Most schools are not usually built to last and thrive for the better part of a century. Most colleges do not usually make it through 96 years’ worth of presidents, protests, and propaganda. Most universities do not survive a vicious world war to continue its story of heritage, service, and leadership. Most ordinary educational institutions do not. But we are not making reference to any ordinary school here – we are talking about the academic icon that is Philippine Women’s University.
That PWU’s legacy continues to live strong was evident in its 92nd Commencement Exercises, held recently at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. For an institution with such an illustrious history, formation and education has always remained its top priority as it continues to make its presence felt in Philippine society today. Boasting a 2015 graduating class comprised of 692 young women and men of competence and integrity, PWU has withstood the test of time to become one of the most reliable providers of tertiary education in the country.
With this year’s commencement theme, “Quality Service, Quality Education, PWU’s Legacy to the Nation”, PWU reaffirms its commitment to the educational principles set forth by its founding mothers almost a century ago – an institution that provides education with substance and purpose, against a backdrop of quality delivery and a clear contribution to nation-building.
Perhaps no two people summed this up better than the special commencement speaker, no less than Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, and the class of 2015’s Magna Cum Laude Drew Barie Cajandab. Secretary Luistro recognized and praised PWU for its efforts in education and the empowerment of women: “PWU can take a bow for its trailblazing path to educate and empower Filipino women, not just to become productive citizens of the Republic but… as ‘organizers of civil society, as mobilizers of their communities, and as the pillars of their homes and families,’” he said.
Bro. Armin, who was also bestowed an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the commencement ceremony, thanked PWU for the special honor conferred upon him. “After today’s ceremonies, I suppose I can proudly wear your badge of honor and declare that I am an honorary woman, I am an honorary Filipina. I don’t think there’s any other Philippine university who could have afforded me the temerity for such a claim… Maraming salamat sa Philippine Women’s University,” Luistro remarked.
Amidst this year’s slew of honor graduates and awards recipients, one stood out above the rest as the class of 2015’s top awardee. Drew Barie L. Cajandab, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts major and recipient of Magna Cum Laude honors, delivered a poignant valedictory address that affirmed what PWU continues to stand for. “PWU is now going through its own struggles, but that is not new. It has seen wars and civil strife, survived through the country’s darkest days. It has been bombed, stoned, and shot at but it remains to be the Philippine Women’s University its founders envisioned it to be – providing not simply an education, but an education with purpose and substance,” Cajandab said.
Like many before her, she ended by thanking the institution which has served as her home for the past couple of years: “[everyday] I come back to the Philippine Women’s University not seeking an education, but preparing myself for life. And I thank PWU for teaching me [how] to live,” she declared.
Other guests of honor at the commencement rites included Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Ma. Cynthia Rose Bautista, PWU Chairman Dr. Helena Benitez, and members of the PWU Board of Directors former President Dr. Jose Conrado Benitez, Mr. Conrado Benitez II, and Dr. Amelia Reyes. Aside from Cajandab, other graduates who received Cum Laude honors were Ann Mariel Recio (BA Foreign Service), Jose Michael Angelo de Dios (BA Communication Arts), Juhan Nusrat (BA Psychology), Joyce Tiffany Reyes (Bachelor of Fine Arts). Acheline Jade Tisado (Bachelor of Elementary Education) and Jake Wallace Galvez (BA Foreign Service) graduated Honorable Mention.
Fueled by its enduring spirit, Philippine Women’s University strives to remain relevant in the field of tertiary education today. Almost a hundred years since its establishment in 1919 as one of the most influential and ground-breaking educational institutions of its time, PWU remains true to the timeless values of its founders. It is a university that develops individuals into citizens of character, excellence, and competence. It steadfastly commits itself to providing all students with the kind of holistic education that has guided the numerous generations that have come before, and ensuring that the same remain imbibed in the students of today.
PWU began as Philippine Women’s College in June 9, 1919, spearheaded by its seven founders (Clara Aragon, Concepcion Aragon, Francisca Tirona Benitez, Paz Marquez Benitez, Carolina Ocampo Palma, Mercedes Rivera, and Socorro Marquez Zaballero). It set out with the goal of preparing young Filipino women for a life of dedicated service and wholehearted leadership; in 1932 – just thirteen years later – the institution won university distinction, making PWU the first university for women in Asia, founded by Asians.
Without doubt, PWU has left its mark in history, but its story and legacy is far from over. Now on its 96th year, Philippine Women’s University looks forward to celebrating its Centennial in 2019, as it prepares for an exciting and even stronger future. PWU President, Dr. Jose Francisco Benitez, assures that the esteemed institution will be able to overcome its present challenges, and “with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to our educational mission and its historical significance, we shall rise transformed and ready to build the scaffolding for another hundred years. Together, we shall build on the strong foundations of our educational mission as the university moves towards its centennial and beyond.”
Surely, PWU will continue to deliver on its promise made almost a century ago, empowering the Filipino to reach greater heights through the delivery of quality education and holistic development.