8 Interesting Facts You Should Know About Filipina Writer Paz Marquez-Benitez
Mar 3, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Mar 3, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
Today, Google is celebrating the 129th birthday of Filipina writer Paz Marquez-Benitez with a Google Doodle. But who exactly is Paz Marquez-Benitez and why is she known as the “matriarch of Philippine fiction in English”?
The Google Doodle features a portrait of Paz against a background of shining stars — a reference to Dead Stars, her most famous work. Published in 1925, the short story basically changed the game for Filipino literature. In fact, it’s known as the first-ever modern short story in English from the Philippines. This is why it’s often anthologized as a classic of Philippine literature and why, to this day, it’s taught in almost every Philippine Literature class.
Set in Manila during the 1900s (when the Philippines was still under American colonial rule), Dead Stars follows the lawyer Alfredo Salazar, a man torn between his love for his fiancee Esperanza and the young and charming Julia. On a deeper level, the story is an allegory of the American occupation and its effect on Filipino society. (You can read the story here.)
The Google Doodle pays homage to Dead Stars, featuring a portrait of the author against a backdrop of shining stars.
“Google Philippines is proud to honor an important figure in Philippine literature, Paz Marquez-Benitez. Our rich literary heritage would definitely not be the same today without Marquez-Benitez’s impactful contributions, not only with her creations, but also with her valuable mentorship of a long line of writers in the country,” said Mervin Wenke, Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Google Philippines.
Paz was born into the land-owning Marquez family of Quezon province on March 3, 1894, in Lucena, Tayabas (now Quezon). Her parents were Don Gregorio Marquez and Maria Jurado. Paz was the second of 12 children.
Paz began her education at age six. When she was not yet nine, she was enrolled into high school at the newly established Tayabas High School (now Quezon National High School). Paz’s American principal praised her for her proficiency in English, and by the time she graduated high school in 1910, she was more proficient in English than in Spanish.
After graduating from high school, she went on to study at Normal University, then the University of the Philippines.
Though she rarely spoke about this episode in later years, Paz (like her mother) was a beauty queen in her youth. In 1912, Paz was given the prestigious title of “Matrona de las Filipinas” at the 1912 Manila Carnival. At the time, she was 18 years old and studying at the Normal School in Manila.
Even though she was recognized for her beauty, Paz struggled to see herself as attractive. Her colonial upbringing had taught her that whiteness meant beauty, and she thought she was too dark, awkward, and too tall. It was only later in middle age that she recognized and renounced her inferiority complex.
Paz graduated in 1912 — the first class of the University of the Philippines. After graduating, she returned to Lucena, where she began her career as a teacher.
Paz married Francisco Benitez in December 1914, two years after graduating from UP. Francisco was the first dean of the School of Education at UP. The two went on to have four children together: Francisco Jr., Virginia, Roberto, and Vicente Rafael.
Even as a mother, she had a storied career as an educator — something that was highly unusual at the time.
In 1919, Paz founded the Philippines’ first nonsectarian college for women — the Philippine Women’s College. She also founded and edited the first Filipino women’s magazine, Women’s Journal.
In the 1920s, she started her career as a professor at the UP English Department, where she taught until she retired in 1951. She went on to develop and teach a course in short story writing, and some of her students included prominent Filipino writers Francisco Arcellana, Paz Latorena, Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Arturo B. Rotor, Bienvenido N. Santo, and Loreto Paras Sulit.
She collaborated with her husband on history textbooks. Together, they founded the Philippine Journal of Education in 2018. When her husband died in 1951, she retired from teaching and took on her husband’s role as the journal’s managing editor, where she also wrote the column “Brevities”. From 1951 to 1977, she wrote 200 columns.
Paz passed away on October 5, 1957, but her legacy continues through her contributions to Filipino literature and education. The annual Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez award is given to outstanding literature teacher. And every year, Ateneo de Manila holds the Paz Marquez-Benitez Memorial Lectures, honoring her legacy by highlighting the contributions of Filipino women writers to Philippine Literature in English.
It’s clear that Paz Marquez-Benitez was truly ahead of her time — a pioneer for women’s education and literature in the Philippines. Her work continues to influence generations of Filipino writers, many of whom are still inspired by her groundbreaking contributions. Today, she is remembered as one of the greatest Filipino writers, and her legacy will forever be remembered for generations to come.
You can view the Doodle on March 3 by visiting google.com, as well as this page.
Though a chronic dabbler in whatever tickles her fancy, Cristina claims she can count her passions on one hand: feminism, literature, the environment, embroidery, and the power of a solid pop song. She lives in Uniqlo lounge pants and refuses to leave the house without a winged eye.
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