BOOK REVIEW: 101 Filipino Icons

by Rose Churma 

The retailing company Bench and the publisher Adarna House had a major goal when developing this book to create a book that will bring hope for Filipinos.

The first printing was in 2007 and another in 2008, but despite the decade separating its publication to the present time, the Filipinos more than anytime still need hope. So perhaps it is timely to review this book again and bring a ray of hope.

As Ben Chan, the CEO of BENCH notes in the introduction, “Hope – despite everything – is what BENCH believes will keep it together for our country. May this book, in all its historical and cultural richness, bring hope to all its Filipino readers.”

The list of icons featured in this book was drawn from recommendations from experts such as Dr. Alex B. Brilliantes, Jr. Ambeth Ocampo, Dr. Nicanor Tiongson and 15 others. Philippine institutions also helped such as the Department of Tourism and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The icons are arranged historically, or according to the era of history where they emerged in the Filipinos’ consciousness. For most of the icons included, there are also various suggestions for educators on how they can carry out meaningful activities and discussions around the icons.

The 101 icons which include people, places and objects embody the essence of the Filipino. These represent a facet of the Filipino persona, or a part of Filipino history, or an aspect of Filipino culture that makes every Filipino proud.

The icons are an interesting mix—from pandesal and balut to Dolphy and the Mayon Volcano; from the nipa hut to EDSA People Power. Juan Luna, Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio are included but not Antonio Luna (although his name is listed in the index).

Some of the essays are in English, while the rest are in Filipino/Tagalog. Some icons are accompanied by tips for teachers.

For example in the segment on Jose Rizal, the tips include having the students make their own children’s books on Rizal’s life and think of creative ways to introduce the hero to young children.

Since Rizal is also considered the father of Philippine children’s literature, this would be an appropriate way for the students to be aware of his contributions to children’s literature – something not readily known.

What I found the most interesting was the entry on the bench or bangko. It is noted that that the lowly bangko represents the Filipino sense of community.

Among the photos of the bangko are the award-winning designs of Kenneth Cobonpue, a designer from Cebu interspersed with the rough-hewn benches from the Cordillera region.

In any event, this humble piece of furniture is found in basketball courts, in barangay halls, in almost all sari-sari stores, carinderias, and dining rooms.

This is an ideal tool when preparing a quiz show on Philippine culture and history, or a guide to creating a display that would easily highlight the essence of being Filipino.

ROSE CRUZ CHURMA is a retired architect who now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books, write about them and encourage others to write. Her online bookstore, Kalamansi Books and Things (, promotes Filipiniana books and publications by Filipino-Americans. Email her at

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