The “First” Women in the Philippines

I had the opportunity to visit the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. I was there to submit the requirements needed in order for my organization, UP Lipunang Pangkasaysayan (UP Likas), to be formally recognized as one of the affiliates of the Commission.

When I went upstairs, second floor, I saw a gallery about women. After I submitted the requirements, I returned to the gallery and started reading. The gallery was all about the Filipino women who were firsts in different field. I enjoyed reading it and I actually learned many things.

At the front of the gallery were these words:

First Filipinas: Women of Tenacity and Spirit

Despite the rigorous conventions, Filipino women essayed important roles in our history. Beyond wifely and child-rearing duties, our women were bulwarks of the community and integral in nation building.

From the battlefields, in hospices nursing the sick and wounded, selfless leaders in public and government services, mentors in science, arts and culture, the annals of Philippine history are filled with heroic narratives of Filipino women whose tenacity and spirit of patriotism and sacrifice, upheld not only their families but their beloved homeland as well.

These are exemplars that the Filipino women of today should learn from and resolutely emulate.

Below is the list of women who were the “First” in different field. (The words here are exactly the words written in the gallery.)

Rosa Sevilla Alverothe First Woman Head of a Non-Sectarian School for Women

Participated in the revolution. She gave educational opportunities to poor Filipino women and founded the Centro de Escolar de Manila.

Ercarnacion Alzonathe First Woman Historian

Also the first woman with a Doctorate in History. She advocated women enfranchisement. She wrote the first history book from Filipino viewpoint. She wrote several important history books and was also a female guerrilla during the World War II.

Corazon Cojuangco Aquinothe First Woman President of the Philippines

Filipino president who ushered in the return of  democracy after the fall of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial regime, restoring democratic institutions beginning with new constitution.

Francisca Reyes-Aquinothe First Woman National Artist for Dance

A Ramon Magsaysay awardee for Government Service, she strived to preserve the folk dancing as a national heritage. She wrote on Philippine dances and was consultant for various dance companies. Known for her deep artistry, intelligence and patriotism.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyothe First Woman Vice President of the Philippines

Assumed the presidency after Pres. Joseph Estrada, was forcibly removed. She has proven her virtuosity in the academe, the legislative, and the executive branches of the government.

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Maria Paz Mendoza-Guazon the First Woman Doctor educated in the Philippines

One of the earliest doctors to advocate that venereal diseases be treated as contagious elements. She was also the first woman Regent of the University of the Philippines and received many awards as an academician.

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Leonor Orosa-Gojuingco the First Woman Choreographer

Created the first-ever full length Philippine folkloric ballet. She was widely acknowledged for her artistry and inventive vision for transmuting national ethnic forms into contemporary mode of interpretative dance.

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Trinidad Fernandez Legardathe First Woman Ambassador

A constant awardee for civic leadership, she was devoted to widening the standards of women’s lives in the Philippines.

Cecile Licadthe First Woman pianist to win an International Music Award

Known for her brilliant fusion of rhythmic power and melodious drama. One of the youngest musicians to ever receive the prestigious Leventtrit Competition Gold Medal. She performed with major orchestra in the world.

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Pilar Hidalgo-Limthe First Woman Honor Graduate of UP

Nationalistic educator, she organized and revitalized women’s club all over the country. She helped launch adult educational programs, nursery schools, lobbied for better labor laws and the creation of children centers in every province in the country.

Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc the First Woman Editor-in-Chief of Philippine Daily Inquirer

Solita Collas-Monsodthe First Woman NEDA Director-General

Emphasized the role of women in the Philippine economy and in national life. She was an outspoken economist and democrat who opposed the Marcos dictatorship. She iniated national debates on land reform, socio-economic development and women’s issues.

Fe del Mundothe First Woman National Scientist

A foremost pediatrician, through her efforts, the Children’s Memorial Hospital was built and the Institute for Maternal and Child Health. She dedicated her medical services to the poor, and was given the Ramon Magsaysay for Public Service Award for her magnanimous and scientific work.

Cecilia Muñoz-Palmathe First Woman Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

A critic of Martial Law, she upheld the sanctity of human rights during Marcos dictatorship. Awarded by the Catholic church for advocating the ways of peace to dismantle dictatorial regime. She was the president of 1986 Constitutional Commission.

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Geronima Tomelden-Pecsonthe First Woman Senator of the Philippines

Leader and social reformist, and an illustrious educator, she was instrumental in establishing scholastic facilities in education, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. She was instrumental in bringing forth educational and social reforms, and was exceptionally dedicated to Philippine progress.

Honorata “Atang” dela Ramathe First Woman to appear in Philippine Silent Film

National Artist for Theatre and Music. Known for her nationalistic career in Philippine music and entertainment. The queen of Kundiman and Zarzuela. She was also an intrepid guerrilla of the World War II.

Lea Salongathe First Woman to win an International Awards

An internationally acclaimed singer and actress. She also maintains successful recording and television careers, and is considered to be a force in bringing the world’s attention to the Philippines in a positive way.

Lourdes Paredes-San Diegothe First Woman Presiding Justice of Court of Appeals

Attaining excellence in the academe and judiciary, she was known for her fearless resolve in doing her job in the court. She was unsurpassed in her record for convicting criminals belonging to prominent families.

She is a daughter of Don Quintin Paredes, a famous lawmaker and statesman.

Honoria Acosta-Sison the First Woman Physician

An acknowledge leader and expert on eclampsia. She was a prolific author, inventor and respected medical researcher.

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Hydee Yoracthe First Woman COMELEC Chairman

She was a champion of citizen’s civil rights, human rights and social reform. She was responsible for the peaceful 1991 Muslim Mindanao election. She maximized the use of non-partisan military and police agencies in ensuring clean elections.

Tecla San Andres-Zigathe First Woman Bar Topnotcher

An indefatigable social worker. She served as a congressman and senator. She sponsored many bills promoting social justice and public welfare, receiving many awards for being an outstanding legislator.

Photo from . Atty. Ziga is the woman seating in front.

Photo from . Atty. Ziga is the woman seating in front.

Not in the Exhibit:

Rosario Manalo – the First Woman to pass the Philippine Foreign Service Officers’ Examination

Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno the First Woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines

Women really showed exemplary achievements in different field and they did not just do it for themselves but for the Filipino people as well.


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