Strong. Fearless. Trailblazing. The Filipino woman is a multifaceted force of limitless possibilities that breaks boundaries wherever she goes. Throughout history, Filipinas stood as pillars of our society, unwavered by the hardships and tethered by nothing but their spirits. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s take a look at some of our inspiring Filipinas, their works, their successes, and their stories.
Isabel Sieh – after being told by her elementary math teacher to try out coding due to her love of the subject, Isabel Sieh founded Girls Will Code at the age of 11, a community that seeks to show girls that they can pursue a career in computer science to solve world problems with the help of a healthy representation of women in the field. Isabel and Girls Will Code has since taught 2000+ students and 44 schools how to code through more than 30 events that include conferences, coding workshops and seminars, and scholarship grants.
At the moment, the 17 year-old Filipina is a Computer Science undergraduate at Stanford University in California. Aside from her studies, she is busy working part-time as a software developer in the university and as a section leader for their computer science classes.
Soccoro Ramos – starting from the ground up with her husband, Jose Ramos, Soccoro Ramos started the first-ever National Bookstore as a small stall shop in Escolta in 1942. Branding the store as a one-stop shop for school supplies just in time for the first school year after the Second World War, Ramos saw the fruits of their labors ripen as National Bookstore became a household name in Manila.
Eventually, their humble shop would become the Philippines’ largest bookstore chain, with over 200 branches worldwide. Their business would also branch out wider, giving birth to Hong Kong bookstore Metrobooks and the NBS College, a higher-learning institution in Quezon City.
Elda Rotor – Penguin Classics, an imprint of Penguin Books, publishes legendary works of literature from all around the world. Jose Rizal’s duology and national treasures Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are just some of the classic books published by the company. And who better to highlight the works of historic authors other than a Filipina herself?
Elda Rotor is Penguin Classics’ vice president and publisher, overseeing the company’s publishing program since 2006. For her works in championing literature from all over the globe, Elda was chosen as one of the recipients of the Distinguished Filipino Women Award by the New York Philippine Consulate on International Women’s Month in 2018.
Geena Rocero – Supermodel Geena Rocero is known for modeling under New York’s prestigious NEXT Model Management and working as an international swimsuit editorial girl, but aside from that, she is also an LGBT+ rights advocate and founder of Gender Proud, an advocacy and awareness campaign that aims to advance the rights of all transgender individuals.
In 2014, Geena came out as trans during her TED talk in Vancouver, Canada, in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility. Moving to promote trans rights further, she also executively produced Logo’s digital series, Beautiful As I Want To Be, in 2015. The show featured trans youths and partnered them up with older trans folks to cultivate talks about queer culture and living free as a trans person.
Dr. Fe del Mundo – Doctor Fé Primitiva Villanueva del Mundo was a juggernaut in the medical field. Working as a pediatrician in the early 1930s, she was one of the pioneers who established and expounded on the practice in the country, eventually becoming the first female president of the Philippine Pediatric Society and the first woman to be named National Scientist of the Philippines
She was also awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her excellence in public service, and was the first Asian president of the Medical Women’s International Association.
Dr. del Mundo was so larger than life that she became the topic of a well-known urban legend in the Philippines. Although proven to be untrue, rumors say that she was the first Asian and female medical student at the Harvard Medical School!
Hidilyn Diaz – Even before Encanto’s Luisa Madrigal showed up on the silver screen, the Philippines already fell head over heels over a charismatic strongwoman–Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Known as the small but fierce weightlifter from Zamboanga, Hidilyn started weightlifting using only mag wheels and concrete as her makeshift barbells, but soon became a member of the Philippine national weightlifting team at the age of 13.
In the 2008 Summer Olympics, she became the country’s first-ever female weightlifter to compete in the event. Although placing second to last in the competition and not finishing the next Olympic game, Diaz’s determination never wavered–in 2016, she beat her own personal record and snatched the silver medal at the women’s 53kg weightlifting category, and finally won the country’s first gold medal in history at the 2020 Olympics, again setting a new weightlifting world record in the process. This remarkable feat was mind-blowing in that Hidilyn worked against all odds leading up to the event, overcoming mental breakdowns and travel and training bans–and even ouster plot accusations–that hindered her preparation for the event.
Lea Salonga – Of COURSE the list wouldn’t be complete without the voice that put the Philippines on the Broadway map. Before lending her singing voice to Disney princesses Jasmine and Fa Mulan, and her Tony Award-winning performance as Kim in the original production of Miss Saigon (a first for Asian women), Lea Salonga worked with Repertory Philippines on musicals like Annie, The Sound of Music, and Fiddler on the Roof as early as she was seven years old. Her certified-gold album, Small Voice, was recorded and released when she was just ten years old.
Her portrayal as Kim in the West End production of the musical Miss Saigon catapulted her into international mainstream success, where she eventually won a Tony, a Grammy, and an Oscar for her musical works on Broadway and Disney, and the Order of Lakandula, one of the highest civilian orders in the Philippines.
Maria Ressa – Winning the Nobel Prize is no easy feat. Given to those who have “conferred the greatest benefit to Mankind”, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Maria Ressa in 2021 alongside Dmitry Muratov for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Ressa and Muratov became the first journalists to be awarded with the prize since 1935, with Ressa bringing home the first-ever Nobel Prize for the Philippines.
Maria Ressa is well-known as a journalist, reporter and author, as well as the CEO of Rappler, an online news website. Her signature works in investigative journalism, like her contribution to the content moderation-watchdog group “Real Facebook Oversight Board”, and her and Rappler’s criticism of the Philippine drug war, have been cited by international groups as a prime example of excellence in journalism. Aside from the Nobel Peace Prize, Ressa also won the 2018 Golden Pen of Freedom Award and the 2021 UNESCO Press Freedom Prize.
PalabasTayo wishes all the women a happy International Women’s Day. We hope you know that we love and celebrate all that you are always!
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