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1st QUARTER 2019




ELEVATING the FILIPINO If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Nobel Peace Laureate, Former President of Liberia

eventually earning the privilege to say that one is the “first person” in the world, in the country, or even in the industry who just happens to be a Filipino - is even sweeter.

Fashion: Ezra Santos Photo by Rozen Antonio HMUA : Mau Piodena Shot on location at- Another Bar, Dusit Thani DUbai

This time, let us set our sights on not just being the best in our community but the best in class. By elevating our standards and aspirations, we then prime our minds and hone our talents and our skills with the ultimate intent, and at a much higher level than we have ever endeavored before. We also touch people beyond our immediate sphere of influence thereby allowing us to transmit our goodwill to the larger world. Unsurprisingly, it will always be the dreamers and the brave ones who dare to think beyond boundaries, who will create the greatest impact in the world.

For a people known to be timid and who have somehow been boxed in by our own misconceptions on how far we can reach, our Filipino community here in the Gulf, not to mention in other parts of the world, have achieved so much in recent years that we have become a veritable force to reckon with, in whatever fields we have chosen to master. Still, we cannot rest on our laurels. In order for us to keep growing as individuals and as a community, we need to adjust our signpost for success. The time has come, to rise up to the next level of self-challenge. It’s time to get out of our comfort zones, outside our own global baranggays, and start engaging with people from other cultures. In fact, it is time that we join the rest of the world entirely, and claim our space side by side the best of them all. Being able to say that one is the “first Filipino” in a certain field is commendable. However, having the audacity to dream and

This edition of Illustrado 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf is dedicated to those who have elevated the Filipino people as game changers, trailblazers, thought leaders and tastemakers. Whether they have changed the world or their industries, or carved new paths for us all, set benchmarks in their fields, or are influencing the new cultural movement, these people who come from all walks of life, have one thing in common and that is – the courage to march to the beat of their own drum. They embody their passions and advocacies, in turn helping them emerge as leaders in their fields of endeavor, in the process inevitably bringing the rest of us on the journey. You are part of this. You better believe it. When a Filipino makes an impact and represents us in an arena where our presence was never felt before, that, whether by design or by chance, enriches our collective portfolio, our armory of capabilities and expertise, even gifts, in the face of the world. Let us take our place at the world’s table, kababayans. The time is now. Tass Noo Filipino! LALAINE CHU-BENITEZ


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Shot on location at: Another Bar - Dusit Thani Dubai Fashion: The Style Curators - Dubai Ivan Cabatit, Khel Recuenco, Gweys Soriano John Klint Javier Vasquez, Auve Lacsam HMUA: Mau Pinodena IV BTS: Sheldone Dacalos On Lalaine: Ezra Santos Couture On Mon, Alwee, Paolo and Antonino: Giulio Twist - Dubai Mall On Rony: Dulce by Sofiya ILLUSTRADO 8


Audacity. Creativity. Curiosity. Inclusiveness. Pinoy Pride. We are Illustrado. That means “You” and “I.” If you have even the slightest morsel of ambition in your body, that undeniable desire to just do better, you are Illustrado. You are a part of a tribe of dreamers and achievers, visionaries and action stars, nerds, warriors, leaders, and community heroes. We are not the minority. We are the majority. And as different as we are from each other as individuals, we are one. For a whole decade now, Illustrado has had one battle cry: “Champion the image of the Filipino.” That voice has not gone softer nor quiter through the years. Quite the contrary: that voice has been emboldened by trials and tribulations. From the outside it looks as though we are all about the glitz and swankiness, but trust and believe, kabayan - #thestruggleisreal. This is not as much an enterprise as it is an authentic advocacy and an advocacy is not an advocacy if it

does not demand sacrifice. We are in it for the love of it, and we are in it for the long run. But as audacious, outrageous, and courageous as we can be, we cannot sustain this fight by ourselves. We need your energy, skills, and good ol’ Pinoy pride to aid us in the noble mission to give the Filipino identity the respect and admiration it deserves. We need you to keep this movement in perpetual motion. Wherever in the world you are, we need you to remember and enact your allegiance to our dear nation. WE NEED YOU. JOIN US. Sincerely,

Team Illustrado #GalingNgPinoy #TaasNooFilipino


In the picture: The team of dreamers and mavericks: Mon Benitez, Creative Director shaping Illustrado’s face for the world; Lalaine Chu-Benitez – Managing Director & Editorin-Chief – head visionary and community catalyst; Rony Aquino – Administrator – master of community relations; and Alwee Villarosa – Features Editor – storyteller and brand evangelist. Brilliant young talents : Paolo Gabriel Benitez and Antonino Benitez

An Intimate Look Behind ILLUSTRADO’S 100 Most Influential Filipinos of the Gulf By REX VERNARD BACARRA

Illustrado’s 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf is serious business. It is the only Filipino lifestyle magazine that earned the respect of leaders and trailblazers across all fields: fashion, education, hospitality, construction, trade, media, finance, scientific and technical, healthcare, arts, and recreation. Everybody wants to be in. Nobody wants to be out. It brings out the worst among the hypocrites. It inspires greatness among the genuine.


The buzz from my phone jarred me awake. My heart skipped. The guessing game has begun.

The first time my heart pranced, it was in November. Eyes barely opened, I stretched my arm and lazily frisked my bed several times and felt, finally, the familiar cold and hard metal of modern-day enslavement. The text read“We are pleased to inform you that you are part of this year’s selection of Illustrado’s 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf.” I froze. I shook my head. Now fully awake and with eyes unusually larger this time, I reread it.

December that rattles the Gulf ’s who’s who. While the weather is welcoming, what is about to come is not for the pretenders and the insincere. Around this time, the Filipino community in Dubai could hear the thunderstorm of agitation long before the rare, first raindrop of winter falls. Pardon my French, literally and figuratively, but it is Illustrado’s stormbrewing and highly-coveted ‘100 Philippins les plus influents du golfe’.

