Filipino of the Century - There are no more beautiful words in a song than those written by a simple man they called Levi Celerio. His songs cherish life, convey nationalistic sentiments and utter grand philosophies that all sound wonderful. His melodies are even more impressive and proud is the least a Filipino could be upon hearing them.
As a composer and lyricist, Levi wrote more than 4000 songs. Among them are popular pieces, which many would hasten to call “immortal”. At one time or another, no Filipino could miss the tune or lyrics of Levi’s Christmas songs: Pasko na Naman, Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, and Misa de Gallo. Who would not fall in love upon listening to the following love songs: Saan Ka Man Naroroon, Kahit Konting Pagtingin, Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal, Kapag Puso’y Sinugatan, and Ikaw. Who would not feel like dancing upon hearing the lyrics and melodies of the following folk songs: Ang Pipit, Tinikling, Tunay na Tunay, Itik-Itik, Waray-Waray, Pitong Gatang, Ako ay May Singsing, Alibangbang, Alembong, Galawgaw, Caprichosa, Ang Tapis Ni Inday, Dungawin Mo Hirang, Umaga na Neneng, Ikaw Kasi and Basta’t Mahal Kita.
His best songs combine great poetry, philosophy and passion. These are O Maliwanag na Buwan, Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak, Sa Ugoy ng Duyan, Bagong Pagsilang and Sapagkat Kami’y Tao Lamang. Levi also wrote nationalistic songs such as Ang Bagong Lipunan, Lupang Pangarap, and Tinig ng Bayan. Imagine the world without these songs, and the Philippines would have been less known for its happy, romantic and enthusiastic people.
Known as a poet of Philippine music, Levi wrote songs that set the standards for class and quality. Other Filipino songs, which lack luster and rhetoric, were soon forgotten and rarely heard again. But not Levi’s songs. They are classic, if not timeless. The full meaning and emotion of a particular theme is best captured in his lyrics, as in the song,
May pumukol sa pipit sa sanga ng isang kahoy
At nahagip ng bato ang pakpak ng munting ibon
Dahil sa sakit, di na nakaya pang lumipad
At ang nangyari ay nahulog
Ngunit parang taong bumigkas,
“Mamang kay lupit, ang puso mo’y di na nahabag,
Pag pumanaw ang buhay ko
May isang pipit na iiyak!”
Ironically, Levi, the master lyricist, became famous around the world for his other distinct talent. For a time, the Guinness Book of World Records has recognized him as the only man who could play beautiful music with a leaf. Because of his rare talent, Levi was invited to the Mel Griffin show where he played “All The Things That You Are” with 39 musicians in front of nine microphones and camera. Using his leaf, Levi wowed the crowd and got the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records. The Book later listed the entry: “The only leaf player in the world is in the Philippines”.
Born in Tondo on April 30, 1910, Levi received his scholarship at the Academy of Music in Manila and became the youngest member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. A great number of his songs have been written for the local movies which earned for him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Film Academy of the Philippines. In 1997, he was chosen as the National Artist in Literature and Music. The award is the highest national recognition given to Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and to the cultural heritage of the country. It is aimed at recognizing Filipino artistic accomplishment at its highest level and to promote creative expression as significant to the development of a national cultural identity.
In his old age, Levi occasionally appeared in public, like when there was a big thing happening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was also playing at a Quezon City bar from time to time. He just could not be stopped from making beautiful music, even when shuttling between home and hospital. Levi was a poor man, so poor in fact that he could not pay for his hospital bills. A newspaper report said that “This shouldn’t be happening to him.”
That is Levi. He wrote 4000 songs and remained poor. But that is something every man of his kind takes pride of. As they say, poverty is an honor and privilege bestowed on all great poets. Levi has been a great poet, the most heard Filipino poet of all time. He has been a poor man all these years, but his songs have enriched the Filipino’s identity and culture. Particularly, the man I’ve never met a single time touched me in many ways. He died at the Delgado Clinic in Kamuning Quezon City on April 2, 2002. At 91, a beautiful song ended. Levi!
Grand Old Man of Politics – Jovito Salonga, or Ka Jovy as most people fondly call him, spoke of great dreams for this country. He spoke of economic development, social equality, and moral advancement. Although already retired from the public office, Ka Jovy still speaks of the same dreams today.
Ka Jovy was born a winner. In his political career, he lost only once, and that was in the 1992 presidential election. He could have been a president, had the Filipino electorate ignored rumors that his health was failing because of old age. Now at 81, Ka Jovy still exudes the vigor and wisdom of a young patriot. His soft voice commands respect; his judgment remains firm as ever. With the insights of a philosopher, he utters propositions that are of highest importance. At a time the country is plagued by corruption and ethical issues, Ka Jovy raises a moral voice, which reminds us to change our ways.
The people call Ka Jovy as the “grand old man of Philippine politics”. He is a survivor of the same generation, which produced the most illustrious names like Raul Manglapus, Arturo Tolentino, Jose Diokno, Soc Rodgrigo, and Wigberto Tañada. Known for his lofty ideals and eloquent speech, Ka Jovy is of the same rank as Jose Rizal and Carlos Romulo, who were arguably the brightest men this country has ever known. Ka Jovy’s outstanding career included almost five decades of unblemished record in public service. He was a three-time senator, having been elected in 1965, 1971 and 1987. A son of a Presbyterian minister, he was born on June 22, 1920. He was an honor student in elementary and high school and took up Law in college.
