The Courage and Commitment of Judy Taguiwalo

Online and in the streets, Judy Taguiwalo is an inspiration to a new generation of Filipino activists, particularly women activists. Her world view is shaped by our nation’s history — a history that not too many Filipinos had the courage to confront nor the opportunity or inclination to take part in. She insists on correcting mistakes and learning from them. And she roasts a mean chicken with Kikkoman and lemon grass.


MANILA — She’s a fixture not just in rallies and demonstrations but on Facebook as well.

Judy Taguiwalo (Photo by Raymund Villanueva /

In the real world, Judy Taguiwalo is a firebrand, an activist who advocates several issues: academic freedom, human rights, equality, to name a few of them.

She teaches at the University of the Philippines, where she is also the faculty regent. Recently, she’s been in the thick of things on campus, campaigning, for instance, against the politics there that have sidelined colleagues and make a mockery of academic freedom.

Online, she is a constant presence, her updates on Facebook providing the new generation of Filipino activists a peek into the mind of one of the country’s most committed and most respected activists.

She checks her Facebook account at least twice a day, in the morning and before going to bed, because online activism can contribute, she says, to efforts to “arouse, to organize and to mobilize, which is a primary duty in building the women’s movement.”

She uses Facebook not just to agitate people intellectually but even to extend assistance where it is needed, for example to colleagues and fellow activists who have gotten sick and needed help. “The problem of inaccessible health care for the many, including professionals, is illustrated by the need for assistance of three of our colleagues,” she wrote recently.

Offline, she cooks a mean roasted chicken (coated with Kikkoman sauce, a bit of salt and lemon grass) although she confesses to not having the time to cook every day, unless she’s got company. She spends her free time relaxing at home, watching TV, taking care of her plants, and reading biographical books.

Judy Taguiwalo does not shy away from worthy causes. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea /

Occasionally, she bitches about the high cost of everything. “With the high water and electric charges and other high-priced commodities, I, like the others, have debts in the UP credit union, the GSIS and some friends,” she quips.

Online, she often reminds people of the things that matter. “Galing, maliban sa puro lalaki ang imahen ng kahirapan pati na ang mga nag-rap,” she commented on Facebook about a video made by Brillante Mendoza for ABS-CBN’s AmBisyon2010 campaign.

World View

Judy’s world view is shaped, more or less, by our history — a history that not too many Filipinos had the courage to confront nor the opportunity, let alone the inclination, to take part in.

Her notable history sets an example to the activists of today. From martial law to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime, Judy, 60, has been an active player in the people’s struggle.

A promdi (“from the province”), she finished her secondary education at Negros Occidental High School in Bacolod City and entered UP at the age of 15.

In 1969, she became a member of the Nationalist Corps, a committee of the student council. She and other students immersed themselves in the life of workers and farmers.

“I went to Jalajala , Rizal, and learned from the peasants. At night, we discussed our experiences . We witnessed their extreme poverty. There was no health center and the pregnant women were not taken care of. There was no staff. When we were there, the midwife at the center was on maternity leave. Women who were due for delivery had to cross the Laguna Lake to get to the hospital,” she narrates.

She had learned the basic foundations of her activism from Catechism. “The principle of serving the less fortunate is already there,” she says. But the radical analysis of the situation and the answers to her questions — Why is there poverty? for one — came to her while she was in the nationalist core. She subsequently became a member of the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), a radical youth group at the time.

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  1. I came home from work one night and wasn't feeling well. I went online on Facebook and posted something like "I'm tired" on my wall. Few seconds later, tita Judy posted back, "Yakap". I haven't even met her in person but she did made me feel better. Mabuhay ka tita Judy!! You are indeed an inspiration!


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