It was November of 2016. In Dubai, November heralds the most hospitable weather of the year - people are merrier, rain is a cause for celebration, and festivities galore. For Filipinos who matter, and those who think they matter, November is a foreshadowing of an event in


Illustrado’s 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf is serious business. It is the only Filipino lifestyle magazine that earned the respect of leaders and trailblazers across all fields: fashion, education, hospitality, construction, trade, media, finance, scientific and technical, healthcare, arts, and recreation. Everybody wants to be in. Nobody wants to be out. It brings out the worst among the hypocrites. It inspires greatness among the genuine. Illustrado 100 galvanized itself into the consciousness, and the hearts of the Filipinos and this kind of respect is never accidental. Its undue influence mirrors the vision and character of the husband and wife team behind the authoritative magazine. The team, in the wisdom of their selection, has figured out the Excalibur of meaningful choice: that a person’s character is better seen in deed than heard in word. As it is, time will begin to show the cracks of those who are merely acting out. Or that Teflon looks will start to wear out. Consistency in character, after all, is that manna from heaven disliked even by the hungriest of sycophants.

People don’t just talk. They gossip. It has long been a mystery, mythic even, what criteria they follow in the selection. I asked them the same. When they first selected me in 2016, I had neither the awards nor the tangible recognition, just the video clip they saw of the graduating multicultural students giving me a standing ovation when my name was mentioned by the magna cum laude during his rousing valedictory speech. The message in 2016 was simply signed, “Lalaine.” I finally saw the face behind the signature during the photoshoot. Tall, fair, beautiful, prominent eyes that more often welcome and intermittently assess, hair that reveals a lifestyle with every strand in place, and an aura of superior intelligence wizened by years of complex human interaction. “Intimidating. Uppity.” I thought. That thought flew within seconds the moment she hugged me when she saw me as if to teach me a lesson that impressions are just that- impressions. In the age of social media, impression has become a tool for the untruth. Both for those who are looking and those that are being looked at. The former because what he often sees is filtered, and the latter because what she wants to show is a version she feels she lacks. Mine was neither. Lalaine wasn’t filtered. I didn’t feel the lack. Rather, it was a lesson on humility and misjudgment on my part. She was giving me instructions when my eyes darted to the bespectacled, lean-framed man guiding the

photographer. There was something light and delicate about the way he unconsciously caressed his hair that I couldn’t quite grasp. His walk was sprint-like. Lilting, to an extent. Sensing my distraction, she introduced me to him, “Mon, my husband.” “Opposites,” I noted mentally. He was softspoken; almost shy-like. Lalaine was extroverted; unquestionably socially confident. Their difference couldn’t be more apparent when he hugged me. It was as if I wanted to be hugged by Lalaine, but I wanted to hug Mon. You get that feeling that Lalaine will protect you, but you want to protect Mon. But they weren’t opposites. His gentle demeanor belied his disciplined creativity and perfectionism that I saw in Lalaine. When my turn came, he was exacting. Side view. Eyeglasses in between the ring finger and the middle finger. The thumb slightly touching the chin. Not touch. Peck. The index finger on the upper lip. Brows knitting a bit. Eyes looking at the horizon with determination. One, two, three takes. Done.

The result was the best profile I ever had the privilege of being taken. People don’t just talk. They gossip. It has long been a mystery, mythic even, what criteria they follow in the selection. I asked them the same. When they first selected me in 2016, I had neither the awards nor the tangible recognition, just the video clip they saw of the graduating multicultural students giving me a standing ovation when my name was mentioned by the magna cum laude during his rousing valedictory speech. “It is not just about the awards and recognition that more often can be bought. It is the impact that one has on the community, and the humility in bearing the intoxicating madness brought about by privileges that go hand in hand with fame.” Or words to that effect as Lalaine waxed lyrical. “We have seen people who were transformed into monsters by fame. People corrupted by illusions of grandeur. They may be included in this year’s 100 Most Influential, but you will not see them again in the next.” Mon chimed. Awards. Influence. Humility. Like Plato’s celebrated tripartite soul of what makes a great society - Appetite, Courage, and Wisdom - the criteria for 100 Most Influential are tripartite beacons inextricably woven. One can have a multitude of awards, but without humility, it regresses into decoration. Functional, but bereft of meaning. One can be noisy in the social media about the number of their awards and accolades but is actually an empty tinfoil


can. An empty vessel, scorned Plato, that always makes the loudest sound, for they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers. One can be humble, but false humility is also a phenomenon often mistaken as genuine, and when humility is exercised falsely, it becomes hypocritical, more often a call for greater attention and excellence is unable to advance because honesty is clouded by humble-bragging. To be able to abstract truth from falsity, and balance this complexity, require knowing when to draw the sword, or be prudent when necessary without hesitation. This, in itself, is art. It is an art that Mon and Lalaine have mastered. Truth is, they knew that you don’t really learn from awards and successes sans humility. You learn from the pains of your wounds and the scars of insufficiencies. I saw them quite a few times. Deeper than the last. The more I get to know them amid radiant laughter and sips of wine, the better I learn about their vision for Filipinos. They wanted to elevate Filipino pride. “Taas noo” voices the Illustrado spirit. They have had enough of the Filipino stereotype as laborers and maids. Building the collective image has become the lifeblood of their visionary partnership, and it grandly translates into the

quality of their work: the Illustrado Magazine exudes so much class, quality is exceedingly tasteful, and the content isn’t just well-written, but intermittently profound and mirthful, never banal, sometimes haughty, but always sublime. The topics embody their vision, showcasing the best of Filipinos in a medium that is elegantly world class. It seems to me, the better I get to know Mon and Lalaine, that Illustrado is not just about celebrating Filipino excellence. It is about having a voice in the vibrant utterances of the world’s best by showing who we are in our magnificence. Not inferior, but the best. Not only the ones who innovate but the ones who disrupt. Not just the followers, but the leaders. Come to think of it, they - the vision, the magazine, they - are like pearls in a sinewy string. Each echoes the virtuous preeminence of the others. Equally. I find quality in all their endeavors. I once witnessed Lalaine hosting a panel discussion composed of business experts of different nationalities at the Palazzo Versace this year. To say it was a spectacular feat is by no means an exaggeration. Notwithstanding her trademark eloquence and wit, she knew every panel member’s name by heart, their professions, and their achievements. Whereby all the hosts I witnessed in the past would depend on cue cards to remind them, she had


none. She carried the exchanges with refinement. I shook my head realizing how elegant it went. Many in the table where I was seated were awed. At that moment, I sensed a collective pride of the right kind. This preponderance for quality extends to the few they personally handpicked to be part of Illustrado’s core team. “Dr. Rex, Rony of Illustrado here. Here is the schedule…” The first text message I received from the imposing yet impossibly lovable Rony Aquino, the member of the Illustrado team that I have seen and known the longest. Her exceptional management skill earned her the lovable monicker ‘Kapitana,’ perhaps because she talks and acts like one. I find her humble, preferring to work in the background with an eye for order. Many times in parties and events organized by Illustrado that I got the privilege of being invited, she would eat last, she would follow up on people, and she would go around quietly making sure that the guests get to be attended to. Then there’s Alwee, fashionably understated with a voice that is of a butterfly’s flight: dainty and light. He has a kind and gentle demeanor, but I reckon he is more Ally McBeal than Therese of Lisieux underneath. That is, one who savors in vivid wishful thinking especially in situations where he wants to control but can’t, and what he thinks can often be amusingly bloodthirsty. Relaxed in his ways, but quietly ambitious and capable of making things manifest, he also has the uncanny ability to bring people together much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, even at such a young age. An interesting persona, that’s for sure; he probably changes his hair color more than Dubai changes its seasons. What attracts me to him, though, is his sense of high art. Exquisite. Discerning. Consistently tasteful.

