Wonder Women: 50 of The Philippines' Most Remarkable Leaders

On the occasion of International Women's Day, we salute some of the Philippines' most inspiring women.

This year, under the helm of its president Anna Meloto Wilk and creative director Camille Meloto, Human Nature, a social enterprise that makes sustainable skincare and cosmetics, has, as it claims on its website, “racked up the most number of products certified genuinely natural in the world by the Natural Products Association,” the U.S.’s largest and oldest non-profit that regulates and certifies natural products across the globe. Beyond the products her company creates, Anna’s dedication to and genuine concern for the ordinary Filipino are what make her stand out as a social entrepreneur. “Your life's work should serve a higher purpose beyond self, whether it's providing for your family or contributing to improving the lives of others. Many people fall into the first category of providing for family and that is a noble cause, but we should go beyond that. We live in a country where there are so many social problems and if we care enough, each of us can find a cause to support,” she says. Anna was recently chosen by Asia Society to be part of this year’s Asia 21, a network of outstanding Young Leaders changing the world. For over eight years now, Anna, Camille, and their partners at Human Nature have been restoring communities and providing sustainable livelihood for the poor while creating high quality natural products sold in the Philippines and abroad. “Our brand’s standards in terms of microbial content are 100 times stricter than FDA limits in cosmetics,” Camille adds, making Human Nature a top pick for those with sensitive skin and for environment-conscious consumers.


Anna Meloto Wilk and Camille Meloto

The need for excellent education for all Filipino children is what drives the Teach for the Philippines CEO every day. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Clarissa is one of the three co-founders of TFP, a program that began in 2012 under Teach for All, a collective global network dedicated to promoting equal, inclusive access to education for the world’s youth. To date, the NGO has nearly 100 alumni and 100 current fellows. Clarissa believes that “what is needed is exposure to education for new generations of leaders and longterm community-led interventions.” For transforming lives through education, Clarisa was also chosen for Asia Society's Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative. The young CEO hopes to continue to grow the program and expand TFP’s reach has to all regions of the Philippines.


Clarissa Delgado

Lizzie spent most of her childhood in Cali, Colombia, before seeking higher education in the United States. After graduating from Boston College, she settled in the Philippines. Her interest in social development work began with her involvement in helping set up Museo Pambata in 1993. Her work continued with the start of Friendly Care Foundation in 1998, an organization dedicated to providing general health care services with a special focus on providing family planning delivery to families throughout the Philippines. Lizzie believes that “access to family planning services is the right of every Filipino and can become a powerful instrument for breaking the cycle of poverty.” Lizzie continued her efforts in social development by co-founding Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, which evolved to become Teach for the Philippines. Today, Lizzie pushes its program forward as a member of its board. She also continues to contribute to efforts in reproductive health in the Philippines.


Lizzie Zobel

Coming from a family of doctors, Margarita learned about service to the community at an early age. She has always been focused on finding the most substantial ways to give back to the Filipino people. In 1999, together with Lizzie Zobel, Margarita co-founded the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, which implemented reading programs and educator training conferences nationwide reaching out to over 25,000 public school teachers and touching the lives of over a million Filipino school children. In 2012, SAS transitioned into Teach for the Philippines, a member of the global network Teach for All. With TFP celebrating its fourth birthday last August, Margarita continues her campaign to provide all Filipino children with an inclusive, relevant, and excellent education. She is also a board trustee of the International School Manila and has dedicated her community service endeavors to adding value to the education sector. Margarita also sits as a director at UPS-Delbros Express.


Margarita Delgado

“The team is everything. We want to work with the Filipino people. And I love you all,” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary said in her first speech on her first day of office. The new cabinet secretary is all smiles and approachable, but when it comes to work, she means business. For her first task as DENR secretary, she ordered an extensive audit of all mining companies and projects, “to determine the adequacy and efficiency of the environmental protection measures, identify gaps in protection measures, and determine appropriate penalties in case of violations,” read the memorandum. A month later, she also ordered the immediate demolition of massive and overcapacity fish pens in Laguna Lake, which were found to be owned by large companies and not by individual fishermen. Her goal is to turn the lake into an economic zone that will benefit the farmers who live in the area.


