Cover Photo: Britannica

In honour of international women's day, we celebrate and honour these remarkable women who have made history—be it by excelling in their respective fields or creating their own path towards a momentous victory. Read all about these fantastic women who were firsts:

These women have inspired generations for their notable contributions to the Philippines. Learn more about these remarkable female figures who have blazed trails in their respective fields:

1. Miriam Defensor Santiago

The late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was the first Filipino and Asian judge of the International Criminal Court. She was also the first female editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippines' student newspaper, Philippine Collegian. Many revere the senator for her intelligence and courage in fighting corruption in the country.

See also: Philippine Independence Day: 5 Inspiring Filipino Biographies And Autobiographies To Read

2. Anastacia Giron-Tupas

In 1917, Anastacia Giron-Tupas made history by becoming the Philippine General Hospital's first chief nurse and superintendent. All the while, Calderon and a group of nurses strived to prepare a new law that would benefit the nursing education system.

3. Lea Salonga

The multi-award-winning singer and actress Lea Salonga was the first Asian female to play Éponine and Fantine in the Broadway musical Les Misérables. She is also the first Asian female to win Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Miss Saigon and Best Direction of a Musical at the Tony Awards. She was also the first Asian woman to win a Laurence Olivier award. 

See also: Lea Salonga Announces North American "Dream Again" Tour for 2022

4. Paz Marquez-Benitez

Paz Marquez-Benitez is a prominent figure in the history of Philippine Literature. She wrote the first modern short story in English entitled, Dead Stars which was published in 1925. She was also the mentor of the first generation of Filipino writers in English.

5. Angelita Castro-Kelly

Decorated space scientist Angelita Castro-Kelly was the first-ever female mission operations manager of NASA. Before becoming a mission operations manager, she was also a project manager and helped develop the successful Shuttle or Spacelab Data Processing Facility.

6. Hidilyn Diaz

For years, Filipinos have showcased their talents and represented the country many times in the Olympics. But it was Hidilyn Diaz who won the country's first Olympic gold medal. The whole world watched her carry a combined weight of 224 kilogrammes. The moment she burst into tears, the country rejoiced as they knew she had won the women's 55 kg category for weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Read more: Cover Story: Hidilyn Diaz on Her Tough Road to Claim the Philippines' First Olympic Gold

7. Nesthy Petecio

In 2021, Nesthy Petecio made headlines as she nabbed the silver medal for winning the Women's Featherweight match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As the first Filipino woman to ever win an Olympic medal in boxing, Petecio immediately became an inspiration, not only to Filipinos but to every young woman who dreams of pursuing boxing.

See also: Nesthy Petecio Wins Silver Medal From Tokyo Olympics 2020

8. Maria Ressa

In 2021, Rappler’s Maria Ressa became the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Although the esteemed journalist had to overcome barriers hindering her from claiming the prize in Oslo, Ressa safely arrived and received her well-deserved recognition alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.

9. Gloria Diaz

For the first time ever, a Filipina brought home the crown for winning the Miss Universe pageant in 1969. The victorious 18-year-old candidate was Gloria Diaz, who charmed the whole world with her beauty and wit. After that remarkable night, Diaz continued to make history as she flew across the world to promote advocacies.

10. Concepción Felix de Calderón

Concepción Felix de Calderón, otherwise known as Concepción Felix, is a true feminist icon in the Philippines. She was the woman behind the Feminist Association of the Philippines which was established in 1905. De Calderón, along with two other women, presented a petition for suffrage—which was signed by 18,000 women—to lawmakers in the Philippines. Soon, her efforts to fight for human rights were recognised, earning her a Presidential Medal in 1966.

Read more: International Women's Day: Women of Power in The Philippines

11. Kelsey Merritt

Kelsey Merritt moved to New York City in 2017 to begin her journey of becoming a model. Merely a year later, she became the first Filipino-American model to join Victoria's Secret runway show. Kelsey has now been featured in American Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle

Fun fact: she is a Gen T honouree! 

12. Cory Aquino

Maria Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, also known as Cory Aquino, became the Philippines' first female president in 1986. Before Aquino took on her role as the 11th president of the country, a massive revolution—now remembered as The People Power Revolution—was held along EDSA as an effort to overthrow the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

13. Aimee Carandang

Maria Aurora Carandang-Gloria, popularly known as Aimee Carandang, had flown high in 1993. It eventually led her to become the country's first female commercial pilot. Since then, Carandang has become an inspiration for many women across the country. The number of lady pilots has continuously grown since.

Read more: 10 Business Women Shaping the Philippines

14. Carina Dayondon

Gen T honouree Carina Dayondon literally climbed her way to the top and made headlines as the first Filipina to successfully reach the peak of the highest mountain in Antarctica, Vinson Massif, in December 2018. Not long after, Carina also stood victorious at the peak of Mount Everest along with two other Filipinas. 

Read more: 25 Filipina Power Women


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