The Yesterday afternoon, it took me almost 3 hours to drive to Downtown Los Angeles from Irvine. I was invited by my dear friend Rocio Nuyda, Owner of Grace Events; Secretary of the Board of Trustees for the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I knew it was going to be a great event because that’s just how Rocio does things. (Please scroll down past the picture gallery to read the rest of the story… )
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a powerful inexplicable energy. I saw a room-full of women and a handful of men who were all getting settled and waiting for the program to begin. I registered and was assisted by a lovely lady named Raesa, after which, the first person I saw was the ever-so-trusted Steve Angeles , Broadcast Journalist for The Filipino Channel’s “Balitang America”, my dear friend John Mina – Human Resources Analyst with the Talent Solutions Division in the Department of Human Resources for the County of Los Angeles, Patron of The Arts and Philanthropist – being his usual hospitable and welcoming self and of course, the legendary Photographer, Rick Gavino!
The venue was the pristine and posh offices of Vasquez & Company, LLP on Grand Ave. in Downtown Los Angeles. There was a beautiful food and beverage spread courtesy of Island Pacific Supermarket. The room – a very large conference room – with a table that could probably seat 30 – was filled to capacity! I stood in the back to observe what was going on and to see who of my friends are in attendance. I was so pleasantly surprised that a lady I admired for so long, TV Personality, Journalist, Sports Correspondent and TV Host of “Kababayan LA” for 8 years, Janelle So-Perkins. Jannelle and I met in 2004 when she interviewed me for Asian Journal to promote my Bella Gemma Jewelry at that time. Wow! Much has happened in 12 years!
It was the perfect timing as after her opening greetings, she introduced the lady whom I wanted to see and get to know more, “Mama” Rocio Nuyda. The ladies there lovingly referred to her as Mama Rocio. There was a palpable reverence for her and her contributions to this organization called, “Filipina Women’s Network”. I have a feeling that her active participation here, has helped FWN grow to unprecedented highest. The evening was about launching one of their initiatives, that of introducing the world to #GlobalPinayPower – the Power of the Filipino Woman! The highlight of which is a book launch they did in 2014 for the first ever Filipina Women’s Network book on Leadership entitled “DISRUPT – Filipina Women: Proud. Loud. Leading Without A Doubt”
Rocio thanked their sponsors- Wells Fargo, Southwest Airlines, Island Pacific Supermarket and Vasquez & Company, LLP. She then introduced another lady, whom I got to hear from for the first time, Marily Mondejar. She was very witty, an eloquent speaker and uber passionate about the rights of women. I wanted to get closer to the front to hear her speak so I moved from the very back to the front and boy I was glad I did! I would eventually find out that Marily is the Founding President of the Filipina Women’s Network – a non-profit organization for women of Philippine ancestry in the United States. An organization which she grew from 50 members in 2002 to over 10,200 multi-generational members in 15 countries and 23 states in the United States. She is also the Producer of “The Vagina Monologues” – global campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Marily then shared a story of our quest for the “Face of Global Pinay Power” and after months of going through the process of interviewing and finding that one woman who will represent the brand and the image of a “Global Pinay”, they finally found her! Francine Maigue ( pronounce it “Mah-ee-gay’ or she will lovingly correct you and tell you the story of her very historic name ) is the “Face of Global Pinay 2015” and will travel the world to bring the message of, “I’m Filipina… you need to hear about us…” Telling our story is definitely something I am passionate about and absolutely agree with Francine and many of the women in attendance. Francine also said, “Our story needs to be told by us because if we leave it to others to tell it, either they won’t tell our story or they will tell the wrong one.” Francine and FWN received certificates and commendation from Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.
We were encouraged to complete and share this sentence, “I am a Filipina Disrupter because…. ” Jannelle started it by saying, “I’m a Filipina Disrupter because I believe we can be better. Do you watch TV shows because you have no other choice? Are we not being given because we don’t ask? It’s time to know and believe that we deserve better.” She’s definitely coming from her passion for good media as a Journalist and Media Personality.
She then ask us to share our own reasons. I raised my hand and share why I believe I am a Filipina Disrupter. I’m a Filipina Disrupter because:
– I boldly stepped up as one of the few Filipina speakers on the international stage, in the areas of Motivation, Magnetism, Media, Marketing, Monetization and Making A Difference. I did this even if the thought was rather daunting and now it’s clear that this bold move was to further encourage, empower and equip Filipinas and women around the world!
– I wrote a bestselling book even as I went through a most challenging time of my life.
– I made a choice to migrate to the US 27 years ago for a better life for my family and explore how I can make contributions for the greater good
– I courageously chose being a single mother for the greater good everyone involved and grow tremendously in the process.