Gina Lopez

The Asian Carmakers Corporation (exclusive distributor of BMW in the Philippines) president is a seasoned executive in the world of men—the motoring industry. After graduating with a Mass Communications degree from U.P. Diliman, she delved into marketing for Honda Philippines, quickly rising up the corporate ladder and being recognized as brilliant even by other competing motoring groups. She then moved to Ford Philippines, got married and started a family, before going on to become the marketing head of what was then known as Prestige Cars BMW. Now president of Asian Carmakers Corporation for the last five years, Maricar is helping change the male-dominated motoring industry.


Maricar Parco

The owner and founder of Jeepney and Maharlika, Filipino restaurants in New York’s East Village, may well be the culinary ambassador of the Philippines on that side of the globe. Serving traditional Filipino dishes made from scratch and with the most authentic ingredients she can find, Nicole, along with her chefs, has helped put Filipino food on the culinary map. Her restaurants and dishes have been recognized in many international publications, including the New York Times, Time Out New York, and Huffington Post.


Long before aesthetic dermatology clinics became a staple at shopping malls and lifestyle hubs, there was Dr. Vicki Belo. Her dream was simple: to make solutions for weight loss and skin problems simpler and more easily accessible for every Filipino. And so she took the clinic out of the hospital and brought it closer to the people. Thanks to her diligence, vision, and passion, Belo became a household name and pioneered a whole new arena in dermatology, making the practice of dermatology and cosmetic surgery one of the fastest growing industries in the Philippines. Today, the Belo Medical Group is the biggest medical aesthetic ambulatory clinic in the Philippines. For 26 years, the group has been bringing in the latest machines and technologies in skincare and slimming, and remains the first and only ambulatory clinic in the country to have been given international accreditation by the National Accreditation Board of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers.


Vicki Belo

Just three years after founding her U.K.-based health food brand Righteous in 2010, Gem turned her company into a £300,000 business, even in the midst of a recession. Her products, which are marketed as completely healthy with no artificial coloring, preservatives, or cheap extenders, have grown so popular that they now see distribution around the world—in America, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, and Kuwait— apart from 1,000 of the biggest supermarkets in the U.K. Given the almost £100,000 yearly growth of the popular food company, Gem is adamant in continuing the purpose of the company, which is to promote healthy eating with delicious food.


In 1996, Armie knocked on the doors of the CNN head office in Atlanta to ask if she could work as an intern. Three months into her internship, she was offered a full-time position at the network. From there, as her bosses recognized her work ethic and remarkable output, she moved up the ladder—from production assistant to writer to producer to supervisor and finally executive producer, helping manage the operations of the CNN International newsroom. After 15 years in Atlanta, Armie moved to Hong Kong as the executive director for content sales for Asia Pacific. Here was where this Emmy Award-winning international journalist convinced CNN International to set up in the Philippines. “They were very supportive of the idea. Then the economy in the Philippines was thriving, there were good people who can uphold the high quality of journalism CNN was known for,” she says. After several negotiations in Manila, the network was given the go-signal. Armie was chosen to be the head of the local station and was appointed executive vice president and managing editor. It was time to go home. The station has come a long way since it was launched two years ago, earning bigger audiences and reaping recognition and awards for its storytelling and reportage. Today she sits as president of CNN Philippines. “There was an opportunity for us in the Philippines—there was no channel doing news and information every day on the free-to-air category. It’s a format that people seek out, and we are here to be part of the conversation, the day to day lives of the Filipino.”


Armie Jarin Bennett

There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right things, and while they’re not mutually exclusive, it takes a person with extraordinary will and a mastery of character to do both. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sereno is the first female to head the judicial branch. Under her term, the Supreme Court junked the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund as unconstitutional and declared several acts of the corruption-tainted Disbursement Acceleration Program of the previous administration as questionable. She made headlines recently for contesting President Rodrigo Duterte’s “premature announcement” of suspected drug syndicates of the judiciary by writing him a long, sincere, detailed letter, which earned her a biting response from the President. He later apologized for his “harsh words.” More recently, she made the news for being among the minority at the Supreme Court who voted against the burial of the late Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. 

