Dolly Dy-Zulueta – Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines — On what could have been her 129th birthday last March 3, 2023, legendary Filipina writer Paz Marquez-Benitez was honored with her very own Google Doodle for her pioneering work in literature.
The Google Doodle shows a caricature or illustration of Marquez-Benitez against a field of shining stars, which refers to the title of her most important literary work, “Dead Stars.”
“Dead Stars” is Marquez-Benitez’s most famous work. It is the first ever modern short story in English from the Philippines. It gave birth to modern Philippine writing in English when it was released in 1925 because English was still a very young language at that time.
The novel is a somber and melancholic love story of lawyer Alfredo Salazar, a gentleman in his 30s engaged to his fiancée Esperanza. They have been together for four years and are about to get married when he meets the young and charming Julia Salas. From there, he struggles between the two women, between doing what is right and just and choosing the desire of his heart. In the end, he decides to marry Esperanza and part ways with Julia.
More than just a love story, though, “Dead Stars” is an allegory critical of the American occupation existing at that time and its effect on local culture and social norms.
Marquez-Benitez would go on to become a popular writing professor at the University of the Philippines until she retired in 1951. The work and tutelage that she started at UP inspired other writers to pursue their passion and write significant literature over the decades.
Besides this accomplishment, she is also credited for founding Philippine Women’s University along with six other women Francisca Tirona Benitez, Clara Aragon, Concepcion Aragon, Carolina Ocampo Palma, Mercedes Rivera, and Socorro Marquez Zaballero in 1919, exclusively to female students back then. It was initially known as Philippine Women’s College, with Marquez-Benitez serving as its first president. In 1932, when the college won university status, it also received recognition for being the first for-women university in Asia founded by Asians.
“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.