The Very Important Persons: Our beautiful women
HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2020 - 12:00am

With so many town fiestas and beauty pageants, it is perhaps not surprising that we have produced several beauties that have had global appeal. Indeed, our country is known for its beautiful women. But it is not just physical allure that makes them stand out. From way way back our women were also leaders, strong and far ahead of most women in other countries. Our women were never fragile lilies. In our struggle against colonialism, they were revolutionaries, guerrillas. Now, they permeate all the professions. In politics, we were never short of women who have served with commitment and virtue in government. Among them, in the postwar period, Geronima Pecson, Leticia Ramos Shahani and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

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Loren Legarda and Conchita Carpio Morales are my candidates in the next election.

To this list I will single out Leni Robredo, Vice President, whose magnificent sangfroid blunted all the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism. It has been a custom in the past for Vice Presidents – the so-called spare tire – to be given high positions in government. But belonging to another party, Leni wasn’t granted that kind of distinction. A lawyer and former member of Congress, she would have been ideal as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare. Like her husband who was a virtuous public official, she could have brought transparency to a government that is fogged with corruption.

We have so many women making all the difference, performing interesting jobs that contribute to the development of this nation. The list below is partial – there will be more in the future.

Solita Monsod, also known on TV as Mareng Winnie, is a first rate economist, UP professor and journalist and former head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), a champion of Filipinism. She is an outstanding critic of leaders and government.

Julie Lluch, sculptor and social activist. Julie works in the classical tradition, life-size statues, expressive busts. When her imagination is unleashed, she creates new, fanciful and exciting original forms. I will nominate her for the National Artist Award.

Preciosa Soliven, the widow of the journalist Max Soliven, set-up the OB Montessori School system that is the alma mater of several young leaders today. She is also engaged in social philanthropy and civic activism.

Grace Nono, vibrant folk singer turned folklorist and cultural anthropologist, is promoting the welfare of tribal Filipinos while recording their belief systems.

Melba Padilla Maggay, cultural anthropologist, head of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC). She is also a playwright and creative writer, but most of all, she is helping shape a generation endowed with civic morality.

Ella Jaymalin, Myles Madrigal, Jean Pagalan, Eloisa Quiambao and Lanie Salido are pillars of the Bread of Life, a church group that is tutoring young Filipinos to acquire a sense of nation and a moral foundation in their lives.

Doris Magsaysay Ho, dynamic entrepreneur and CEO of a shipping company. She is also a public intellectual and civic activist, strictly crème dela crème with both feet firmly on the ground.

Florangel Rosario Braid is a persevering champion of a free press. She manages the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.

Margarita Fores, in 2016, was named Asia’s Best Female Chef. Fores initially worked in catering, before launching the chain Cibo, as well as several individual restaurants. Cibo’s tomato soup is superb. I hope Margarita will add to Cibo’s menu an eggplant and tripe dish I appreciated when I was in Bellagio.

Angel Locsin is one of our most popular movie and television personalities. She is much, much more than this, she is actively engaged in charitable work, particularly during this pandemic.

Cherry Gil is perhaps our finest stage and screen actress. She breathes life into all the characters she portrays. Once, she did a reading from my novel, Ermita – I was stunned – I didn’t realize I could be that good.

Sheree Gotuaco and Kathy Qua are sisters who set up Freeway, a chain of boutiques. What makes Freeway interesting is it has used the works of our National Artists as motifs in their design.

Hope Sabanpan-Yu manages the Cebuano Studies Center and as such promotes the perpetuation of an important Filipino language. She is also a teacher and an accomplished writer.

Christine Godinez Ortega, literature teacher and writer, manages the Writing Center in Iligan and has nurtured some of the best writers and artists of Mindanao. She transformed the Center into a cultural fount of the South.

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In their twilight years

Eugenia Duran Apostol, my contemporary, set-up the Daily Inquirer together with the late Betty Go and Max Soliven. She is now, like me, in her 90s and is no longer socially mobile. She won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her work in activist journalism, particularly during the Marcos years when she stood out as a major critic of that regime. Very few know her as a superb short story writer and humorist.

Lourdes Reyes Montinola is also in her twilight years. She assumed the presidency of the Far Eastern University and developed it into one of the leading universities in the country today. I included her in this list primarily because I read and appreciate very much her memoir of World War II, Breaking the Silence. She is the mother of Aurelio R. Montinola III, who made Bank of the Philippine Islands one of the country’s foremost banks, and Gianna who is active in philanthropic work.

Rustica Carpio recently survived a bout of pneumonia. She is a writer, a dramatist, a movie actress and a cultural worker who once headed the Far Eastern University’s cultural program.

Virginia Moreno, a Diliman institution. She founded UP’s Film Center. Virgie is a cultural provocateur, she is perhaps our finest poet in English though she produced just a handful, exquisitely lyrical and mystical.

Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio pioneered in stage puppetry for children. She teaches literature at Diliman and is herself a writer and dramatist. She is a National Artist.

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Leila de Lima, senator, former secretary of the Department of Justice, has been in jail for almost three years. She is not an ordinary prisoner, denied bail and day in court. We must bear in mind that she was elected to a very high office. She is a legitimate lawmaker, now denied the justice of the law itself.

LOREN LEGARDA
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