Around the world, both in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, Muslim women’s rights have been the subject of a great deal of debate. While many feminists have criticized sharia (Islamic law) as restrictive for women, many have also defended Islam as the sponsor of women’s rights.

My parents brought us up believing in personal liberties and equality. After all, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) married his employer, Khadija, who became one of his trusted advisers. My sisters and I therefore grew up believing we could attain whatever future we wanted for ourselves. There was no special treatment for sons -- only for achievers. Women have been elected as heads of state in Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Maldives, and Azerbaijan long before the United States has.

The wave of democratization that swept the Islamic world after the Arab Spring has been blocked. After encouraging images of young women standing shoulder to shoulder with young men in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, bravely facing a dictatorial government, we now see the evolving portrait of a government more oppressive towards women and minorities. Some young women died fighting for their freedom in Libya and in Syria. Today, we have the picture of an un-Islamic ISIS, claiming to be THE champion of Islam, evoking horror with their beheading of prisoners and abuse of their own women.

More rigid interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence -- not too friendly to women -- have gained the upper hand in the newly democratized states. Thus, Muslim women leaders must engage the state and the religious leaders to define a more just, legal framework for both women and men.

This past week, we have been fortunate to have an internationally renowned Muslim jurist in our midst. Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, Founder of Karamah, an organization of Muslim women lawyers for human rights, and professor emerita at the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, has spoken at forums in Mindanao and Metro Manila on the state of women’s rights and the Islamic worldview. Thanks to the US Embassy for acceding to my request to bring Dr. al-Hibri to our shores as a Visiting American Scholar.

The first Muslim woman law professor in the United States, she has written extensively on women’s issues, democracy, and human rights from an Islamic perspective. Her essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the Harvard International Review, and Fordham International Law Journal.

In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for a two-year term. Most recently, she had delivered the Ramadan Lecture before the King of Morocco, the first Muslim woman scholar so invited.

I would describe Azizah al-Hibri as a modern day jihadist, one who has embarked on a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline to reform society. This is the greater jihad. Western media has hijacked the term jihad to mean armed warfare. Armed struggle, in defense of faith and community, is the lesser jihad.

Dr. al-Hibri blames patriarchal thinking and Muslim women’s lack of education for the oppressive interpretation of Islam on women’s rights. While Islam sought to liberate women, patriarchal thinking has brought about the inequalities faced by women in society, not by faith. Culture must be separated from faith as Islamic law is interpreted.

During her lectures at Miriam College last Wednesday and at the University of the Philippines College of Law on Thursday (co-organized by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy), she emphasized that many verses in the Qur’an have been interpreted by men to favor men. In marriage for instance, men are taught that they are superior to women and thus must be followed by women. However, the Qur’an does not say that men are “superior” to women. Rather, it says that men are “caretakers” of women who are in need of assistance.

Dr. al-Hibri also spoke about minority rights and Islam, citing what she terms as “one of the most visionary documents in the history of Islamic praxis” -- the Madinah Charter. Executed by the Prophet Muhammad on the one hand, and the various Muslim and Jewish tribes on the other, the charter defined the relationship between faith and freedom, which shed further light on the verse in the Qur’an that states: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)

The Charter is the first written constitution, intended to establish a plural society, giving equal rights to every citizen including participation in governance. Further, the Charter introduced a form of government that adhered to the shura system (parliamentary system) where citizens can give opinions, even if these contradict the ruler’s opinions. These are the foundations for a democratic society. It is therefore strange that the practice of Islam in most Islamic countries today has enshrined authoritarian rule.

She also explains that the Qur’an repeatedly states that the core of Islam is Justice, saying that the notion of Justice is explained throughout the Qur’an to be a restorative one based on compassion and forgiveness, not a distributive one whose only goal is to punish.

The Madinah Charter devised a special legal structure to protect the religious liberty of the diverse religious tribes and to promote peace in the community. According to Dr. al-Hibri, the Prophet devised a “federalist” model, for Muslim and Jewish citizens alike, preserving and protecting each group’s own identity, customs, and internal relations. “All members of the “federation” were then joined together in common defense and peace making.”

