We give you 32 women who have made great strides in changing the cultural spectrum—from business and finance, to arts, public service, sports, education, technology, and philanthropy. They are shining examples, that yes, a woman can

On the cover of our women’s issue this April is the first-ever Filipino Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa, a champion of responsible journalism, safeguarding press freedom and holding power to account. The award-winning author-activist reveals her journey to the world’s most prestigious accolade in an exclusive episode of Tatler Talks, hosted by Karen Davila.

Read more: Maria Ressa on Responsible Journalism, Having a Sense of Purpose, and Holding Power to Account

We listed other inspiring women in the country for you to know better and got their insights on the impact of the Filipinas in the shaping of our nation in this day and age:

Read also: The Evolution of Maria Clara: Who are the Current Filipinas of Today?

Leni Robredo

Vice President, Republic of the Philippines

“I am told that one of the reasons why some people will not vote for me for President is because I am a woman,” relates the Philippine Vice President. No stranger to the obstacles Filipinas still face today, the resolute 2022 presidential candidate stands tall as the only woman in the running for the nation’s highest office—and if successful, she’ll be installed as the country’s third female President.

Known to never run away from a challenge, her industry is well documented. Vice President Leni Robredo helmed her office’s flagship anti-poverty programme, Angat Buhay. From providing fisherfolk with boats in Agutaya to establishing a weaving centre for Yakan weavers in Lamitan City, the programme addresses the needs of communities all over the country—all on a modest budget.

Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic head-on, she launched free shuttle services that enabled travel to and from work during the lockdowns. Medical front-liners were offered dormitories, preventing infections from hospitals to households. Early on, the OVP (Office of the Vice President) introduced PPEs by local tailors, thus augmenting their livelihoods, and offered medical teleconsultation services, Covid-19 vaccines, and antigen testing, all free of charge for the public.

“The OVP responds quickly to any crisis—the Marawi siege, the drug war, natural disasters, the pandemic,” beams the proud Bicolana. “Women can lead and govern.” Throughout her near six-year run as the nation’s 14th Vice President, her strength of character and commitment to the Filipino people have never wavered, virtues that strengthen her in any endeavour. “Never give up and believe in yourselves,” she proclaims. “The last man standing can always be a woman.”

Read more: Leni Robredo: Philippine Vice President Mounts an Unprecedented Campaign

Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski

Executive Board Member, International Olympic Committee

“Life is not a competition, but about humbly being the best you can be and using all the God-given talents you have been blessed with to do your part,” says the equestrienne. Not quite the spirit of an athlete who has competed internationally and whose long list of achievements, including being the first Asian woman to be elected on the International Olympic Committee Executive Board, has inspired many. Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski was named to the Olympic post after she bagged the gold at the Asian Games in Equestrian. On that achievement, she says, “I am proud to have been an athlete who represented the Philippines.” She also dedicates her success to her support system, her family.

Not many women have had the opportunity she’s been handed now. But she believes this will continue to change once other achievers express their gratitude by “[performing] responsibilities in a way that would open more doors for other deserving women”.

She takes immense pride in being a Filipina “because we carry unique traits that bring us admiration and respect, not just at home but all over the world”. Ask her, however, for what she cherishes most, and she will say, “Ultimately, the greatest blessing a man or a woman can have in life is peace of mind and heart. And that is a matter of faith.”

Read more: In Conversation With Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski

Florina "Nina" Capistrano-Baker

Art Historian

Since 1967, the Ayala Museum has vividly celebrated Filipino artistry and heritage. This culture can be credited to the museum’s former director, who left a mark on the institution.

Beyond shepherding the construction of the modern building that houses the museum today, Dr Florina “Nina” Capistrano-Baker oversaw the permanent installation of Philippine pre-colonial gold. By pursuing collaborations with respected names globally, she elevated the museum’s international profile, granting its staff opportunities for experience, training and fellowships abroad.

“The most satisfying accomplishment for me is nurturing successful, motivated, scholarly and professional ‘children’ and raising two kids, successful and motivated daughters,” says the New York-based consulting curator. This ambition to empower young professionals is a long-standing passion for Capistrano-Baker, having led a “team of inspiring, gifted young staff” to pioneer Museo ng Maynila in 1998.

She is also an esteemed author and editor, with works published by the Metropolitan Museum, Yale University Press, etc. Her acclaimed scholarly work has been supported by grants from the J Paul Getty Trust, Columbia University, and countless others, with exhibitions displayed at the Asia Society Museum and the Ayala Museum. “Ars longa, vita brevis,” she attests, “Art is long, life is short.”

Read also: A New Era Begins for Ayala Museum and Filipinas Heritage Library

Berna Romulo Puyat

Secretary, Department of Tourism

“My role has evolved from promoting the best our country offers to steering a battered industry towards sustained recovery,” the beautiful Tourism Secretary says.

Since her appointment in 2018, Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat has waded through a global pandemic that caught the tourism industry in a tight position. Still, she showed passion and strong leadership. “Our strategies focus directly on creating a culture of sustainable tourism; the pandemic has only strengthened its significance.

“The core of the DOT’s recovery programme is the Tourism Response and Recovery Plan, which aims to protect tourism workers and businesses, and develop programmes that will make the industry more sustainable, resilient and inclusive.”