Maria Lourdes Sereno

The veteran actress’ emotional victory as Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival this year for her role in Brilliante Mendoza’s film Ma’ Rosa was almost as affecting as the movie. The first major victory for a Filipino actor at Cannes, the feat was celebrated by her fellow Filipinos across the globe, earning positive reactions from the international press and Hollywood stars alike. “I’m at a loss for words! I am so surprised and moved,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the jury members. I thank Brillante Mendoza, whose instructions I simply followed. He’s a brilliant director. I am so happy you liked the film. I’d like to salute the Philippine people.”

Jaclyn Jose

The real question is, who hasn’t heard of Lea Salonga? Her feats and accomplishments are known worldwide, but not everyone is quite up to date about her life in 2016. Following a stint on the Broadway musical AllegianceLea has guest-starred in the season finale of the American television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and is rehearsing for her role as Helen Bechdel in the Tony Award-winning production Fun Home, which opened in Manila this month. Now let’s remember the world without Lea. Before her, an Asian woman had never won a Tony Award, and a Philippine-based artist had never received a major album release and distribution deal in the United States. Above all of her accomplishments, perhaps the most important thing that Lea has done was pave a path, not just for women and for Filipinos, but for anyone who dares to dream.

Lea Salonga

The former teen star turned ABS-CBN president and CEO has come full circle. After recently retiring as CEO, she delved back into acting with the movie Ang Babaeng Humayo, directed by awardwinning filmmaker Lav Diaz. The film was awarded The Golden Lion award, the highest honor given at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. She still hosts Maalaala Mo Kaya, the longest-running television drama anthology in Asia, and remains involved in station operations as the chief content officer and an executive adviser to the chairman.

Charo Santos-Concio

Sheila dove straight into the journalist’s life after graduating from the College of the Holy Spirit, and her dedicated efforts in the Philippines won her the 2003 Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and the Creative Communication Arts. She helped found the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and continued her career at Columbia University, where in 2006 she was named the inaugural director of the Toni Stabile Center of Investigative Journalism. In 2014 she was appointed Academic Dean at Columbia Journalism School where she works today, shaping the minds of the next generation of reporters.

Sheila Coronel

Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016, Margarita’s passion and talent go beyond gastronomy. The chef is also committed to working with local farmers and using indigenous ingredients in her restaurants, regularly visiting various provinces and meeting with organic food producers, which help in their livelihood and make her dishes taste better at the same time. More recently, Margarita put up Casa Artusi in Manila, the first and only offshore Asian campus of the prestigious Italian culinary school, offering workshops and classes on the art and science of home-style Italian cooking. She was also seminal in bringing Madrid Fusion to Manila, the first and only Asian edition of the prominent congress of renowned international chefs and showcase of the culinary ingredients and dishes of Spain and the Philippines.

Margarita Forés

The founder of SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting), a social enterprise that develops saltwater-powered lamps, became the talk of the town when U.S. President Barack Obama recognized her cost-effective, sustainable, and environment friendly invention at the APEC Summit in Manila last year. While mass production of the SALt lamps is still in the works, Aisa has been helping provide lamps to NGOs and foundations that are able to share and utilize them for poor communities. More recently, Aisa received the Tanging Bayani ng Kalikasan Award from the People Management Association of the Philippines and was one of the few to be invited to present at the Global Grand Challenge Awards of Singularity University, a showcase of the world’s most promising social impact tech companies held in August. Singularity University is a recognized think tank at Silicon Valley, helping accelerate worthy innovations to impact a greater number of people across the globe. SALt was presented under the energy track of the program, making Aisa and her brother Raphael, co-founder of their social enterprise, the first Filipinos to showcase in the category.


Aisa Mijeno

Geraldine had lived a relatively anonymous life in Spain for over two decades before coming home to the Philippines to enter politics. In May, Geraldine, a former journalist who has two master’s degrees and speaks five languages, ran to fill her mother Herminia’s Bataan congressional seat that had previously been occupied by her father, Antonino. She won with 62 percent of the vote.