As we in the Philippines embark on the road towards federalism, we in Muslim Mindanao should discuss the Madinah Charter and find our inspiration therein.

Change has to happen from within. If President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his federalist movement truly want positive change to happen, they cannot impose the will of the majority on Muslim Mindanao. It must come from the heart of the community. Federalists should best study the Madinah Charter and incorporate it into their discussions.

Amina Rasul is a democracy, peace and human rights advocate, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy.

SOURCE: Business World Online >

I still get surprised looks from people whenever they learn that I’m a Filipino teacher. Some are amazed that I teach a subject that deals with a language, which not a few of them find so difficult to use or learn. Some simply pause and exclaim “wow!” which I hope is said in sincere admiration.

GOING NATIVE Angelica Flores Morales (in yellow top) and her students in a Filipino Creative Writing class

In the age of globalization, with English being perceived by many as a language of empowerment and barometer for success and intelligence, alongside government’s initial decision of excluding Filipino subjects in the general education curriculum of the K-12-based higher education courses and programs, I’ve also begun to ask myself what’s in store for me.  I also can’t help but sometimes question myself regarding my decision to stick to teaching Filipino. Is teaching Filipino to this generation still an important part of their learning? Do they still need to develop this skill for them to become competent individuals and well-rounded professionals?

I’ve been teaching the subject for more than 12 years now. I started teaching Grade 7 girls and later college students under the outgoing general education curriculum. I’ve met various types of students inside the classroom: those who are either unmotivated or don’t put much effort in studying Filipino (or any other subject, for that matter); those who find it hard to learn and use the language because they’ve grown up using English and other languages at home and with their friends; finally, those who are truly into learning the subject based on how they’ve grown in using Filipino either orally or in written form. These kids, I noticed, are also willing to immerse themselves in the subject matter even without much motivation. While the third type brings me joy and a sense of purpose, the first two keep me up on my toes thinking of ways to make the subject more interesting for them.

Rewards of teaching Filipino

Teaching Filipino hasn’t been all that bad, even though it may seem harder to do in an environment where students come from more affluent and supposedly English-speaking families. During my first years of teaching, one of my main challenges, apart from connecting with my students, was how to motivate and make them see why learning and using Filipino in communications and research would serve them and the Filipino people well. I still do reiterate these things to my students, but through the years, I’ve also taken a stand that I should go beyond that challenge and start my Filipino classes with the goal of enhancing and leveling up my students’ skills. That means also going beyond the goal of simply letting them appreciate the Filipino subject.

One issue I want to focus on is related to the digital age, specifically to the new generation of writers and readers. I encounter this most especially in my creative writing classes where I’m faced with what I call the “Wattpad phenomenon.” For those of you who don’t know what Wattpad is, it’s an application or website where any member who registers have a chance to read another person’s written work, write his/her own creative piece, and publish it through the app to reach a wider audience. Although not all my students are Wattpad readers, many admit that they read stories and novels from Wattpad. Many, based on their submitted works, have also been influenced by what they’ve read in Wattpad.

I know most established writers have qualms about this phenomenon, but I choose to stand in between: in the reading/writing context where my students are exposed to (and have found pleasure in reading and probably writing) and also within the writing standards set by the traditional creative writing processes I’ve been trained and accustomed to.

In terms of planning my classes and the curriculum I follow during a semester, I always bear in mind that my main goal in teaching Creative Writing in Filipino is for my students to be able to read and appreciate written works in Filipino and hopefully become writers themselves.  I’ve learned to adjust to my students’ interests yet I make it a point to inject tried-and-tested techniques in my teaching so that they still get acquainted with structure and writing traditions. I’m not a Wattpad reader and writer so I’m in no position to judge people who appreciate and write in it. My job as a teacher is to teach and set standards. At the same time, I have to be open as well to new trends.