He passed the bar with a rating of 95.3 percent, a record, which remains unsurpassed to this day. He practiced law in 1944 until he joined the Far Eastern University as Dean of the Institute of Law in 1961. He topped the senatorial election in 1965, the beginning of his colorful political career. He became a tough critic of the Marcos rule and was a victim of the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971. (He later blamed the communists for the bombing.) After the 1986 People Power Revolution, newly elected President Corazon Aquino appointed him as the first Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), whose role was to recover the ill-gotten wealth of President Marcos and his cronies.
In 1987, Ka Jovy topped the senatorial elections and eventually became the Senate President. On September 16, 1991, the Philippine senate, under his presidency, rejected the ten-year extension of the U.S. bases in the Philippines, thereby formally ending the presence of foreign armed forces in the Philippine territory after four centuries. He ran for the highest position in the land in 1992 with a political platform completely different from other candidates. Under the banner of the progressive Liberal Party, Ka Jovy was campaigning for social equality, a term which caused fear among the eighty one families who control most of the country’s wealth.
Ka Jovy lost in the election, but this did not stop him from serving the cause of The nation. Since 1992, he initiated the founding of four organizations: Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which put up a memorial for more than a hundred contemporary heroes and martyrs of the nation; Kilosbayan, a forum for raising political consciousness and citizens’ participation in governance; Bantay Katarungan, an NGO dedicated to the pursuit of justice and protection of human rights; and the Salonga Foundation for Human Development, a group which promotes social and moral awareness.
He remains an active speaker, denouncing the social ills in Philippine society. He is the most vocal critic of cronyism in the Estrada administration and the government’s continuing promotion of gambling in the form of online lottery. He is also a religious figure, delivering sermons in the gatherings of the Philippine Presbyterian Church. It is difficult to find words to describe Ka Jovy with all his fine qualities, but perhaps, no one will disagree with Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, an Inquirer columnist, when she referred to him as a “national treasure”.
Pulitzer Prize Awardee - Alex Tizon is a victor in what America does best – exercising press freedom. As a journalist in the “Land of the Free”, Tizon has decided to follow the lead of Ernest Hemingway whose task was “to write hard and clear about what hurts.”
“It pays to be prepared, to be as good as you can be in your field, because you never know when luck or opportunity or grace or whatever you want to call it may come knocking. It pays to be up to the task of answering the call in full riot gear — that is, fully prepared,” he said. In 1997, Tizon received the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting, a plum that symbolizes professional excellence in the field of Journalism. This plaudit came half a century after Carlos P. Romulo won the Pulitzer Prize in International Journalism in 1941. That award must have helped Romulo become the President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1949.
Like Romulo, Tizon, a Seattle Times journalist, is proud to say that he has full Filipino blood running in his veins. As a part of the minority group in the United States, the four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee has written articles, which advanced the cause of the marginal sectors of the American society. For his more than 17 years of stint with the Seattle Times, he has earned distinction for his coverage of youth gangs, immigrant groups and Native American tribes. He has written extensively about race and ethnicity, crime and law enforcement.
Along with two colleagues, he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories exposing widespread fraud in the federal Indian Housing Program. He has also received the Phoenix Award, a Penney Missouri Lifestyle Award and the Clarion Award for his numerous articles in the Seattle Times, Pacific, The Times’ Sunday magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek magazine and CBS News. Tizon immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four. His father, Francisco Tizon Jr., a Kapampangan, served as a commercial attaché for the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu. His mother, the late Leticia Asuncion Tizon of Tarlac, was a UP-educated doctor who worked at the Swedish Medical Center, now the largest hospital in Washington.
The family became most rooted in Seattle, which Alex considers his home. “I’ve lived in Seattle on and off for more than 20 years, and it is, despite my aversion to the cold, wet, gray climate, my home,” he said. This is also where he met his wife, Melissa, whom he describes as a “first-generation Pinay”. She is a Seattle-based writer and editor. The couple is blessed with two daughters – the nine-year-old Dylan and the 11-month-old Maya.
Tizon originally considered going to law school, but a Sociology professor convinced him to take up Journalism. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and his master’s degree from Stanford University. In June 2000, the University of Oregon honored him as its 2000 Outstanding Young Alumnus.
Asked of his advice to young journalists, Tizon said: “Read, read, read. Think, think, think. Write, write, write. Go into the dark places and write about them.”
he 43-year-old journalist was born in Manila but grew up in the United States. He assimilated well into the American culture, learned to write, and became the model of all aspiring Filipino-American journalists. When asked how he made it big in the very competitive field of American Journalism, he had this to say: “Most big achievements happen when great effort intersects with good luck. I’ve worked hard, and I’ve been lucky, which is another way of saying that I’ve been blessed.”
UN President - Carlos P. Romulo, the first Asian president of the United Nations General Assembly, was also the first Filipino to have received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize (Correspondence). He was awarded the coveted Journalism prize for a series of articles about World War II that appeared on the pages of Philippine Herald in 1941. Romulo wrote and published 18 books that included “I Walked with Heroes” (autobiography) and “Mother America”.