As a woman today, she says: “I am proud of how far we’ve come in the fight for equality and how much we’ve contributed to society. We are shaping the present world and will continue to do so for the next generations. As we continue to face hurdles along the way, it is important to value ourselves based on our skills, intellectual abilities, potential and dignity as human beings. If we believe in ourselves, we can also make other women believe in themselves. When we believe together, we have the power to make change happen.”

Read more: Berna Romulo Puyat is a Woman on a Mission

Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire

Undersecretary, Department of Health

Everyone looks to the Department of Health (DOH) to provide timely and accurate information about emerging infectious diseases. On its frontlines are people like this Health Undersecretary who has been dedicating much of her time facing people, analysing and disseminating data primarily on the feared Covid-19.

USec Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire is no stranger to bad news and crass remarks from strangers. However, the public health official understands that her duty goes beyond public image. “I need to uphold transparency and report what is true and evidence-based even if it will not always make people happy,” she says. “My job is to call a spade a spade.”

She shares that even in the modern age, women still face issues brought about by gender-based assumptions. “There is still this stigma that women and men are not equals. This is especially so in my field where there is immense pressure to deliver all the time; but it has been proven that women get the job done, sometimes even better than others.”

Through all this, Vergeire remains a glaring indication that women can thrive in spaces where the world doesn’t expect them to be. “I believe that data plays a vital role in decision-making, as every rule, protocol and policy our leaders make must always be based on facts and evidence.”

Read more: Tatler Heroes: Filipinos Leading the Fight Against Covid-19

Alice Eduardo

President and CEO, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corporation

As a boss woman, she acknowledges the challenges of working with men in the boardroom and on the field. However, in the same oft male-dominated industry, she has found her allies and mentors among her peers. “I have earned the respect of my competitors with my bullish moves. I have advised many young entrepreneurs and reminded them that ‘success knows no gender’,” the dynamo behind the successful Sta Elena Construction and Development Corporation proudly shares. Helming a company with multi-million vital projects that include SM Mall of Asia Complex and a large part of Entertainment City, road expansion for NLEX and SCTEX and a lot more, Alice Eduardo is undoubtedly a woman of steel.

On top of these achievements, her team has also worked on power plants built in the unique context of helping a potential crisis. “For a developing country on a growth trajectory such as the Philippines, a continuous, reliable energy supply is a must,” she explains. Her company has been entrusted with constructing at least three natural gas-fired power plants of the Lopez Group’s First Gas in Batangas: the 1000MW Sta Rita; 500MW San Lorenzo; and the 450MW San Gabriel. In all these projects, Santa Elena had worked closely with leading worldwide engineering firms: German Siemens, British Balfour Beatty and Dutch Ballast Nedam. “Latest estimate for the Philippines’ additional energy requirements through 2030 is over 17,000MW. All the infrastructure and commercial flagship projects we have helped build are in the spirit of nation-building,” she adds.

Read more: A Tour Inside Alice Eduardo's New Home, Her 'Sanctuary of Peace'

In terms of rated capacity, the 1000MW Sta Rita is the largest. Still, in terms of scope, it has to be state of the art 450MW San Gabriel Flex plant for which Santa Elena designed and built the world’s second-largest installation of GRP pipes spanning 1.1 kilometres under the sea and 1.4 kilometres buried on the ground, as well as the second-largest offshore pipe for power plant cooling water system in the world. “I am proud to say that Santa Elena achieved these in record fashion, including attaining six million safe man-hours peaking at 6000 workers.”

Beyond these feats, Eduardo also has a golden heart. Her other philanthropy work includes building 100 homes for displaced victims of Yolanda and homes for Habitat for Humanity and building San Agustin Parish Church and other churches in her hometown Nueva Ecija. She has also helped soldiers affected by the war in Marawi rebuild their lives. Other charity organisations she supports are Child Protection Network, Red Cross Charity, Go Negosyo for young and aspiring entrepreneurs, Asian Cultural Council for Young Artist, Young Musician Development Organisation, Philippine Cancer Society, Caritas Manila, Tuloy Foundation as a home for the homeless, specifically street children and other foundations. There are, for instance, young scholars whose education she subsidises.

With her perseverance, grit and grace, Eduardo has proven that gender is not an issue in this line of work. “We have to make sure that the world we are in knows that gender is not a factor in delivering a job well done. Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams,” she tells the women of today.

Read more: Alice Eduardo Talks About Living Life to the Fullest Amidst the Demands of Profession

Tina Colayco

President, Metropolitan Museum of Manila; Founding Director, ArtPostAsia, Inc

This former dean of the UP College of Fine Arts and founder of publishing company ArtPostAsia Inc continues to share her passion for Philippine arts and culture. From teaching arts, publishing books, curating exhibitions and opening the doors for Filipino artists to the international stage, Tina Colayco forged bold directions for the flourishing of local arts appreciation.

On her watch as the current president of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, even during the pandemic, the MET Museum closed ranks with its stakeholders and the community in navigating uncharted waters—initiating and implementing hybrid exhibitions, co-organising an international museum conference, and rallying artists, curators and the art and cultural sector in supporting and helping one another with regular webinars and online workshops.

“Women today continue to break through the proverbial glass ceiling,” Colayco said, talking about her insights on today’s Filipina. “Women have to work harder: juggling home, family and career, constantly asserting themselves and proving their mettle. Today, the Filipina has taken on this challenge and such barriers with a lot of strength, courage, and dignity on every front.”