Common challenges of students taking up Filipino

Other common concerns, questions and challenges of students taking Filipino subjects vary: the challenge in translating English sources to Filipino (which is a required skill, especially for research classes since a researcher-writer also needs to present the review of related literature in Filipino); the “pressure” to sound malalim or deep, which is also a common stereotype, when using the language; and their notion about the relevance of taking up the subject in this day and age where almost everyone aims to achieve mastery of English.

My major task then throughout the entire semester or school year is: to remind, convince, and reinstate to my students that the value of learning to use Filipino as they speak, listen, read, write, research, watch, perform, and express themselves in various forms is for their own country, so that they get to communicate their ideas, breakthroughs, and discoveries to our own Filipino-speaking and -thinking citizens. I always reiterate to them that with the onset of more and more creative works like films, shows, and books being translated to Filipino, the language as a medium is still alive and evolving up to now, and that if they want more Filipinos to learn and benefit from whatever work or career path they would delve in, they ought to practice and learn to take reading and writing in Filipino a very important skill to develop and enhance.

I also continue to uphold my view about using Filipino in interdisciplinary studies—meaning, seeing Filipino as a tool to communicate ideas and concepts that are usually written and available only for the English-speaking and -reading market to Filipinos who are still comfortable in reading, speaking and “thinking” in Filipino. As an educator, I don’t force my students to write, research, or work on anything in my class within a certain set of topics under the “Filipino subject or discipline” only. I make it a point that my students get to write about their own interests and work on researches within their chosen areas of discipline. In this way, taking up Filipino classes would be more meaningful and “professional” since students get to link their experience to a more academic one, which is, of course, aligned to their own areas of interests and discipline.

Through the years, my conviction in what I do has become stronger, which has served me and my students well. When students see this in their teacher, they would feel that the work they do in class is something of value and definitely non-negotiable. Of course, there would still be times when I feel that certain students tend to make me feel that what I’m teaching isn’t important. Instead of being emotional about it, I just continue with my work. I continue to channel my emotions and passion to the goal of producing more graduates who adhere to the value and principle that Filipino is a significant language and discipline, and partner in achieving our collective goal of nation-building and learning.

Giving credit where credit is due

I always try my best to commend my students whenever there’s an opportunity, say, by praising a group presentation they did well or giving written affirmation on a well-written term paper. Apart from boosting their confidence, these measures give them an idea on how far they can go in using Filipino as a means of expression. I always make it a point to also balance these with criticisms so that my students still get to meet the standards I expect of them.

If I may recommend some things to the Commission on Higher Education, I would like to suggest that colleges and universities have higher Filipino research and writing classes that can also lead students in using the language to write their research work or theses. Giving Filipino the same priority as English could motivate more Filipino students to finish their studies because they have this option to write in their first language.

I continue to believe and maintain my position that Filipino is not a dying language. I encourage fellow Filipino teachers to continue to have an open mind while remaining passionate and attuned with current context and needs of the Filipino society. May more leaders and future generation of Filipinos see the need for us to elevate the Filipino language as part of the academic and professional scenes, and not just view it as the language of the masa. Filipino has evolved so much through the years that there’s no other way for it to go but up.

Angelica Flores-Morales or Gel, as friends and colleagues call her, has taught Filipino classes in Miriam College since 2004. She has taught Grade 6 and 7 Filipino classes, Komunikasyon sa Filipino (Communications in Filipino), Pagbasa at Pagsulat tungo sa Pananaliksik (Reading and Writing for Research in Filipino) and Masining na Pagpapahayag (Creative Writing in Filipino) in the college. She’s a graduate of B.A. Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino from UP Diliman and Masters in Education major in Special Education from Miriam College. She’s currently working on her PhD in Family Studies, also in Miriam College.

SOURCE: Manila Bulletin >

Anjeline De Dios, an alumna of Miriam College High School 1999 and Miriam College Grade School 1995, recently graduated valedictorian at the National University of Singapore where she finished her PhD in Human Geography. 

Earning her PhD is just one of several academic achievements of Anjeline. In 2009 she earned her Erasmus Mundus Master in Applied Ethics at Linköping University, Sweden and Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. 

