BY RICARDO JORGE S. CALUEN
No—she won’t remember me from Adam. She didn’t even know me.
But those of my generation (like in Iligan where we still didn’t have TV in the very early 1960s) will remember listening to her on the radio in Darigold Jamboree, the noon-time radio show.
Forerunner of Student Canteen, back then much of the speaking was carried in English and listening to the likes of Leila Benitez, Eddie Ilarde, and Bobby Ledesma, the hosts, made me aspire to sound like them at a very tender age. I had just graduated from the Reading and Phonics class of Miss Myrna Placido in Grade II at the time.
I thought Leila Benitez spoke the best English among Filipinos at the time—elegant as I would call it.
Later, I would learn that Miss Benitez studied in the US after finishing high school in the Philippines, accounting for the hint of an American accent. That she would much later be chosen to host a radio program of Voice of America which was broadcast worldwide is a testimony to her mastery of spoken English.
At age 89, Leila Benitez passed away in the US (where she had lived for much of her life), succumbing to Covid-19.
An icon of Philippine broadcast media is gone. Rest in peace, Ma’am.
Photo taken from the Facebook page of Ricardo Jorge S. Caluen.