Raise your flag: A Filipina woman who made history

There was a time when women were seen only as supporting characters to leading men–be it on the battlefield, workplace, and more. However, we are on our way to putting this behind our backs. Women have stepped up over the years and taken their rightful positions in different spheres of society.

One notable name in the field of Philippine literature is of a woman–Paz Marquez Benitez.

Rooted in learning

Photo from Department of Foreign Affairs

Benitez was born in a family of educators, shaping her passion for teaching and learning. After graduating from the University of the Philippines Diliman, she taught courses on story writing.

In her 35 years as an educator, several notable Filipino writers went under her tutelage, namely Loreto Paras Sulit, Paz Latorena, Bienvenido Santos, Manuel Arguilla, S.P. Lopez, and National Artist Francisco Arcellana, who said, “She was the mother of us all!”

Passion for writing

Photo from Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings

Aside from being an educator, Marquez-Benitez had a fulfilling career in literature, particularly in English short-story writing. This comes as no surprise as she was commended since high school for her academic achievements in English.

While teaching, Paz had the opportunity to write one of her acclaimed stories in 1925 titled Dead Stars. The story, published in the Philippine Herald, revolved around two main characters who symbolized American imperialism to give the message about the Philippines’ decaying heritage at that time.

Paz’s messages had reverberated in the hearts of many Filipinos, especially those in Philippine literature. Her piece inspired and empowered a new generation of Filipino writers.

Her career in literature didn’t end after the publication of the Dead Stars, which was regarded as the first modern Philippine short story. She also wrote two other stories called A Night in the Hills and Stepping Stones.

She also co-founded the women’s magazine Women’s Journal Home, the first women’s magazine in the country.

As penned by The Journal of Asian Studies, “Paz Marquez Benitez was an important woman of her time and beyond it.” Her life and works continue to inspire students, aspiring writers, and especially young girls who dream of raising the Filipino flag and breaking boundaries.

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