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Wearing Filipiniana to honor Helen Benitez

Helen Benitez celebrates her 93rd birthday wearing a green printed kimona with alampay by Asuncion Gueco.

The original Bayanihan ladies paid a memorable tribute to their dear “tita” Helen Benitez during the recent Philippine Women’s University (PWU) grand alumni homecoming on the Taft Avenue school grounds.

Since this is the first year this grand lady is no longer around (she passed away last year at 102 years old),  the dresses were worn to honor her in a bittersweet but joyous celebration.

Known for the Filipiniana dresses that were worn whenever Helen would attend Senate hearings during her term as a senator, making speeches in the United Nations or attending socio-civic events worldwide, she would stand out in her trademark attire — the Filipiniana dresses that included the terno, kimona, patadyong and the more traditional baro’t saya that she wore in enduring elegance and style.

Established in 1919 as the first university for women, PWU was considered unusual: not only was it a secular school founded in Asia, the original founders were also female educators and businesswomen who wanted to empower women through education with a more “Americanized” system that was considered very modern for that time.

In an instance of reverse discrimination, it was only in the 1990s that the school became coed and allowed male students to enroll. The institution has remained in the original location on Taft Avenue, surviving American colonial times, World War ll, and 15 Philippine presidents (from Manuel Quezon to Rodrigo Duterte).
Alumni from all over the world converged on the school grounds, representing several generations of graduates from the PWU schools in Manila, Quezon City, Davao and Iloilo. The event served as a joint celebration for the forthcoming centennial in 2019 and a thanksgiving for the end of the school’s recent troubles with an ex-partner.


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