Top Ten Most Influential and Most Popular Filipino Women
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Top Ten Most Influential and Most Popular Filipino Women

Tandang Sora, Teodora Agoncillo, Gabriela Silang the Ilocano Joan of Arc are just some of the many great Filipino women in Philippine history. You can call them Filipina, Pilipina, and Pinay - they'ra ll the same. There are several Filipino women who are famous worldwide for their achievement and extraordinary abilities and skills.

These exceptional Filipino women excelled in the different areas such as politics, beauty pageant, music and entertainment industry and many others. Here are the 10 most popular and influential Filipino women in the world – past and present.

To be a lawyer is already great but to be an international lawyer is even much greater.

Miriam Defensor Santiago

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Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the most controversial and most intellectual Philippine senators is one of the most popular and politically influential women in Philippine history. Recently, she was elected judge of the International Criminal Court of the United Nations and assumed office in March 2012.

Defensor-Santiago is a current Philippine senator and bringing so many talk-about issues and controversies because of his unique and somewhat absurd style as a judge-senator on the on-going Corona Impeachment trial.

She was a former trial judge and professor of constitutional and international law and served as the Commissioner of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation in 1988. Defensor-Santiago was also the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and is a Laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service.

She ran for Philippine Presidency in 1992 but lost to Fidel V. Ramos. She ran as a senator in 1995 and won. She ran again for Presidency in 1998 but lost to Joseph Estrada. She returned to the Senate and run for senatorial race in 2001 but lost her bid.

In 2004, she filed her candidacy for the Senatorial race and won her 2nd term as senator. She filed her candidacy for senator in 2010 and won her 3rd term as Philippine Senator.

She was cited several times as one of the most outstanding Philippine Senators and one of the senators with the most bills filed in the senate.

 She received the award as one of the Five Outstanding Professionals of the Philippine Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1986 and in 1996 won the Australian Women's Magazine ranked Santiago 69th among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, sharing the honor with former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos who ranked 58th.

To be an internationally recognized and acknowledged singer is one of the most-coveted ambitions of every aspiring singer from all over the world.

Charice Pempengco

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Without a doubt, the hottest, most popular and most influential Filipino women in the world today is Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco or more popularly known worldwide as Charice Pempengco.

She is tagged as “the most talented girl in the world” by the world famous and billionaire Oprah Winfrey. Her international album which was released in 2010 album entered the Billboard 200 at number-eight, making Charice the first Southeast Asian solo singer in history to land in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart.

As a pop singer, her single “Pyramid”, is her most successful single to-date, charting within the top 40 in a number of countries. She also joined the cast of TV series Glee as Sunshine Corazon.

Charice was announced as one of the 4 judges on The X Factor Philippine in March 2012. It will be aired on the 2nd quarter of 2012 in ABS-CBN. Charice is awarded the Most Memorable Moment of 2007 – The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the USA, Number 1 in Billboard's Dance/Club Songs of 2010 : 'Pyramid and Number 1 in Yahoo's Music Videos : 'Pyramid.

During the late 1980s and the 1990s, the most spectacular Filipina entertainer in the world is no other than Lea Salonga.

Lea Salonga

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Lea Salonga-Chien, a Filipina mezzo-soprano singer, actress and Disney Legend, became phenomenal worldwide for her role as Kim in the worldwide famous musical Miss Saigon. She established her worldwide prominence by winning the Oliver, Tony, Drama Desk, Theater World and Outer Critics awards.

During the height of his popularity, every young child wants to be like her. She also took the roles of Eponine and Fantine in the musical Les Miserables on Broadway, the first Asian to do so. She provided the singing voice of Jasmine in Alladin in 1992 and Fa Mulan in Mulan in 1998.

In 2010, she was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of Food and Agriculture Administration or FAO of the United Nations.

Jessica Elizabeth Sanchez

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One of the best ways to be recognized world wide is to be a sensational singer. With the advent of modern technology, everybody is now well aware with the Internet. One of the most sensational and phenomenal rising Filipina stars of the worldwide hit American Idol is no other than Jessica Elizabeth Sanchez. This young exceptionally amazing singer is more popularly known as Jessica Sanchez. Her father is a Mexican and her mother is a Filipina.

Sanchez is currently one of the Top 7 finalists on the 11th season of American Idol. On September 22, 2008, she sang the “Star Spangled Banner” in the National Football League before a New York Jets and San Diego Chargers match-up and again on September 27, 2009 before a Miami Dolphins versus San Diego Chargers match-up.

Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo

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One of the most prominent and iconic religious Filipina figures is Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo. She is more commonly known as Mother Ignacia and is the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Religious of the Virgin Mary – the first native Filipino female congregation in the Philippines with pontifical approval. She was declared by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 as Venerable.

Mother Ignacia Street in Manila is named in her honor. The town of Santa Ignacia in the province of Tarlac in Central Luzon is also named in her honor.

Melanie Marquez

Melanie Marquez or Mimilanie Laurel Marquez-Lawyer, a Filipina personality development coach, actress, film producer, author, and celebrity endorsers is one of the most influential and popular Filipino women in the world.

Marquez won the 1979 Miss International beauty pageant in Tokyo, Japan as a representative of the Philippines. She is regarded expert in fashion, catwalk, magazine, and commercial modeling.

Marquez was “Face of the 80s” winner in New York. She was First Runner-up in the Super Model in 1986 was described as the "Most Glamorous Woman in Italy".

In 2005, it is certainly cool and a great honor to be voted as the "Most Beautiful Miss International” winner". Marquez was voted in 2000 as the Most Beautiful International Women.

