Fans of Irish rock band U2 flocked to the Philippine Arena yesterday for their historic first concert in the Philippines. After the group performed Beautiful Day, lead singer Bono segued to the next song by highlighting the importance of women in history:
"Sisters around the world get to go to school like their brothers, that's a beautiful day. When journalists don't have to worry about what they write, that's a beautiful day. Women of the world unite to rewrite history as 'herstory,' that is a beautiful day."
He then opened the next song, Ultraviolet, and dedicated it to journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa: "For Maria Ressa," he said.
The screen then flashed the word 'HISTORY,' which faded out and revealed 'HERSTORY,' signaling the group to launch into song. During the performance, the LED backdrop played a vignette of notable women in history from all over the world, including suffragettes (from the U.S., U.K., India, and Japan), environmental activist Greta Thunberg, primatologist Jane Goodall, and talk show host Ellen Degeneres.
The highlight was the band's special tribute to numerous Filipino women and movements whose photos were flashed on the screen. Here are all the Filipino women that were featured and their remarkable achievements:
1. Melchora Aquino
Better known as Tandang Sora, Melchora Aquino cared for and protected the Katipunan, hence her monicker as the 'Mother of Katipunan.' Her little sari-sari store became a refuge for the revolutionaries, and she also tended to them by feeding or treating the injured. When the Spaniards eventually arrested and interrogated her, she remained fiercely loyal to the Katipunan, although she was never really a member.
2. Grrrl Gang Manila
Founded in 2017 by multihyphenate Mich Dulce, who rounded up friends Marla Darwin, Claire Villacorta, and Earnest Zabala, Grrrl Gang Manila is more than just an all-girl band. It's a feminist movement, a community that "aims to create a safe, non-judgemental space for women in the Philippines to discuss the issues that affect them."
Read about how Mich started it all here.
3. St. Scholastica's students in One Billion Rising protests
One Billion Rising movement was founded in 2012 as a call to end sexual violence. One Billion Rising Philippines was launched in December of 2012 and has been actively taking a stand since then. St. Scholastica's College was not one to miss out on the opportunity. Every year, students and teachers gather in the fight against women and child abuse.
4. #BabaeAko Movement
As a response to the "alleged misogynism and sexism" in the government, the #BabaeAko movement was launched by a group of women composed of a former Cabinet member, journalists, activists, and lawmakers. The group took to social media to post personal stories on womanhood, which eventually blew up into a full-fledged women's rights movement. TIME hailed the group as one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018.
5. Maria Carpena
Known as the Nightingale of the Sarswela, Maria Carpena was born in Laguna in the year 1886. She made her debut when she joined the Gran Comana de Zarzuela Tagala founded by Severino Reyes, the Father of the Sarswela, at the age of 15. She was then catapulted into stardom and even did a recording in America.
6. Pia Cayetano
Pia Cayetano is the youngest elected senator in Philippine history. She is a self-proclaimed woman's rights advocate who has pushed for expanded maternity leave and better public health services, among others. She is known for pushing the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
7. Corazon Aquino
Corazon "Cory" Aquino was a prominent figure in the EDSA Revolution, which led her to be elected as the first female president of the Philippines. TIME had named her Woman of the Year in 1986. As President, she created the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), and the 1987 Constitution was also formed during her term.
8. Lidy Nacpil
Lidy Nacpil is an activist, working on environmental, social, economic, social, and gender justice issues. Organizations that she is involved with include the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Develoment, the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, Coordinating Committee of the Global Alliance on Tax Justice. She is a founding member of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.
9. Joan Carling
Joan Carling is an indigenous rights activist and environmental activist. She has been defending land rights and advocating for responsible use of natural resources for more than 20 years. She has also contributed to major UN collectives such as the UN Economic and Social Council, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous, and Indigenous Peoples Major Group for the Sustainable Development Goals.
10. Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa is a journalist and CEO of Rappler. She is known for fiercely combatting fake news, which has garnered her international recognition. TIME included her among its list of journalists for its 2018 issue of Person of the Year.
11. Lea Salonga
One of Broadway's most popular leading ladies, Lea Salonga is a singer and actress, known for her roles as Kim in Miss Saigon, which earned the performer her first Tony Award. She is also known as the singing voice of Disney princesses Mulan and Jasmine. She is also the first Asian actress to play the roles of Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables on Broadway.
12. Marinel Ubaldo
Since Marinel Ubaldo survived the life-threatening Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, she has been fighting for environmental rights and collective action to alleviate the climate crisis. The 22-year-old played a huge role in enabling the Globate Climate Strike movement in the country, including the first youth climate strike held last May, as well as the protests held last September.
Watch the full video of the performance below:
Bono culminated the song with yet another message:
"Women who light up history... you know Maria Ressa is an incredible woman. But, the extraordinary thing is, even Maria Ressa will say 'It's not about individuals. It's about collective action, about social movements. And so, if all of you can grow up to be the president or Maria Ressa, that is the wonderful gift that is the Philippines."
Aside from the ode to Filipino women, U2 also projected the poem titled Filipineza by Bino A. Realuyo. According to Rappler, U2 is known for incorporating poems by people from the countries they visit. They had done this in their 2017 tour in the U.S.
This tribute to local heroes is not something new, and perhaps Filipinos had already expected this from the rock band. The Inquirer had anticipated this when U2 rolled out a similar tribute in their Singapore and Japan concerts, respectively. The Singapore leg of the tour was no different, and they even honored the late singer-actress Sulli, who passed away last October.
More often than not, U2 imbues political messages or social commentary during their concerts, and lead singer Bono is very vocal when it comes to his personal stances regarding issues. Prior to the one-night-only concert, the singer expressed his views on journalism during a press conference for the launch of a national-scale blood delviery service via drone. The initiative is made possible by drone service Zipline, which Bono is a member of, in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross.
"I probably would have been a journalist if I wasn’t a singer and so the safety of journalists is very important, and I think a democracy requires a free press," the singer said in response to a question about human rights in the Philippines.
The band also honored Red Cross volunteers and journalists in general during their rendition of the song Heroes by David Bowie, according to Rappler.