The young blood completes the team, the equally good-looking Paolo and Antonino. A tree is known by its fruits, we’ve heard. The reverse is also true - the fruits are known by their tree. Both boys are brilliant and creative, strikingly mirroring their parents in brilliance and creativity. I have seen both during photoshoots, engaged brief conversations with them, and their loquaciousness and confidence were admirable. I saw Antonino’s TEDx talk and read Paolo’s articles, and I could just imagine how proud their parents were. Always are. More than their brilliance, it’s their character that impresses me most. To have grown away from the Philippines, I expected them to be unaware of the nuances of values commonly practiced in our motherland, but they retained that respectful attitude, implying that, they, in spite of distance and gap in cultural rootedness, understood the full importance of being Filipino. Each in the team is contrastive. Volatile even, just as many exploratory minds are. I suspect that the members are chosen based on peculiarities in the name of creativity. A team with exceptionally talented and creative, often emotional, people can easily break down, but it is to their credit that they have broken through instead. Perhaps because they are sincere;

unadulterated by power. When you have a platform respected by accomplished and influential individuals and organizations, it is easy to be overwhelmed by and intoxicated with, the corresponding privileges. Not them. When they launched GVER, a website that allows people to post goods and services to be given for free for people who may find them handy, that speaks volume of their incorruptibility, of their disdain for power, and of hearts shaped for giving. It is a social enterprise built on sharing freely by their arms that keep on extending selflessly. They are paradoxical. Preferring to live 45 minutes away from the metropolis, tending, zen-like, to the plants and cozying in scenic coastlines, yet they organize the most stylish parties and gatherings known to Filipino expatriates, attracting the fashionable and the heavy-hitters. It is this seemingly violative lifestyle choice that makes them enigmatic to many. In one of my conversations with them, I could sense pride in what they do. Rightly so. When you have done so much to the community, balancing them with your professional jobs that put food on the table and the pains and hurdles of creating, you cannot help but be proud, not of the condescending type, but one of self-respecting honor.


Yet, I could feel the ripples of exhaustion. When I think of them, and what they continue to do, I see vulnerability that was not there before. It is a vulnerability that doesn’t seem autumnal that will go away when the first rays of Spring greet the horizon. It is a vulnerability that I am afraid will stay, attempting to physically hasten the limitations of being born human and mortal, but it will struggle and fail, to take over a love so rooted in giving and nationalism. I have never questioned their love for Filipinos and, ironically, this love is a burden they will relentlessly carry but without question, ’til they breathe their last. They have loved long and deep enough to know not to compromise. It is this uncompromising love that compelled them to gather people who enkindled the spirit and changed the landscape of Filipino identity for the better. Illustrado 100 tells the stories of Filipinos and celebrates their excellence. Stories that will be told over and over again, inspiring generations. This is, I believe, is Mon and Lalaine’s, and Illustrado’s most meaningful legacy. It will speak for them long before they’re gone.

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The GAME CHANGERS. Unsatisfied with the status quo, the intrepid leaders with global mindset are transforming lives and moving hearts. While plenty of personalities thrive with mere spotlight, we recognize the works of the true movers and shakers who are determining the course of the future in different categories.

of planning for the past 29 years. Through the years, he also kept coming back to Dubai to do architecture and master planning projects, while also working for the SM Group and the Ayala Corporation. Currently, among their other projects elsewhere in the world, the Palafox team are planning and designing a hotel mixed-use project in Dubai. Palafox was also a speaker at the international conference of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), held in Dubai last October 2018.


He shares of his special connection to the city, “Every time I go back here, I am so inspired and grateful that I was part of the urban planning and architecture of Dubai. There is so much “psychic income.” I shared my education, experience, and expertise. Today, I go to Dubai to share and learn.”

Felino Jun

PALAFOX, Jr A R C HITECT, URBAN PL ANNER, HUM ANITARI AN “Plan and design a garden city out of the desert. A pacesetter city that will lead, and not be led.” In 1977 architect and urban planner Felino ‘Jun’ Palafox, Jr. and his team were given that mandate by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of this flourishing city by the creek. Over forty years on, Dubai, the place that he helped built stands proud as one of most illustrious and progressive places in the world. Very few men have the honor of being a part of planning and building something as exceptionally significant as a city that is admired across the globe. Palafox is one of those rare people. Handpicked and appointed as Senior

Planner under the Dubai Municipality back in the 70s, at 27 he was the youngest and the only Southeast Asian member of the multidisciplinary international team of architects, planners, engineers, landscape architects, and designers, tasked with the urban planning, architecture, and environmental design of Dubai. After leaving the city in the ‘80s, he together with the team he formed under Palafox Architecture and Palafox Associates (PALAFOX), have gone on to do projects in 40 countries: 1,557 projects for architecture and design of 14 million square meters of building floor area, and 27 billion square meters

Photo by: Andre Son ILLUSTRADO 19

Professional and commercial successes aside, Palafox is a fervent humanitarian. Working with organizations Gawad Kalinga, Urban Poor Assoicates, Tzu Chi Foundation among others, he and his team help build dwellings in the Philippines and abroad for typhoon and earthquake-stricken communities, as well as for indigenous people and informal settlers. This, among his other advocacy works are part of what he calls “architecture for humanity” – in essence providing architectural solutions for humanitarian crises. Espousing the concept of “psychic and/ or spiritual income” as something more fulfilling than just monetary rewards, Palafox shares, “We show our gratitude to the Chief Creator by using education, expertise, and experience towards the good stewardship of His blessings.”

