October 27, 2011


Paz Márquez-Benítez
(1894 - 1983 )

Tall and elegantly attired in full terno, she was a familiar figure on the campus of the pre-war University of the Philippines. She was Paz Marquez Benitez, beloved mentor to the first generation of Filipino writers in English. Inspiring many students who later became literary luminaries, she had an enduring influence on the emergence and development of Philippine literature in English.

Born to the prominent Marquez family of Quezon Province, Marquez Benitez belonged to the first generation of Filipinos trained in the American educational system. She was a member of the first freshman class of the University of the Philippines, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912. She taught at the University’s English department from 1916 to 1951, acquiring a reputation as an outstanding teacher. Among her students were Loreto Paras Sulit, Paz Latorena, Bienvenido Santos, Manuel Arguilla, S.P. Lopez and National Artist Francisco Arcellana, who later emphatically declared, “She was the mother of us all!”

Among ALIWW’s prized exhibits are the journals of Paz Marquez Benitez, which are inscribed in two hard-bound volumes. The entries, written by hand in both pencil and ink, date from 1924 and extend for an as yet undetermined number of years. Of special interest to literary scholars are her notes on the tentative plot and setting of her short story, “Dead Stars.” This story, first published in 1925 and regularly anthologized since, is considered the first modern short story written in English by a Filipino.

Paz Márquez-Benítez was Born in 1894 in Lucena City, Quezon, Marquez - Benítez authored the first Filipino modernEnglish-language short story, Dead Stars, published in the Philippine Herald in 1925.

Born into the prominent Marquez family of Quezon province, she was among the first generation ofFilipinos trained in the American education system which used English as the medium of instruction.  She graduated high school in Tayabas High School (now, Quezon National High School) and college from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912.

She was a member of the first freshman class of the University of the Philippines, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912.

Márquez-Benítez later became a teacher at the University of the Philippines, who taught short-story writing and had become an influential figure to many Filipino writers in the English language, such as Loreto Paras-Sulit, Paz M. Latorena, Arturo Belleza Rotor, Bienvenido N. Santos and Francisco Arcellana. The annually held Paz Marquez-Benitez Lectures in the Philippines honors her memory by focusing on the contribution of Filipino women writers to Philippine Literature in the English language.

For Marquez-Benitez, writing was a life-long occupation. In 1919 she founded "Woman's Home Journal", the first women's magazine in the country.

Also in the same year, she and other six women who were prominent members of Manila's social elites, namely Clara Aragon, Concepcion Aragon, Francisca Tirona Benitez, Carolina Ocampo Palma, Mercedes Rivera, and Socorro Marquez Zaballero, founded the Philippine Women's College (now Philippine Women's University). "Filipino Love Stories", reportedly the first anthology of Philippine stories in English by Filipinos, was compiled in 1928 by Marquez-Benitez from the works of her students.

Two years after graduation, she married UP College of Education Dean Francisco Benítez, with whom she had four children. When her husband died in 1951, she took over as editor of the Philippine Journal of Education at UP. She held the editorial post for over two decades.
In 1995, her daughter, Virginia Benitez-Licuanan wrote her biography, "Paz Marquez-Benitez: One Woman's Life, Letters, and Writings."

Paz Marquez Benitez (1894-1983) only had one more published short story after “Dead Stars.” Nevertheless, she made her mark in Philippine literature because her work is considered the first modern Philippine short story.

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