She was also a finalist in the 2005 “Mrs. World” pageant in India. She was responsible in training Ruffa Gutierrez, Charlene Gonzales Miriam Quiambao. Gutierrez was Miss World 1993 2nd princess, Gonzales was Miss Universe 1994 4th runner-up and Quiambao was Miss Universe 1st Runner-up in 1999. She was ranked number one "most admired beauty queen" in the Philippine showbiz.

Imelda R. Marcos

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Up to the present, one of the most popular and influential Filipino women, is Imelda Rumualdes-Marcos. Her first name, Imelda, is one of the most popular names in the Philippines. She is the first Filipino politician who was elected as member of the House of Representative in 3 different geographical locations – Manila, Leyte and Ilocos Norte. When Ferdinand E. Marcos was elected president of the Philippines in 1965, Imelda is regarded as the youngest and most beautiful first lady the Philippines ever had. She is currently the congresswoman of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte.

Donita Rose-Villarama

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Donita Rose Ramos Cavett-Villarama or more popularly known as Donita Rose or simply Donita is one of the most beautiful faces in Philippine showbiz and one of the most influential Filipina women in the music industry being the former Video Jockey of VJ of MTV Asia. As a manifestation of her great beauty and popularity, she was FHM's Sexiest of the Philippines in 2001.

Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino

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Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino, simply known to many as Cory Aquino, was one of the most popular and influential Filipino woman being declared as the country’s first woman president in history by virtue of the so-called “1986 People Power”. Although she had not done much to improve the economic situation of the country, she was still considered popular for the restoration of democracy. Cory Aquino was named Time Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1986 and one of Time Magazine's 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century in 1999.

In addition, she was one of the World's Elite Women Who Make a Difference by the International Women's Forum Hall of Fame in 2005, One of Time Magazine's 65 Asian Heroes in 2006 and one of a Different View's 15 Champions of World Democracy in 2008.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

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Although Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is currently on hospital arrest due to the many cases filed against her during her presidency, she was once one of the most popular and influential woman in the world of the 21st century. She is the 2nd woman to become Philippine President and the 1st woman vice president of the Philippines. She is also the 1st Philippine President to be elected congresswoman after leaving the office of the presidency. In 2005, she was listed by the Time Magazine’s “People Who Mattered” and Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Woman in the World from 2004–2009 and she ranked 4th in the 2005 list. Currently, she is one of the most dislike and hated Filipino politicians.

"Life is a wheel". Sometimes you are at the bottom, sometimes you are at the top.

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Comments (4)

Such a cool list. But I have to disagree on some, specifically Charice, Jessica and Donita. They are popular but they are not that influential. I was thinking Kris Aquino and Sarah Geronimo would be included inyour list.

thanks for the wonderful comment sir. Charice, Jessica and Donita are not as influential as the others on the list but somehow they influences their voluminous followers through the song they sing, the clothes, cosmetic, perfume..etc.. that they wear

Good post kabayan...

Hi Norbert ! Thank you for honoring women in your post, especially Filipino women who made a history in the Philippines. These women have contributed greatly in our society as role models.  But one of these women in the list, is the only religious and a foundress. I am referring in particular to the person of Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo.  She should have been declared by the Philippine officials as one of the Philippine heroes, as she fought for the freedom of human rights; especially women's rights during her time.  Many Filipinos are not aware of the struggle of women in the history of the Philippines during the Spanish colonization.  In 17th century Philippines, women were discriminated against and barred from entering the religious convent.  The only existing monastery in Mother Ignacia's time was the Monastery of Sta. Clara founded by Mother Jeronima de la Asuncion for Spanish women, in the 1620's.  However, things changed. In 1684, at the age of 21 Ignacia, after making an Ignatian retreat guided by Jesuit Paul Klein, decided to establish a community of native women who would serve God in a Filipino way. When she wrote the Rules of the Community, she stated that only Natives and Chinese mestizas could be accepted.  It is also important to note that 12 years later, in 1696 another beaterio in Manila was established by the Dominican Friars. The Beaterio of Sta. Catalina was founded by Fr. Juan de Sto. Domingo, O.P. and Mother Francisca de Fuentes was appointed Prioress for life.  Like the monastery of Sta. Clara, the Dominican Beaterio was established for Spanish women: 15 in number, in honor of the fifteen mysteries of the rosary.  Aside from the 15 Spanish Choir Sisters, the Domincan beaterio also had lay Sisters or Sisters of Obedience who were natives. These Lay Sisters were deprived of their voting rights and barred from holding an office.  For devotional names, they could adopt the names of the Angels and Saints or religious concepts other than the mysteries of the rosary, which were reserved only for those of Spanish race.  Both the Monastery of Sta. Clara of the Franciscan Order and the Beaterio of Sta. Catalina of the Dominican Order were male dependent communities. Everything from food, clothing and the government of their communities were provided for and were governed by the Friars. In contrast, the community of Mother Ignacia was governed by themselves.  The Jesuits, according to their constitutions were not allowed to take goverance in a religious community of women. So it had to be Mother Ignacia who governed the community of native beatas. Unlike the Monastery of Sta. Clara and the Beaterio of Sta. Catalina, Mother Ignacia and her Sisters were not dependent on a male order. For their food and sustenance they had to beg as far as Pampanga. Mother Ignacia was indeed an extraordinary woman with rare qualities.  She proved to the world that women can be equal to men.  Not only did she found the very first Filipino native congregation, but she also pioneered the Retreat Movement for women in the whole of Christendom.  Retreat then was only reserved for men. Currently, the congregation that she had establihed has become the largest Filipino congregation in the world with members coming from the United States, Pakistan, Ghana, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Another landmark in the history of the RVM congregation was the definitive approval of its constitution by the Pope in 1948. With this approval, the Religious of the Virgin Mary Congregation became the very first Pontifical Filipino congregation in the Republic of the Philippines.