Democrary (2017) as well as the World Economic Forum (2017 and 2018). This year, to further his advocacy to encourage productive discourse in the Philippines he is working on a project with Rev. Tet Gallardo, Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines who is a Duterte supporter. Usapang A.T.I.N. (Ako, Tayo, Ikaw, Ngayon) is an independent framework for community-based discussions that focus on civics and citizen participation. Apart from providing a model to help people discuss productively, learning materials will also be offered. All resources will be made available online and can be downloaded as a booklet. Miguel enthuses, “Hopefully, we can get people talking about political ideas rather than politics, fundamental civics rather than personalities. This will give people an alternative to just complaining about grievances or mere chismis.”


Dr. Miguel



He’s got memes created in his ‘honor’ and a slew of haters on social media. He has been bashed and harassed and has made a number of prominent ‘enemies’ – something which appears to be typical, nowadays, for anybody who is publicly known and takes a strong stance whether pro-or against the current government within the rambunctious Philippine political landscape. But for activist Miguel Syjuco, these are all just part and parcel of the duty that he has voluntarily signed up for – something that he has to live with to continue his advocacy. Known for his critical pieces against the Duterte administration, published in the New York Times, The Guardian, Time, The Globe and Mail, Open Democracy and other publications, Miguel Syjuco is a world-renowned novelist, journalist, and professor of

Literature and Creative Writing at the New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi. His novel, Ilustrado, won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, the grand prize at the Palanca Awards in the same year, and was also hailed as NY Times Notable Book of 2010, among its many accolades. Ilustrado, which has become an important part of Filipino literature, has been published in over 20 coun¬tries, translated into 15 languages; and is now being taught in high schools and universities in the Philippines and abroad. Miguel’s new novel, ‘I Was the President’s Mistress!!’, is currently in the editing phase and is set to be released in Canada and the USA. An internationally acknowledged campaigner for democracy, Miguel has spoken at the World Forum for


Believing that discourse will empower people to make better-informed decisions, Miguel continues, “I want the youth to believe in themselves rather than just believing the promises of politicians. We do not see our opportunity as citizens to do more than just protest on Facebook, in turn giving our power to politicians. If we can organize properly, we can take our power back.” Often dismissed by detractors as a coňo who has no right to speak for the masses, Miguel acknowledges of his privileged life, “I’ve been blessed just through the chance of my birth – which is completely unfair. Because of that, I feel I’m obliged. I’m trying to do good. It’s my duty to contribute. This is why I tell stories. This is why I teach people to tell stories. I don’t have the answers. But I know how to ask the tough questions. And I’m hoping that with discourse and connecting with other Filipinos that we, together, can find better answers.”




Airline Pilot Shareefa Al Bloushi exemplifies how with ambition and a hunger for excellence, virtually anything can be achieved. An Emirati-Filipino born to Abu Dhabi native, Mohamed and Iman Saflor who hails from Cavite, Shareefa was raised in the UAE capital and was initially a banker. Despite enjoying her profession at the time, she still felt she yearned for something more. So, she joined Etihad Airways as a cadet in 2009. After years of fruitful hard work, she now flies a Boeing 777, her dream aircraft, as part of a small but growing class of extraordinary female pilots in the Emirates - a testament to the continued ascent of women in the region towards continued empowerment. “My greatest achievement is having the courage to do what I love. I went through a career change because I knew I wasn’t reaching my full

potential and needed to do what I’m passionate about. Once I reached my goal to become an airline pilot everything fell in place; I became independent and content where I am in life.” Aiming to become airline captain in the near future, Shareefa attributes her current accomplishments to her unique cultural background: “I carry my Emirati nationality with great pride. The greatest pride of Arabs is their identity and knowing their past. I love being an Emirati because the whole country feels like one big family working on keeping our father Sheik Zayed’s vision alive. I’m also proud of my other half as a Filipina, as the values of family

Photo by: E Y Media


and being humble, hardworking but smart; all made me who I am today.” In spite of the hardships faced working in a field that is as challenging as it is competitive, Shareefa considers herself as her biggest threat: “Now as a pilot, I find the challenge is more inside my head. The challenge of fine-tuning your skills and adapting to change. As a woman, I see no difference between my work and my fellow male peers’ work. There will always be some who look at your gender as weakness. If they see weakness, I see the fear in them. The trick is to focus on the mission, and it will divert unnecessary under sight.”


Dr. Michael


Find ways of enhancing the region’s most important and most prolific plant – the date palm, that’s Dr. Michael Purugganan’s mandate in the UAE capital. “Our date palm genome project at NYU Abu Dhabi has moved into a new phase with exciting new projects. We are about to announce a new discovery about North African dates like the Medjool dates, as well as new genes we have found. My research laboratory is also starting new collaborations here in the UAE as well as in France and Saudi Arabia,” enthused the globally renowned biologist.

A leading figure in global genetic research, specifically in plant molecular evolution and genomics, Dr. Michael Purugganan has published over 130 research papers contributing a wealth of knowledge to the field of science. Shuttling between New York, where he is Dean for Science at New York University, and Abu Dhabi where he runs one of his laboratories, his work in the emirates has earned him the Khalifa International Date Palm Award, bestowed on him by His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan in 2015.

NYU Media Services


As a leader in his field, he emphasizes the perseverance and excellence as the cornerstones for success, “We should keep ourselves to a high standard of excellence in whatever we do. We should always aspire to be the best, not because of what others think, but for our satisfaction.” He adds, “You have to keep your eyes focused on the future and overcome any obstacles in your way. You have to learn to pick yourself up when you have been dealt with a setback. Someone told me once that success is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to keep looking forward.”





A campaigner to bring a better life to the poor of the world, Illac Diaz has quite literally become the bringer of light not only to regions across the Philippines but to communities across the globe. Through his global grassroots movement, Liter of Light, he has brought simple and sustainable technology providing solar-powered illumination to impoverished families with little to no access to electricity. Illac’s work has inspired and united an international group of volunteers which helped him install over 350,000 recycled bottle lights in more than 15 countries, since 2011. Drawing towards the final quarter of 2018, he began his

most significant international journey called the ‘Voyage of Light.’ Backed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is the largest Filipino–led global campaign, set to travel across the seas to countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa, and South America in collaboration with the Japanese organization, Peace Boat. Among his other notable endeavors, Illac’s project won the Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) in 2015. With the support of the ZFEP, he also set the world record for the ‘Largest Environmental Sustainability Lesson.’ The project done in collaboration with hundreds of young students in the


UAE produced a solar portrait for the Year of Zayed utilizing over 1400 solar lanterns. Filipinos in the UAE have even more cause to celebrate Illac’s work which is slated to be showcased independently during the landmark Dubai Expo2020 event. A shining beacon for the rest of the world, Illac thoughtfully, but also simply summarizes his sentiments behind his advocacy. “With great privilege comes great responsibility. And I was living too well when so many people were not. So, I started simplifying what I want for myself, because I really didn’t need much, and started focusing on really sharing what I had.”