Fifty-six years later, Romulo’s feat was repeated by two Filipino-Americans. In 1997, Seattle Times’ Alex Tizon and Byron Acohido were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their outstanding contributions to American journalism. Tizon was cited for his series of articles about American subcultures for the Seattle Times, where he has been a staff reporter for nearly 14 years. He was born in Manila and immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four. He studied political science at the University of Oregon before earning an M.A. in journalism from Stanford University in 1986.
Acohido received the Pulitzer prize for his reporting on the conditions of aerospace industry. He was also writing for the Seattle Times.
Filipina Tycoon - Loida Nicolas-Lewis is probably the richest Filipino living outside her home country. She is the chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., a two-billion-dollar corporation of 64 companies based in 31 countries. TLC is a marketer of ice cream in Spain and the Canary Islands, the leading manufacturer of potato chips in Ireland, and a prime distributor of beverage in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Thailand.
A lawyer by profession, Loida is also an author, a philanthropist, and an active leader of the Filipino community in the United States. She owns the distinction of having been the first Asian woman to pass the New York State bar exam without having studied law in the U.S. As a businesswoman, she was ranked number 1 among the “Top 50 Women Business Owners in America” by the Working Woman magazine in 1994.
In the United States, she is known as the remarkable woman behind the success of Reginald Lewis, the first Afro-American to hit the US$1B-in-assets mark. In January 1993, Reginald died of brain cancer. So revered was Loida’s love for her late husband and “tutor” that she later wrote a book, entitled “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? How Reginald F. Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business Empire.” It sold several hundred thousand copies.
Reginald’s untimely death left Loida with the responsibility of raising their two daughters alone and taking care of the family business. She finished her AB course at the Saint Theresa’s College and her law degree at the University of the Philippines.
Miss America – Angela Perez Baraquio, the 25-year-old Physical Education teacher who was crowned MissAmerica in October 2000, is a daughter of Philippine-born parents living in Hawaii. Her father, Claudio Fernandez Baraquio was born in Pangasinan, while her mother, Rigolette Perez grew up in Manila. Angela has three brothers and six sisters, the three eldest of whom were also born in the Philippines. The beauty queen, on the other hand, was born in Hawaii and has yet to make her first visit to Manila.
The Baraquio family has found succes s in the American state which is inhabited mostly by Asians and whose governor, Benjamin Cayetano, grew up in the Philippines. On October 14, 2000, Angela was crowned Miss America 2001 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, replacing former title holder, Heather Renee French of Kentucky. Angela is the first Asian American to win the Miss America title, and the second Miss Hawaii to win Miss America, after Carolyn Sapp won it in 1992.
Angela was born on June 1, 1976. She graduated from the Moanalua High School in 1994 and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in 1999. She was a consistent honor student in high school and a standout athlete in girls’ basketball. She was in the dean’s list in college and was a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society.
Dotcom CEO - At the height of the dotcom craze in 1999, a 30-year-old Filipino-American woman set the fashion trend among Internet executives in New York’s Silicon Alley, the East Coast version of California’s Silicon Valley. Her name is Cecilia Pagkalinawan, the founding president and CEO of Boutique Y3K (www.boutiquey3k. com), an online fashion retail and marketing company. As a computer professional, she drew the admiration not only of the IT people but also of the discriminating fashion editors in New York. One publication described her as an example of the new “cyberstyle”.
She appeared in the pages of various international magazines, such as Vogue, A. Magazine, Industry Standard, Internet World, and AsiaWeek. The US-based Filipinas Magazine gave her an Achievement Award. In 1998, she was named as one of the ”10 Hot Asian American Entrepreneurs under 30.” The following year, she was included in the Silicon Alley Reporter’s “Top 100 Internet Executives in New York”. In March 2000, she was named “New York City Woman Business Owner of the Year” by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Cecilia was born in the Philippines. Her mother used to own a restaurant near the UST Hospital while his father had a paint store in Bulacan province. She was only eight years old when her middle class family moved to US.
The President’s Doctor - For more than eight years, a Filipino-American has made sure that the world’s most powerful person was physically fit to do his work. Her name is Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, a 47-year-old physician and a top-ranking officer of the US Navy. Mariano was the director of the White House medical unit attending to the health of former President Bill Clinton.
Mariano was born at the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga in 1955. She was only two years old when her parents, Angel and Lu Mariano, immigrated to the United States in 1957. Her father served in the US Navy as a steward and retired as a master chef after serving 29 years. Mariano’s four Filipino godfathers were also Navy master chefs. Mariano grew up in Imperial Beach near the Mexican border. She graduated valedictorian from Mar Vista High School in 1973 and cum laude from Revelle College at the University of California where she obtained a degree in Biology in 1977. She earned her medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland in 1981.
Following an internship in Internal Medicine at San Diego Naval Hospital in 1982, Mariano was assigned as the General Officer on board USS Prairie where she served as the sole physician for a ship’s company of 750 men and women. In 1991, she was selected as the hospital’s head of internal medicine. In June 1992, she became the first military woman to serve as White House physician under President George Bush. When he got elected, President Clinton asked her to stay and even promoted her as Senior White House Physician in February 1994 and director of the White House Medical Unit.
By attending to two American presidents for more than eight years, Mariano had the longest service as a White House physician in American history. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations honored Mariano for her remarkable achievements.