In 2008 she took her Masters in Philosophy at the Ateneo de Manila and before that was a student of the Graduate Exchange Program Institut d’Études Politiques (Sciences-Po), Paris. 

In 2003, she graduated cum laude at the Ateneo de Manila with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and English Literature. In that same year she also bagged the Joseph Mulry Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. 

Anjeline is the daughter of Miriam College’s former Gender and Institute Executive Director, Prof. Aurora De Dios.

To watch her valedictory speech on YouTube, go to:

They’ve done it again! The Miriam College High School Glee Club adds another feather to its cap when it bagged two Gold Diplomas at the 7th Musica Eterna a Roma Choral Competition held in Rome, Italy, last July 1 to 5.

Led by its conductor Nancy Roman, the 45-member team brought home the Diploma d’Oro Level III in the Youth Choirs of Equal Voices category and the Diploma d’Oro Level II in the Sacred Music Female Choir category. 

From the 16 competing international choirs, the Miriam College High School Glee Club, together with other five choirs, qualified for the Grand Prize competition concert.

In support of the group, the lone Asian choir in the competition, Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo P. Nolasco attended the Grand Prize Concert at the Basilica di Sant’Andrea della Valle. 

Amb. Nolasco congratulated and commended the group for making the Filipinos proud and for showcasing Filipino talent and creativity to the Italian public.

Apart from the performing during the competition, the girls had the opportunity to showcase their talents in other venues, said Roman. “Since there were fewer choirs, the girls had more opportunities to perform in Rome. We were one of the choirs which participated in the opening ceremony. We also had a concert with the Morehead State University Chamber Choir in Pompeii,” shared Roman. 

The group was the only choir from Asia who qualified in the competition. Other participating choirs were from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, USA and Ukraine.

MCHS Glee Club is set to sing the songs they performed in Rome on the day of the launch of the Henry Sy, Sr. Innovation Center on Sept. 7.

The Miriam College High School Glee Club, led by its conductor Nancy Roman, won the Diploma d'Oro Level III in the G2Youth Choirs of Equal Voices category and the Diploma d'Oro Level II in the Sacred Music Female Choir category at the seventh International Choir Festival and Competition held in Rome, Italy.

From the 16 competing international choirs, the Miriam College High School Glee Club, together with other five choirs, qualified for the Grand Prize competition concert.

Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo Nolasco attended the Grand Prize Concert at the Basilica di Sant'Andrea della Valle last July 5 and commended the group for making the country and the Filipinos proud. The competition provided an opportunity to showcase the Filipino talent and creativity to the Italian public.

The group was the only choir from Asia that qualified in the competition. Other participating choirs were from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, USA and Ukraine.

— Celso De Guzman Caparas

Published on July 18, 2016 in Philippine Star - Entertainment Section, page C5 

Filipino students from the Miriam College High School Glee Club, led by its conductor Nancy Roman, won the Diplomia d'Oro Level III in the G2-Youth Choirs of Equal Voices category and the Diploma d'Oro Level II in the S-Sacred Music Female Choir category at the 7th International Choir Festival & Competition held in Rome, Italy recently.

From the 16 competing international choirs, the Miriam College High. School Glee Club and other five choirs qualified for the Grand Prize competition concert. Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo Nolasco attended the concert at the Basilica di Sant'Andrea della Valle to support the Filipino students.

The ambassador congratulated and commended the group for matting the country and the Filipinos proud. The group was the only choir from Asia who qualified in the competition. Other participating choirs were from  Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, USA and Ukraine.

Published on July 17, 2016 in Starweek, page 14

Students from the Miriam College Middle School bagged several individual and team awards in the Junior Division of the World Scholar’s Cup Manila Round which was held in Xavier School, San Juan, from July 9 to 10.

The team of Grade 8 and 7 students namely Julianne Vega, Mikaela Rallonza, and Chaela Rubio won first place in the Scholar’s Bowl while the team of Phylicia Abary, Alize Madayag, and Juliana Guillermo was awarded as the fifth top debate team. The top scholar from MCMS was Alize Madayag. All five teams of three qualified for the Global Round in 2017.