“I made the decision in 2012 when my father was sick,” she says. “He pushed me to take on the challenge. He said to me, ‘You don’t have children, Geraldine, so what is the meaning of your life? Unless you help other people, what is the meaning of your life?’ So I thought, do I just want my life to be all about me? That would be sickening. So I decided to continue the family tradition of public service and politics.” What made Geraldine’s victory more interesting is the fact that she is the first openly transgender woman to be elected to Congress in this conservative Catholic nation.

She admits it was jarring, at first, to be in the spotlight for her gender, since in Spain she had lived as a woman just like any other. Many of her friends had not even been aware of her history as a biological male till the international news media picked up the story.

“At first I just wanted to continue the traditional work of my parents in Congress,” she says. “But then people began to look to me as a symbol of change. Looking back at my life, I was very fortunate. I was given the right chances, the right support from the people around me. I am who I am because of that support and that love. “I look at my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community who do not have that same kind of support. How can I turn a blind eye to that? It’s like betraying my own being,” she says. “I have a responsibility to my constituents of the first district of Bataan. But now by extension, my unofficial constituents are also the LGBT community, and I’m going to fight for their rights.


Geraldine Roman

The success, attitude, and greatness of an organization take root from its leader. Estée Lauder Companies country manager Mel Lerma has long been leading by example. She doesn’t make followers of her subordinates; rather, she is a leader who also creates leaders. “I value the people around me and I like it when others have better ideas or opinions other than my own. It tells me I have a strong team and that’s my ultimate fulfillment as a country manager,” she says. Every brand under the ELC group has seen continuous growth every year, thanks to her passion and vision for the various campaign executions and philanthropy efforts of brands like M.A.C, La Mer, Jo Malone London, Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Origins, and Clinique. With the evolution of the prestige beauty industry—from the rise of niche brands to the power of the consumer through social media—Mel embraces change and challenges with a positive outlook, paving the way for her company to thrive at a faster pace than household product industries and mass and direct channels. Under her, the group, composed of mostly women, is able to offer more than just actual products, but also experiences, education, and inspiring stories. “I’m lucky enough to work for a company that supports women to reach the top,” she adds. “We understand that women are crucial to our long-term growth and success. I want to encourage all women to be open to opportunities and to stay curious and on top of what’s happening in their industry."


Mel Lerma

To be able to juggle her work as producer for ARD German television, a contributing producer for CNN Hong Kong, the founding partner of Storytellers International, and the founder of ICanServe Foundation is an accomplishment in itself. October was a big one for Kara, a breast cancer survivor herself, with ICanServe’s main projects: its annual breast cancer awareness campaign and fundraiser, FashionCanServe, and OKtober, a nationwide simultaneous breast cancer awareness forum and a provider of free clinics. “My dream for the organization is for it to be irrelevant one day. I dream of the day when we talk of cancer as if it were a disease of the past that has been eradicated. A disease that can never ever make a comeback,” she says. Her video production company Storytellers International is also set to produce and run a video series for the Global Action for Cancer Patients on cancer survivors from all over the world who have received support from their governments, from early cancer detection all the way to cancer treatments, survivorship programs, and hospice care. “It’s a tool we want to give cancer patient advocates around the globe to use when convincing their governments to create a comprehensive cancer strategy,” she adds. “Our health system has many gaps in addressing cancer. That’s why one of the things am working on with other groups is the formation of a cancer coalition. We’re working on pushing for a Cancer Act so cancer patients have a fighting chance at life.” As a journalist, Kara believes in the power of storytelling, which she says can transform and transport. “It can save lives, it can build communities, it can topple governments, it can trigger wars, it can create a better planet. In my media work I feel good when I know I made even just one person’s life better, wiser, and sweeter.”


Kara Magsanoc Alikpala

Teddy Boy Locsin in his ANC column nailed it when he wrote that it was a disgrace to have put “a foundling on trial for the identity and nationality of the parents she couldn’t, by the definition of a foundling, know.” But Grace went through it anyway, smartly handling the propaganda and challenges thrown her way in the thick of the presidential campaign, coming out of it more graceful than ever. While she didn’t land the presidency, Grace continues to be a senator, and promises to carry on with her platforms on good governance, transparency, and poverty alleviation.


