Filipina Empowerment: Onwards, 21st Century Filipina.

Filipina Empowerment:  Onwards, 21st Century Filipina.

By Lalaine Chu-Benitez

The ultimate challenge of our generation of Filipinas is to realize our shared destiny, and with that, our intrinsic duty to contribute to narrowing the disparity between our achievements and struggles by propelling each other upwards and onwards.

Head of State.  Prima Ballerina.  Chief Justice.  Captain of Business.  Fighter Pilot.  Tony Awardee. Scientist. Diplomat. Athlete. Artist. Activist. Soldier. Miss Universe.

Indeed, the Filipina has gone a long way in recent years to rise above the stereotypical role of traditional women. Not just the pleasant, alluring and sun-kissed presence on Amorsolo’s canvas, our womenfolk have advanced to become strong, intelligent, capable modern women, whose resolve and ability to accomplish and prevail is undeniable.

We are more fortunate than a lot of our counterparts around the world. Belonging to a country which ranks 7th among 145 in gender equality according to the most recent World Economic Forum Report, and 2nd among all nations with the most female senior business leaders according to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business Report of 2016, we are surrounded by females who not only take care of the family and home, but also keep the wheels of business and government turning. We have Filipinas in virtually all fields of endeavor and we have heroines in our history, as well as everyday heroes who toil in faraway lands to provide for their loved ones.

Despite the progress, however, the Filipina continues to grapple with the intriguing contradictions of her bipolar public persona, and her less than perfect circumstances.


The Filipina Dichotomy

We’ve seen her in her various incarnations – as the soft and yielding, “easily fainting” Maria Clara of Noli Me Tangere, as well as the bolo-wielding revolutionary leader and babaylan Gabriela Silang.  We’ve glimpsed her donning the habit as the devout nuns of People Power in EDSA, and then barely-clothed as the bar girls of Ermita.  She has held the most powerful position in the land – that of President, twice over with Cory Aquino, and then Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but she is also the pained face of abused domestic helpers scattered all over the globe.

Even with the robust representation of Filipinas in our country, our women’s health, by and large, continues to be denied proper protection with our government’s failure to enable the proper implementation of the reproductive health bill – a law that has been contested for the last 14 years, and until recently, eviscerated and clipped before it could hit the ground, with the removal of key provisions as well as funding.

For each single content online devoted to Filipina achievers, there are over 50 on those in the flesh trade.  And then, against the millions of progressive female OFWs, who have braved venturing abroad and who have succeeded, we also have millions of underprivileged sisters back home who live in abject poverty and disadvantage.

Curiously enough, Filipinas have come to represent, some of the most powerful people in our country, as well as the most vulnerable.

Filipina Empowerment:  Onwards, 21st Century Filipina.

Bridging the Disparity

So, as women of the Philippines, what should we make of this gap, this contradiction?  To acknowledge the disparity is not enough.  Far from encouraging breast-beating on account of our inadequacies and struggles, or for that matter, saying that we should merely be giving ourselves a pat on the back for the strides we have made so far, we should understand instead – how far we have gone, and how much farther we NEED to go.

For those of us who are lucky enough to belong to the fortunate set of women who are educated, economically independent, who are progressive and have the liberty and the wherewithal to pursue dreams and ambitions, and who understand that they have a choice on everything in life – be it concerning their bodies, their careers, their relationships, their families, the larger community and the world they belong to, a new frontier lies there for the conquering.

The next summit the empowered Filipina has to scale does not simply lie in the pursuit of further education, or higher positions in the career ladder, more investments or financial liquidity, greater awards or recognition, nor even more seats in the government.  The latter are merely useful stepping stones that will help boost us to meet the demands of the real endeavor that lies ahead.

The ultimate challenge of our generation of Filipinas is to realize our shared destiny, and with that, our intrinsic duty to contribute to narrowing the disparity between our achievements and struggles by propelling each other upwards and onwards.

As empowered women of the 21st century who have the privilege of understanding and personal choice, we should take interest in the welfare of our womenfolk and leverage the advantages we have earned through the years to pull fellow Pinays into better circumstances.  And the opportunities to help are limitless – whether it is by sharing knowledge, providing opportunities, contributing to provide a better representation of Filipinas online and around the world, among others, we only need to tap what we already have – that innate Filipina quality of being an emphatic nurturer with the talent, the resolve and the ability to conquer everything we set our hearts and minds to.

In the end, it is not just about celebrating our successes and landmarks; it is also about putting our hands together for the work that needs to be done. Because we can only really go as far as the poorest, the most oppressed and the least privileged of our women can go.

Filipina para sa Filipina.