Despite his success as a Corporate Lawyer, Barney Almazar has taken upon himself the daunting task of helping out the UAEs Filipino community, an advocacy close to his heart while serving a growing international clientele. Wellreputed for handling the portfolios of some high-net-worth individuals across the Middle East oil and gas sector, as well as Southeast Asia, he also led the US$125 million Filipino acquisition of a UAE company, further cementing the Filipino presence in the international market. Thomson Reuter’s Asian Legal Business List also hailed Barney as one of the Top

40 Young Lawyers in Asia. And through all this, this lawyer also launched the 2nd edition ‘The Essential OFW Guide to UAE,’ and expanded his local legal aid clinics and interactive touch screen legal portals across the emirates. “A well trained and educated person puts the nation in the right direction for nation-building. As a lawyer, I play the role of educating minds to achieve their dreams and become future agents of change in our country” Barney quotes. His dedication, integrity and work ethic

Photo by: Jef Anog ILLUSTRADO 24

have made him stand out among the trailblazers and role models of today’s Filipino youth. He is renowned as a modern day hero, receiving recognition from far and wide. But for Barney, despite all the adornments and titles, the simple and pure joy of seeing a Filipino reunited with their family is enough to fuel his advocacy for kindness. “Whether I am wearing my corporate hat or lawyer’s hat, I believe it is the kindness and looking after each other’s welfare that keeps humanity alive.”



7 Wife. Mother. Entrepreneur. Rockstar female car racer. Maha represents the new face of female empowerment and ethnic amalgamation. She is a smart, ambitious and fearless EmiratiFilipina who has defied gender and cultural stereotypes by pursuing her passion for racing and channeling the same dedication to her independent entrepreneurial ventures. Often photographed with her hardcore Lamborghini Huracan Performante and her stilettos, signifying her two interests in equal measure, Maha is a member of the female advisory board of Lamborghini Worldwide, and of

the region’s pioneering all-female luxury and supercar owners’ club, the Arabian Gazelles. Maha was the first Emirati woman to participate in a 3200km European rally later this year side by side 24 men in a rally spread over ten days. In 2018, she has also launched her brand: House of MC, an online and offline rental and luxury lifestyle concept featuring designer gowns (from renowned luxury brands including Michael Cinco, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, and more), jewelry, accessories and beauty services. Still, with all that’s going on in her life, Maha considers her babies as her top


wins in life. “My two boys are the light of my life and always spur me on to do better. I am equally proud of my new ‘baby,’ House of MC as it has a purpose to serve and a gap for us to provide for.” Maha celebrates her biracial roots and counts herself fortunate to have the best of both worlds. “I am incredibly proud to be half Filipina, and I can confidently say that the notions of strong family values, hard work, dedication, and compassion have been instilled into me by my family. I was brought up in a loving and supportive environment where experiencing both Emirati and Filipino values and way of life was the norm, and it still is for me.”




Nobody has probably done anything as impactful for the fashion industry in the UAE, and perhaps even the entire region, as much as society icon Bong Guerrero. Widely acknowledged as ‘the’ country’s fashion catalyst – Bong’s work as CEO & Co-founder of FFWD (Fashion Forward) has catapulted Dubai into global consciousness as the region’s fashion capital. FFWD has provided a platform to bolster homegrown brands and has brought international industry leaders, talents, and media into the City of Gold to what has become the region’s definitive seasonal fashion event. As Managing Partner of BRAG, he has also been at the forefront of significant events for luxury brands around the country.

Recognized as one of Esquire Magazine Middle East’s 100 in 2018, Bong shares, “The year has been very exciting on many levels. BRAG has continued its focus on large-scale community events as well as other corporate events, while FFWD has uniquely positioned itself to focus on providing streamlined turnkey event solutions for the fashion, beauty, and luxury industries in Dubai and the Middle East. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Jimmy Choo, YSL Beauty, Kenzo, Farfetch, NARS, Dolce & Gabbana among others are some of the clients that we have created experiences for in the last year. Moving ahead, we plan to continue to expand this portfolio as well as come back with some exciting plans for Fashion Forward.”

Photo by : Lucas Alves


Beyond the glamour of Dubai’s style and luxe world, Bong believes in optimist and goodness as critical traits that allow one to get ahead. He remarks, “Positivity begets positivity. I have always believed in turning any challenging situation into an opportunity, by focusing on the good that may come out of it. All is well, that ends well. This in addition to being a fundamentally good person, and most importantly doing your work with authenticity, love, and passion. I would like to remind people to focus on doing the work that they enjoy - when you love what you do, you will succeed at it - and when you succeed at it, you will love it even more. Challenges are inevitable, but it’s how you react to them that will determine the end result. It’s a virtuous circle of positivity.”





Fresh from his latest runway conquest at Harbin Fashion Week in China this January 2019, where he has represented both the UAE and the Philippines, Ezra Santos’ star continues to shine brightly as one of the most iconic Filipino designers of our generation. With his position as a leading designer in the couture world in the Middle East and in the Philippines tightly-secured, Ezra’s demeanor, much like most of his designs, is luxuriously elegant, but distinctively effortless. And his body of work has definitely earned his right of place. Growing from strength to strength allowing him to make inroads even in other parts of the

world including the US, Ezra maintains a steady clientele of royals, the elite, and A-listers. Furthermore, his sharp acumen for innovation enabling him to churn out his unique fashion perspective at every turn has also kept his atelier as one of the wildly successful homegrown fashion businesses of Dubai. Ezra shares as a matter-of-fact, “Challenges in the couture world are an understatement. This is why we always continue to observe the trend and enhance it through our own approach. One must innovate to exist.” He adds, “Innovation nowadays has been as fast as the clock ticks. One must thrive to improve for the better and create self-sufficient works that supersede mediocrity.”

