#IWD2018: Celebrating Filipina trailblazers

Gil Cadiz

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s campaign urges us to #PressForProgress for gender parity in our respective spheres of influence.

Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have fueled global activism for women’s equality and we all have to do our parts, no matter how little they are, in influencing our friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

How do we actually #PressForProgress? It’s by maintaining a gender parity mindset, challenging stereotypes and bias, promoting positive visibility of women, influencing others’ beliefs and actions, and celebrating women’s achievements.

Speaking of celebrating women’s achievements, let’s look at some of the most notable Filipinas in history who either became the first women in their respective fields or the first ones to receive awards and distinctions for excellence in their respective professions.

We thank and celebrate them for paving the way for other Filipinas to follow their footsteps and benefit from the trails that they’ve blazed.

Honorata “Atang” dela Rama – First Filipina film actress


Atang dela Rama became the very first actress in the very first locally produced Filipino film when she essayed the titular role in “Dalagang Bukid,” the same role she played in the sarswela version when she was just 15 years old. She was conferred the title National Artist for Theater and Music in 1987.

Maria Carpena – First Filipina recording artist


Sarswela star Maria Carpena was also known as the first Filipino recording artist. She recorded “Ang Maya” for Victor Records in 1913 with the Molina Orchestra at a makeshift studio in the Manila Hotel.

Fe del Mundo – First female graduate of the Harvard Medical School


Fe del Mundo was a Filipino pediatrician who founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines. She was the first woman to be admitted to Harvard Medical School in 1936 and the first woman to be named National Scientist of the Philippines in 1980.

Maniya Barredo – First Filipina prima ballerina


Maniya Barredo is the Philippines’ first prima ballerina, named by the legendary Margot Fontaine. She had danced with living legend Mikhail Baryshnikov. Maniya is known for her “chaines tournes” or pirouettes, which are faster than most of her contemporaries would do.

Anna Bayle – First Asian supermodel


Called the “Model of the 80s,” Anna Bayle became the first Asian supermodel when she worked for all the major European and New York designers in the 1980s. She was one of the highest paid models of her time.

Cory Aquino – First female president of the Philippines


Aside from being the first female president of the Philippines, Cory Aquino was known throughout the world for leading the People Power Revolution in 1986, which restored democracy in the country. TIME magazine declared her Woman of the Year in 1986.

Lea Salonga – First Asian Actress to win the Tony Award


Known to the current generation as a judge in the Philippine version of “The Voice,” Lea Salonga became theater royalty when she won the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theater World awards for playing the role of Kim in the mega-musical “Miss Saigon.” She was declared a Disney Legend in 2011 for having provided the singing voice of Jasmine in “Aladdin” and Fa Mulan in “Mulan” and “Mulan II.”

Aimee Carandang – First Filipina commercial pilot


In 1993, Ma. Aurora “Aimee” Carandang flew as a full-fledged captain on a Fokker 50 flight of the Philippine Airlines from Manila to Baguio, making her PAL’s first female pilot. She’s also widely regarded as Asia’s first female pilot.

Brig. Gen. Ramona Go – First female general of the Philippine Army


Ramona Go became the first female general in the Philippine Army’s 114-year history when she was promoted from colonel to brigadier general in 2011. She was AFP’s first female military pilot after finishing her flying course in 1986. She was also AFP’s first woman battalion commander when she headed the Army Aviation Battalion (Bagwis) in 2003.

Hidilyn Diaz – First Filipina Olympic medalist


Hidilyn Diaz won the silver medal in the women’s 53-kg weight division in the 2016 Summer Olympics, ending the Philippines’ 20-year Olympic medal drought and making her the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal.

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