During the two-day event, the teams participated in Team Debate, Collaborative Writing, Scholar’s Challenge, and Scholar’s Bowl. They also showcased their talents of poetry writing, flute playing, and performing magic tricks during the Scholar’s Show.

Prior to the event, the students were trained in the disciplines of Art, Music, Araling Panlipunan, Science, and English by teacher trainers from the Middle School.

Photo shows the Miriam College Middle School students at the World Scholar’s Cup Manila Round held in Xavier School from July 9 to 10.

07 July 2016 - Filipino students from the Miriam College High School Glee Club, led by its conductor, Ms. Nancy Roman, won the Diploma d’Oro Level III in the G2-Youth Choirs of Equal Voices category and the Diploma d’Oro Level II in the S3-Sacred Music Female Choir category at the 7th International Choir Festival & Competition held in Rome, Italy from July 01 to 05.

From the 16 competing international choirs, the Miriam College High School Glee Club, together with other five choirs, qualified the Grand Prize competition concert.

Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo P. Nolasco attended the Grand Prize Concert at the Basilica di Sant’Andrea della Valle on July 05 to demonstrate support to the Filipino students. The Ambassador congratulated and commended the group for making the country and the Filipinos proud.  The competition provided an opportunity to showcase the Filipino talent and creativity to the Italian public.

The group was the only choir from Asia who qualified in the competition. Other participating choirs were from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, USA and Ukraine. END

The Center for Peace Education-MC and the University for Peace (UPeace) Costa Rica co-organized a storytelling conference on June 27-28, 2016 to celebrate three decades of peace education in the Philippines. MC President Dr. Rosario Lapus gave the opening message which affirmed the value of storytelling in facilitating transfer of knowledge.
"It has been more than three decades since peace education in the Philippines has become a goal, a pedagogy, a program, and a movement", according to Dr. Virginia Cawagas of UPeace. CPE founder Dr. Loreta Castro said that "deliberate and sustained peace education, both in schools and communities, is an important force and pathway towards a culture of peace."

Before the adoption of Executive Order 570 in 2006, mandating basic education and tertiary education institutions to integrate peace education in the curriculum, academic institutions like Miriam College, some NGOs and grassroots organizations have already been promoting and mainstreaming peace education in their teaching-learning processes and activities.

In Miriam College, peace education began in the early 1980s when peace and global perspectives were integrated into certain subjects. Peace education courses were eventually offered in the Departments of International Studies and Child Development and Education as well as in Grade 7.  In 1991, MC committed itself to being a Zone of Peace. The School's peace education efforts became more systematic with the establishment of the Center for Peace Education in 1997. Today, CPE has become a resource for many educators from various academic institutions and community-based organizations within and outside of the country.

The storytelling conference held in Miriam College featured stories of approximately 30 educators from around the country who narrated their achievements and their hopes as well as the challenges they have encountered in implementing peace education in the country. There were 65 participants in all. Members of the MC Community who shared stories or served as facilitators were Dr. Jasmin Nario-Galace and Mirma Tica of CPE; Angelina Alcazar, College ADSA and officer of APNIEVE; Melinda Lamorena of the Middle School; Atty. Christine Lao of the IS Department; and Jaime Villafuerte of the High School. The stories will be compiled in a book that will be published late this year by the CPE and UPeace.

Miriam College High School students Rosanina Fragante and Brianna Rivera flew to Costa Rica last July 10 to attend a summer program on biodiversity and conservation in Monteverde, Costa Rica. 

This program, which will run until August 3, is offered by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), the oldest and largest non-profit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization in the United States. The biodiversity and conservation course will give the girls an opportunity to explore and study Costa Rica’s ecosystems to appreciate the value of biodiversity and learn about sustainability and conservation practices for the environment. They were also given language courses and cultural immersion activities with the locals. 

The students were also partly sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS), of which Miriam College is a member.

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