Ezra’s excellent discipline in his field works in synergy with his unwavering determination, “Through persistence, nothing is unachievable; the same goes as if you do not believe your current condition could be better, motivation will be rare too.” Believing in the power of the divine which he credits for his many triumphs and rising influence in the world, Ezra shares his perennial guiding light to his endeavors, “Prayers. Nothing in Ezra Couture or even in my personal life could possibly exist if not with prayers. This has been a powerful tool that I could boldly share with others. I also encourage others not to lose even a strand of hope in any situation. Fashion trends, style choices, and collections come and go, but this one thing remains unmoved.” Photo by: Rozen Antonio


Building a brand is one thing, but staying relevant and exceeding one’s greatest feats is another. Year after year, revered fashion designer Michael Cinco continues to outdo himself in remarkable ways. In 2018, his sheer gift for fashion was underlined on a global scale yet again. Amongst the numerous celebrities that donned his creations this year were British singer Leona Lewis, opera superstar Zarina Altynbayena, Quincy Brown at the MTV Movie Awards, and Aishwarya Rai who wore a showstopping gown at the 71st Cannes Film Festival that left the media raving. In the landmark film, Crazy Rich Asians, Kris Aquino, who portrays Princess Intan, is seen wearing none other than Michael Cinco. This stands as a truly symbolic moment, as parallel to what the movie champions, the presence of Michael’s work are yet another testament to Asian excellence. Adding to his endless list of achievements, Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong enlisted the help of Michael to recreate his grandiose Swarovski embellished royal blue ball gown for Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach’s wax figure. In 2019, he is also set to present a cruise collection inside the biggest cruise ship in Asia and

was invited to show his pieces for a private millionaires’ gala in Singapore. Another gala show in Manila is also in the offing, as well as the launch of the designer’s new more affordable bridal luxe line. With his unwavering love for art and unparalleled craftsmanship intrinsic to his brand, Michael has undoubtedly played a huge role in elevating not only the field of fashion but also our profile


as a people. When asked about his advice to Filipinos, he shares: “I have my mantra: every morning I wake up and begin each day, I think about my goals, impalpable dreams, and ambitions. I always take the time to give thanks to the people that love me and surround my life. Tell the people closest to you that you love them because words have an enormous impact as they touch the lives of others and strike a verbal contract of accountability.”

Michael CINCO


10 Photo by: Rozen Antonio




Robert Bagatsing has always possessed the fervent hope of sparking profound positive change in society as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. His life, together with collaborator and wife Emelyn, is a testament that commercial success and social impact can go effectively and comfortably, hand-inhand. Splitting his time between their Dubai and Manila office, Robert is Co-Founder and Managing Director of GineersNow, and Co-Founder of Lincoln Martin Strategic Marketing. Established in 2014, GineersNow is the most popular and the largest online platform for engineers and scientists across the globe with a monthly audience of 20 million. The company publishes seven online magazines (Construction, HVACR, Power & Water, Oil & Gas, Renewables, Technology, and Social

Impact), available to everyone for free, and has also ventured into TV, video documentaries and streaming, featuring over a thousand CEOs, business leaders and founders of Top 500 Fortune companies as well as unicorn startups. They have also collaborated with tech giants in Silicon Valley (Google, Apple, Amazon), China (Baidu and Tudou) and Russia (Yandex) to help push content in the digital space. GineersNow is a brand developed under Lincoln Martin Strategic Marketing, a digital and marketing agency for B2B clients. The profits of the agency, as well as a portion of GineersNow earnings, go to charity in support of the needy. Robert shares, I am a father of 1,700 school children in Kenya, South Africa, India, Syria, and the Philippines. We’ve adopted

Photo by: Tristan Gallardo


these less fortunate kids and provide them with food, clothing, shelter, and education. My family firmly believes that the pencil is the best tool to end poverty.” Robert and his team also help parents of the children to get into sources of livelihood which they can sustain in the future. Robert’s dedication to the community has served as the primary source of his motivation and drive, in turn helping him succeed in business. In the future, he looks towards building more schools, assisting more teachers, and adopting even more students. Dedicating his life’s work towards uplifting others, Robert enthusiastically confirms an idea that we can only hope would be adopted by many more like him, “We have proven that profit and purpose can co-exist. Entrepreneurs can be rich and help the community at the same time.”

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The TRAILBLAZERS. Here’s to the ones who picked the roads less travelled, and left a trail for everyone else to follow. With courage, audacity, and determination, they have surmounted incredible odds, made possible the impossible, and proved that the Filipino indeed can. And so the Filipino indeed will.





Juggling his time between improving services and operations at the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai and Northern Emirates, whilst performing his duties as the most hardworking supporter of the local Filipino populace, and inevitably playing the role of de facto problem solver for some of the most challenging expat issues, Consul General Paul Raymund Cortez has closed yet another productive year with a resounding vote of confidence from the people he so diligently serves. UAE-based The National newspaper referred to him as the “The Filipino

who will never leave a fellow kabayan behind” – in their feature entitled UAE Portrait of a Nation, published in November 2018. And quite rightly so, because the Filipino community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates have been blessed with his kind of involvement and enthusiasm which has not been seen previously in these parts. Con Gen Paul has always had a heart for supporting Pinoys across the country, and with the support of his leadership team composed of Vice Consul Marianne Bringas and Vice


Consul Elizabeth Ramos, his beneficial programs barrel through to 2019. These include more effective and efficient consular services; more proactive engagement with the community on sports, as well as revitalized programs for the youth via the Philippine schools; the continuation of vigorous economic and cultural programs, as well as initiatives on business and entrepreneurship in coordination with the Philippine Business Council of Dubai; and a deeper engagement with the UAE government authorities.

Philippine Consulate General Dubai Leadership Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes with Vice Consuls Elizabeth P. Ramos and Marianne I. Bringas

Always pushing to serve and to underline Filipino excellence in the Emirates, he affirms, “Things always get better.” With the growing, dynamic Filipino presence in the region and on the international field, he views the current moment as the

perfect vantage point from where we could all aim for even more progress. He urges, “Continue working on improving your skills, talents, and knowledge and strategize the road towards entrepreneurship.”


Labor Attaché



Felicitas Q. Bay is a lawyer and dedicated public servant. In 1990, she joined the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and served as Chief, Prosecution Division, Director, Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch, and Director, Licensing Branch for 15 years. After that, with postings in Qatar and Seoul, she has become a pivotal figure in maintaining positive relations between the Philippines and foreign governments through her duties.

