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Her-Story: How empowerment looks like for four different women

By KAREN AVERION PANGAN Published Mar 15, 2021 10:47 pm Updated Mar 16, 2021 12:08 am

“I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” — Malala Yousafzai

Women have always played a central role in our culture. As the nucleus of the community, the pillars of a home, and empowered individuals who move, shake, and shift the rules, females—young and old—are no doubt important characters that make up our society.

As a woman, one doesn't need to have thousands of followers or a wide clout to make an impact. We prove that here, by putting the spotlight on four females who have been making waves, both big and small, in their respective crafts.

Business, Felie Go
Executive Vice President, Citimart Group of Companies
Mariverde District Director of Soroptimist International Batangas Premier

Saying that Felie Go wears many hats would be a humble understatement. The businesswoman, mother, volunteer, and member of the senior community is the perfect example of a well-rounded woman—one who has developed a flair for success while retaining the heart to pursue her social advocacies.

Besides running a chain of businesses in Batangas, Go is also a prominent member of the Soroptimist International Batangas Premier (SIBP), a charter of an international organization for business and professional women who volunteer their talents, time, and resources to the improvement of lives of females in local communities. 

“Our organization’s core thrust is educating women through flagship programs like Live Your Dream (LYD) which provides education, training, and career support for females. We have also done other high-impact projects like ‘Project Rain’ which helped provide fresh water supply in public schools and ‘BAG-ong Pagasa Livelihood Project’ for women in Batangas City Jail. We have supported several college scholars, too.”

This dedication to helping others is something that she applies to her life as a businesswoman as well. "I maintain professionalism as a leader of our family corporation. During office hours, I am the EVP of the organization in which my children are also involved in. Once I've clocked out though, I transform into a wife and a mom. I do not see entrepreneurship colliding with my advocacy, though my involvement in business paves the way to getting help and support for our projects.” 

When asked about her core belief regarding women empowerment, Go has this to say: “An empowered woman’s middle name is 'Excellence!' If you want to make a difference, there should be no room for mediocre work. I am also a firm believer in giving back to the community. We should start young. Do not wait until you are retired to help. When we are blessed with the means to help, pursue it. When opportunities to help others come about, seize the moment.” 

Art, Monica Ong
Art Director and illustrator

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As an artist, Monica Ong lives a double life. There’s the professional part of her that is dedicated to her corporate career as an art director and a professional illustrator, but there's also the side of her that remains deeply in touch with her more personal creative side. 

“I started doing art when my aunt gave me a cheap brush and watercolor set she got from a local bookstore. It was love at first sight. As an artist, I hope other women who want to pursue this can feel how I did the first time. I hope it gives them the courage to do something they haven’t done before.”

As a creator, she describes her art as colorful and playful. Yet, beneath the light brush strokes and sweet color palettes is a wealth of inspiration and meaning. “My art usually stems from what I experience in my life. For example, I started a series of animal prints that depict them having fun and resting to deal with the anxiety caused by the pandemic. I’m always influenced by the things and events that surround me every day.” 

But how does her craft empowered her as a woman? Ong shares, “It’s amazing to be an artist. You can create a piece that people can truly relate to. You can make people reminisce and feel emotions, but you can also change their minds about an issue by using your art to educate.”

“As a woman, it’s a means for me to convey my thoughts to other people. For years, females are oppressed or pushed to do kitchen work or child-rearing—we barely had a voice. While it’s better today, the oppression is still there in many countries. Art has empowered me to keep talking about social issues or to connect with people. It gives me a platform, a voice to be heard. Art has no gender requirement.”

Animal Welfare, Carmine Collera
Founder, Cats of Legaspi Village

They say one of the best bonds you could ever have is with a loyal fur friend. When you decide to take this above and beyond, that’s what you call true love and dedication.

This is the case for Carmine Collera, an IT Professional by day and the founder of the volunteer group Cats of Legaspi Village (COLV) by night.

“Cats of Legaspi Village was formed back in 2019. It started with the story of two community cats missing which we eventually retrieved and adopted out with the help of other cat-loving individuals. I remember the day when our Facebook page went up. Our notifications were on fire back then.” 

The group, which focuses on feeding stray cats and TNVR (trap/catch, neuter, vaccinate, and return) activities, takes care of over 40 cats in the area of Legaspi village with the help of volunteers. It also holds adoption and fund-raising events now and then.

“The founders of COLV are neighbors acting individually. Our common bond was a group of cats that we have helped in one way or another through neutering, feeding, and socialization. We all have day jobs and thankfully, the group charter objectives and standards for feeding, adoption, and fundraising fell into place.”

While all volunteers of COLV have different levels of commitment, the group is proud to have been able to support its activities for years now. According to Collera, while they do not keep funds, they have been able to continue their initiatives with help from people who willingly pick up some of the bills. 

“The life of a change agent is hard but it can be very rewarding. You will have the opportunity to meet like-minded and generous people while helping the community. For those who cannot participate actively in initiatives like this, please consider kinder alternatives to support. You can also sponsor TNVR and feeding in your area, spay or neuter your pets, and do not participate in breeding and trading of animals,” she adds.

Collera was concerned about people's concept of strays as "problem in the community," thus, she gave her time and effort into this initiative to change that thinking.

"There are two ways that people deal with them—either they complain or they do something about it. I decided to do something about it because it is the right thing to do. The animals in the streets are no different from homeless people yet our public policies for them are still cruel. If what we do can influence more people to be kind to them, maybe we will end up creating a kinder world."

Anyone can join the COLV community by visiting their official page.

Environmentalism, Aralyn Quintos
Researcher, Forest Products Research and Development Institute
Nagoya University Graduate

Aralyn Quintos is one of those girls who knew what she wanted to do ever since she was young. Becoming a researcher has always been her dream when she was in college, and she’s now living it by being the head researcher of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute’s (FPRDI) project which focuses on the promotion of bamboo in music and culture.

“I feel a sense of fulfillment every time I see how real people benefit from our research outputs,” Quintos shares. “The playing of bamboo musical instruments has been part of Philippine culture since time immemorial. Unfortunately, there is little appreciation left for this heritage art form in these modern times. Our project was formed to help upgrade bamboo musical products and promote the beauty and versatility of these eco-friendly instruments so we can present them to future generations of Filipinos.”

Besides working on such a worthy cause, Quintos also finds fulfillment in how her work can help improve the country’s use of our resources.

“Bamboo musical instruments are made of 95 to 100 percent bamboo which makes them almost purely organic. This makes them friendly to the environment because they are a natural product. Disposing won’t be a problem, that is if you ever think of getting rid of them in the first place.” 

She continues, “Through our work, we are able to promote not just how people can improve the quality of forest-based products but also how they can efficiently use our forest-based resources.”

“As for being a woman, I believe that we are predisposed to provide care and nurturing to those around us. It is innate for us to incorporate care in everything we do. This makes us successful in anything we undertake—and also why it is so natural for us to provide and care for the environment. We can be the voice of environmentalism," she closes.

There is no one way to define how a woman's success should look like. Regardless of what story you are writing, as long as it has a heart, then it is definitely something worth telling.