Grace Poe

Trickie, Lisa, and Dindin founded the country’s largest annual contemporary art fair, Art Fair Philippines, in the hopes of providing local artists a platform for their craft while encouraging greater awareness and appreciation for visual arts. Dindin believes the trio’s passion for arts has been key to the fair’s continuing success. “Love what you do, and have a clear vision,” she says as to what is necessary in completing projects. Trickie also believes achieving their goals requires passion, grit, and hard work. “A good cause is always worth fighting for—to hell with the naysayers,” she says. “You have to really love what you do so that going the extra mile will never feel like a stretch.”


Dindin Araneta, Trickie Lopa, and Lisa Periquet

After 13 years at Oxford University Press, where she rose through the ranks from editorial assistant to senior editor, Elda relocated to New York to join Penguin. Today she is editor, vice president, and publisher of the Penguin Classics line at Penguin Random House, one of the most prolific publishing houses in the world. Elda is busier than she has ever been, in charge of expanding projects within the Penguin group. One of Elda’s most important responsibilities is overseeing the 50 front-list titles that come out every year, and the publishing house’s backlist of over 1,600 titles.


This year, the ombudsman was a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, known as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, for “restoring faith in the rule of law” and her “moral courage and commitment to justice.” She was recently a hot topic after insisting that a second plunder case could be filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, accused of using Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds for personal gain and recently acquitted by the Supreme Court.

After founding Steps Dance Studio in 1994, Sofia has made it her life’s work to help “dancers who can get the high-level training they need to make it a career.” She says, “It is a joy for me to assist these kids pursue their dreams in dance and to use it professionally or just as an art form they enjoy. I believe that pursuing passion in the arts can be so fulfilling in one’s life.” While most of her days are spent at Steps, where she is managing director, Sofia finds that striking a balance between her duties to her family, students, and the rest of the community is key. “Being a good wife, mother, and director of my school are top priorities. Finding balance between these three priorities is my constant goal.”


Sofia Elizalde

A need to excel has driven Bea forward to the top of her career. Known internationally for her luxe accessories, the designer has the amazing ability to turn seemingly ordinary objects into works of art, bringing together different cultures in each of her exquisite pieces. Bea’s first pieces were launched by Firma in 2004, and a mere year later her designs were photographed for Vogue. Earlier this year, Bea was invited to be a part of an exclusive exhibit curated by the leading European accessory designers Premiere Classe. She was recently commissioned by the Shangri-La Group to craft a large-scale installation for the newly opened Shangri-La at the Fort.


Bea Valdes

Winning the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award for Emerging Artists is the latest feather on the lauded artist’s cap. Known for her large-scale brick paintings, installations, and sculptures, some of Maria’s works are currently on exhibit at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Australia. Her works presented at last year’s Art Basel Hong Kong were all acquired by known art institutions. This year she is at residency at Things That Can Happen in Hong Kong, and is set to have her first solo show in partnership with Silverlens at the Ibid Projects in London.


It’s an understatement to say that Leni Robredo had to go through a rough patch before officially winning the second-highest seat in government. But then we’re talking about the woman who has carved a name beyond just being the widow of former Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, working earnestly as representative at the 16th Congress with over 100 bills filed (with 24 of them as the principal author) in just a span of two years. “From 1 percent to Vice President,” as they would say, Leni’s numbers continuously rose up in the pre-election surveys, thanks to her advocacy-driven campaign that banked on both her commendable performance as a legislator and her apparent and genuine simplicity that captivated hearts and converted voters. Apart from holding the chairmanship of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the vice president is also set to pursue antipoverty, government transparency, and pro-human rights projects throughout her term.