As a Labor Attaché, Felicitas serves as a diplomat between the UAE and Philippines, representing the DOLE’s labor policy overseas and being responsible for upholding the integrity and well-being of Filipino workers within the region. “I have been in the government for 28 years, and I am fortunate to belong to an office where the officers and personnel exert efforts to elevate the lives of Filipinos.” She currently works towards creating an enhanced documentation system


and body for welfare support for her people in the region. For her, no Filipino should be left behind, and with just a little bit of extra effort, the collective Filipino condition can be improved on a global scale. “Go the extra mile. In whatever profession or occupation, in order to succeed, one has to go the extra mile. One has to do more than what is required of him; to be more than the average and go beyond what is just good enough.”

Commercial Attaché



Charmaine Mignon S. Yalong serves an instrumental role in the advancement of the Philippines’ economic interests in the region, as the Commercial Attaché for the Middle East and Africa. Representing the Department of Trade and Industry, her work entails the promotion of investment, commercial intelligence, and trade policy negotiations. Keen and futureminded, she is a strong advocate for entrepreneurship in the Filipino community. As the youngest and first female

Commercial Attaché, Charmaine attests: “I am a proud millennial – what I lack in experience, I make up for with enthusiasm and willingness to learn and grow; what I lack in wisdom, I make up for with new ideas.” A valiant campaigner for Filipino brilliance and a firm believer in hard work, Charmaine was once a full scholar, and then working student, who started her career with the DTI’s Center for International for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) at the age of 19. Since her graduation from her Master’s Degree in Business at


Ateneo University in 2015, Charmaine has spearheaded and led many pivotal activities during her field experience, working on economic diplomacy and paving the way for international Filipino trade relations. Charmaine believes in the great potential of global Filipinos playing a vital role in the next stage of our country’s evolution. “By striving for excellence in your respective fields, Filipinos can empower other Filipinos by being an inspiration. The Philippines is a country of global talent and the Filipino spirit is never weak.”




Philippine Ambassador to the Bahrain, Alfonso Ver brings with him a wealth of experience in Foreign Service before his first ambassadorial posting in the country. His first foreign assignment was as Vice Consul, then promoted to Consul, in Guam (1996 to 2002). He later became First Secretary and Consul General, then Minister, Consul General and Deputy Head of Mission, in Ankara, Turkey (2005 to 2009),



before he moved to San Francisco, USA as Consul then Deputy Consul General (2009 2012). At the Department of Foreign Affairs, he was Executive Director of the Office of Personnel and Administrative Services (2012 to 2015). As the head of the 60,000 strong Filipino community in Bahrain, the Ambassador has made his people’s welfare integral in his function.



As the Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh, H.E. Adnan Villaluna Alonto is a fervent advocate for the welfare of OFWs. Apart from endeavoring to strengthen the bilateral ties between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Alonto ensures that the rights and interests of almost a million Filipinos based in the kingdom are protected and promoted. Marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Saudi and the Philippines,

2019 is a significant year for the Filipino community in the kingdom. During this particular year, the embassy, through Ambassador Alonto’s leadership, will seek to underscore the benefits of the two countries’ longstanding history, as well as highlight opportunities to further strengthen their ties through mutually beneficial economic and cultural exchanges, all the while ensuring the smooth and continuous delivery of the Embassy’s services to Filipino expatriates in the Kingdom.


Ambassador Alonto quotes from the Holy Qur’an that “Verily, Allah will not change the condition of the people as long as they do not change what is in themselves.” As such, Ambassador Alonto strongly believes that unless we instill in ourselves the values of love of country, mutual compassion, and a work ethic towards the common good, the Philippines and its people will not be able to reap the real benefits of national development, shared prosperity and established nationhood.

Con Gen ED



17 Galvanizing diplomatic ties between the Philippines and the Saudi Arabia, Philippine Consul General to Jeddah Ed Badajos is aiming to revitalize and strengthen the Consulate’s economic diplomacy work by leveraging the presence of the Philippine Trade Office and Investment Center (PTIC) in Jeddah, the kingdom’s financial nerve center. He also hopes to implement more projects to promote Philippine tourism in the country. Con Gen Ed, who was lauded for uniting community organizations to form the very first Filipino Community

Organizing Council (FCOC) during his previous tenure in Bangkok, has launched some projects for Filipinos in Saudi. These include the first postarrival orientation seminar for newlyarrived OFWs and a contact center that administers Assistance to Nationals, and addresses general consular inquiries. In September, the Consulate and the Social Welfare Attache (SWATT) also launched the Huwarang Overseas Pamilyang Pilipino Award, honoring exemplary OFW families in the region. Through SWATT, the consulate has implemented a mandatory interview procedure for the employers of Filipino


household workers – with the objective of protecting the welfare of Filipinos. A firm believer that Filipinos are significant contributors towards the global economy, the Con Gen shares, “Our country has, indeed, made significant strides from a fledgling republic at the turn of the century to a vibrant democracy and one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.” In sustaining this momentum, he advises: “Develop an even higher sense of patriotism and be more willing to set aside your differences when it is the very survival of our nation that is at stake.”

Chargé D’Affaires


18 Since the diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait in 2018, the role of Philippine Chargé D’Affaires Mohammed Noordin Pendolina Lomondot has been particularly crucial. Driven to lead all efforts and initiatives the return to more than just restoration of diplomatic relations, but a state where both nations can thrive hand-in-hand together, CDA Lomondot shares, “Both countries worked hard to overcome the said crisis. While we have been successful, it still remains to be my hope and priority to lead all actions and efforts towards

the return to normalcy and the further strengthening our bilateral relations.” Armed with years of experience in the foreign service, CDA Lomondot expresses that above all of the attainments he has received as a diplomat, nothing beats being able to assist his countrymen. From his current and previous postings, he has helped repatriate more than tenthousand Filipinos in distress under the amnesty programs of their host countries and provided significant assistance to nationals during instances of civil strife. ILLUSTRADO 44

Pushing ahead to re-establish the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, the CDA stresses the importance of Filipinos being a mindful wherever they are: “We hope Filipino nationals working overseas, not just in Kuwait, continuously and faithfully abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of the Philippines and, especially, their host countries so they would neither lose their way nor encounter any problems with their work and/or residence status.”