Filipina Empowerment:  Onwards, 21st Century Filipina.


What is a 21st Century Filipina?

Empowered women weigh in on what makes for a truly contemporary Filipina in this age of technological advances and globalization.


Yasmin Balajadia Cortes, OD
Yasmin Balajadia Cortes, OD

Spouse of the Philippine Consul General – Dubai, UAE

A 21st century Filipina is an empowered human attuned to the privileges and capabilities of the advances of science and technology available to all. An empowered Filipina is aware of her rights as a human being, within the bounds of the laws and policies of the state or country where she resides, and within the bounds of moral laws. She is confident of what she can contribute to global society, aware of what role she plays in the development of the community she has adopted and the motherland she continues to call home.

She should also know that despite categories labelled upon people, everyone is a human being, whose wants, needs, dreams, and hopes are universal and hold no difference despite nationality, citizenship, or economic class.

Filipinas of the 21st century must be aware of the advances of science and information technology and how these could make them better informed. They must use these to better their knowledge of how the world can work for mankind’s benefit, and to ease living conditions, at the same time, to make themselves better people. The information available to everyone at the touch of their fingertips should make Filipinas gain an even more balanced perspective on issues and concerns that matter to society.  The ability to understand our world through greater information must make our 21st century women more open to new and even radically different viewpoints. She must, at no point, be closed to previously held truths.


Lt. Comm. Maria Crisologo-Espiritu Coon


United States Navy, Medical Service Corps

Health Care Administrator – Stafford, Virginia

A generation of women destined for greatness! That is what comes to my mind when I hear the phrase “21st century Filipina woman”.

To fulfill greatness in this generation, Filipinas should first have a strong sense of spirituality.  Regardless of religion, a sense of spirituality provides us a deeper source of strength that this physical world cannot supply. This source of strength has kept many Filipina women resilient today and throughout history.

Filipinas already possess the characteristics and attributes for greatness; intelligence, resilience, compassion, industriousness, perseverance, hospitality, passion, strength, courage, and family values. Many times over, Filipinas have overcome adversity, however, Filipinas should not merely survive life but rather, they should strive to always better themselves, uplift others, and make a positive difference in the world. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, Filipina women should leverage them and work together towards ensuring the success of future Filipinas. To thrive in these times, Filipinas should constantly thirst for knowledge, magnify their talents, cherish relationships, respect tradition (but don’t be limited by it), embrace modern times (but don’t be corrupted by it), uphold their integrity, and strive for a better future.

Filipinas should also embrace being Filipina and do their part in bringing honor and pride to our people, communities, and culture.  We play a big role in shaping future generations by instilling strong morals and values of integrity, honor, courage and sacrifice.  As members of society, Filipinas should exercise their right to vote and elect government leaders not for their popularity but for how they would represent, serve, secure safety, progress, and relevance of the country and its people at national and global levels.

Atty. Eleanor Lucas Roque



Tax Lawyer – Makati, Philippines

The 21st Filipina is the best of both worlds. She is old world because she keeps her traditional values like respect for parents, importance of family, and fear of God. She is new world because she is innovative, brave and ambitious. She is not afraid of change and would in fact welcome it. We see Filipinas all over the world, leading strong organizations and nurturing strong families.

Filipinas should be proud of their heritage. We should not pretend to be anything else. We should be comfortable in our own skin. In most places I go to, I proudly proclaim that I am a Filipina. I see a lot of positive reactions. We should all be ambassadors of the Philippines.

It is important to be innovative and adaptable. Everything is changing at a very fast phase. Your ability to change and adapt can decide whether you will be successful in life or in business. A few years ago, hard work was valued the most. Now, no matter how hard you work if you cannot outrun the competition, you will not survive in business. Previous established corporate practices are being questioned by millennials joining the work force. The world is changing and we have to change with it. After all, any disruption is an opportunity.

We should always have a continuous thirst for knowledge. Never stop studying. No one can educate herself too much. If you are interested in something, learn it. If you cannot spend the time or money for formal education, there is always the internet and YouTube. For example, I have learned acrylic landscape painting through YouTube. Before that, I had no artistic training and I can only draw stick figures. Now, my mom is running out of walls to hang my paintings.

It is very Filipina to ignore or negate a compliment thinking that doing so is being humble. There is a difference between humility and self deprecation. We are not known for promoting ourselves and making sure that we get the recognition we deserve. It is about time we learn to accept the limelight when we deserve it. But probably more important is the ability to identify when the limelight has to be directed to us. We are the queen of our court and it’s high time our subjects learn it.


