#WomensMonth: Meet the 8 Filipina game changers and pioneers

Published March 7, 2021, 8:48 AM

by Gabriela Baron

From the battlefield to the field of sports, we give tribute to Filipinas who have changed the game and paved the way for many other women pioneers in their respective fields.

In celebration of Women’s Month, we highlight eight Filipinas whose stories should be told and remembered.

Trinidad Tecson (Photo from bulacan.gov.ph)

Trinidad Tecson

Known as the “Mother of Biak na Bato,” Trinidad Tecson was the first Filipina known to have taken part in “Sandugo” or a blood compact.

Tecson fought side-by-side with the revolutionary men. She fought 12 bloody battles in Bulacan.

Among her most valuable contributions in the Philippine revolution was the capture of firearms from a jail in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija after raiding a courthouse in Caloocan.

At one time, when the Katipuneros lacked firearms, Tecson with three companions went to a courthouse in Caloocan — defeated the civil guards and seized their guns. She then led a group of five men and proceeded to a jail in San Isidore where he was able to capture more firearms after subduing the jail guards.

Tecson was also cited as the “Mother of Philippine Red Cross” for nursing her fellow Katipuneros.

Maria Orosa (Photo from National Nutrition Council)

Maria Orosa

Maria Orosa was a Filipina food scientist and veteran war heroine.

Orosa studied at the University of Seattle, where she finished her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry and an additional degree in food chemistry.

She returned to the Philippines in 1922 to help address the rising malnutrition in the country, despite being offered the assistant chemist position in the State of Washington.

Orosa created banana ketchup in 1942 after seeing that the Philippines was heavily reliant on import like tomatoes. She thought of looking for a cheap and stable alternative to make the country more self-sufficient, bananas topped the list because the supplies were plenty.

Fe del Mundo (Photo from DOST-STII)

Fe del Mundo

Throughout her over 70-year medical career, Dr. Fe del Mundo pioneered numerous innovations.

Del Mundo was the first Asian woman admitted into Harvard University, she pursued graduate studies in the United States after receiving her medical degree from the University of the Philippines.

Del Mundo championed children’s healthcare, founding the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, then Children Medical Center, and now Fe Del Mundo Medical Center.

Paz Marquez-Benitez (Photo from Kahimyang Project)

Paz Marquez-Benitez

Paz Marquez-Benitez wrote the first Filipino modern English short story “Dead Stars.”

Marquez-Benitez also mentored some of the country’s most prominent English writers. Among her students were National Artist Francisco Arcellana, Loreto Paras Sulit, Paz Latorena, Bienvenido Santos, Manuel Arguilla, and Salvador P. “SP” Lopez.

She was a women’s rights advocate, a beauty queen, and one of the founders of Philippine Women’s University.

Magdalena Leones (Photo from the Wall of Valor Project)

Magdalena Leones

Magdalena Leones was the only Filipina and only Asian woman to receive the Silver Star Medal during World War II.

Before the war broke out in 1941, Leones was a 22-year old teacher studying to be a nun. However, her studies were disrupted after a Japanese Imperial army landed in Northern Luzon and started their invasion.

She refused to surrender after the Fall of Bataan and was imprisoned for five months at Camp Holmes. During this time, Leones taught herself how to speak Nihonggo.

Leones served as a special agent for seven months after she met Colonel Russell Volckmann of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines – North Luzon (USAFIP-NL).

Concepción Felix de Calderón (Photo from Philippine Commission on Women)

Concepción Felix de Calderón

Recognized as one of the first feminists of the Philippines, Concepción Felix de Calderón established Asociación Feminista Filipina (Feminist Association of the Philippines).

Calderón was among those who lobbied to lawmakers when they presented a petition for suffrage signed by 18,000 women.

In 1933, a bill was passed giving the right to vote, however, a technicality which created the Philippine Commonwealth required that the process to start over again.

Continuing the fight along with Pilar Hidalgo-Lim, Josefa Llanes Escola, Maria Paz Mendoza-Guazon, Costancia Poblete, Rosa Sevilla de Alver, and Pura Villanueva Kalaw, Calderón lobbied during the 1934 Philippine Constitutional Convention for women’s suffrage.

In 1937, 447,725 Filipina voted in a plebiscite in favor of their right to vote in political elections.

(Photo from Philippine Commission on Women (Photo from Cielo Villaluna)

Ma. Aurora Carandang Gloria

Ma. Aurora Carandang Gloria or Aimee Carandang is the first Filipina commercial pilot.

Carandang Gloria is also regarded as Asia’s first female pilot.

Carandang Gloria flew for the first time as a full-fledged captain on Philippine Airlines’ Fokker 50 flight from Manila to Baguio in 1993.

Hidilyn Diaz (Photo from Olympic Channel)

Hidilyn Diaz

Hilidyn Diaz is the first Filipina athlete to win an Olympic medal for the Philippines.

During the 2016 Summer Games, Diaz made history for the country after she ended the Philippines’ 20-year Olympic medal drought by taking a silver medal in the women’s 53 kilogram weightlifting division.

She was also the first Filipino to win a medal in weightlifting, and the first non-boxer from the Philippines to secure a podium finish since 1936.

Proclamation No, 227 series of 1998 provides for the observance of the month of March as Women’s Role in History month, while Republic Act No. 6949 series of 1990 declares March 8 as International Women’s Day.