Leni Robredo

Reina trained to be an astrophysicist in Italy and the U.S., studying the galaxies first at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste then as a Ph.D. student at Princeton University and later as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. At 26, she made headlines across the globe for confirming Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity on a grander scale. While the theory has been proven with previous studies based just on the solar system, Reina and her team at Princeton invented a new astronomical measurement to prove the theory across galaxies—a great feat in the scientific community. She also led her team in expanding knowledge on the existence of Dark Energy, a mysterious force greater than gravity, theorized to be the force that accelerates the expansion of the universe. After eight years of living abroad, she had “an early mid-life crisis,” she says, and decided to come home to the Philippines two years ago while she was still young rather than for retirement much later. “I’m currently working on a paper, which I hope will be the first of many, on data science research relevant to the Philippine context. The ultimate dream is to see a better nation, and have my part in building it.” Now a data scientist, she is able to still do what she loves while also giving back to and teaching in her homeland.


Reina Reyes

Behind many of the most memorable ads of our time (remember that “Suportahan Taka” telecoms television commercial or that “Ang Gaan ng Feeling” commercial with the young Bianca Elizalde?) is creative force Merlee Cruz Jayme, an advertising veteran who worked her way up the ranks in some of the country’s top agencies before putting up her own, DM9 Jayme Syfu. Her agency recently merged with a Japanese company and became DentsuJaymeSyfu, where she is now chairmom and chief creative officer, overseeing around 90 creatives. Merlee’s agencies have won various awards for her works that inspire, move, and affect people’s live in many ways. The most prestigious so far was the 2013 Cannes Lion Grand Prix award, the biggest in the global advertising realm, for a campaign with Smart Communications that provided e-book readers that used old SIM cards for public school students. At a recent workshop on creativity with a purpose at Summit Media, Merlee reiterated the importance of teamwork, passion, and allowing everyone in her team to emerge as leaders of perfect pitches and ace campaigns.


Merlee Jaymee

At 15, Alex founded Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat Youth Council, where she raised funds and took the lead in building homes for thousands of poor Filipinos. At 22, she established MovEd Foundation, which helps provide quality education to young Filipinos in depressed communities around the country. A year later she became the youngest and the first Filipino to be awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Award and the International Fundraising Congress Choice Award at the Global Awards for Fundraising in Amsterdam. “Beyond the causes that I support and advocate for, I always say that my greater advocacy is to spread the word and show others that it doesn’t take much to make a move and help out,” she says. “It’s my fervent prayer that through the work that I do and in the way I live my life that I’m able to show others that it’s worthwhile to share a part of yourself and your time with others, most especially those who need it most.”


Alex Eduque

After 20 years of working abroad—from being an advertising executive at BBDO in New York, working in Hong Kong and Singapore to establishing wellness enterprises in California—Marie decided to move back home, take a chance at a new life, live on a farm, and do something that gives back. After a period of developing herself in what she calls her very own Eat, Pray, Love experience, shoring up her inner reserves, and developing a thriving spiritual life, she met Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto and discovered the GK Enchanted Farm. “I immediately recognized in him a hope for our country, a visionary whose audacious dream I wanted to be a part of. ‘I want in,’ I said to myself,” she recalls. Marie soon established her own social enterprise, CalaBoo Creamerry, which seeks to develop the carabao dairy industry to benefit small-hold farmers. Marie took over an “abandoned” enterprise that made kesong puti and flavored carabao milk; but was determined to do things differently: Purvey premium, sophisticated, carabao dairy products that are beyond typical “provincial” offerings. “I wanted aged cheeses similar to what the Europeans produced, yogurts, and glorious butter,” she says. Marie now lives at GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, where she works, plays, and thrives with the GK community, local and foreign staff, interns, and volunteers, and visitors from all corners of the world practically 24/7. As a resident and a management team member, she’s also helping expand the platform of GK Enchanted Farm as the first of 25 Farm Village Universities in the country that hopes to teach rural, bright children of farmers and tricycle drivers. Their mission is to raise 500,000 global social entrepreneurs. “It’s fulfilling to be exactly where I need to be, know that I am home at last in a place where I can be of service in a meaningful way, where my presence has value, and is actually needed. That I am among my brothers and sisters, and when I see them in their glorious Filipinoness: fiercely loyal, openly loving, generous, thoughtful, faithful and fearless, my heart balloons and I feel the familiar feelings of pride and gratefulness for being Filipino.”


