Activist, educator, feminist, public official, Rep. Luzviminda Calolot Ilagan is known as different things to different people, depending on whose life she has touched and in what capacity.
Her reputation for excellence and integrity encompasses all of the positions she has occupied, and is recognized not just in Davao City, where she was born and raised, but all over the country. She is one of the few and select luminaries Mindanao claims as its very own, a distinction she has cultivated over the years by hard work and good will, but never capitalized for personal gain or glory.
Ma’am Luz — as former students, co-teachers, and colleagues fondly call her — was born on January 12, 1947 in Daliao, Toril District, in Davao City, where even now she maintains close ties and affiliations. She was among Toril’s prized possessions, graduating First Honorable Mention at the Daliaon Central elementary?School in 1958, then Salutatorian at St. Peter’s High School in 1962.
Rep. Luz Ilagan (Photo by Gabriela Women’s Party)
She pursued her college education in the Ateneo de Davao College, graduating Cum Laude in 1966, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in English. She also has a Master of Arts Candidacy in Literature in the same school, and has likewise earned MA units in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines in Padre Faura.
First and Foremost an Educator
After graduation, she started working in the Ateneo as a teacher, where she occupied various administrative positions. Presently, she is a Consultant of the Ateneo de Davao’s Mass Comm. Department and remains a part-time instructor for Public Speaking, Communication Arts, and Public Relations.
She is also Director of The Learning Atrium, an institution providing training courses for a wide range of subjects and fields.
In the many areas of endeavor she has entered, she still considers teaching as her principal vocation, and to this day goes around Mindanao, teaching English to other high school and college instructors under the Ateneo’s extension program.
Correspondingly, former students, who are now professionals and have had the opportunity to work with her as a peer, still refer to Ma’am Luz as the best English teacher they have ever had.
Women’s Rights Advocate and Mass Leader
Her distinction as one of the country’s premier Women’s Rights Activists is undisputed. Even before the GABRIELA was organized in 1984, Luz had already established herself as a leader in the Womens’ Rights Movement in Davao City.
It was during the dark days of Martial Law, when to show the slightest indication of political dissent was a clear invitation for incarceration or, worse, salvaging, she and her husband, Atty. Laurente “Larry” Ilagan (now deceased) worked to organize the people against the Marcos Dictatorship. Her involvement with women’s groups began when she became a convenor and then Chairperson of the WOMEN’S ALLIANCE FOR TRUE CHANGE- MINDANAO. This alliance of 32 women’s organizations in different parts of Mindanao would later join the national coalition called GABRIELA. In 1984, Luz became the Chairperson of GABRIELA-Mindanao, while her husband, a human rights lawyer, was also Chair of the BAYAN-Mindanao. She continued her service as head of the GABRIELA-Mindanao up to 1988, even when her husband became a political detainee in 1985, and she was left all alone to raise their four sons.
She has also been involved in other NGOs such as the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples (SAGIP), TALIKALA Foundation, Purple Rose Committee, Media Mindanao News Service, and Development Educational Media Services.
She has also acted as an officer and?maintains membership in other civic organizations, like the Mindanao Interfaith Peoples Coalition (MIPC), Kanlungan Crisis Center, Women Studies Association of the Philippines, Women Network Group, Women’s Studies and Resource Center, Ateneo Task Force on Reproductive Health, Gender, and Sexuality, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, Dona Carmen Locsin Foundation, ABAG Foundation, and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), to name a few.