Press Release
June 1, 2017

Speech of Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III
Necrological Rites of Senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw

Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City
June 1, 2017

To the Estrada and Kalaw families, to my fellow senators past and present, my fellow Filipinos, magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

Senator Evangeline "Eva" Estrada-Kalaw was born in a very different world from what we have now. When she was born on June 16, 1920, the Philippines was still an American colony. Women could not vote. Only less than half of Filipinos could read and write. It was a challenging world for anyone. It was a more challenging world for a woman.

But Eva Kalaw was not someone who would let others set the limits on what she could do. Always, she picked the path where she could challenge the injustice of the status quo.

Senator Estrada-Kalaw graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Education. She taught at the Far Eastern University, the National Teacher's College, and Centro Escolar University, sharing the gift of education with other aspiring educators. Through her work, she contributed to the eradication of illiteracy among her countrymen.

Faced with the neglect of the marginalized sectors of our country, she was active in social work, receiving the award for "Outstanding Volunteer Social Worker" from then-President Jose P. Laurel. She founded and became the first President of the Jayceerettes organization, founded and became the national chair of the Samahang Filipina. She was a director of the League of Women Voters, and the Chamber of Home Industries of the Philippines. And to underline her point that women can be the equal of men even in supposedly masculine fields, she was, believe or not, a national pistol champion.

Her social advocacy was not limited to women's rights. Any group of people who were oppressed or did not receive their just due from society could expect a champion in her. She worked with organizations that sought to help children in conflict with the law, special children, those with tuberculosis, and organizations that helped with the development of the youth and the community. As head of the National Economic Protectionism Association, she fought for Filipino businesses and Filipino jobs against competition from overseas.

It is therefore no surprise that when she was in the Senate, she wasted no time in advancing these causes. Senator Estrada-Kalaw pushed for RA 5146, converting the Social Welfare Administration into the Department of Social Work, which is now called Department of Social Welfare and Development. She was also instrumental in the passage of salary increases for public school teachers through RA 5158, the creation of Local School Boards through RA 5447, the Barrio High School Charter through RA 6054, the Educational Financing Act or RA 6728, and the inclusion of the president of student councils in the Board of Regents of all state colleges and universities.

During her time in the Senate, she was the chairman of the Committee on Games, Amusement, and Tourism and the Committee on National Minorities. She pushed for the creation of a single government office to handle national policy for tourism. Her hard work was recognized and rewarded by the Filipino people, giving her the distinction of the first woman senator to be re-elected. Imagine what else she could have done in terms of legislation, had her term as Senator not been abbreviated by the declaration of Martial Law.

Her service to our beloved Senate ended when our institution was shuttered by the Marcos dictatorship, but it did not end her service to the country. Even before Martial Law was declared in 1972, she was already active in opposition to President Marcos. She hosted meetings of opposition stalwarts like Ninoy Aquino and Jovy Salonga in her house. She was injured in the Plaza Miranda blast. Her outspoken activism for human rights and democracy landed her in jail during those dark days. She worked with the opposition in preparing for the return of Ninoy Aquino. After his assassination, she became active in organizing the massive protests to the dictatorship.

After the People Power Revolution, she served as the Chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, where she continued her service to our people in Taiwan.

One of her many awards is the 6th Mahatma Gandhi Freedom Award, given by the College of William and Mary in the United States. The award is given to "outstanding scholars or public figures who, by personal example, have given meaning and substance to freedom". I think no other phrase encapsulates the life of Senator Estrada-Kalaw more.

I don't recall when I first met Sen. Estrada-Kalaw. I'm sure I've met her in one of the anti-dictatorship rallies during Marcos' time. But I last saw her during the Senate's 100th year celebration, interacting with people, having dinner, accompanied by wine. I was happy to see her enjoying her time with the Senate family.

Truly, hers was a life well-lived. And by her choice, it was well-lived in the service of the Filipino people. On behalf of the Senate of the Philippines, I say thank you to Senator Evangeline Estrada-Kalaw for helping build the Senate as an institution of service to the people and a pillar of democracy. She may have been born in a different era, but the values of integrity, respect for the rule of law, and dedicated service to the people that she believed in and practiced remain as relevant as ever. Tita Eva, we are here to continue your causes. Maraming salamat po.

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