Geronima Tomelden Pecson
Pecson was born on 19 December 1896 to Victor Tomelden and Pacita Palisoc in Libsong, Lingayen, Pangasinan. She was the second of seven children. Her father was a census inspector, while her mother was one of the first Filipina teachers trained by the Americans.
She received her early education in public schools in Lingayen. Then, she obtained her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from the University of the Philippines.
She was married to Potenciano Pecson in 1920. They had two children, Urduja and Corazon.
Pecson began as a classroom teacher at the Manila High School and Ermita Elementary School in 1919. Through hard work and dedication, she became teacher and later principal of the Soler Intermediate School and the Santa Clara Primary School.
She also taught at the Far Eastern College (now Far Eastern University), the Centro Escolar University (CEU), and the University of Manila. She later joined his husband in teaching at the Zamboanga Normal School.
She became co-founder, board member, Treasurer, and First Vice President of the National Federation of Women's Clubs of the Philippines. She also campaigned for Filipino women's right to vote, which was eventually granted on 30 April 1937.
She was board member of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society. She established the Teachers' Pavilion in the Quezon Institute to help Filipino teachers suffering from tuberculosis receive proper care and treatment.
World War II
Pecson served as personal secretary to former president Jose P. Laurel during World War II. She helped Laurel and then general Manuel A. Roxas in an underground movement supporting guerilla forces in the Philippines.
When Roxas became president, she worked as his assistant executive secretary in 1946.
First Female Senator
She then ran for senator in the 1947 Philippine Senate Election as the only female candidate. She placed third after receiving 1,559,511 votes or 47.8% of the total votes.
During her term as senator, Pecson headed the Senate Committee on Education, the Senate Committee on Health and Public Welfare, and the Joint Congressional Committee on Education. She was also a member of the Commission on Appointments and of the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
She was responsible for the following laws:
- the Free and Compulsory Education Act of 1953,
- the Vocational Education Act,
- the law permitting the establishment of training facilities for instructors in specific national schools of arts and trades,
- the law establishing the Roxas Memorial Agricultural School,
- the Municipal Libraries Act,
- the laws creating the Home Financing Commission and a fisheries school in Albay, and
- the law that upgraded the University of the Philippines School of Forestry in Los Baños, Laguna into the College of Forestry.
Despite her numerous contributions and achievements, she remained humble and preferred working in silence, earning her the nickname "the Silent Worker."
When she ran for a second term in 1953, she lost after receiving only 1,349,163 votes or 31.2% of the total votes.
Nevertheless, she continued to serve the Filipino people by being the first Filipina member of the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She also became a member of the board of trustees of CEU, the Philippine Normal College, the Philippine College of Commerce, and St. John's Academy. She was a member of the board of regents of the University of the Philippines (UP) and consultant of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Awards and Recognitions
She died on 31 July 1989. Her life of service was honored by the National Historical Institute in 1994 with commemorative plaques installed at her Gilmore Avenue, New Manila residence and Lingayen, Pangasinan residence.
- De Guzman, Jovita V., Vicente A. Santiago, Remedios T. de Leon and Teresita E. Erestain. 1967. Women Of Distinction; Biographical Essays on Outstanding Filipino Women of the Past and the Present. Philippines: Bukang Liwayway.
- Limos, Mario A. 2020. "Geronima Pecson's Dignified SIlence as the Philippines' First Woman Senator." Esquire. Accessed 18 April 2021. https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/geronima-pecson-first-woman-senator-philippines-a00293-20200307.
- Reyes, Isidra. 2019. The first Filipina senator was a silent worker: "I would project my work, rather than myself." Accessed 18 April 2021. https://news.abs-cbn.com/ancx/culture/spotlight/03/15/19/the-countrys-first-woman-senator-as-silent-worker-i-would-project-my-work-rather-than-myself.
- Senate. Geronima T. Pecson. Accessed 18 April 2021. http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/senators/former_senators/geronima_pecson.htm.