After President Clinton’s term ended in January 2001, Mariano pursued her duty as rear admiral of the US Navy, the highest military post ever occupied by a Filipino-American woman in the mighty US Armed Forces. First Lady Hillary Clinton, who has just won a seat in the senate in the recent elections, personally thanked Mariano for her service to the American nation. “Our family loves you and we’re grateful to you,” Mrs. Clinton told Mariano in a ceremony tended for her in June 2000 when she was promoted as rear admiral of the US Navy.
Filipino Generals in the US – Four Filipino-Americans had the distinction of becoming U.S. Army generals. They are Maj. Gen. Edward Soriano, Brig. Gen. Archine Laano, Brig. Gen. Antonio Taguba and Brig. Gen. Oscar Bautista Hilman.
Soriano is the only Filipino to have attained the rank of major general in the U.S. Armed Forces. He was born in Pangasinan and migrated to the U.S. with his family at an early age. In 2001, he was the director of operations, readiness and mobilization at the office of America’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans.
Laano, on the other hand, is a physician by profession and a 1963 graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. President Ronald Reagan appointed him brigadier general in 1988. He also served as the president of the Philippine Medical Association of America and as such, represented the group in several medical missions in the Philippines.
Taguba - is the third Filipino American general in the U.S. Armed Forces. He was born in Sampaloc, Manila and moved to Hawaii at age 11. He holds three master’s degrees: Public Administration from Webster University, International Relations from Salve Regina College, and National Security and Strategic Studies from the US Naval War College.
Hilman was born in a small town in Luzon, Philippines. He was initially an enlistee in the U.S. Army and when he was a 27-year-old Sergeant First Class he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was eventually promoted to Brigadier General on August 27, 2003.
Top Student at Wharton - The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, considered as the world’s top business school by the Businessweek magazine, recognized a Filipino as its best graduating MBA student in May 2001. On May 21, 2001, Victor Franco Calanog received the Thomas Gerrity Leadership Award, the highest honor given to a graduating MBA student by the Wharton School. Calanog, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, was singled out as the best candidate for the award for his excellence in both academic achievement and extracurricular involvement.
Calanog was the chair of student affairs for the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly, the student government for the graduate and professional students of the 12 schools of the University of Pennsylvania. He also received various scholarship grants from AT&T, Ford Foundation and other companies in the United States. He completed his MBA with a triple major in finance, entrepreneurial management and multinational management at the top of his class. (Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer).
She also studied and trained at Columbia University, University of Chicago, Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 1941, del Mundo has contributed more than 100 articles to medical journals in the U.S., Philippines and India. In 1966, she received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, for her “outstanding service to mankind”. In 1977, she was bestowed the Ramon Magsaysay Award for outstanding public service.
First Filipino-American in US Congress - The first Filipino-American in US Congress was Virginia Rep. Robert Cortez-Scott, a Harvard alumnus.He has practiced law for 24 years. He graduated from the Seton Hall University School of Law. He was the president of the Filipino-American Association of Bergenfield from 1997 to 1999. He immigrated to the United States in 1968.
In November, 1992 State Senator “Bobby” Scott was elected to his first term in the U.S. Congress where he represented Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District. His victory made him the second African American elected to the United States Congress from Virginia (after John Mercer Langston in the 1880s). Additionally, he is the first American of Filipino heritage to be elected to Congress.
Fashion Designer in New York - A Filipino-American fashion designer has been making waves in the New York fashion industry. Josie Natorie, who was born in Manila in 1947, owns and manages Natorie Lingerie. In 2001, she was one of the Asian-American awardees of the nonprofit Asians United to Raise Awareness (AURA) Fund.
Natorie was already a successful stockbroker and investment banker even before she established her lingerie business. She had served as the head of the Manila branch of Bache Securities and as an executive of the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch.
Jose Garcia Villa (Doveglion) was one of the World’s Finest Poets. He was expelled from the University of the Philippines (UP) for writing a series of erotic poems, Man Songs in 1929. He migrated to the United States and enrolled at the University of New Mexico where he edited and published a mimeographed literary magazine. In 1973, Villa who used the pen name Doveglion (dove, eagle, lion) received the National Artist Award for Literature from President Ferdinand Marcos. At 88, Villa died on February 7, 1997. He had lived in New York for 67 years.
Jose Garcia Villa (Doveglion) was one of the world’s finest contemporary poets. Villa, who spent most of his life in a New York apartment, was praised by critics for his beautiful poetry. American poet, e.e. cummings even wrote a poem, Doveglion, Adventures in Value, for Villa. Another American poet, Dame Edith had praised Villa’s works as being “amongst the most beautiful written in our time.” Among Villa’s acclaimed works are Many Voices (1939), Poems (1941), Have Come Am Here (1941), Selected Poems and New (1942) and A Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry (1962). Villa was born in Singalong, Manila on August 5, 1908.
Broadway Diva – Lea Salonga was born in Manila on February 22, 1971 to Feliciano Salonga and Ligaya Imutan. She has two siblings – Gerard and Sheila. As a young performer, she appeared in various television programs and joined several stage plays while studying elementary and high school at the OB Montessori, where she graduated with flying colors. In 1989, she auditioned and was accepted for the lead role in Miss Saigon, the multi-million-dollar production of Sir Cameron Mackintosh. During the audition, she sang “On My Own”, a ballad from the musical play Les Miserables. Lea eventually got the part of Kim and moved to London’s West End where she stayed for two years.