Read more: The State of the Philippine Art Scene During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Hidilyn Diaz

Olympic gold medallist in Weightlifting

The Olympics is no place for dry eyes, such as that golden moment for weightlifting champion Hidilyn Francisco Diaz. Teary and elated, she carefully let go of the 55-kilogramme dumbbell she lifted on July 26, 2022. That moment she knew she had just become the first Filipina who was coming home with an Olympic gold medal.

Almost a year later, Diaz remains emboldened by her achievement. What empowers her most is that a woman like herself had made such a significant mark in a pseudo-patriarchal society. “Despite our macho society, women have shown excellence and compassion,” she says in dialogue with Tatler.

She likened her achievement to the accomplishments of other women around the globe, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “Women in top positions in government, business, culture, media, entertainment and even sports are the best. Truly, the future is women,” she says.

The Olympic champion believes that by supporting each other, women truly mould a society where female empowerment is no longer a mere cause but a norm. “[Let us] believe in ourselves and support each other. With our faith in God, our country and our families, we shall be the force of light and love that will conquer darkness. Let us continue to give hope and inspiration to the Filipinos,” she says.

Read more: Hidilyn Diaz on Her Tough Road to Claim the Philippines' First Olympic Gold

Emma Marcha Imperial

Chairwoman and CEO, Imperial Homes Group of Companies; Chairwoman and Founding Director, Proptech Consortium of the Philippines

Her vision is clear: solar-powered, affordable housing. Her methodology was tried and tested: a combination of solar technology and high-performance concrete panels—her mission-focused: to empower Filipinos into becoming “prosumers” or producers/consumers of electricity.

On this path for almost ten years now, Emma Marcha Imperial has convinced partners to take the journey with her. Such as the IFC/World Bank Group who, which chose Imperial Homes to participate in the Building Resilience Index (BRI) pilot launch as a model for affordable housing in the world.

She moves into a male-dominated world, but womanhood is the core of her purpose. “Climate change displaced 80 per cent more women than men. As an advocate of climate change action, I help transform women’s lives towards sustainable development in their careers,” she says.

Data from her solar-powered resilient housing communities show that many women were able to start home-based businesses from the electricity cost savings, augmenting their family income.

She is empowered with her mission to empower; she would like to see more women leading climate change advocacies, working together to help other women acquire leadership capability and take the necessary steps to bridge the gender gap and inequities.

Jaclyn Jose

Actor

She has been portraying women from all walks of life. From the drug-dependent Myrna in Chito Roño’s Private Show to the selfless mother Magda in Wenn Deramas’ Mula Sa Puso and a mother of a billiard genius in the upcoming primetime series Bolera—she’s done it all.

Of all her roles to date, Jaclyn Jose is most proud of the titular character of the Palme d’Or-nominated film of Brilliante Mendoza, Ma’ Rosa. The movie, a microscopic look at the current infamous war on drugs and the rippling effects of deep-seated corruption on impoverished families, won for her the Best Actress award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. “Winning the award was the least in my mind while doing Ma’ Rosa. I knew it had a chance, but I was there for the ride.”

Growing up in a family of mostly women, the observant Jane [her real name] finds joy and fulfilment in portraying women in various life situations. Uncomfortable with sensitive roles, she soon realised how important they were as eye-openers for a society drenched in gender inequality. It was unplanned that she ended up in these roles throughout her career, though she has nothing but gratitude to the filmmakers who have trusted her. “I am doing these roles, not for the prestige but because these are real people who need help from the government or any institution.”

Read also: Who are the Queens of Philippine Cinema? 9 Veteran Actresses You Should Know

Robina Gokongwei-Pe

President & CEO, Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc

“Very often, [women’s] worst critics are their inner saboteurs that limit who they can be,” says the head of Robinson’s retail empire. She attended the University of the Philippines Diliman before entering New York University in 1984. She helms multiple organisations and is a JG Summit Holdings Inc and Cebu Air Inc director. She also serves as a trustee in institutions such as the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation Inc, the Immaculate Conception Academy Scholarship Fund and the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation.

As a lady who’s successfully climbed the corporate ladder, Robina Gokongwei-Pe is doubtless familiar with the challenges that besiege women in the industry. Yet, she also acknowledges women’s underlying restrictions in their own homes. “The corporate culture in the Philippines is a little better because we have many women in leadership positions and have wonderful careers,” she states. “However, some households are also traditional when it comes to the home dynamics and what is expected of women. For example, it’s very challenging to be a mother, even more so to be a working mother because you want to succeed in your career, and at the same time succeed in raising good children.”

She points out that every move a woman may make is often faced with scrutiny. “We should all just give women a break and encourage them to do whatever they choose as long as it benefits society,” she points out.

For herself, she’s chosen a path that’s both true to her entrepreneurial vocation and relevant to the times. Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc, which owns multiple drugstore name brands such as Southstar Drug, The Generics Pharmacy and Rose Pharmacy, is a proud participant of the Resbakuna sa Botika programme of the Department of Health, which chooses selected drugstore locations as Covid-19 vaccination sites. Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc also organises a farm-to-table programme that supports smallholder farmers by selling fresh produce in the corporation’s supermarket segment. Now fresh produce from local farmers can be readily available in multiple branches of Robinsons Supermarket, The Marketplace, Shopwise and Robinsons Easymart. “As female leaders, I believe it’s our job to create a safe environment that allows everyone to succeed, regardless of gender,” she declares.

