For generations, women were told to sit pretty, to keep quiet, and to stay in their place—but today, women choose stand up, speak out, and move forward.
Here are 10 inspiring modern Filipinas who “womanned up” and proved the world that when girls speak, they make a difference.
5. Wenceslao, Belarmino, and Dayondon
Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino, all members of the Philippine Coast Guard, were the first Southeast Asian women to reach Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world.
Wenceslao reached the summit first, even though she had developed acute mountain sickness and pulmonary edema during the hike. Belarmino, on the other hand, was successful in reaching the top despite giving birth just five months before the climb.
Not allowing doubters to pull them down, these girls pushed through with their dreams and reached new heights. Literally.
4. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (1945-2016)
Known as the “Iron Lady of Asia”, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago made Philippine politics a lot more colorful with her wit and feisty spirit. The late judge, lawmaker, and political leader strongly opposed corruption inside the government, making her a crowd favorite amongst the youth.
During her student days in the University of the Philippines, she became the first female editor-in-chief of The Philippine Collegian (the university’s student publication), breaking the 50-year streak whereby only male students had held the said position. She was also the first woman to win Best Debater at the annual UP Law Debate.
She pursued her Masters at the University of Michigan and her postdoctoral degrees at Oxford University, Harvard University, and Cambridge University. She served the Philippine government as judge at the Regional Trial Court, immigration commissioner and secretary at the Department of Agrarian Reform, and as a senator. She was also the first Asian from a developing country to be elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the UN.
Miriam Defensor Santiago left an amazing legacy in the country, having had the most number of bills at the Philippine senate. In pursuit of her fight against corruption and oppression, she led the investigation of the infamous pork barrel scandal and consistently advocated women’s rights by authoring the Magna Carta for Women and co-authoring the Reproductive Health Law.
3. Dr. Fe Del Mundo (1911-2011)
Against all odds, Dr. Fe Del Mundo broke the glass ceiling and became the first woman to be admitted to the Harvard Medical School in 1936. And get this: the school didn’t even realize that they unknowingly accepted a female applicant until she arrived in Boston and found out that she was assigned to an all-male dormitory. Her credentials were so strong that the head of pediatrics found no reason not to let her enrol.
After taking her residency at the University of Chicago and completing her Master’s degree at Boston University, she returned to the Philippines in 1941 shortly before the Japanese invaded the country. She joined the International Red Cross to initiate a makeshift hospice for children inside an internment camp at the University of Santo Tomas, which prompted the moniker, “The Angel of Santo Tomas”.
When Japanese authorities closed the hospice down in 1943, the mayor of Manila asked her to head a government hospital, of which she became director. The hospital was later on converted into a medical center to take care of the casualties during the Battle of Manila.
In 1957, Dr. Fe Del Mundo established The Children’s Medical Center—the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines.
She was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1977, and was given the titles of National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980, and Order of Lakandula in 2010.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY! Meet Fe Del Mundo (1911-2011) She is the first woman admitted into Harvard Medical School in 1936, the first woman titled the National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980 and the first woman to establish a pediatric hospital in the Philippines in 1957! Her life story and her legacy is far to amazing and full to fit in one post, so look her up! She is yet another amazing woman to celebrate! #internationalwomensday #fedelmundo #likeagirl #womanup
2. Lea Salonga
This Filipina Tony Award-winning singer and performer doesn’t need much introduction, really.
She is the first Asian actor to perform the roles of Kim in Miss Saigon (1989) and Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables (1993 and 2007, respectively). She is also the the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992) and Fa Mulan in Mulan (1998).
In 1993, she became the first Filipino artist to sign with an international record label (Atlantic Records).
I saw Allegiance in movie theaters today and it was really beautiful! Lea Salonga is amazing wow. I love this trend of filming musicals and putting them nationwide. It’s a great idea for shows that can’t tour. This was also a perfect film to watch today because it is the 75th anniversary of the executive order that led to the Japanese American internment camps, which is what this musical deals with. Scary times then, scary times now. Did any of you see it today or in the other showings in December? //#broadway#leasalonga#allegiance
1. Hidilyn Diaz
Who said women can’t lift? Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz ended the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought. She bagged silver in the 2016 53-kg weight division in Rio De Janeiro, making her the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic award. This also happened to be the Philippines’ first non-boxing medal since 1936.
We know, she’s awesome. But do you know what makes her even cooler? Shes ranks Airwoman First Class in the Philippine Air Force, too.
So who said girls can’t be badass?