In London, Lea received the most coveted Laurence Olivier Award for playing the role of Kim. It was the start of a series of international awards that were about to come her way. When the musicale moved to New York’s Broadway in 1991, Lea won the prestigious Tony Awards, Outer Critics’ Circle, and Theater World Awards. Her stint at Miss Saigon also paved the way for bigger opportunities. The magnificent singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the Walt Disney animated production, Aladdin belongs to her. She became the first Filipino to have performed at the celebrated Oscar Awards, when she rendered the Disney song “A Whole New World” before Hollywood celebrities during the 65th annual event in Los Angeles.
Lea also had the chance to perform before the most prominent persons in the world. She was invited twice to the White House, first to sing in a social gathering hosted by former First Lady Barbara Bush, then to grace an occasion hosted by President Bill Clinton. While in England, she was invited to the Buckingham Palace to perform before Queen Elizabeth II. In 1993, she played the role of Eponine in the Broadway production of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables. She went on to appear in the London and Honolulu productions of the same play whose music and lyrics were composed by the same people behind Miss Saigon: Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.
In the words of Rosalinda Orosa, a writer on Filipino culture, Lea did something more than making Filipinos proud. “Lea has made theater history for Filipinos,” says Orosa.
Second Fil-Am Chief Justice - Tani Gorre Cantil joined a family of two brothers and one sister on October 19, 1959. Tani, a second generation Asian American, grew up in Sacramento with a beautiful Filipina mother who worked as a farm worker and a Filipino/Portuguese father, born in Hawaii, who worked in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations before coming to Sacramento. Her mother and father met at a Sacramento soda fountain. Through the family tradition of hard work and saving money they successfully educated all four of their children. However, having enough money to pay for school meant that Tani and her siblings never saw potato chips, soda or new clothes. For years, Christmas presents were a shower cap and a robe, while Tani’s classmate down the street received emerald earrings, a pearl necklace and skis for Christmas. Tani never believed in Santa Claus because of the disparity in gifts that were received.
Tani learned from her parents that hard work would lead to a promising future. Education was an expectation and when Tani graduated from McClatchy High School in 1977, she crossed the street to attend Sacramento City College as a speech and debate major. Tani was involved in the speech and debate club in high school and loved the challenge of thinking and speaking on her feet. Graduating with an associate degree one year later in 1978, Tani spent six months at Cal Poly as a liberal arts major. Six months was long enough to know that being at the beach was hardly conducive to studying, so second semester found her enrolled at UC Davis. While in school, Tani waited tables at AJ Bumps and made more in tips than she did her first year as a lawyer.
As a young teenager, Tani’s mother took her to hear a speech by Gloria Ochoa, a Filipina woman lawyer. Although she doesn’t recall exactly what Gloria said, Tani remembers who she was, what she did, and, most importantly, saw what she could become. Tani’s love of speech and debate only validated her interest becoming a lawyer. She was also encouraged to be a lawyer by those around her. At UC Davis she majored in rhetoric and knew she would apply to law school upon graduation in 1980. After a year of leisure and meeting relatives in the Philippines, she started law school at King Hall.
Tani enjoyed the challenge, stimulation, and comradery of law school. She involved herself with issues facing minorities, including celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Through her parents’ struggles, she was aware of discrimination. Her personal experience of growing up in Land Park as the only Asian American family also made her keenly aware of the struggles that people of color faced. She recalls being asked how long she had been in America due to her command of English despite her being a California native. These experiences have framed her compassion and understanding of those parties appearing before her.
Upon graduation, Tani could not find a job. So as not to waste precious time, Tani honed her skills as a blackjack dealer in Reno but not for long. Although the Public Defender’s Office would not hire her because she was too young, she followed the advice of the Honorable Russell Hom, then at the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office, and applied at the District Attorney’s Office. Her legal career was off and running.
In 1988, an elementary school friend, Kirk Louie, asked Tani to interview for his job as the Deputy Legal Affairs counsel to Governor Deukmejian in 1988. During the next two years, she worked on the most sensitive matters with Justice Vance Raye, who at that time was the Governor’s Legal Affairs Secretary. When the Governor left office in 1990, Tani was appointed to Sacramento Municipal Court as the youngest judge to sit on the bench.
As a judge, Tani’s most memorable cases are when juveniles are tried as adults. Those are difficult cases and stay with her. She looks forward to the challenge of her new position on the Third District Court of Appeal. She is eager to have the time to read, research and discuss cases with other attorneys and her colleagues.
Tani has two daughters, Hana, age eight, and Clair, age six. Her husband of 10 years, Mark Sakauye, proudly supports Tani in her professional career and community involvement. Her role as a mother includes being a Brownie leader and co-chair of the Japanese United Methodist Church Girls Division Basketball League.
Just recently the Commission on Judicial Appointment unanimously confirmed on the nomination of Justice Tani Gorres Cantil-Sakauye for Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. She was earlier nominated by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Chief Justice George, who is retiring on January 2, 2011.
Note: Benjamin Menor was the First appointed Filipino American Hawaii State Supreme Court Chief Justice in 1974. But the First Generation of Filipino Political leaders in America is Peter Aduja. He was the first Filipino American elected to public office in the United States as a representative in the Hawaii Legislature.