Interestingly enough, Gokongwei-Pe seems to be a passionate advocate for the underdogs. A basketball fan, she and her company have been supportive of her alma mater’s collegiate team for over a decade now. “[We have been supportive] of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team since 2010 even when they had zero wins out of 14 games,” she says. “Finally, in 2018, they reached the finals after 32 years.” Only goes to show, it seems, that aside from her vocations, Gokongwei-Pe also knows how to enjoy a good show—and some friendly competition. “Have fun,” she encourages laughingly. “Support the UP men’s basketball team.”

Read also: The Life and Times of Taipan and Philanthropist John Gokongwei Jnr

Jessica Soho

Newscaster and TV Host, GMA Network Inc

With just sheer guts, this University of the Philippines alumna applied for a job with GMA Network Inc 37 years ago and climbed the news ladder one step at a time. Almost four decades later, she is reaping the fruits of hard work with numerous awards. “[I] survived the most dangerous assignments and the toughest interviews,” Jessica Soho says. The award-winning news programme State of the Nation and Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, are among her popular shows.

She is also the first Filipina recipient of the highly acclaimed George Foster Peabody Award—an accolade considered the Oscars of broadcast journalism—for her documentaries titled Kidney for Sale and Kamao. Recently, she hosted the highly praised three-hour special, The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews.

Soho says she owes it to her mentors, who guided her through the labyrinths of the industry. “They mentored and gave me breaks and, occasionally, corrected and forgave my mistakes,” she reminisces. To pay them forward, she took on the challenging role of leading the news organisation in 2003. “I’ve rounded off my circle. I have paid my dues.”

On gender equality, the broadcaster says, “The world is not fair to women, and yet so much is expected from us! So let us not allow them to divide us and to treat us any less. Find and use our voice and do bold things”.

Read also: Must-Watch Socio-Political and Historical Documentary Films

Doris Magsaysay Ho

President and CEO, A Magsaysay Inc

Continuing the legacy of her father and grandfather, she took the reins of the family business and pushed it to greater heights. The company expanded from ship owning and logistics to touch on other industries like hospitality and tourism, education, human resource management, healthcare, oil and gas, and specialised engineering and trade.

Doris Magsaysay Ho’s sharp business acumen and eye for growth earned her the Order of Gawad Mabini with the rank of Commander, among other numerous awards, while raising three children.

Her other interests include Philippine culture. She chairs the Asia Society Philippines, which has published Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, of which she is most proud.

“I think women are super-beings who can handle family, home management, office/business management, and social life simultaneously,” she said. “I salute the women who care for their children and homes for undertaking the most difficult jobs. For women in the entrepreneurial workplace, I say ‘be yourself. Don’t worry when your passion is interpreted as ‘emotional’, your strength is called ‘bitchiness’, or your idealism is called ‘airy-fairy’. Women have the qualities that are important for a more caring and inclusive world today.”

Read also: 25 Filipina Power Women to Know

Karen Davila

Broadcast Journalist and Digital Content Creator, ABS-CBN

Over the last 28 years, this multi-awarded broadcast journalist has added some of the most prestigious accolades under her belt, including the much-coveted TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) Awards for Broadcasting in 2008 and TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) Award for Broadcasting in 2013. Last year, she was also recognised as the National Winner of the Asian Academy Creative Awards for Best News or Current Affairs Presenter. Today, besides anchoring Headstart and TV Patrol on different ABS-CBN platforms, Karen Davila has strengthened her digital presence with her own YouTube channel with almost 1M subscribers, The Karen Davila podcast series, and her social media accounts with such impressive following on Instagram and Twitter.

Davila would use her voice for the right reasons, as seen in her involvement in Habitat for Humanity and World Vision, advocating issues concerning women and children in the last decade.

She believes it is a fantastic time to be a woman today amid social and professional challenges. Despite these roadblocks, she is confident that “we can only elevate women if we support and empower each other. We lose nothing by raising another woman. Help each other. That’s true power”.

Read more: Karen Davila on Controversial Interviews, Pandemic Pivots, and Why She is on Top of the Game

Joy Belmonte

Mayor, Quezon City

The political arena has long been male-dominated, but women like her prove that it needn’t be so. Some of her proudest projects involve the security of women, children and those in the LGBTQIA+ community. The Quezon City Protection Center for Victim-Survivors of Gender-Based Violence and Abuse gives victims access to a lawyer, doctor, social worker, police officer and councillor under one roof. Meanwhile, the Bahay Kanlungan programme provides temporary shelter to gender-based violence and abuse victims. Women detained in Camp Karingal can also get involved with the No Woman Left Behind project, which gives them a chance to finish their education while detained.

“Although there are many more women politicians now than in the past, equality in terms of political participation, for the most part, eludes women,” says Mayor Joy Belmonte. Politics, which is highly time-consuming, may often interfere with the traditional role of women as caregivers. “It prevents them from entering the political arena for fear of being judged or out of guilt because of cultural norms.”

It is essential for Belmonte to consciously combat and transcend gender stereotypes that are often ingrained in our culture. “Women must lift each other,” she reminds us because even memes or “harmless jokes” can be indirectly harmful.

Lynette Ortiz

Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank Philippines

Standard Chartered Bank has witnessed the Philippines’ notable development since it was established in 1872. And since 2016, the first Filipina CEO had been given the opportunity to steer the bank towards greater success.

