Press Release
July 19, 2016

Speech of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
Necrological Service for former Senator Helena Benitez
Senate of the Philippines
July 19, 2016


With profound sadness, we gather in this august chamber and join the whole nation in mourning the passing of former Senator Helena Zoila Tirona Benitez, whose remarkable achievements have been a constant inspiration for many generations of Filipinos.

In her lifetime, and that means more than a century, she traversed different paths. She was a trailblazer who left an indelible mark in the fields of education, public service, diplomacy, international relations, arts and culture, environment and women empowerment.

As a lawmaker, she championed the cause of women and youth. She was the principal author of the National Manpower and Youth Development Act which has become what is now the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.

She authored the laws protecting the Philippine eagle and the tamaraw, both endangered species.

Senator Benitez was only two years old when the Senate was inaugurated in 1916. Thus, she held the record of being the only Senator who lived through 100 years of the Philippine Senate's existence.

Although her term as Senator was cut short when Martial Law was imposed in 1972, she continued her human development advocacies and continued to contribute substantially to women empowerment, the protection of the environment, and the promotion of the Filipino culture.

Senator Benitez was the first woman and first Asian President of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program. She was the first Filipino to have chaired the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the co-founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She was the special adviser to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as the Rio Earth Summit.

Senator Benitez contributed substantially to the promotion of Filipino culture and the Filipino's extraordinary talent in the performing arts. She founded the world renowned Bayanihan Folk Dance Company that has performed in many prestigious venues abroad including Broadway.

The life and work of Senator Helena Zoila Tirona Benitez were marked not only by her brilliance but also by her dedication, strength of character, dignity, sterling achievements, patriotism and loyalty to our country.

It was only fitting that in 2012, the Philippine Senate adopted Senate Resolution No. 90 recognizing the outstanding contribution of Senator Benitez to the nation. And Senator Helena Benitez honored us with her presence that day, when we handed to her the Senate Resolution No. 90.

Senator Helena Benitez was one of the fortunate people who were blessed with a long life. Hers was a life well-lived. She did not only bring honor to her family, community and country, she also opened doors that were previously closed to women. In her lifetime, she paved the way and inspired Filipino women to persevere and prosper in their fields of endeavor.

To the members of the Benitez family, we offer our sincerest and deepest condolences. You are in our thoughts and are cradled in our prayers in this most difficult and sad time.

Senator Helena Benitez was a great Filipino whose life exemplified brilliance and inspired emulation. May her legacy continue to live in the hearts not only of her loved ones and people who have known her in her lifetime, but also in each Filipino.

Farewell, Senator Helena Zoila Tirona Benitez. Indeed, you had a life well lived.

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