Source: By Ruthe Ashley • Photo by Sirlin Photography and http://www.filipinawomensnetwork.org/
Best Pound for Pound Boxer in the World - Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquiao, born December 17, 1978) is a Filipino professional boxer and politician. He is the first eight-division world champion, as well as the first to win the lineal championship in four different weight classes.He was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s (decade) by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He is also a three-time The Ring and BWAA “Fighter of the Year,” winning the award in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
He was long rated as the best pound for pound boxer in the world by some sporting news and boxing websites, including BoxRec.com, Sporting Life and The Ring. However, in April 2012, Pacquiao dropped to number two in the rankings, behind Floyd Mayweather, Jr.. However on May 7, 2012, Ring Magazine declared the top position vacant and jointly ranked Pacquiao and Mayweather in the number two spot.
Aside from boxing, Pacquiao has participated in acting, music recording and politics. In May 2010, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives in the 15th Congress of the Philippines, representing the province of Sarangani
Celebrity Designer - Diane Monique Lhuillier (born 1971, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines) is a fashion designer most prominently known for bridal wear. She owns a couture fashion house based in Los Angeles, California.
Lhuillier has become a celebrity favorite for both wedding and red carpet gowns. Her list of clientele includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart, Drew Barrymore, Hilary Swank, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Nicki Minaj, Zooey Deschanel, Kim Yoo-Jin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and, more recently, Shannen Doherty,Sarah Michelle Gellar, Regine Velasquez, and Lea Salonga.
Lhuillier was born to Michel J. Lhuillier, a businessman of French descent, and Amparito Llamas, a Filipino society figure and former model of Spanish descent. She grew up in Cebu City and studied in Saint Theresa’s College, continuing on to a finishing school in Switzerland. As a teenager, she was an outstanding student in Lausanne and dreamed of becoming a successful fashion designer. She moved to Los Angeles to study design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). It was in Los Angeles that she met her future husband, Tom Bugbee. Monique and Tom currently reside in Los Angeles with their two children.
While searching for a gown for her wedding in 1995, Monique was surprised by the lack of fashion-infused bridal options. Having had an affinity for evening gowns and bridal while at FIDM, Monique launched her first bridal collection in 1996. The collection received great acclaim from both editors and buyers alike. Her husband Tom joined the company as CEO, to turn Monique’s vision to establish a couture design house into reality.
At present, the Monique Lhuillier collections encompass ready-to-wear, evening gowns, bridal, bridesmaids, linens, tableware, fine paper, and home fragrances.
Monique Lhuillier is considered one of the leading innovative fashion houses in terms of design, quality and brand image. Monique Lhuillier and Tom Bugbee a young, dynamic husband and wife team founded the company in 1996 by launching their first bridal collection. The bridal line was extremely well received by fashion savvy brides, editors and celebrities. In 2002, the ready to wear and evening wear division was launched. The collections are always luxurious, feminine, modern and chic, true to Monique’s aesthetic.
The collections are available in 140 doors throughout the world including prestigious retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. The entire collections are housed in the Monique Lhuillier flagship salons in Beverly Hills and Minneapolis.
Monique Lhuillier creations have been worn by Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Aniston, Sharon Stone, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Britney Spears, Mischa Barton, Jaime-Lynn Sigler, Sarah Jessica Parker and more.
Her famous designs have been featured in publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, W, Harpers Bazaar, WWD, Town and Country, In Style, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Newsweek, USA today, US magazine, People,
O, Brides, Martha Stewart, Elegant Bride and more…Her designs have also been featured in televisions shows like The Today Show, Oprah, CNN, The View, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Will and Grace, Sex in the City, Nip Tuck, West Wing and numerous feature films.
FilAm “Viper” Pilot - UNITED States Air Force F-16 fighter pilot Capt. Monessa Catuncan doesn’t just maneuver an aircraft whenever she’s on air—she also carries the Philippine flag and the pride of the country it represents and the people in it.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon or most commonly known as the “Viper” is a state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. It has been a high-performance weapon system for the US and allied nations for it has been used in numerous air-to-air combats. This specific aircraft has exceeded all the potential threat fighter aircrafts. Its feature as an offense-defense weapon is very precise that it can perform on any weather condition. This kind of plane is a complicated device meant to be handled by highly qualified pilots. The F-16 or the Viper has played vital roles in most of America’s wars with the most recent being in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. An F-16 fighter plane is what Monessa Catuncan navigates.
But before Monessa even set foot to the elite US Air Force, this humble Pinay, like almost everybody else earned her way to success.
The twenty-six-year-old Monessa is the youngest daughter of Ramons and Teody Catuncan of Mesquite, Texas. She graduated in 2000 as a Valedictorian in a class of 693 in Mesquite High School. She was then accepted to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, that same year. While at USAFA, Monessa, aside from pursuing her desired career as part of the US Air Force, served as a Squadron Commander, a Division-1 tennis player, a Glider Instructor Pilot, and a member of the Glider Acrobatic Team, among other essential positions. In 2004, Monessa graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering from the USAFA.
Like all of her colleagues, Monessa went through an Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) before becoming a fighter pilot. However, she didn’t just pass her UPT – she excelled in it.
She then started her pilot career flying a T-6 Texan at the Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. This aircraft is the basic trainer for every Air Force aspiring pilots. After this training, students will then choose whether to fly fighter/bomber aircrafts or cargo/refueling aircrafts. Most of the time, only top students in the class are given the option to fly fighter/bomber aircrafts.