CEO Lynette V Ortiz has more than 30 years of extensive experience in banking, and has taken senior roles in foreign and local financial institutions in the past.

It did not take long until Ortiz’s efforts in setting remarkable corporate commitments and inclusive leadership were recognised. She was named UN Women 2021 Philippine Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards Champion for Leadership Commitment. “I am thankful for the recognition of my commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment,” says Ortiz.

Bias is one of the challenges women in the industry face that she wishes to help overcome. “While women are making great strides and shattering the proverbial glass ceiling, we continue to be under represented in boards, top management and specific industries [such as] finance, science, technology. Disabusing gender bias and leaning in for that seat in the table continue to be a struggle for many. Working on institutionalising policies that foster diversity and inclusion, and levelling the playing field is also critical. Both sides need to work hand in hand.”

The CEO keeps busy outside the company as a career coach for college students and young professionals with the Filipina CEO Circle as well as a mentor in the bank’s Mentoring Programme for colleagues. She encourages women to take the driver’s seat in one’s career.

She relates, “Know your stuff, work hard and assert. Anything worthwhile takes a long time. Be generous–with your time, talent, resources and prioritise to lift others up.”

Loren Legarda

Representative, Lone District of Antique; Deputy Speaker of the Lower House and three-term Senator

She is tenacious when she is focused on something, especially if it has to do with her many worthwhile advocacies such as climate change, Philippine art and indigenous culture. She will ask politely, even demurely, but her dogged persistence will render a negative answer an unviable option. Case in point, not only bringing back Philippine participation to the prestigious Venice Biennale but securing for the country a prime location for its exhibition.

In her 20 years in public service, Loren Legarda, a three-term senator, can show many achievements. Among the initiatives she is most proud of include those focused on livelihood, employment and the promotion of MSMEs; the law providing free tuition to students in state and local universities and colleges and vocational institutions while giving tertiary education subsidies; and affordable healthcare.

She laments continued gender inequality even as the World Economic Forum recognised the Philippines as the best performing Asian country in terms of closing gaps. The Filipina’s inherent characteristics of resilience, persistence, resourcefulness and creativity inspire this women’s rights advocate. To them, she promises to “continue pushing for legislation and promoting programmes providing long-term solutions to alleviate poverty while allowing to maximise your capabilities and achieve your full potential”.

Read more: Loren Legarda Talks About Her Accomplishments as a Politician and Advocate

Vicki Belo

Founder, Belo Group of Companies; Medical Director, Belo Medical Group

This beauty pioneer has become a household name. Her eponymous medical group has been credited for revolutionising the local aesthetics and dermatological industry—though, of course, her many international accolades are not any less impressive.

Dr Vicki Belo reveals that meaningful introspection has been imperative in conquering this male-dominated field. “To all the women out there, when you’re considering a new venture, ask yourself: what is it that you are most happy doing? Because if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! Most of all, do glorify the Lord. Be humble and be grateful. There’ll always be obstacles; it’s meant for your good.”

Acting on such a philosophy, Belo forged her path in dermatology, and since the late Eighties, she has travelled tirelessly around the globe to bring the best and the latest practices into the country. She’s a regular at major beauty capitals—from the United States to Russia, Brazil and France—and was the first to bring skin lasers, Botox, fillers, threads, tumescent liposuction techniques and more into the country. Clients worldwide would fly here for a consultation with or for a procedure by Belo.

“Our battle cry is ‘Beauty for All’. I [imagine] a world where everyone is good-looking, with flawless skin and a great body. This is the unfailing goal of Belo Medical Group.”

Read more: What Does Beauty Mean to Rhian Ramos and Dr Vicki Belo

Cherrie Atilano

Founding Farmer, President and CEO, AGREA

She certainly walks her talk. Through her outfit Agrea, she supports Philippine agriculture systems and farmers and strives to create the first replicable one-island economy with zero hunger, waste and insufficiencies.

Cherrie Atilano is also most proud of her GrowHer and FORWARD initiatives. “These were intentionally designed to empower the women food producers, who suffer one of the largest inequality problems in the agriculture sector globally.”

From teaching farmers at age 12, she is today a high-level ambassador of the UN Scaling Up Nutrition, a food systems champion of the United Nations. She is also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, a board member of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the Philippine ambassador of Food Security.

“In a world where every woman is expected to be a good daughter, mother, career woman…the real struggle is how to have a sense of harmony with yourself while doing the things that fire up your soul,” she shares.

This woman proudly calls herself a farmer by practising exactly what she preaches. Through her everyday dedication to advocating what most may deem as unglamorous work, she has been showered with accolades time and time again, such as being on the 50 Next list by 50 Best and the Basque Culinary Center.

Read more: Cherrie Atilano at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit: Working for a Sustainable Future

Ana Patricia Non

Founder, Community Pantry PH

The Philippines had experienced the economy’s decline at the onset of the pandemic. But while hundreds of communities suffered, it encouraged leaders to find more ways to provide relief. Ana Patricia Non began with a community pantry by putting up a cart of surplus goods outside her house to offer free food to those who had little to nothing. Almost instantly, the rest of the nation followed suit.

She also serves her community by volunteering at art workshops for indigenous people and underprivileged children from urban areas. During the lockdown, she raised funds to buy rice for struggling drivers. She had done this out of love and duty, a quality that she’s known to possess even before making headlines for her compassion and hard work.

