Alex Eala made history at the 2022 US Open, where she became the first Filipino to win a junior singles grand slam.
During her speech, the 17-year-old tennis champ thanked her family, supporters and the tournament organizers, before asking if she could speak in Filipino. She said, “Maraming salamat sa lahat ng nagdasal at nagsuporta sa akin … Buong puso ko itong pinaglaban, hindi lang para sa sarili ko, kung hindi para makatulong din ako sa kinabukasan ng Pilipinas. So hindi lang ito panalo ko, panalo nating lahat.”
Just before the tournament, Eala visited the Nike headquarters in New York, and on a wall there, she wrote, “No doubts.” Underneath those words, she drew a heart and put her name.
There are no doubts—not when it comes to Eala’s bright future. We cannot wait to see what she does next.
Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo named their tree-to-bar chocolate company after gold—twice. Auro comes from “Au,” the chemical symbol for gold, and “oro,” the Filipino and Spanish world for gold. And the brand does deserve the name for the many strides it has achieved in elevating Filipino chocolate and uplifting the lives of local farmers.
Go and Ocampo have taken the brand—and Philippine cacao—far in its seven years of existence, collaborating with so many companies; receiving international recognition; opening stores and cafés in the country, Japan, and Bahrain; and helping many people along the way.
They remain dedicated to “consistency, quality, innovation, and social impact,” sourcing their beans from “passionate farmers who cultivate top quality beans in the country” and “sharing the unique flavors and potential of Philippine cacao to the world.”
Auro empowers farmers by paying them well, training them, offering them the assistance of cacao experts on producing better yields, and launching projects in their communities to improve their quality of life.
It’s no wonder our favorite bar of Auro tastes extra good.
Letting Filipino ingredients shine in craft spirits
As CEO of Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc., the oldest distillery in the country, Olivia Limpe-Aw stands out in a male-dominated industry. And Limpe-Aw carries on the legacy of her family business with strength and style.
Under her leadership, the distillery has introduced exciting new products that let Filipino ingredients shine, such as Paradise Mango Rum, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, and Manille Liqueur de Dalandan, all of which have become hits here and abroad.
The craft spirits, which are beautifully packaged, have become favorite pasalubong for Filipinos abroad and gifts for foreign friends.
“We are a proud Filipino company promoting Philippine products,” said Limpe-Aw.
During the pandemic and the resulting liquor ban, the distillery faced its share of challenges. But Limpe-Aw persevered, leading the company in switching to the production of disinfectant alcohol.
Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc. has also introduced Si Anti-bacterial Liquid Hand Soap which is made using byproducts from the process of making Manille Liqueur de Calamansi and Manille Liqueur de Dalandan. The soap line is a result of the company’s dedication to sustainable manufacturing.
The power of art in social commentary
In 2021, Kevin Eric Raymundo, otherwise known as Tarantadong Kalbo, started a movement with just one drawing.
All those anthropomorphic fists you saw (or perhaps posted yourself) on social media? Those started with him.
But long before #Tumindig, Raymundo had already been using his art to speak up about the ills of our country and yes, our government. His slice-of-life comic strips cut deep. “I think it is important for comic creators to realize that comics have always been political. That even their ‘inaction’ to important issues is in itself a political stand—in favor of the oppressor.”
Raymundo is seen as a champion by many … but he gets hate, too.
He’s attacked by trolls and he gets all kinds of threats, but he remains resolute, telling us, “Once the trolls attack you, it means that your message is effective.”
His art has become an important voice during these trying times, the brand of tarantado that we need.
Hollywood success story
Yong Chavez’s success story is one that never fails to inspire.
As a child, Chavez didn’t have a TV at home so she would try to watch through her neighbors’ windows.
She had no idea then that when she grew up, she’d be the one people would watch on TV.
In college, she worked as a cashier at Jollibee. That was where she met her husband Jun who would later move to Guam to help open Jollibee there. Chavez would eventually join him and that was where her career in journalism would start—as a freelance news reporter.
Chavez and her husband would move to California where she would go on to have different jobs: selling bread in Disneyland, working as a travel agent, and then managing a Red Ribbon store.
But she never let go of her love for journalism. Ging Reyes, then ABS-CBN’s bureau chief for North America, invited Chavez to do freelance work for “Balitang America” and she eventually became ABS-CBN’s Hollywood correspondent.
Chavez would make history under this title—she was the first Filipino TV reporter from a Philippine network to cover the Primetime Emmys and the first reporter from a Philippine network to cover the Oscars.
Now a regular on the Emmys and Oscars beat, Chavez has interviewed the world’s biggest stars. (Name them, she’s most likely interviewed them—more than once, in many cases.)
Chavez has been working nonstop (yes, throughout the pandemic, while learning how to bake), interviewing even more stars, advocating for Filipino talent, telling more memorable stories, and achieving new milestones in her own Hollywood journey. She’s a board member of the Hollywood Critics Association and a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and she’s also the first Filipino journalist to become part of the Critics Choice Association’s International Branch.
That little girl who had to look through other people’s windows so she could peek at their television screens gets to live those TV moments in real life now. She meets the stars face-to-face, goes to the best Hollywood events, presents awards, moderates global press conferences, and serves as jury president at film festivals.
But the best part is Chavez remains the kind, wonderful person she’s always been, as well as a loving wife and mom.
