• Helena Benitez, the seventh woman senator of the Philippines, passed away at age 102
  • An education advocate, she was Chairwoman Emeritus of the Philippine Women’s University
  • She also founded the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company and the Folk Arts Theater

Former senator and educator Helena Benitez has passed away of natural causes, aged 102, on the evening of July 14.

Benitez, who was Chairwoman Emeritus of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) and Philippine Women’s College of Davao, Inc., was a long-time education advocate and a pioneer among women leaders.

“Former Senator and Assemblywoman Helena Z Benitez passed away on July 14, 2016 of natural causes. The matriarch of the Benitez family was Chairwoman Emeritus of the Philippine Women’s University which was founded by her parents, Francisca Tirona Benitez and Dean Conrado Benitez in 1919. She held the same position at the Philippine Women’s College of Davao, Inc,” the PWU announced in its official Facebook page.

According to a Rappler profile, in 1967, she was elected as the seventh woman to become Senator of the Philippines and served in that capacity until September 23, 1972 when Congress was shut down under Martial Law. She later became Assemblywoman of the Interim and Regular Batasang Pambansa during the Martial Law era.

During her stint in the legislature, she championed issues such as education, youth development, and the environment, and authored landmark laws that pushed her various advocacy.

She was also a patron of the arts, as organizer of the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center and founding the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company, which was later designated as the national folk dance company in 1998.

Benitez also held leadership roles in national and international organizations such as the  Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, the National Commission on Women and the Philippine Home Economics Association, as well as, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, UN Environment Program and in the International Association of Universities.

Her family, as well as the PWU community, requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be instead made to the PWU-Helena Z. Benitez Endowment Fund.