Article and Essay

Commonwealth Cafe: Helen Rillera’s “Ambition and the Filipina” (1935)

Check out Jean Vengua’s Commonwealth Cafe website, which “contains editorials, feature essays (often on topics of labor and representation of Filipinos in the media), literary reviews, and poetry written by Filipinos in the western United States during the early 1900s through the early 1940s.” She has posted Helen Rillera’s “Ambition and the Fiipina” essay, originally published in 1935 in the Philippines Mail. An excerpt:

Yes, girls, it is a thrill, a fascinating and an interesting one, I mean, being here in this beautiful country, amidst adventure and animation. It is not at all an [exaggeration] to say we are lucky.

While we are here, we are having an opportunity to live, which our own sisters back home never had and may never have. what lovely times they boast of there, but I’m sure there are not many that could really excel our own experiences here. It seems that everything is to our advantage, except the fact that they are at home, where it is home, where their appreciation of ‘Filipinas’ is not from mere heresay, but from actually knowing it. If you have ever known and loved the Philippines, you will realize the significance of this point.

In the Islands today, we hear of youth rising to fame in the respective worlds of drama, art, literature, and music. We know the interest for the Fine Arts has kindled quickly and now burns with fervor. We are informed of talents, ambitions, and finally success of our girls there. And we are proud [are] we not, that the products of our native land are a credit to its worth and pride? But shouldn’t we  [be] proud, shouldn’t we be inspired to do our own [limited] bit, eve if we are far from home? I have already mentioned we have advantages and opportunities here, and surely we would not admit that we have less intelligence or less talent than they.

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