Cover H.E.R. | Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

As we continue to face the world’s harsh realities in these challenging times, the least we could do is to cope by finding a sliver of light and inspiration around us

Meet five people who continue to work and change the game in their respective fields; they have managed to rise and make their names known around the globe. May their stories be a source of inspiration to all of us today and in the years to come.

Related: 9 Filipino Movies That Showcase The Beauty Of The Philippines

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Todd Gloria

In the last US elections, there were several Fil-Ams elected to office—from congressional representatives and mayors to state officials. One of them is Todd Gloria, the mayor of the City of San Diego. He’s the first person of colour and the first openly gay person to serve in this capacity. In an interview he was cited as saying that the reason he wanted to be in public office was due to his desire to serve the unrepresented sectors of the population.

Before him, the position has been occupied by 27 of 28 members of the Republican Party, and all white and straight males. In his campaign video he said, “I didn’t come from privilege. I came from grandparents who were affected by racism but undeterred by it. Where I come from you have to fight for your place in the world. I did!”

On his Twitter feed last March, he wrote about a fellow Filipino who was selected to be California’s next attorney general. “Congratulations to my friend, Ron Bonta, on his selection to be California’s next Attorney General! Rob will be a strong voice for justice and I’m confident he’ll do well in this role.

From the entire Filipino community, binabati kita [I congratulate you] Rob! We are so proud of you. #pinoypride” Gloria is of Native American, Filipino, Dutch and Latino descent. He is 42 years old.

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H.E.R.

She was born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, to a Filipina mother, Agnes, from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija and her African American father, Kenny. This 23-year-old music sensation won Song of the Year in the recent 63rd Grammy awards for "I Can’t Breathe". The song was written in honour of George Floyd and has become one of the anthems in the Black Lives Matter movement. In her acceptance speech Wilson said, “I wrote this song over FaceTime. I can’t imagine that my fear and my pain would turn into impact, and possibly turn into change. I think that’s what this is about. And why I write music, why I do this. So I’m so, so, so grateful. I want to thank God for giving me the gift of a voice and a pen, and using me as a vessel to, you know, create change.”

She thanked her parents too. “I want to thank my mum. I recorded this song myself in my bedroom at my mum’s house, and I want to thank my dad. He cried. He was in tears when I wrote the song and I played it for him. He was the first person I played it for. But remember, we are the change that we wish to see. And, you know, that fight that we had in us the summer of 2020, keep that same energy. Thank you.”

Read More: The Complete List Of Winners At The 93rd Academy Awards

This R&B sensation bursts into the music scene at 18 years old with her first album, H.E.R. which won Best R&B Album and received four nominations including Best New Artist. She has been garnering praise from her co-artists as well as has been nominated in most music and video award-giving bodies since then. She also won the Oscars for her song, "Fight For You" from the movie Judas and the Black Messiah.

I caught her video from Genius channel on YouTube where she talked about her upbringing in an Afro-Asian home, her music and her love for the Filipino dish kare-kare. On Tik Tok she even made a funny video mocking her Aunt Joan’s reaction upon getting the news that she won the Grammy’s. I must say that she got the diction right, as in “You are a weeener”. By the way, H.E.R stands for Having Everything Revealed.

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Melanie Perkins

She’s a unicorn, a name given to individuals who have reached a US$1 billion mark in their industry. But Fil-Aussie Melanie Perkins, founder and CEO of Canva, (an app used for social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content) has amassed a personal fortune of a bit more than that the unicorn benchmark, US$6 billion as of June 2020 to be exact, making her the youngest billionaire in Australia.

She has said that her company started in her mum’s living room and began doing online yearbooks, which eventually became the largest yearbook publisher in the country. In 2011 she pitched an idea to Bill Tai, a prominent investor, but was turned down. She decided, with her then-partner, now husband, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams, to finance the company. With the backing of Adams who was a former Google executive, the partners made an initial investment of US$1.5 million. That was in 2012. Today, the company has grown to over 200 employees and 30 million users in around 200 countries.

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In an interview with Daily Mail Australia, Perkins and her husband expressed their interest in “donating their money for the greater good rather than spend it on themselves”. Canva is valued at US$6 billion today.

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Alex Eala

Not since Felix Barrientos’ participation in the Wimbledon finals in 1985 did the country have another representation in the much-loved game of tennis. Enter Alexandra Eala, or Alex, 15 years old and is the current Australian doubles junior titleholder and ranked number 2 ITF for juniors.

Eala was born in Manila to parents Michael Francis and Rizza Maniego-Eala, a woman’s 100m backstroke bronze medalist in the 1985 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Meanwhile, Eala’s brother, Miko, is a budding tennis player at the Rafael Nadal Academy. She clinched a wildcard to play at the 2018 Roland Garros Junior Championships where scouts of the Rafael Nadal Academy spotted her and offered her a scholarship at the tennis academy in Mallorca. She has been living and studying on this Spanish island since 2018. She then competed in the 2019 US Open and then the Australian Singles in 2020 but lost. She won the Doubles Championship, however, with her partner Priska Nugroho of Indonesia, giving her a top ranking of number 2 in the Junior Tennis Circuit.

Recently she competed in the Miami Open where she lost in the first round to a much higher-ranked player. Despite this she has goals set for other tournaments in 2021, one of them being the French Open. In an interview with itftennis.com, Eala expressed her pride in representing the Philippines. “I feel that reflects well on the nation and shows how hard we work. The Filipinos are very underrated, so to be able to add to their status is good,” she said.

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Carlos Edriel Yulo

On the topic of local sports, all eyes are on the 21-year-old Carlos Edriel Yulo. It can be recalled that in October 2019, Yulo’s name made waves online after he made history at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. At the age of 19, he was the Philippines’ first-ever world gymnastics champion. In the men’s floor exercise, Yulo topped his competitors with a final score of 15.300, edging out Israel’s bet who scored 15.200. In the recently concluded 2019 SEA Games, he capped the sports event bearing two golds and five silvers. He received PHP3.2 million SEA Games incentive and an award from President Rodrigo Duterte for being the most bemedalled athlete of the Philippine contingent.

This year, Yulo may once again surprise us with a historic feat if he bags the first gymnastic medal in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. In previous interviews, Philippine Gymnast Chief Cynthia Carrion would describe him as a hardworking athlete who just goes to two places—the school and the training grounds. Yulo is expected to deliver a “surprising” performance this year.

Read More: Meet The Philippines' First World Champion For Gymnastics—Carlos Yulo

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  • Words(Additional) Jove Moya