FRANCISCO F. BENITEZ
Francisco F. Benitez, one of the country's
foremost educators, was born in Pagsanjan, Laguna on June 4, 1887 to Don
Higinio Benitez, a signer of Malolos Constitution, and Soledad Francia. He had
four brothers: Ceferino, Teofilo, Conrado, and Eulogio, and a sister, Antonia.
His brother Conrado was an economist, historian, and a business leader, while
Eulogio was a congressman of Laguna and the first to use English in the
sessions of the Philippine House of Representatives.
After his graduation from the Philippine
Normal School in 1904, he started his educational career. He served as
principal of a school in Pakil, Laguna, before being sent as a government
pensionado to the United States in 1905. He graduated three years later from
the Western Illinois State Normal School. Back in the Philippines, he was
appointed assistant supervising teacher in Bacoor, Cavite.
On July i, 1918, the U.P. Board of
Regents passed a resolution transforming the School of Education into the
College of Education Francisco Benitez was appointed its dean and thus started
his strong influence on education.
Preparatory to the establishment of the
commonwealth government, Quezon appointed in 1935 a committee, called the
Quezon Educational Survey Committee, to study and recommend changes in the
educational system. As a member of the committee, Dean Benitez was appointed
chairman of the subcommittee on teacher training.
On August 13, 1945, President Sergio
Osmeņa revived the National Council of Education created by Quezon shortly
before the war. Dean Benitez was made chairman of this council.
After the war, in January, 1946, Osmeņa
apointed Benitez Secretary of Public Instruction until May, 1946, with
Florentino Cayco as his undersecretary.
A patriot at heart, Dean Benitez served
his countrymen and the government in different capacities. He worked as
honorary correspondent for the Philippines in the International Bureau of
Education at Geneva, president of the National Federation of Teachers in the
Philippines, and chairman of the educational sector in the First Independence
Congress in 1930. He was also the director of the World Federation of Education
Associations and of the Institute of the Pacific Relations, and president and
director of the Philippine China Society and of the Japan Philippine Society,
As an educator, Benitez believed that
education could make the country stable and progressive and that every Filipino
child should have the right to an education in order to develop his potentials
to the full. He also strongly advocated the development of the spirit of
nationalism, particularly in the youth, the development of internationalism,
and of the national language. As director of the Office of Private Education,
he advocated the idea of having social studies taught exclusively by Filipino
A liberal and a democrat, he fought
against any method of instruction which would give rise to any form of
intellectual or social aristocracy. A strong advocate of democratic ideas in
classroom management and supervision, he batted for an educational system
geared toward the needs of the people.
A staunch champion of teachers, Francisco
Benitez, contributed much towards the function of teachers' associations in the
country. In 1940, he advocated salary increases for teachers in order to build
up their morale and give them an incentive to remain in the service.
He also distinguished himself as a writer
and editor when he published "Educational Progress in the
Philippines," "Stories of Great Filipinos," and several other
essays and articles here and abroad. He was editor of the Philippine Journal of
Education. He conducted courses in education: "The Social and Economic
Status of Our Teachers" and "A Study in Individual Differences."
This kind, amiable, and courteous dean
whose favorite aphorism was "work and study in the spirit of play,"
was also known for his sense of humor and satire on people, institutions, and
other elements of life and society.
Once, somebody tried to convince him of
the danger of smoking which he did immoderately by saying, "Dean, a drop
of nicotine is enough to kill a fish." The dean replied: "But, my
dear, I'm not a fish."
He was a humble fellow. In his classes
before the examination, he used to thumb the pages of the textbook saying:
"Know this, know that. I require you to know these details, even if I
myself don't know them now." Humorously, he would add, "Anyway, you
are the ones to take the exam, not I."
Dean Benitez had an enormous love for the
people, a deep affection for the unpretentious, lowly masses unaffected by the
sophistication of society. He enjoyed talking to them, holding them by the
sleeves, patting them on the shoulders, and greeting them by their first names.
Dean Benitez was accorded honors for his
distinguished service to education by Columbia University which awarded him its
University Medal in 1929. That same year, he was honored with two Doctor of
Laws, honoris causa, by the University of Manila. For being an outstanding
school executive, a progressive educational statesman and a staunch champion of
teachers and the teaching profession, he was voted Teacher of the Year in
December, 1950 by the alumni of the College of Education, University of the
Philippines. In 1951, the National University conferred on him a doctorate
degree, honoris causa. Finally, a citation of merit was given him by President
Quirino for his service in the field of education in the Philippines.
He died on June 30, 1951 at the age of 64
at the Singian Clinic after suffering a heart attack while walking along
Carriedo, Quiapo, Manila. He was survived by his wife, Pat Marcjez Benitez, and
children Ana Virginia, Francisco Jr., Roberto, and Rafael.
His death was deeply mourned by his
countrymen; he truly deserved their respect and veneration, for he was one of
the pillars of Philippine education.