‘Lady Dean of Student Canteen’ Leila Benitez dies of coronavirus

By: - Desk Editor
/ 04:22 PM April 09, 2020
Leila Benitez

FILE – Leila Benitez with sons (from left): Gerry, Gil and Martin. Contributed photo


MANILA, Philippines – Philippine broadcasting icon Leila Benitez, once famous as “Lady Dean of Student Canteen,” died April 9 (Manila time) in the United States of complications from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said her close friend, Inquirer Lifestyle columnist Conchita Razon, quoting Benitez’s eldest son, Gerry Roses. Benitez was 89.


According to the book “Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the Making of ABS-CBN,” Benitez was the first host picked for “Student Canteen,” originally a radio show that transformed into a TV program for aspiring amateur singers.

Benitez, along with Eddie Ilarde and Pepe Pimentel, hosted “Student Canteen” on the then Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) from 1959 to 1964 and became “the biggest daytime program of its era.


She was living in the United States when martial law was declared in the Philippines in 1972.

Benitez was married thrice and had three sons: Gerry and Gil from first husband Gerardo “Grau” Roses; and Martin from second husband Mervyn Simpson.

Her third husband, Don McCollum, died a few years ago.

“Leila was a very good friend, always available, ready to give of herself through thick and thin. Unforgettable,” Razon told Inquirer.

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