In celebration of International Women’s Month, we would like to pay tribute to the empowering Lipeñas who made a mark in local and national history.
Soledad Solis Aguilera was the sister of Gregorio Aguilera, a member of the Indios Bravos group that Rizal organized in Spain.
Doña Soledad became the President of the Cruz Roja de Damas (Red Cross Women’s Society), established by Gen. Miguel Malvar in Lipa. This association was tasked to provide assistance to wounded Filipino soldiers, sick or injured civilians, orphans, and widows during the revolution. She also led several philanthropical activities and even used her inherited wealth to fund the said organization.
Rosario Mayo Dimayuga, although a late bloomer in the arts at the age of 70, found a great interest in interior design. Despite not having formal training in this discipline, she paved her way to becoming one of the top interior designers in the country and was even posthumously conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award for Interior Design. She married Valeriano Katigbak Luz. Their sons, Alfredo and Arturo both became famous in their chosen careers. Alfredo was an architect who designed the World Health Organization (WHO) building in Manila, the Magsaysay Center, and the Los Baños International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) complex while Arturo, the youngest in the family, was declared National Artist for Visual Arts in 1997.
Emilia Librea Malabanan was the first Lipeña to learn and speak the King’s English and even taught her relative, Claro Mayo Recto, who, as a young man then, only spoke and wrote in Spanish.
She left the Philippines on July 17, 1919, and sailed on board via the Katori Maru vessel which passed by countries such as China and Japan en route to the United States. In 1920, she entered the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in English. She then traveled to New York and received her Master’s Degree in Arts at the Columbia University in 1921.
While in New York, Emilia became an associate editor of the Philippine Herald, the Organ of Filipino Students’ Federation of America. Here, she worked with Carlos P. Romulo, who was the newspaper’s Editor in Chief.
Upon her return to the country, she became an English Professor at the University of the Philippines. She was known to be very strict and was even labeled as “the Terror of English 101” by her students.
In 1938, Alfred Upham, President of Miami University from 1928-1945, designated Emilia as the school’s delegate at the conference on higher education and at the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the University of the Philippines.
During Miami University’s Commencement Exercises in June 1939, Emilia received the Bishop Medal in honor of her distinguished services in the field of Education.
Tarcila Librea Malabanan, like her sister, Emilia, was also a Lipeña pioneer in the mastery of the English language, specifically in Literature.
She wrote short stories that created images in simple English such as the Estudiante and Macario’s Noche Buena. “The Estudiante” teaches a strong moral lesson. The estudiante is pompous and boastful when he should be simple and modest. While in “Macario’s Noche-Buena” Macario, a robber, goes through pangs of guilt. Both stories revealed the didactic tendency often found in the early 1900’s literature.
Emilia and Tarcila’s legacy to the Lipeños is the Mabini Academy, which they founded together with Dr. José Maria Braceros Katigbak (husband of Tarcila) in 1922. Before the school’s establishment, Lipa did not have any secondary schools and parents had to send their children to Manila or Batangas City to study. The Mabini Academy was a great financial help to them. For many years, it was the only secondary school in Lipa City and the neighboring towns.
Victoria Katigbak Kalaw was the first Lipeña physician, who graduated from the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine and passed the board exams in 1926. Her father, Don Cipriano Kalaw was the Vice President and Treasurer of the Filipino Junta in Hong Kong during the Revolution against Spain.
Defying the Lipeño norms of marriage, Victoria married Dr. José Zenarosa Liñan from Daet, Camarines Norte. (Both of them are UP College of Medicine graduates.)
Victoria went to Australia on a UNESCO Fellowship Program to higher education. When she returned to the Philippines, she started and ran the Philippine Welfare Home for Abused Women & Child under President Ramon Magsaysay. She was also the Director of the Children’s Hospital and became Chief of the Division of Public Institution up to her retirement in 1965.
Maria Emilia Villanueva Kalaw was a Filipina politician, journalist and beauty queen.
Her father was Teodoro M. Kalaw, the Lipeño patriot, a writer, statesman, former secretary of the Interior, and director of the National Library. Her mother was Purificación “Pura” Villanueva y Garcia, the 1st Manila Carnival Queen, a journalist, the pioneer of women’s suffrage and property rights, and the first president and organizer of the League of Women Voters.
In 1931, she was crowned as Manila Carnival Queen, 23 years after her mother’s reign.
Maria married Dr. José Roxas Katigbak from then on she was known to be as Maria Kalaw Katigbak.
In 1961, she was elected as the only woman member of the Philippine Senate- the second woman senator in the country and served from 1961 to 1963 during the Fifth Congress. As a senator, Maria authored laws such as the Consumer Protection Act, which enabled consumers to buy goods in installments and made similar forms of transaction by credit. She also wrote regulations for financing companies, created the National Commission on Culture, and established the Philippine Executive Academy.
She was also active in many socio-civic groups such as the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the Municipal Symphony Orchestra, and the Philippine Women Writers’ Association, which she organized in 1938. She was also a member of the national board of the Catholic Women’s League, the UP Board of Regents, the Board of National Education, the Board of State Colleges, the University of the Philippines Board of Regents, and the Movies and Television Review and Classification Board. Maria also organized and was the first executive director of the Catholic Charities of Manila.
The halo-halo summer delight would not be complete without Nata de Coco. Thanks to Teodula Kalaw Africa, a Lipeña scientist and a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas who discovered the production of nata.
Because of the seasonality of pineapple, production of nata was limited. In 1949, Teodula used coconut water as an alternative. It was a great turn-out, and people started using coconut water from then on. Today, this native Filipino delicacy is enjoyed all over the world as a desert. When dried, the nata forms a strong, pure, cellulosic material with great potential for development in material science.
Maria Nieves Sales Katigbak made front-page news in Philippine National Newspapers as a second placer in Medical Board Examination. She headed the Lipa Puericulture Center and Maternity House for several decades. Through her self-devised method, she saved many mothers from Caesarean Section. She was then given the Pope Pius X Award for Catholic Action in the Diocese of Lipa and was also a Papal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Awardee.