Now, she encourages more women to discover their potential. “We are strong; not only can we bring life to another human being, but we can also make decisions for our bodies. We should be teaching children the value of respect and that we are all equal,” says Non. She hopes that more people will become aware of the injustices and inequality that women face and that they will learn to see their value. Her story has reached all kinds of people across the country. Sometimes, that is enough to empower another young woman with overflowing empathy and kindness.

Read more: Ana Patricia Non Reveals the Community Pantry's True Purpose

Risa Hontiveros

Senator, Republic of the Philippines

The Filipinos can always rely on her when it comes to lobbying progressive bills and fighting for national ambitions that stand with the ideals of youth. Evident in the proposed laws she authored and co-authored, this politician has been known to rally behind women, the LGBTQIA+ and the lower to middle-class employees.

Of the 20 bills Senator Risa Hontiveros has signed so far, she is most proud of those under her Healthy Buhay at Hanapbuhay (Healthy Life and Livelihood) advocacy. This includes the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, which highlights every mother’s need for fair and just compensation and rest. The law has increased the paid maternity leave period from 60 days for normal delivery to 105 days.

“The idea behind the law is not only to give expectant mothers ample time to ensure the best possible conditions for a healthy delivery, recovery from childbirth and a stronger mother-child bond,” she explains. “I have said that this is such a ‘happy law’ because new parents say they have been able to enjoy the experience of having a baby to the fullest because of it,” she adds.

This is not the first time Hontiveros sought to bring women’s plight to the table and resolve it. It can be recalled that in 2019, Hontiveros, together with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), signed the Republic Act 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act, which ensures that people, especially females, are protected from gender-based sexual harassment in streets, public spaces, online, workplaces, as well as educational and training institutions.

“Although great strides have been made in advancing women’s rights in the past decades, women today still have to deal with blatant sexism and misogyny. I worked hard to get that law [Safe Spaces Act] passed to address our reality,” she explains.

In the coming days, Hontiveros seeks to provide well-rounded platforms that cater to the needs of Filipinas; she understands that fighting for equality is a continuous battle. “I think change will eventually be achieved if we just keep at it. We have to keep reaching out to more people, so those in power and our institutions will have no choice but to change for real. Our goal is to make them fully inclusive and render discrimination obsolete. It may be difficult to pull this off, but it’s certainly not impossible. If it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, I’m comforted by the thought that many young leaders will carry on,” Hontiveros stresses.

“Whether you’re an independent woman making bold choices, a mother who wants what’s best for her children, or someone who’s already been there and done that—you must learn to think for yourself and outside of yourself. Beyond your concerns, there is a bigger world out there that you can explore and help change for the better,” she concludes.

Read more: Pride And Equality: Risa Hontiveros and More on the Plight of the Filipino LGBTQIA+

Alice Reyes

National Artist for Dance

Dancer, teacher, choreographer, artistic director, wife and mother are some of the titles she has proudly carried throughout her lifetime. Recently, she added another one: National Artist for Dance.

As a dance professional and art director, Alice Reyes has worked tirelessly to establish dance as a respected profession in the country. Currently, she is the artistic consultant for the Artists of CCP Dance Workshop, working with the team and its art education department to help displaced dance artists with professional support programmes. Reyes says she is most proud of her children for all her achievements. “I always said to my sisters and friends that our greatest achievements are our children. Being a parent is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. Indeed, it takes a ‘village’ to raise a child.”

As a woman who has successfully balanced family and career, she comments: “When compared to women in other countries, the Filipinas have always enjoyed a special position in our culture; they assume prominent roles in political, business, education, arts, medical, academic and diplomatic spheres.” While celebrating the wins, she cannot forget the downfalls and adds that there still is much work to be done.

Read also: Asia's Most Influential, The Culture List 2021

Myla Villanueva

Founder, MDI and Novare Technologies; Chair, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)

This Silicon Valley graduate has helped pave the way for fellow female scientists and innovators to be given due credit. Her achievements have proven so impressive that they are nearly impossible to overlook. She serves as the founder of MDI and Novare Technologies and is the Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). Her illustrious career has revolutionised the digital landscape in the Philippines, and her company’s constant efforts can be felt through the everyday technologies often taken for granted.

At the helm of MDI and Novare Technologies, Myla Villanueva serves an elite roster of blue-chip tech clients through Big Data, Cloud and API and Security platforms. They recently secured their third multibillion-peso deal with Advantage Partners, Japan’s private equity investment firm. While this may sound impressive, it only reminds us that this is neither Villanueva’s first rodeo—nor is it likely to be her last.

As the pivotal 2022 elections near, Villanueva’s role as chairperson of the PPCRV proves to be even more consequential. She was active in the 2019 elections and has helped secure the ballot’s integrity. A mother and wife, Villanueva proves that women are as integral in science, technology, engineering and math as they are in their very own homes.

Read more: Introducing Asia's Most Influential: The Impact List 2020

Felice Prudente Sta Maria

Writer, cultural worker and food historian of the Philippine Colonial Era

From art and culture to food and fashion, from writing and research to mentoring and visioning, she has been championing the cause of preserving and promoting anything authentically Philippine. When she accepted the 2021 Tanglaw ng Lahi Award from the Ateneo de Manila University, her response was, in part, “Circumstances since the 1970s, many unexpected, have set and kept me on a journey emphasising what has become my mantra: ‘Cultural action is civic action’. Culture and arts are neither luxuries nor frivolities. They build innovation, creativity and critical capacity for the country.”

