Tatler recognizes 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, palanggas.
They are perfect examples of how bright women can be achievers with purpose and passion.
This Tatler project was co-presented by the Belo Medical Group.
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.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and CEO of Rappler
For years now, Maria Ressa has been the topic of heavy debate and controversial litigation. A woman of integrity, she is the subject of several charges of arrest, some of which have put her behind bars for one reason and one reason only: speaking the truth.
Davao City Mayor
Affectionately called “Inday,” a Visayan word for an “honorable lady,” this super-successful 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 position on her own merits.
Her transformational leadership skills defined her years in public service. According to her colleagues, being a tactful negotiator, a pacifier, and a principled leader are just some of her characteristics.
Currently, she is running for the position of vice president of the Philippines. In her bid for the second highest position in the country, her platform includes initiatives that promote peace in Mindanao.
Quezon City Mayor
The 45-carat diamond of Quezon City is its mayor.
The political arena has long been male-dominated, but women like Belmonte prove that it needn’t be so. Some of her proudest projects involve the security of women, children and those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“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 Belmonte.
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.
Founder, Belo Group of Companies; medical director, Belo Medical Group
This beauty pioneer has become a world-class name. Her eponymous medical group has been credited for revolutionizing the local aesthetics and dermatological industry — though, of course, her many international accolades are no less impressive.
Dr. Vicki Belo advises all women out there considering a new venture to look deeply within themselves, adding that meaningful introspection has been imperative in conquering this male-dominated field.
“Our battle cry is ‘Beauty for All,’” she says. “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.”
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 theater at only seven years young with The King and I, this achievement was not unexpected of the budding Filipino talent. With her Tony-winning performance in Miss Saigon, her unforgettable portrayals of Les Miserables’ Eponine and Fantine, and even voicing Disney Princesses on the big screen, she has never given a fraction short of her best.
“We are tougher than anyone thinks. We are not only wives and mothers but also successful in our endeavors. We are leaders,” Salonga reminds us.
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.
Olympic gold medalist 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-kilogram dumbbell she lifted on July 26, 2022. In that moment, she knew she had just become the first Filipina who was coming home with an Olympic gold medal.
“Despite our macho society, women have shown excellence and compassion,” she told Tatler.
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.
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.”
Designer, 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.
Indeed, Heart Evangelista has proven herself an icon through her many achievements in so many ways.
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: to empower Filipinos to become “prosumers,” or producers/consumers of electricity.
She moves into a male-dominated world, but womanhood is the core of her purpose. “Climate change displaced 80 percent 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.
She has long portrayed women from all walks of life. From her Cannes Best Actress award-winning turn in Ma’ Rosa to the drug-dependent Myrna in Chito Roño’s Private Show, to the selfless mother Magda in Wenn Deramas’ Mula Sa Puso, and now as the mother of a billiard genius in the upcoming primetime series Bolera — she’s done it all.
“Winning (at Cannes) was the last thing on my mind while doing Ma’ Rosa. I knew it had a chance, but I was there for the ride,” says Jose.
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.
“Women today continue to break through the proverbial glass ceiling,” Colayco said, sharing her insights on today’s Filipina.
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. That’s 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.
Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire
Undersecretary, Department of Health
On the DOH frontlines are people like this Health Undersecretary who has been dedicating much of her time to facing people, analyzing and disseminating data, primarily on the feared COVID-19.
“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.”
Florina “Nina” Capistrano-Baker
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.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Representative of the Lone District of Antique
The dynamo that is Loren Legarda has served three terms as senator, as well as Representative for the District of Antique, and Deputy Speaker of the Lower House.
She is tenacious when 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 at the prestigious Venice Biennale, but securing for the country a prime location for its exhibition.
Legarda promises to “continue pushing for legislation and promoting programs providing long-term solutions to alleviate poverty while allowing us to maximize our capabilities and achieve our full potential.”
Makati City Mayor
Young vibrant and intelligent, the Makati City Mayor proves that, 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, but Makati is a city with an estimated population of 629,616.
As the city’s mayor for six years, 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 P5,000 for 100,000 Makatizens programs,” she tells Tatler.
President and CEO, Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc.
“Very often, (women’s) worst critics are their inner saboteurs that limit who they can be,” says the brilliant head of the Robinson’s retail empire. She attended the University of the Philippines Diliman before entering New York University in 1984. She helms multiple organizations and is a JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Cebu Air Inc. director.
Iconic 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,” Soho says. The award-winning news program State of the Nation and Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, are among her popular, hard-hitting shows.
Doris Magsaysay Ho
President and CEO, Magsaysay Inc.
Continuing the legacy of her father and grandfather, she took over the reins of the family business and pushed it to greater heights. The company expanded from ship owning and logistics to, among others, personnel training and transport.
“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,” says this feminine shaker and mover.
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 recognized as the National Winner of the Asian Academy Creative Awards for Best News or Current Affairs Presenter.
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,” explains Davila.
CEO, Standard Chartered Bank Philippines
Standard Chartered Bank has witnessed the Philippines’ notable development since it was established here in 1872. And since 2016, the first Filipina CEO has been given the opportunity to steer the bank towards greater success.
She relates, “Know your stuff, work hard and assert. Anything worthwhile takes a long time. Be generous — with your time, talent, resources — and prioritize lifting others up.”
She adds: “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, glorify the Lord. Be humble and be grateful.”
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.
“In a world where every woman is expected to be a good daughter, mother, and career woman, the real struggle is how to have a sense of harmony with yourself while doing the things that fire up your soul,” shares the hardworking Atilano.
Ana Patricia Non
Founder, Community Pantry PH
The Philippines has experienced the economy’s decline since 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 has done this out of love and a sense of duty — a quality she was known to possess even before making headlines through her compassion and hard work.
“We (women) are strong,” shares Non. “Not only can we bring life to another human being, but we can also make decisions for our own bodies.”
Senator, Republic of the Philippines
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.
“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,” she concludes.
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 woman who has successfully balanced family and career, she comments: “When compared to women in other countries, Filipinas have always enjoyed a special position in our culture: they assume prominent roles in political, business, education, arts, medical, academic and diplomatic spheres.”
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 organization with care while ensuring innovation and stability even during precarious times. “As I take on my new role, I am honored 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,” Osial says.
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 Filipino.
“Cultural action is civic action,” she says. “Culture and arts are neither luxuries nor frivolities. They build innovation, creativity and critical capacity for the country.”
Founder, MDI and Novare Technologies; chair, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)
With smart Silicon Valley knowhow, Villanueva paves the way for fellow female scientists and innovators to be given due credit. Her achievements have proven so impressive that they are 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).
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 Sazon.
“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 concludes.
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. continues its second initiative, marrying this desire for social welfare with the pressing issue of sustainability. “We all have a stake in the environment we live in,” Mercado states. “Investing our time, talents, and resources is the way to protect our planet, and there is no other time but now.”
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We salute all you women who have given your precious time, talents and effort to reach the pinnacle of success in your chosen endeavors! Bravo!
I would like to thank the prestigious lifestyle magazine Philippine Tatler in helping me to come out with this article.