We also heard from very powerful ladies on “I am a Filipina Disrupter because…. ”
– Carina – a Criminal Defense Lawyer
– Lisa Flores – the first Filipina to manage an NBA Player, Jamaal Wilkes
– Josie Castro – Chief Financial Officer, UCLA’s School of Public Health
– Norma Requierme Austin – Founder of Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture
Maria Beebe, Pd.D., an Internationalization Consultant Portland State University and has a Master of Arts in Anthropology and Ph.D. in Education from Stanford University as well as Author/Editor of “Disrupt”, shared how proud she was of the success of “Disrupt” and that there is definitely a second book in the works and most of the authors are already in place. These are women who are recipients of their annual “100 Most Influential Filipina Women In The World” awards.
One of the highlights of the evening were the reading of excerpts from the book “Disrupt”, either by the authors themselves or read for them by other members since they have authors from all over the world! After hearing them, I really couldn’t leave without buying a copy of the this hefty 582-page book! I really suggest you go to Amazon.com now and purchase a copy for yourself! It’s also available on Kindle. The leadership tips alone at the end of each 37 chapters are worth the price of the book!
My dear friend and one of my she-roes, Janet Nepales was the first one up… She’s an Award-winning Hollywood Journalist and Media Personality. She’s the first ever and the only Filipina woman to be a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press in its 70+ years of existence! I’ve been in awe of her from the moment I met her but even more in awe of her after I heard her story. She said her dream was to become a saint but she realized at one point that sainthood may not happen so she decided to become a journalist instead. In a round about way, it was journalism that has allowed her to help thousands of under privileged through her own funds and through her influence. She has been able to send countless of young women to school through her scholarships through the years. In a way, her dream of being a Saint has finally come true because she has indeed impacted so many lives! I now officially call her “Saint Janet”… 😉 Her chapter is: “Writing for Sainthood”.
Rocio read an excerpt from another lady I absolutely admire and adore – someone who’s a beacon of light for so many Filipinas around the world and is a dear, dear friend of “Mama Rocio”, Loida Nicholas-Lewis, who a few years ago, took over a $1.7 BB corporation after the passing of her beloved husband, Reginald Lewis. You really need to buy the book to read her story! Her chapter is, “Ora et Labora: A Girl Named Loida of Sorsogon”
Benel Se Liban, CPA, Partner at Vasquez & Company LLP and Host of last night’s event, read excerpts from Dr. Astrid Tuminez – who is currently in Singapore. Dr. Tuminez is a Harvard Graduate and now Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft South East Asia. She wrote about, “Dreams Are Free”. Her chapter is, “A Filipina in a Word, a Filipina in the World”.
Susie Quesada, current President of Filipina Women’s Network, and President of Ramar Foods International – a company that manufactures and distributes almost all the frozen food and ice cream in Filipino and Asian Grocery Stores all over the world! She lovingly paid tribute to family and legacy from her chapter, “Mommyla, Popsy and Me: Leading by Example Through The Generations”
Francine Maigue – our Face of Global Pinay Power who’s also a Harvard Graduate and District Director for the California State Assembly – read excerpts from Annalisa Vicente Enrile, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor, University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work, from her chapter entitled, “We Speak Their Names”.
We capped the evening with such an empowered group singing of “I Am Woman” and “I Will Survive” led by Filipina Celebrity and Singer, Djoanna Garcia-Kocher. Oh what fun!!!
The rest of the evening was all about networking, taking pictures, laughing and really getting to know each other. It was so wonderful to see community leaders I haven’t seen in years, and also meet new ones:
– Yey Coronel, Executive Director of Filipino American Service Group Inc.
– Melissa Ramoso, State Chair, Filipino American Caucus of CA Democrats and Youngest Filipino American to Run For Office in CA.
– Charina Vergara – Marketing Manager for Island Pacific Supermarket
– Amar Bornkamp – Senior Team Manager Charles Schwab and FWN Board Member
– Mary Ann R. Omega – Principal Partner of Good Teez and More as well as Board Member of Federation of Philippine American of Chambers of Commerce.
– AnneMarie Cruz, Creator of FoundHer
In such a short time, these stories bonded us like we have known each other for years! It’s amazing that so many of us share the same stories of how our lives were disrupted by seeming tragedies, hardships, decisions and set-backs. The conversations could have gone on, and on, and on, and on, but we had to say good-bye.
This evening has left an indelible mark in my heart. The collective energies of the women in the room was so uplifting that 24 hours later, I was still feeling their loving and nurturing energies. A “Tribe” like this comes but once in a lifetime and I feel so very blessed to have had the opportunity to be introduced to my Filipina Sisters of the Filipina Women’s Network… this is the first time I experienced this kind of pride and exhilaration that writing this is my small contribution to the vastness of their mission. A mission that I would most certainly be proud to take on as part of mine.
Kudos to all of you my beautiful Filipina Sisters! The world is watching so let’s all SOAR, SUCCEED and SHINE. Let’s continue to be lights on a hill to guide others to see… Let’s become unbelievably blessed so we can bless others.
To see our pictures from the evening, please go to www.Facebook.com/emmatiebens
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Here’s To Your Success With Satisfaction and Significance…
Cheering You On!