MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Helena Zoila T. Benitez is celebrating her 98th Birth Anniversary on June 27, 2012. The Philippine Senate where she served from 1968 to 1972 honored her with Senate Resolution 786 on June 4, 2012, for her invaluable service to the country, and for her considerable contributions as educator, lawmaker, women advocate, diplomat, nationalist, pioneer environmentalist, art and culture advocate, and civil society leader.
Dr. Benitez, fondly called “Tita Helen,” came from an illustrious family of educators. Her parents were Dean Conrado F. Benitez and Dr. Francisca Tirona Benitez, founders of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). She has been the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the PWU System for over a decade and President Emeritus of the world-famous Bayanihan National Folk Dance Company, which she founded in 1957.
As lawmaker, she authored laws on education, manpower and youth development, women and family, and environment. She was Most Outstanding Senator for legislation dealing with human resource development, environment, and human settlements. She was a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa from 1979 to 1984. She served as Philippine ambassador, heading delegations to global conferences.
There are many notable firsts in the life of Dr. Benitez: Founder of the 1st Filipino dance company, the Bayanihan; first Filipina and first woman-member of Board of International Association of Universities; first Filipina Chairperson of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women; first Filipina and first woman President of Government Council of UN Environment Programme; first Filipina to be conferred the Presidential Award of Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu; first Filipina, first Asian, and first woman academic and legislative leader inducted into the Democracy Hall of Fame International. In 1965, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, and in 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Award of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu. She was cited by the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College and the Senate of the Philippines.
The Manila Bulletin led by its Chairman of the Board Dr. Emilio T. Yap, President and Publisher Atty. Hermogenes P. Pobre, Executive Vice President Dr. Emilio C. Yap III, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Cris J. Icban Jr., Business Editor Loreto D. Cabañes, and Officers, greet Dr. Helena Zoila T. Benitez on the occasion of her 98th Birth Anniversary. Her life well-lived and accomplishments in varied fields of endeavor serve as inspiration to many Filipinos. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AND MABUHAY!