Marie Cavosora

The model, mom of three, and Glam-O-Mamas co-founder recently launched her redesigned and rebranded eponymous website, focusing on green living, wellness, nourishment, and motherhood. “It’s time to live a better, kinder, greener life, and it’s within your power to make the change,” she says of her inspiration for the new portal. To make health and wellbeing more accessible to her readers, she’s partnered with brands and companies that share the same vision in helping more people make the switch to healthier, greener lifestyle alternatives from food and fitness to beauty and health.


Amanda Griffin Jacob

Pia is the perfect example of someone who refuses to quit. After three attempts, she finally won Binibining Pilipinas in 2015, and then went on to represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe contest. With her charm and radiant beauty, Pia won the competition, being crowned the 63rd Miss Universe, and the third Filipina to hold the crown. Since her victory, Pia has kept incredibly busy this year. So far in 2016 she has visited Indonesia, the United States, Canada, Peru, and Ecuador for various charity works. In Ecuador, she helped the victims of the most recent earthquake that took the lives of 600 people. She has also represented the Philippines at a high-level United Nations meeting addressing the HIV/ AIDS epidemic.


Pia Wurtzbach

Josie may be best known for having built a global fashion brand, one that has grown into an empire since its founding in 1977. But behind the glitz and glamour of the fashion world, Josie strived to give back to her homeland, whether it’s through employing Filipino craftsmen, embroiderers, and sewers for her collections, or by helping talented Filipino artists acquire study grants through the Asian Cultural Council, where she sits on the board. Fifty percent of all Natori production is based in the Philippines as her way of making a difference and providing livelihood to more Filipinos. The founder and CEO of the Natori Company is also a board member of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Women in Need, and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines.


Josie Natori

This year, SM Group’s Tessie Sy Coson made it again to Forbes’ list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Asia. The vice chairperson of the SM Investments Corporation and the chairperson of BDO, the country’s largest bank, is usually referred to as her father Henry Sy’s heir apparent. With her outstanding performance throughout the years (SM’s retail and banking groups have been at their most profitable under her leadership), the title is with merit. In an interview with Philippine Star’s lifestyle editor Millet Mananquil, she talked about how challenges and pressure motivate her, and the best lessons she has learned from her father. “When you build a mall, you must always have room for expansion for the next five years, considering population growth and responding to retail trends. Go forth and multiply—that is his rule,” she told Mananquil.

Tessie Sy Coson

Everyone grew up with National Book Store, founded by Socorro “Nanay Coring” Ramos in the 1930s. Living up to its name, it remains the country’s largest bookstore chain with over 200 branches across the Philippines. From what began as a little nook that sold books and school supplies over a counter, the group now has subsidiaries such as Powerbooks, a specialty bookstore in the Philippines, and Metrobooks, another bookstore based in Hong Kong. It also operates its own publishing house, Anvil.

Soccoro Ramos

The granddaughter of National Book Store founder Socorro Ramos, Xandra is the managing director, overseeing the entire bookstore operations, managing its over 2,500 employees, attending trade fairs around the world, and passionately finding more ways to encourage Filipinos to read. Under her leadership, National Book Store has succeeded in bringing in international book authors to Manila for workshops, interviews, and book fairs in recent years. She spearheads the Philippine Literary Festival, an annual convention that brings together awardwinning authors, publishers, readers, illustrators, and teachers to promote a stronger reading culture.

Xandra Ramos Padilla

The Unilever executive has spent most of her career in the same company, moving up the ranks, from management trainee to vice president for personal care in her 24 years with Unilever. Unilever has become the Philippines’ leading personal care company. She has come up with ways of bringing down costs to make basic necessities more affordable for the Filipino consumer and led countless efforts in giving back to various communities through her brands with the goal of improving the lives of more Filipinos in the long run.

Gina Lorenzana

Internationally, Margie might be best known for winning the Miss Universe beauty pageant crown. After her reign, Margie went on to seek higher education in England, the U.S., and the Philippines, and after several successful business ventures, she has since focused on her civic duties. Among her advocacies is the Mindanao Commission on Women Organization, where she is a peace advocate and civic worker. She also serves the impoverished areas of the Philippines as an ambassador-trustee of Habitat for Humanity Philippines. A patron of the arts, Margie engaged her childhood passion for dance by supporting performers and raising funds for Ballet Philippines, where she is currently president.