She’s a testament to how far hard work can take you, and she’s living proof that dreams can come true.
And she’s just getting started.
A voice for the dead
If, tomorrow, we woke up with the ability to clone humans, one of the first people we’d consider cloning would be Dr. Raquel Fortun.
Fortun is one of only two forensic pathologists in a country where forensics (and even just the basics of a proper investigation) is badly needed.
“Parang hindi tayo natututo pagdating sa investigations,” she told us. “Iba ’yung standards dito. I don’t know when, if ever, we can elevate the procedures we have right now.”
Fortun, who trained in Seattle, could easily choose to work abroad like other Filipino forensic pathologists have, but she chooses to stick it out here with us. “There’s actually no appreciation here of what forensic pathology is about. I still get asked, ‘So anong difference mo sa medicolegal?’”
Bringing restaurants together
Like all the other restaurateurs in the country, Eric Teng, CEO of Mother Spice Food Corp., the company behind Mango Tree and Genki Sushi Philippines, had a lot of challenges to face during the pandemic.
What was beautiful, though, was how restaurant owners came together to help one another deal with the impact of COVID.
Teng is the president of RestoPh, the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines Association, which was formed during quarantine.
The members are normally competitors, sure, but they were united in their struggle and so they did what they could to help one another, sharing ideas and working together.
And they didn’t just help one another. Teng recalled an early meeting where RestoPh members met with mall owners and asked them, “What can we do to help you?”
Despite their own challenges, RestoPh made sure they made a positive impact, serving thousands and thousands of meals to front-liners and people in need.
Teng also used his voice in speaking up about public safety, the new normal, and the importance of vaccination.
There are Filipinos who believe that Vico Sotto is the Philippines’ only hope, posting online that they’ll wait until Sotto is old enough to run for president.
And can anyone blame them?
In a country battered by corruption and incompetence, Sotto’s brand of leadership is sadly rare, with his commitment to good governance making people wish they can move to Pasig where he is mayor.
He is hardworking and trustworthy, efficient and transparent, driven by data, but also empathetic and decidedly against corruption. His COVID response alone is enough for us to wish for the longevity of his political career.
He told the delegates of the 2021 Ayala Young Leaders Congress, “If we want to see the changes, what are we going to do? As the next generation of leaders, are we just going to think of our own interests, are we just going to think of what position we can get, what power we can get, what fame we can get, what money we can get? Or are we going to challenge the status quo?”
In a 2021 commencement speech, Sotto encouraged the graduates of the Ateneo De Manila University to “dream audaciously.”
Our audacious dream, not for ourselves but for the country, is for him to become president. And who can blame us?
Feeding the hungry
You’ve seen her before, somehow, somewhere. Perhaps onstage or on the big screen, because she’s an actor. Perhaps in the streets, because as Juana Change, she is a fearless activist. She worked in advertising, and she’s also a writer. Mae Paner is a woman of many talents and many passions and in the midst of the pandemic, she dove into another pursuit: feeding the hungry.
She calls them her “beloveds”—the homeless, the needy, the survivors of disasters, and people in prison. And they are the focus of Kawa Pilipinas, Paner’s feeding program that she started with friends.
Using her own money, Paner kicked things off in her own home, cooking and packing delicious and nutritious meals for the hungry. Volunteers and donations started coming in. People who couldn’t celebrate their birthdays because of the lockdown chose to share their blessings with the beneficiaries of Kawa Pilipinas instead.
Paner shared updates on social media—“984 bowls of yumminess,” “8,256 food packs served,” “7,627 food packs delivered.”
The joyful updates brought sunshine to dark pandemic days and inspired more and more people to help.
The roster of donors grew to include companies and NGOs. In one post, Paner shared, “Our volunteers are growing too: students, content creators, flight attendants, corporate executives, chefs, diplomats, social workers, hospitality industry workers, gender activists, IT professionals, mothers of EJK victims and artists.”
Today, Kawa Pilipinas continues its important work and remains open to accepting monetary and in-kind donations to satiate more souls.
Making PH a more delicious place
Cibo’s spinach dip is reason enough for us to put Margarita Fores on this list of inspiring people. But that would be our bias (and our love for our forever favorite dip) showing.
Here’s the undisputed truth, though: Fores has been making the country a more delicious place since she opened her first restaurant decades ago.
Today, Fores, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016, brings deliciousness into people’s lives in different ways.
There are her restaurants: Cibo (17 branches now), Grace Park, Lusso, and The Loggia at Palacio. There’s her commissary and catering service Cibo di Marghi. (We know we’re in for a yummy time when we’re at an event and we discover that she’s the caterer. In fact, we often daydream about ordering platters of her antipasti for eating at home while we binge-watch shows. Also, did you know that you can order dishes from Fores’ old resto Cafe Bola from Cibo di Marghi?)
And even when you head to your supermarket, you’ll find a touch of Fores there—in the freezer section, where Cibo’s ready-to-heat pizzas are.
Fores has dedicated her life to serving good food, and what’s great is she’s always on a quest to keep learning, traveling to eat and learn new techniques, or bringing in experts who are willing to share their secrets.
Fores, who is known for her Italian food, has been knighted, receiving the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia in 2018. But she’s also been a fervent advocate of Filipino food and exploring local flavors and ingredients. INQ