Currently, Felice Prudente Sta Maria is on the board of advisers of the Ayala Museum, a trustee of the Ginhawa Institute and its Indigenous Wisdom Museum, and vice president for internal affairs of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines, which she co-founded.

The books she authored are gems of Philippine historical and cultural information, valued for their vital research foundation. Her book The Governor-General’s Kitchen: Philippine Culinary Vignettes and Period Recipes, 1521-1935, sought to introduce Philippine food history as a special interest. Káin Ná: An Illustrated Guide to Philippine Food was the first picture guide to Philippine cuisine. Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic: Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522, is the first re-telling of the historical journey with food as its focus.

Read also: The Philippine Tastemakers 2021: The Most Influential People In F&B Today

Lorelie Quiambao Osial

President and CEO, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation

In a predominantly male industry, the first female Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation president and CEO impressively leads the organisation with care while ensuring innovation and stability even during precarious times. “As I take on my new role, I am honoured to steer our group of companies to power progress through growth, innovation and evolve our business; develop and showcase world-class Filipino talent; and promote sustainability, providing cleaner energy solutions responsibly,” Lorelie Quiambao Osial says.

Recently, Osial provided finance to a portfolio of around 80 projects with a US$17 billion capital investment in Iraq, a feat that she’s proud of.

However, her success did not come easy as one would expect. Not only did Osial have to overcome barriers associated with her gender (“like societal perceptions, biases or cultural norms on women’s skills [and] capabilities”), but she also had to balance multiple roles as a mother, wife, colleague and leader. This does not stop Osial from shattering glass ceilings. “You are more than your gender,” she says... “You are defined by your uniqueness and all—your values, personality, achievements, abilities and talents that when harnessed and nurtured, will allow you to continue to evolve to be the best version of yourself.”

Isabelita "Eisa" Paredes Mercado

Chairperson and CEO, IPM Holdings Inc

Celebrated as among the country’s most influential companies in environmental management, IPM Holdings, Inc and its extensive subsidiaries boast mammoth operations spanning construction, property development, waste management and even alternative fuel. At the core of these herculean tasks and gigantic triumphs is chairperson and CEO Isabelita Paredes Mercado: a fearless entrepreneur, a woman who has braved a man’s world for 35 years and counting.

Of the countless projects realised under Mercado’s watchful eye, there are two she is most proud of. First, Quezon City’s Payatas landfill—not simply for the victory of being awarded such a monumental contract, but for the humbling and eye-opening experience of witnessing the inhumane conditions of neighbouring impoverished communities. “We felt the responsibility to help improve and change these people’s lives, so it became our self-imposed responsibility to take care of them,” she admits. This humble ambition inspired Mercado and her team to enrol out-of-school children, teach illiterate parents how to read through adult education courses and reward college scholarships to the most promising students. In addition, the company has even arranged to develop and construct housing units for over 350 families currently residing in dangerous areas.

The second initiative marries this desire for social welfare with the pressing issue of sustainability. “We all have a stake in the environment we live in,” she states, declaring “, investing our time, talents, and resources is the way to protect our planet, and there is no other time but now”. The Trash to Cashback waste diversion programme aims to close the loop through data-driven waste management tools for stakeholders, incentives earned through the exchange of recyclables and fostering a spirit of Bayanihan throughout the community. These dedicated, heartfelt endeavours are just a few of the many celebrated by numerous organisations, from the Asia CEO Awards to the Child Protection Network.

“I must admit that I wasn’t in a man’s world by accident,” she confesses, “I chose to be part of it. I didn’t mind having construction sites as my workplace. What fuels me to go beyond my comfort zone is the drive to succeed.” Indeed, Mercado acutely acknowledges the male-dominated industry in which she is a formidable player. But utilising creativity, leadership, teamwork and, perhaps most importantly, empathy, she has brought her companies to heights no man has gone before.

Lea Salonga

Tony and Olivier awards winner, actor and singer

She is the first Asian woman to win the illustrious Tony Award—and did so at just 20 years old. Having leapt into professional theatre at only seven years young with The King and I, this achievement was not unexpected of the Filipino talent. With her Tony-winning performance in Miss Saigon, her unforgettable portrayals of Les Miserables’ Eponine and Fantine, or even voicing Disney Princesses on the big screen, she has never given a fraction short of her best.

Lea Salonga’s astonishing prowess has graced venues from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House, with audiences including Philippine and United States presidents or even English royalty. Decorated with countless recognitions for contributions to the arts, she also enjoys a successful career as a recording and concert artist and an international TV personality.

Most recently, Salonga has channelled her influence towards an ever-relevant cause: amplifying Asian voices, especially Asian women like herself. “Right now, being an Asian woman is quite the challenge,” she avows. “I’m currently residing in New York, and there is that feeling of terror and anxiety whenever I see the news and learn of another Asian woman either beaten or killed.” Despite these frightening circumstances, she assures fellow Filipinas, “We are tougher than anyone thinks. We are not only wives and mothers but also business owners, presidents, chairmen of the board, university principals, and lawmakers. We are leaders.”