Monessa proved herself, and finished the course as one of the top student-pilots in her class. She was then chosen to fly either a fighter or a bomber aircraft. After her course at Moody Air Force, she went to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas and Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls to fly the T-38. In her training there, Monessa learned the basics of formation flying, offensive and defensive fighter maneuvering, and surface attack bombing techniques. Monessa went through intense studying and was put in a variety of stressful situations in order to pass this training.
From flying T- 38, she had an option of choosing from different aircrafts like the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Warthog, B-52 Stratofortress, and F/A-22 Raptor, and T-6 or T-38 are also options. After her T-38 course, Monessa requested to fly an F-16 Falcon, and she got what she wanted.
Monessa went through with her training to hone her skill at maneuvering fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona where she learned how to control and apply tactics of the F-16 Fighter Falcon, or Viper. Monessa finished her course at Luke Air Force Base with flying colors and was part of the “Lucky number 13” graduate from class 2007. She was the only woman in her group, not to mention the only Filipino to pass the much-coveted pilot course.
Monessa, who just recently pinned on Captain, is now assigned to 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and her squadron just recently came back from Iraq where they served and supported the Army Troops on the ground through a variety of close air support missions.
The US Air Force is an elite organization and to a pilot, an F-16 fighter plane is a prized possession. Monessa, through her perseverance and hard work, has earned not only the fly the F-16, but also the pride and honor of defending the United States, as well as making the Filipinos proud.
Related Link: USAF Capt. Monessa Catuncan: A Filipina takes flight
While in Los Angeles after the Miami Fashion Week, Furne Oné graciously accepted the invitation from Asian Journal for an exclusive interview, before he goes back to Dubai . “It was my first time to join the Miami Fashion Week. You see, you can’t just come and join the competition. You have to be invited,” Furne explained to Asian Journal. “But the organizers of the event went to Dubai and attended the Dubai Fashion Fiesta where I participated. They liked my collection and invited me to join the MFW. And I’m so happy I did,” said Furne who never expected to come home with the Designer’s Choice Award. Furne’s collections turned out to be the most anticipated show in the competition and the judges found Furne’s collections “original and nice”.
Describing his 39-piece collection, Furne said, “It is a fusion of styles from the East and the West. The clothes are fun, flirty, very ready-to-wear for parties. The gowns are lacy and adorned with colorful Swarovski jewels which reflect the vibrancy of the city of Miami .”
A favorite designer of the rich and famous in Dubai and surrounding Arabic cities, Furne One revealed that he started to entertain the idea of designing clothes when he was ten years old. “My grandmother and mother were both fashionistas. They loved to wear beautiful clothes. Looking at them, I would sketch designs and I kept sketching as I grew older. Unfortunately, when I went to college in Cebu , there was no course on Fashion Design yet. So I took up Fine Arts,” he recalled.
In 1994, Furne joined the 1st Mega Magazine Young Designers Competition and he got the top prize. The judges were big names in the global fashion industry like Filipina fashion designer Josie Natori, CEO and founder of New York-based The Natori Company, and Stephen Gan, co-founder of the fashion and art magazine,Visionaire.
The prize was a trip to Paris where Furne trained for a while. Then, Josie Natori invited Furne to New York where he worked as an apprentice in The Natori Company.
Upon his return to Cebu , Furne joined another fashion competition, sponsored by the government, where he once again got the top prize – a trip to Japan . While in Japan , Furne’s collections won for him the coveted Japan ’s Women’s Wear Award.
After his stint in Japan , Furne knew he wanted to be based abroad. The question was where. “I initially thought of New York since I’ve been there. Then, a friend suggested Dubai . I thought hard about it and realized that in Paris and in New York , there are many good fashion designers and the competition was going to be tough. So, I tried out Dubai. And I liked it there. It’s a melting pot of races; in fact, there are more expats there than locals – lots of Europeans. It’s also an open city; not as strict as other Arabic cities,” shared Furne.
In Dubai , Furne started working for a company, designing and making clothes for wealthy Arabic women who love going to parties and weddings. After a few years, he was able to establish a loyal circle of clientele which encouraged him to move on with a fashion house of his own. “I wanted to concentrate on designing so I partnered with someone who will take care of the management/business side. And that’s Rashid Ali. His company was one of my suppliers for fabrics,” said Furne.
“A Caregiver’s Tale” – Rose Fostanes, a Philippine caregiver who has worked in Israel for several years, is the first season winner of a popular Israeli television singing contest called The X-Factor Israel. She beat a series of Israeli performers during a dramatic rise to fame with her soulful renditions of classic tunes. Her vocal talents captured the votes and admiration of Israelis and also sparked an outpouring of pride from Filipinos who flooded social media sites with messages of congratulations.
Fostanes serenaded the audience with her interpretation of Frank Sinatra’s 1969 hit “My Way”, with an Israeli orchestra backing her up. It was one of several commanding performances of classic songs that helped her to win enough text-message votes from Israeli TV viewers to surpass her Israeli X-Factor rivals.
The victory made her the first Philippine domestic worker to triumph in a reality TV show in the Jewish state. Fostanes was just one of more than 30,000 Philippine migrants in Israel, holding unglamorous jobs like cleaners and caregivers for the elderly and disabled. Their role in Israeli society has become so deeply rooted that for many Israelis, the Hebrew word for “Filipino” is synonymous with “caregiver.” Fostanes, who covered British band Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in a previous round of the contest, has been an overseas caregiver for about 20 years. After stints in Egypt and Lebanon, she moved to Israel several years ago, sending money back to the Philippines to support her family. Fostanes had been leading a relatively uneventful life in south Tel Aviv, sharing a small apartment in a low-income migrant neighbourhood, until a friend persuaded her to compete in The X-Factor to try to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional singer.
