The Militant Nun as Political Activist and Feminist in Martial Law Philippines
During the martial law era (1972-1986), the militant nuns were the most visible symbols of political activism: they dominated the Task Force Detainees, they were active in the underground press, and were present in the labour strikes and demonstrations. But, in becoming political activists, they discovered the potential of moral power as women religious figures. During the People Power revolution, for example, the nuns – armed only with rosaries, confronted the military (the supreme example of machismo politics) and triumphed. In the process of attacking political oppression, these nuns also began to challenge cultural constructions of the feminine – becoming the first overt feminists to do so in Philippine history. This paper explores how martial law transformed these women into militant activists and feminists. Although driven by their struggle to protect the victims of martial law, they also succeeded in empowering themselves. This new ‘moral power’ has since been harnessed for women’s issues.