IF I HAD A DAUGHTER
(Speech delivered by President Vidal Tan before the U.P. Women’s Club on June 28, 1952.)
I would like to thank the U.P. Women’s Club for giving me the opportunity to speak before the female student body of the University of the Philippines. On this occasion, I will speak to you about a subject dear to my heart. You all know that I have not been blessed with children, much more a daughter. So I will tell you what I would do if only I had a daughter. If I had a daughter, I am sure I would love her dearly. I would take good care of her health, of her education, and of her morals. I would try very hard to train her so that the things she would ask for are not frivolous and foolish. I would try very hard so that she develops a sound appreciation of relative values, a desire to work with her hands, a non-too-materialistic attitude towards life, and a sincere friendship for those below her. I would encourage her to be seriously religious because I know that religion is the safest protection that I could imagine for her. It will tell her in a clear-cut and decisive fashion the things that she should do and the things that she should not do. It will be to her a guide in her norm of conduct, a rule which if she follows would insure her the greatest amount of peace of mind. I know that if she takes her religion seriously she will find in it a great source of comfort and strength, and will offer her the greatest feeling of security. I would be sure that if she is in trouble she would know what to do; that if she is in grief she would be strong to stand it. However, I would not want her to be fanatically religious. I want her to take up her religions with sanity and with reason…. Religion would be her most priceless possession, her strongest tool, her greatest guarantee to happiness. I expect my daughter to be charming, not beautiful. Indeed I would be afraid if she is beautiful; because more often than not, physical beauty is a hindrance rather than a help to her happiness. There is a danger that her beauty would make her selfish, vain, proud and lazy. I would tell her that not all women can be beautiful, but all can be charming. I would tell her that while beauty fades with the years, charm grows, mellows and acquires a rich bouquet as her hair turns from black to grey. I would tell her that the main ingredients of charm are sincerity, interest in people, a genuine friendliness for them, neatness, and physical cleanliness. Of these qualities, the most important is sincerity. There must be genuineness in her feelings, in her words, and her attitudes. I would send her to college in order that she may get a basic background of the fundamental experiences, that she may view life with greater appreciation and confidence, and the world with greater understanding and sympathy. I would want her to have education so that she learns to love books, because they are her best friends and because they would keep her growing, instead of falling into a rut or stagnation. I like to see her go to college, so that in case that she has to live through life alone, she can make a living and take care of herself. Before she falls in love with a boy – and I suppose someday she would and should – I would caution her about falling in love with a handsome boy just because he is handsome. Boys gifted by nature in this manner are generally spoiled and self-conceited. I would advise my daughter to look instead for a manly man who has energy, enthusiasm and ambition. He does not have to be rich, but he must be a man of promise and a man willing to work. She would not allow him any liberties, which in the eyes of other boys would cheapen her…. Girls who are popular among boys because of these freedoms are generally left standing by the aisle when the wedding march is played. How can you tell whether a boy means well or not? How can you tell whether he would make a good husband? Unfortunately, so far no chemical reaction or mathematical formula has yet been discovered that would answer this question. But these chances can be minimized by carefully observing the behavior of the man she likes to marry – whether he is honest, whether he is clean, whether he is ambitious, whether he is neat, how he treats the poor, how he acts towards his superiors, how he behaves under fire, in victory and in defeat… But one of the safest guides is whether he takes his religion seriously or not. While this is not an absolute guarantee that would make a good husband, it is the best one I know. I would tell when she gets married that she should learn to love her work at home, that being a mother is the most important role that any woman can ever expect to do. This is the most valuable contribution that any woman can make to society. The rearing of good children is her main task. I know that many a so-called modern woman rebels against the drudgery of cooking and dishwashing, against those periodic incarcerations when the beginnings of motherhood change her physical appearance and confine her to her home… If there are women who are successful in their professions and successful mothers at the same time, I feel that they are too few to prove a rule, sufficient to prove an exception. As far as I know, there has never been known a good substitute for a good mother to growing children. The crying need of the world has always been, is, and will be for good and wise men. Men without these Christ-like qualities have been responsible for most of the sorrows and for all the wars that have scourged the world. Who is going to produce these men with goodness in their hearts? Will it be the housewife who is making a vain attempt to be a mediocre doctor? Will it be the woman politician who goes home after the children have already gone to bed? Will it be the society matron who entrusts the rearing of children to “amahs”? If we want to make this world a better place for our children than it has been for us, then the women of every nation must be willing to do a certain amount of this disagreeable work as a price that they have to pay for that peace, just as men spend days and nights in the bowels of the earth, digging coal to keep the hearth warm, just as men spend hours in the hot sun tilling the soil to produce cereals that were once the concern of the women, just as men are willing to go through the hell of wars to win peace for their wives and children and themselves. This then is the picture of my imaginary daughter — one I will never have. Perhaps, God in His infinite wisdom saw it fit not to give me a daughter so that all of you — the women of this great University — will all be my daughters.