Read more: Lea Salonga on the State of Philippine Arts and Culture

Martha Sazon

President and CEO, Mynt

Having worked in the marketing and business development sides of the telco industry for more than a decade, she observed how gender inequality is prevalent, especially in business. “Women who are decisive are often misunderstood as aggressive; women who are strategic are often seen as calculating. And yet, men can be decisive and strategic without being judged in the same way,” explains Martha Sazon, who now helms Mynt, the fintech giant that operates GCash. This, however, did not stop her from entering the predominantly man’s world of financial technology. “In my industry, women do not usually choose tech as their field. I joined late in the game, but with the right mindset and hard work I was able to make it happen,” she enthuses.

On her watch, GCash has provided 55 million Filipinos easy access to digital financial services. “That is already 70 per cent of the adult Filipino population,” she relates, proud of her team who made financial services available to more people, despite low banking penetration, especially in the countryside. Besides easy access, the digital wallet purveyor has earned a Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a global standard that measures customer experience and loyalty—of 79 per cent, alongside global players such as Starbucks and Costco.

“For me, gender or even age is a non-issue as we focus more on talent, having the right character and potential, and how we can help everyone become the best version of themselves,” she wraps up.

Read more: GCash Fintech 'Mynt' is Philippines' Only Unicorn, Now Valued at Over USD 2B

Abby Binay

Mayor, Makati City

In a world where women still face gender-based discrimination, some thrive and prove their naysayers wrong. In the Philippines, you see districts and local governments led by female leaders, such as Makati, a city with an estimated population of 629,616.

As the city’s mayor for six years now, Abby Binay is most proud of pioneering projects that cater to the needs of the ordinary townsfolk, such as the “All-in-One Citizen ID”, which she rolled out in 2017 to accelerate the city’s digital transformation towards becoming a Smart City. “Makati became the first city to implement the automated distribution of cash aid through our PhP5,000 for 100,000 Makatizens programmes,” she tells Tatler.

She owes her success to her determination in proving that there is a place for women in the government. “When women succeed, it is often viewed as something so unexpected. But history will attest to the many times and countless ways women broke through stereotypes to do the impossible. The issue, therefore, is acceptance beyond mere recognition. A woman’s success must be treated as the norm and not the exception,” she explains. “Society needs to put women on equal footing with men because our success is no less significant than theirs. We have earned our stripes. We have paid our dues. Recognise, honour and pay tribute to women not because we were ‘the first ever’ or ‘the only’ but because you recognise that we have the power to succeed,” she stresses.

Heart Evangelista

Artist, actor, global influencer, style icon

Her beautiful clothes may be the talk of the town, but she is more than just her style. For one, she is a female artist who upholds many of the essential cultural milestones of the country. “I paint, act, and express myself through fashion, which is also a form of art,” she explains. She is also currently the First Lady of the province of Sorsogon, being the wife of the provincial governor Chiz Escudero.

Though Heart Evangelista has proven herself through her many achievements, she sadly notes that people often look past that and focus on something much more personal. “I feel like here in the Philippines particularly; we are still a little backwards in terms of ‘you’re not complete as a person if you’re not a mother’. We should celebrate women, and we should break out of that mentality that motherhood equals success. You can be both, or you could choose one path and still be successful.”

The multi-hyphenate reiterates the importance of self-care, especially for women. Whether one is a mother or a female professional, Evangelista reminds us of remembering to care for ourselves. “Filipinos are naturally so giving,” she explains. “In Tagalog, maalaga, but I feel like sometimes we tend to forget about ourselves. We should promote putting importance on ourselves first, which is selfish, but if you do that, you can do so much for everybody around you. You can do so much if you celebrate yourself, your flaws and your outstanding moments.”

Read more: Heart Evangelista Talks Fashion and Filipino Talent

Sara Duterte

Mayor, Davao City

Affectionately called ‘Inday’, a Visayan word for an honourable lady, this Davao City Mayor goes beyond the limits of the word because of her fearlessness and solid political will. Coming from a family deeply rooted in politics, she has earned her merits on her own. She started with a brief stint as a court attorney in the Supreme Court in 2006, then returned to Davao to run for Vice Mayor. After her four-year service, she was elected Mayor in a landslide victory.

Her transformational leadership skills defined her years in public service. According to her colleagues, she is a tactful negotiator, pacifier, and principled are just some of her characteristics. She championed protecting and conserving the city’s watershed areas, pushing its tourism potential and taking part in developing the region’s economic growth.

Duterte took a respite from politics with plans of joining the judiciary and being active in the Philippine Red Cross and other philanthropic efforts. She re-entered local politics when her father Rodrigo ran for the presidential office in 2016. She served as mayor for two terms, focusing on programmes concerning ten priority sectors.

On her watch, the city earned recognition from the Trade and Industry Department as the 4th Most Competitive Highly Urbanised City and its inclusion in the Commission on Audit’s Top 10 Richest Cities of the Philippines.

Currently, she is running for the position of vice president of the Philippines. On her bid for the second highest position in the country, her platform includes initiatives that promote peace in Mindanao. In particular, she is determined to end the more than 50 years of communist armed conflict in Davao City’s Paquibato district.

NOW READ

10 Filipinas Who Have Made a Mark on the Philippine Fashion Industry

Female Entrepreneurs Reshaping Tomorrow

We Asked Four Strong Women, "Why Do You Train?"


A resource for women to become their best selves, Front & Female celebrates trailblazers and tackles timely, provocative issues through inspiring content and events. Join the community by subscribing to our newsletter and following #frontandfemale

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.