Celebrating women on and beyond their achievements

In Filipino family culture, the women or mothers are referred to as the ilaw ng tahanan and the same holds true for entire communities. We now see more women in leadership positions—whether it be in the workforce or other sectors, making their voices heard and shedding light to their advocacies.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. On July 29, eight Filipinas who have made a mark in their professional careers and uplifted various communities were recognized as Bravo Awardees by Zonta Club of Makati and Security Bank. On top of the recognition, Security Bank gave every awardee a P50,000 grant for their respective advocacies.

The Bravo Awards is a biennial event that started in 2015, as a partnership between Security Bank Corporation, Zonta Club of Makati, and Environs. This year, a virtual awarding ceremony was held via Zoom. The event allowed the awardees to be recognized in the fields of Arts, Culture, and Heritage; Business; Culinary Arts; Education; Media & Public Affairs; Science & Technology; Social Services; and Sports. Hidilyn Diaz, the first Filipino athlete to win a gold medal in the Olympics after 97 years, was also recognized for her excellence in weightlifting, a sport typically dominated by men.

The awardees’ journeys inspired everyone. Each of them shared their stories of grit and passion as they revealed the challenges they have overcome in their careers and causes.

Kythe Foundation is an NGO that strives to improve the quality of life of cancer-stricken children in the country and the work does not come easy.

“The biggest challenge is the establishment of child life services in partner hospitals. It’s really a struggle to place and institutionalize these programs in hospitals,” says Child Life Program Manager and Awardee for Social Services, Dr. Angelita Sievert-Fernandez.

Maria Carolina Rodriguez-Dawonlay, a cultural worker and the Awardee for Arts, Culture, & Heritage, shared how the COVID-19 pandemic has led some abuse victims into unsafe situations.

“Gender-based violence has been present in our society and is now increasing. Those who have the connection can adjust, but those who don’t have the means and the technology to connect with others and to free themselves from their situation—they are really not just left behind, they are locked down in harmful practices.”

Dr. Pauline Ferraris Convocar has made her mark as Surigao del Norte’s “Doctor to the Barrios”, with her presence and work being key to bringing down the infant mortality rate to zero and increasing the immunization coverage for children under five years old in the island of Socorro. During her speech, the emergency medicine clinician spoke about the various challenges in our country’s healthcare system.

Ang hirap-hirap i-trust iyong healthcare workforce na parang adjusting to the surge [of COVID-19 cases], when in fact it has always been a problem even before kasi kulang talaga iyong space, kulang talaga ang staff,” the Awardee for Science & Technology and head of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine’s (PCEM) Section on Advocacy, stated.

Despite the challenges they are facing, the Bravo Awardees still find inspiration to wake up and empower others.

Itong mga bata na ito ang rason kung bakit ako gumigising sa umaga, and they are the reason why I want to better myself,” professional MMA fighter Geli Bulaong, the Awardee for Sports and a passionate advocate for helping the sexually abused, said.

“Kung gaano kalaki ang pasasalamat nila sa akin, mas malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa kanila. Without them, I don’t have a purpose in life,” she added.

“What definitely inspires me is the students, those who cannot afford to enroll in a private school. Sila lamang ay umaasa sa state university, sa libreng tuition ng ating gobyerno,Dr. Emily Miralles-Arangote, the Awardee for Education and President of Aklan State University, said.

“Second is the NGO volunteers. They have no college degree; they don’t know what and how to teach but they have the heart to teach. My role then is to have this core group to be educated with content and strategies for teaching in handling more than 700 students.”

Michelle Ong-Kho, veteran ANC news anchor and the Awardee for Media & Public Affairs, talked about the importance of the industry she belongs to. “As a journalist, for as long as there are people with no access to correct information, that’s where our job is,” she said.

“This pandemic is not just a health crisis; it is also an information crisis which is just as bad [as the health crisis]. For as long as there are people who spread knowingly or unknowingly wrong information, I think that’s why we do what we do,” Mimi, as she’s more fondly known, added.

The Bravo Awardees also conveyed the biggest lessons they have learned from the ongoing pandemic and their advice to the future group of Awardees.

“You need to have so much love and passion for work and dedication. For 13 years, I have been so much in love with my craft,” Yvette Marie Punzalan, a social entrepreneur who aims to reintegrate women into society and the Awardee for Business, shared.

“The pandemic has taught us that we are resilient, we go on and move on despite what is there. What is asked of us every day is to continue to trust, and the biggest example is to just do what you can,” Regina Aspiras, a chef and the Awardee for Culinary Arts, said.

“One will never take a step if you think that you can change the world. There is no such thing. You can just change what you can in your own way and if we all do what we can, we can change the world,” she concluded.

When little girls hear of stories from empowered women, it gives them the drive to dream and achieve more. This allows them to say “I can” to everything they wish to do. This proves that everyone—every woman—can do anything and everything they set their eyes on, and even go beyond.

Have you recognized a special woman in your life? Give your mom, your favorite teacher, your wife, or your friends a call. Women. They continue to shine a light in our homes, our communities and across the world.