ANCX’s story about 100-year-old lola Virginia Benigno Malay, the lady who recently attended her college reunion via Zoom, apparently continues to spread good vibes in different parts of the world.
Clearly, Lola Virgie was a well-loved teacher back in the day. Her former students, many of them now living abroad, have been sharing the article in their online groups, and it’s sparking a major trip down memory lane. One of the students, Rhodora Apolinario, in a message to Lola Virgie’s son Tato Malay, described the former teacher and guidance counselor as possessing a “captivating charm, intelligent mien, and regal bearing” that “made a great difference” in the lives of her students.
In our interview with Lola Virgie, she shared how happy she was to know that her former students at the UP-PGH School of Nursing have achieved many of their goals and are now holding important positions in the US. Her students, ANCX recently found out, are happy to know that their centenarian teacher remains healthy and in high spirits.
From Rhodora’s message to Tato, there seems to be so much more to Lola Virgie than what we previously wrote about her. We knew she was the sister of the brilliant columnist and Cory era Press Secretary Teddy Benigno. That she studied Nursing during the Second World War and worked at the Baguio General Hospital for a year, before coming back to Manila where she would start a family.
Rhodora’s notes tell us that fate played a part in young Virgie’s decision to become a nurse. Her message to Tato was accompanied by a photograph of Ma’am Virgie published in the UP-PGH yearbook back in the 1970s, when she was a faculty member in the nursing school. “Our old alumni chronicles said ‘[Virgie] was voted one of the most beautiful coeds in the UP campus during her student days,” offers Rhodora.
Apparently, the young Virgie loved to write. She had written first-person accounts of her experiences as a PGH nursing student during World War II, some of which were published in the newspapers.
In an article she wrote for the “UP-PGHSN Legacy Book,” which came out in 2019, the educator relayed how she ended up becoming a nurse during the war.
“I was all set to graduate from the UP College of Education when the Japanese invasion took place,” Virgie wrote. “All the schools were closed down, except for the UP College of Medicine and the UP-PGH School of Nursing (UP-PGHSN), so there would be someone to take care of the war casualties.”
On New Year’s eve of 1941, Intramuros was bombed and Virgie’s father, Monico Benigno, was among the casualties. Because he was brought to the PGH, Virgie had to spend a whole month at the hospital. She was practically living in PGH so she could care for his father.
“It was there where I would learn that the UP-PGHSN remained open and was, in fact, admitting students,” she mentioned in the write-up. “Since there was no way that the UP College of Education would re-open soon, I decided to enroll in nursing.”
An educator by heart, Ma’am Virgie completed her education course later on, and even obtained her Master’s Degree. During her stint in a school in Mabini, Pangasinan—where one of her students was Gloria Romero. Mam Virgie eventually came back to UP-PGHSN to teach English and Rizal courses, and was also appointed guidance counselor.
Photos courtesy of Tato Malay