Margie Moran Floirendo

Anya was recently awarded the special jury prize at the APEC Business Efficiency and Success Target Awards for her work with Anthill, a social enterprise she founded in 2010 that makes hand-loomed fabrics for apparel and accessories in partnership with beneficiary communities in Cebu, Abra, and Bukidnon, where she also helps develop indigenous communities through skills and business training.

Anya Lim

Risa’s love for public service can be traced back to her college years at Ateneo de Manila University, where she was an active member of the student council that led several campaigns against Martial Law and advocated for peace and justice within marginalized communities. She then continued to serve her country from 2004 to 2010 as a representative of Akbayan in the House of Representatives. Third time’s the charm for Risa, who finally won a seat in the Senate after two failed attempts. The new senator is a known supporter of women’s and children’s rights and an advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill.

Risa Hontiveros

The general manager of Louis Vuitton Guam, Saipan, and the Philippines, Rhea believes that curiosity and having a growth mindset are the keys to successful career. Rhea has committed her life to working for companies that she believes in and manages brands that she is personally passionate about. Like many women leaders, Rhea is constantly trying to find the perfect balance between her work and her personal life. She hopes that her efforts and success will “be a source of encouragement to fellow working moms,” and that her passion and curiosity will show her “team that we are capable of achieving anything as long as we put in the work and never give up.” Besides advancing her career, Rhea also strives to raise her daughters “to be good and empowered women who will truly make the world a better place.”

Rhea De Vera Aguirre

Hidilyn has been training for the world stage since her time in the Universidad de Zamboanga: At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Hidilyn was the youngest competitor in the 58-kilogram category. Before that she won her first bronze medal in the SEA Games in Thailand in 2007. This year, she competed again on the biggest athletic world stage, and she did not disappoint. At the recently concluded 2016 Rio Olympics, Hidilyn competed against the best weightlifters in the 53-kilogram weight division. It was in this category that she won a silver medal, the Philippine’s first medal in the last 20 years. She continues to serve the country in the Philippine Air Force, recently being promoted to Airwoman First Class.

Hidilyn Diaz

The Rustan’s chairman and CEO may be credited for bringing in countless international retail brands to the luxury department store for decades now, but she has also been a staunch supporter of quality local products and Filipino craftsmanship. This year, she organized a grand exhibit in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and Arts that showcased handcrafted fabrics and accessoriess made by indigenous weavers and embroiderers of the Bagobo tribe and of the Basey Village in Samar. The luxury department store is committed to helping these communities by providing them a venue to showcase and sell these creations.

As co-founder of Silverlens, Isa has been instrumental in establishing photography as a collected medium in the country. She continues to raise the bar for curating contemporary art exhibits, and has helped provide artists such as Maria Taniguchi and Wawi Navarroza with exposure for their work. As an artist Isa’s work has been celebrated worldwide, from the UNESCO House in Paris to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Metropolitan Museum in Manila. She recently donated her Filipinas Series to the National Museum as part of its permanent collection.


Isa Lorenzo

Stella recently celebrated her 20th anniversary with the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world, where she was promoted to principal dancer in 2015 after 14 years as a soloist. She is the first Filipino-American principal dancer in the Theatre’s history. Stella’s 20th year was celebrated by ABT with her debut as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty at the Metropolitan Opera House. The rest of her plans this year include a trip to Brazil for three performances in Manaus; last month, she reprised her roles as Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at the Opera Bastille in Paris.


Stella Abrera
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Nicole Limos Morales
Contributing Beauty Editor
Nicole is the former managing editor of Town&Country. After working as features editor and beauty editor of the title’s print edition for 6 years, she helped launch in 2016, creating new concepts and story formats, analyzing data, and mastering digital audiences—establishing the title to become the Philippines’ leading luxury lifestyle website. She left her full-time position in 2019 to focus on family life, while carrying on writing beauty content for T&C as a contributing editor. “I think what’s amazing about beauty is that in its arena, you can really only be a skeptic for so long,” she says. “There will always be a product that will make you believe.”
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Anton L. Delgado
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