Joan Fatima Tuano


Assistant Guest Relations Manager at Amanyara – Turks & Caicos Islands, British West Indies

For me in my early twenties, it means it is time to pave my way to success. It is time to figure out who I am, and think about how I plan to go forward. Shall I open a business? Change specialties? What exactly makes me happy? Bake cupcakes for a living? Being a Filipina in general, I am an excited chameleon looking forward to wherever life takes me. Given our vibrant history, being colonized and fighting for our independence, along with the fact that the country is a stunningly unique archipelago in South East Asia, we are destined to be global acrobats. Opportunists hungry for all life have to offer.

My advice for Filipinas today is to be strong and confident about who they are and what they want to achieve in life. If in doubt, travel the Philippines or even volunteer to disconnect and rediscover yourself. Plan your day, weeks or months with a goal in mind and go for it. Open up your minds and take chances. Live life, it is extremely short. It is never too late to follow your dreams, try something you never had time to do and most importantly, believe in yourself. Most of the incredible things in my life have happened because of luck and simply putting myself out there.

Be interested and be interesting. Read the news. Follow fascinating people in your industry, stalk them and ask them to mentor you (like I did). Fill up your profile with experience and achieve all-star profile status on Linkedin. Ask questions, never leave doubts unanswered. Listen, listen and then talk. Improve your cultural intelligence and strive to be one with your colleagues especially when away from our ‘kababayans’. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and always strive for continuous improvement. Work hard, play hard, and then save even more.


Olga Barcelona


Head of Operations – Brash Brands; Project Leader – Philanthropilipino

Dubai, UAE

A 21st Filipina is someone who is successful in their chosen careers whilst giving hope to the younger women who are just starting their careers. These are the women who are proud of what they do and who continuously thrive to move with the times and challenge conventional views. These are the Filipinas who support other Filipinas and inspire others to give back and pay it forward. It’s not just being able to provide for their families, it’s also about being able to succeed in what they do, not just locally, but globally. 21st century Filipinas are industry leaders, they are powerful, they know what they want and they do it and they never forget to give back to society.

Filipinas in this day and age should let go of timidity. We should be more confident because we have it takes to be leaders. We can be powerful and we should be empowering other women, instead of just competing with them. Filipinas should be brave enough to challenge themselves to better. Filipinas should be tenacious and go the extra mile to reach their goals. Filipinas should be ambitious, have goals and know that they deserve only the best. Filipinas should be global citizens. This doesn’t mean letting go of being a Filipina, but understanding that we have an added responsibility of belonging to a world-wide community of people.

Filipinas should stop thinking too low of themselves. This is one trait that most Filipinas have which I dislike the most – the lack of self-confidence that hinders most Filipinas to do more than what they are capable of. One can never be more than what they are if they don’t even try.


Perla Ramos Paredes Daly of


Life Coach, Volunteer, Writer and Artist; Publisher of

Austin, Texas

21st century Filipinas can dream bigger than their 19th century counterparts because they have more opportunities for growth and potential, and there are more resources today that empower people. Now, it is increasingly acceptable for women to be educated, successful, financially independent and happy. And it is great that she can contribute to society.

Today, because of travel and technology, Filipinas can be global citizens, experiencing multiple cultures and perspectives, interweaving them with Philippine heritage and traditional values. And what really makes a Filipina a global citizen is when she acts to make a difference for herself, her family, and also for her village, communities, and for the world.

Filipinas in this day and age should see different options for themselves; develop personal growth not just material growth; have a higher degree of self awareness, and a healthier self-worth; have a great attitude no matter what age they are. They also should be flexible, willing to hear feedback and to learn, change and grow and strive to be a better person for themselves, for others and the world.  Share their success by helping others grow and shine.

There are two attitudes that we can change. “That there isn’t enough and that we deserve so little”. And that “Bahala na” means we give up our power. These are limiting beliefs that reduce our happiness, successes and our light. The next change that we can make from inside is that we can see God, goodness, true happiness and success, as Light. If we can shift our thinking and beliefs that each of us has a divine light gifted within us, then things shift to “I can shine,” “everyone can shine” and when that happens then divine light is increased manyfold. That is why’s tagline is “Shine, Pinay, shine” and it’s underlying theme is shine mentality and ‘liwanag’.



Lalaine Chu-Benitez


Editor-in-Chief/social advocate/aspiring urban farmer “almost superwoman” (almost but not quite) Lalaine Chu-Benitez has been driving Illustrado’s advocacy towards Filipina empowerment for almost a decade now.  She believes that the Filipina’s greatest challenge at this very moment lies beyond further education, skills improvement, recognition and financial might – something quite simpler than what we tend to expect.


More Filipina goodness here – Read a Love Letter to the Filipinas in the Middle East