She was born to Alfredo Leon Guerrero, a doctor, and Filomena Francisco, first Filipino pharmacist. Brother Leon Ma. III is an essayist and fictionist. Poet and essayist Fernando Ma. Guerrero and Manuel S. Guerrero are her uncles; playwright and stage director Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero and poets Nilda Guerrero-Barranco and Evangelina Guerrero-Zacarias, her cousins. Painter Lorenzo Guerrero is her paternal grandfather and fictionist Gabriel Beato Francisco, her maternal grandfather. She married Ismael Cruz, with whom she had two children, one of whom, Gemma Cruz, is a fictionist. Years after her husband’s death, she married architect Angel E. Nakpil with whom she had three children. She studied at St. Theresa’s College, where she edited the campus paper, The Orion. She taught literature at the same college.
A widow at the end of WWII, Guerrero-Nakpil went into journalism. Starting as proofreader, she rose to become magazine editor and columnist. She wrote a daily column for the Manila Chronicle for 12 years and a weekly column for the Sunday Times Magazine; she was also a columnist or editor at Evening News Saturday Magazine, Weekly Women’s Magazine, Malaya, and other newspapers. Later, she became the chairperson of the National Historical Commission and the cultural committee of the Philippine commission for UNESCO. In 1983-1986 she worked as a representative elected by the UNESCO General Assembly in Paris. In 1984-1986 she was managing director of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center.
Guerrero-Nakpil’s published works include: Woman Enough and Other Essays, 1963; Question of Identity, 1973; The Philippines and the Filipino, 1977; The Philippines: The Land of the People, 1989; and a novel, The Rice Conspiracy, 1990.
She received the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas Award for English fiction in 1988 from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Southeast Asian Writers (SEAWRITE) Award in 1990. Also in 1990, she won the National Book Award for anthology from the Manila Critics Circle for her The Philippines: The Land and the People.
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