of Marcelo H. del Pilar to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán. It was translated from Spanish into English by del Pilar’s granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos:

Me and del Pilar's granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Barcelona, 13 March 1889

My dearest niece,

The vagaries of life, which Providence in its most inscrutable design has alloted to me, had taken me away from that beautiful land where I have left behind the treasures of my life without even giving me a chance to say goodbye to the people I cherish and appreciate. In this letter to you, I shall try to make amends for my precipitate flight, by sending through you this my humble message to the young women of Bulacán. I feel convinced that you have been chosen, and on you depends the regeneration, the rebirth of our town. For there is no doubt of the strength and scope of a women’s influence on the family. Daughter, sister, wife, or mother — a woman offers the balm of solace that makes endurable the rigors of everyday life. More than that, she is the element that guides men to paths of virtue and courage or to the pitfalls of wrongdoing and cowardice.

In all these countries that I have now visited, I have found eloquent proof that where women are virtuous, vice is timid and dignity predominates in the life of man. But when feminine frivolity reigns, the men are taken up in immorality and the abandonment and disregard of the sacred duties of man is the popular way of life.

It is your duty to God to develop your mind and your reason by education; it is your duty to your fellowmen to share the knowledge that you possess, that they may use it to better their lives. Do not forget, dear niece, that an untutored mind is like a lighthouse without light, useless to guide the sailor to his port.

I shall recommend to you the diligent study of the Spanish language, because knowledge of Spanish will open to you the opportunity of wide reading which in turn solidifies your education. For this reason alone you should, and the other women of Bulacán with you, devote yourselves to the mastery of the Spanish idiom.

Studying Spanish is not a luxury reserved for a few and denied to the indigent and the female. To study it is not a useless activity to be passed up in indifference and carelessly exchanged for a few idle hours of gossip everyday.

You, my dear niece, and your friends who will be the mothers of tomorrow, do not throw away this treasure. Cherish knowledge not only for yourself but that posterity may have received it from you and bless you for this legacy. Surely, for this you may well sacrifice a few hours a day, the few hours you waste so carelessly in “panguingue” and idle gossip.

For this reason, I have written you from across the sea. For this I plead with all my soul — will you not do this out of love for our town of Bulacán, our unhappy town that had cradled our birth, had sheltered our youth and now shares with us the bitter and the sweet of life’s memories? Look not with indifference at my plea for the weal of Bulacán is linked with yours and those of your children. Study, spread the love of learning, uplift yourselves, and you shall yet uplift your town. And I beseech you for the sake of this goal, to learn to work as one in spirit and determination. Forget and set aside petty rivalries that frequently becloud your little groups. Be ready to sacrifice your little prides in the bigger altar of common good and your noble purposes shall have a better chance of survival. Build up, my dear niece, the honor and prestige of Bulacán by spreading the love of learning among your compatriots. For the mind enlightened and elevated is better than a temple of stone; it is a living sanctuary reflecting the magnificence of its Omnipotent Creator.

M.H. DEL PILAR

Marcelo H. del Pilar y Gatmaitán

Click here to read the letter in its original version. =)

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