Fostanes also expressed hope that some of the millions of other Filipinos who perform domestic work abroad will draw inspiration from her success. ( taken from Voice of America by Michael Lipin)
“Philippine-American chef” – Cristeta Pasia Comerford (born 1962) is a Filipino-American chef who has been the White House Executive Chef since 2005. She is the first woman to be selected for the post, and also the first of Asian descent.
Cristeta Comerford was born as Cristeta Pasia in the Philippines and grew up at Cataluña St., (now G. Tolentino) Sampaloc, Manila. She completed her secondary education at the Manila Science High School. She attended the University of the Philippines, Diliman in Quezon City, majoring in food technology. However, she left school before completing the degree when she immigrated to the United States at the age of 23.
Comerford’s first job was at the Sheraton Hotel near O’Hare International Airport. She also worked at the Hyatt Regency hotel. After Chicago, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a chef at two restaurants. She additionally spent six months in Vienna as a rotating chef. Comerford was recruited by White House executive chef Walter Scheib III in 1995 to work in the Clinton White House.
After Scheib resigned in February 2005, Comerford was appointed White House executive chef by First Lady Laura Bush on August 14, 2005. Comerford is the first female White House executive chef and the first person of ethnic minority origin to hold this position.
She was referred to when George Bush mentioned his “Philippine-American chef” to visiting Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June 2008.
On January 9, 2009, the Obama transition team announced that Comerford would be retained as the administration’s head chef. Michelle Obama stated, “She is also the mom of a young daughter, and I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families.”
Comerford appeared on a special two hour episode of Iron Chef America, originally broadcast on January 2, 2010. She was teamed up with Bobby Flay and competed against a team of Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali. Comerford and Flay were triumphant.
Among the Hollywood celebrities who have claimed that they have Filipino blood running in their veins are Dean Devlin, writer and producer of several hit films like Independence Day and Godzilla; Rob Schneider, a comedian, writer and actor who appeared in Judge Dredd, Down Periscope, Big Daddy, Deuce Bigolow and The Animal; Lou Diamond Phillips, the lead actor in Bats; Paolo Montalban, the lead actor in the hit TV series Mortal Kombat; Tia Carrere, a pretty actress from Hawaii who starred in True Lies alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Ernie Reyes Jr., a martial arts expert, who appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Benjamin Cayetano, Peter Aduja, Pedro dela Cruz, Thelma Buchholdt, Glenn Olea, Irene Natividad, Gene Canque Liddell, David Mercado Valderrama, Velma Veloria, Robert Bunda, Ron Menor, Reynaldo Graulty, Henry Manayan, Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley, Philip Vera Cruz, Pete Fajardo, Juventino Fajardo, Roberto Rivas, Gene Canque Liddel, G. Monty Manibog, Henry Manayan, Michael Guingona Jr., Edward Soriano, Antonio Taguba and Eleanor Mariano for public service;
- Loida Nicolas Lewis, Josie Natori, Lilia Calderon Clemente, and Cecilia Pagkalinawan for business;
- Jose Garcia Villa, N.V.M. Gonzales, Carlos Bulosan, Bienvenido Santos, Jessica Hagedorn, and Ninotchka Rosca for literature;
- Alex Tizon, Byron Acohido, Tita Dioso Gillespie, Cielo Buenaventura, Howard Chua, Hermenegildo “Hermie” A. Azarcon, Veronica Pedrosa and Lisa Foronda for journalism;
Pacita Abad, Genara Banzon, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., Venancio Igarta, Jose Romero and for painting and arts;
- Lawrence Que Jr., Stella Evangelista, Ernesto Espaldon, Rolando Castro, Neonilo Tejano, Enriquez Ostrea, Domingo Alvear, Ofelia Dirige, Jose Evangelista, Ananias Diokno, Jorge Camara, Eduardo Padlan, Francis Duhaylongsod, and Eleanor Marinao for science and medicine; and
- Ceferino Garcia, Roman Gabriel, Salvador”Dado” Marino, Speedy Dado, Tai Babilonia, Benny Agbayani, Bobby Balcena, Elizabeth Punsalan and Vicky Manalo Drakes for sports.
Among the Filipino-Americans who were elected to office in the US government are Governor Benjamin Cayetano of Hawaii; Hawaii State Senate President Robert Bunda; State Representatives Jeff Coleman of Pennsylvania and Jon Amores of West Virginia; and Mayors Juventino Fajardo of Glendale Heights, Illinois; Antonio “Tony” Cartagena of Walnut, California; Pete Pajardo of Carson, California; Michael Guingona Jr. of Daly City, California; Gene Canque Liddel; Henry Manayan and Jose Estevez of Milpitas, California; Teresita Santiago of Delano City, California; and Robert Rivas or Bergenfield, New Jersey.
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Your contribution to the additional list of Filipino Achievers is of a big great help for ofwempowerment blog whose project is to gather all Filipio Achievers (compilation) and publish it in a book where our childrens and the next generations to come will know them as “The Unforgotten Filipino Achievers” who give honor and prestige to our beloved country, the Philippines.
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