“I gauge every duty based on whether or not I can proudly defend it before my children, and how they can perceive these as beneficial to humanity or not.” Spouse of Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, Mme Yasmin Balajadia Cortes is not only a doting mother of three, but in a broader sense, the genteel nurturing figure serving as a patron endeavoring to constantly uplift and unite the local community with her initiatives under the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) of Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Leading the Filipino Ladies of Dubai, Mme Yasmin and her team play a crucial role in organizing, planning, and executing cultural diplomacy projects that give voice to the brilliance of Pinoys in the UAE. Having worked tirelessly in the last couple of years, Mme Yasmin and her team have spearheaded some notable endeavors in 2018 as well, including quarterly art exhibits at the PCG, Dubai Dubai Musikahan 4, the staging of the play “Ang Pambansang Litanya ng mga Inang Wala sa Bayan”, Inter School Debate Competition, and other activities which showcase local Filipino artists. All these, on top of supporting the other community initiatives.

Photo by: Jef Anog

Mme Yasmin lives and breathes Filipino excellence and urges her countrymen to do the same. “Continue improving yourself not on the basis of how one compares to other people or other races, but with the standards and milestones you have set for yourself. One’s development should never be in comparison with how other individuals are, but more on how they’re able to rise from their previous benchmarks.”


20 It’s not every day that you hear of a Pinoy chef with the success and leadership forte of Chef Andrew Paderes. Group Executive Chef at wildly successful Stars N Bars at Jumeirah’s hip and happening shorefront venue, La Mer, Andrew brings to the table a fresh take on American cuisine, peppered by influences from around the world. With a perpetual hunger for excellence, Andrew says his assertiveness stems from his experience working at Nobu in London, and then at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Maze in Doha. Thereon,

Chef Andrew became Executive Chef at The Gramercy at swanky DIFC, and then Claw BBQ Crabshack and Grill, and was the only Filipino featured in the city’s definitive annual foodie event – The Taste of Dubai. According to him, positivity, ambition, and humility are the qualities which determine success. He adds, “Deliver beyond the expected. Keep yourself grounded and humble. No matter how high you soar in your field, make sure you can be a model for others by leading them closely and not from a distance.” Endeavoring to exemplify Filipino


talent on a global scale, Andrew is working on a collaboration with European contemporaries on a project known as 13 Chefs – the launch of which, he hosted in the UAE. He was also given the opportunity to do heritage cooking in Ukraine, sharing Filipino cuisine with the fraternity of chefs there. Of the project, he says, “I’m so excited as I get the chance to promote the food from my home, the food I grew up with, in a country where our culinary identity is not yet recognized.”



21 Born in Paris to Bulakenyo parents, and raised mostly in London, Chef Earl Roland Puse has leveraged his international background, as well as his dedication, to become one of the Emirates’ culinary elite. His skills were honed at Conran (now Plateau Restaurant – Canary Wharf) and La Petite Maison in Mayfair, London. He then moved to La Petite Maison in Dubai in 2010, after that he opened two Coya outlets in the emirates. Currently Head Chef in Abu Dhabi, his leadership has brought much success

to his brands; the most recent wins being awards for Best New Comer, Best French/Latin American and Restaurant of the Year from Time Out and What’s On for Coya. 2019 sees Chef Earl moving on to Paris to open his third Coya outlet as Head Chef. He says of the challenge ahead, “It’s very intimidating, but what I relish the most is that I left Paris as a 13-yearold kid with no idea and direction, and now I’m being placed as Chef de Cuisine in the culinary capital of the world. A place where I can raise the bar


and raise our Filipino flag higher than ever.” Ever a Filipino at heart despite his atypical accent, Chef Earl shares his sentiments for his compatriots, “For a Filipino, it’s very hard to make a mark in this industry. I have worked with and trained so many great Filipino Chefs in the Emirates, and all are now working in top establishments too. And yet, we are not recognized enough. Hence, all I wanted to do, besides making my restaurant successful, is to make sure I was recognized as being Filipino first.”



Make no mistake, for this petite chef is a giant in her field. Pastry Chef and Cake Designer World Champion Jade Saducas stands out distinguished and proud among many ultra-competitive professionals within the UAE’s burgeoning culinary sphere, a field that, like everywhere else in the world, is heavily dominated by men. A pastry chef and resort cake artist at the Madinat Jumeirah (which covered Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel, Dar Al Masayaf Hotel, Al Qsar Hotel, and Mina A Salam Hotel, plus the Conference

Center and Jumeirah Hospitality), Jade’s steadfast dedication towards her craft is evocative of the career feats she has been able to accomplish thus far. Among many other accolades, Jade bagged top prize at the Cake Designer World Championships in 2017, and also won the Caterer’s Pastry Chef of the Year award in 2018 – topping many of the industry’s culinary giants and being the only female at that. This chef known for her multi-tiered masterpieces and intricate miniatures was also a featured personality in this year’s Huawei campaign in the UAE – Huawei Stories.


An empowering figure for chefs and women alike, Jade shares that with triumph, inevitably comes adversity. She says, “Winning gold equates sacrifice. Be ready for the sacrifices that may be demanded of you.” However, she professes that she overcomes these by placing trust in her challenges and enforcing humility through every venture. As for what the future holds, Jade works to share her skills with her peers and those who aspire to thrive in the field. But for the ambitious chef, for now, the finish line is far from near.




2018 was a harrowing year for Chef John Buenaventura. After a spectacular year marked by significant media attention and patronage by prominent public figures, including a visit from HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, himself, his highly celebrated restaurant Cuisinero Uno, succumbed to market difficulties and eventually closed its doors. Chef John shares, “Unfortunately, a business cannot be fueled only by passion. The market has been very tough and brutal.” Going through the difficult journey of picking up the pieces, Chef John recounts, “I had to go through it

and charge through the fear.” Then just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, he scores his next coup and is now about to embark on a new chapter. Recently appointed Executive Sous Chef as part of the pre-opening team of luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria DIFC, he and his team will be handling the entire F&B production and operations for all of the brand’s restaurants and dining concepts. “I am very proud to be part of an elite team once again and to be able to raise the bar as the only Filipino member of the Executive Team. It is an affirmation and a blessing. It reminded


me that dwelling on challenges would never do you any good. You just need to be positive and keep moving forward.” Unfazed by the ups and downs, this real-life Rockstar Chef ’s tenacity is something we can all learn from. He says giving up is never an option and stays fired up by his dreams and the eventual return of his brand which once raised the Filipino profile in the Dubai culinary scene. “I learned a lot through this experience, that we are just being prepared for a better Cuisinero Uno and we will never stop. You have not seen the last of us.”


Francis ‘‘Izhcka” ZETA

FA S H IO N DESIG NER Francis ‘Izhcka’ Zeta will always look back at 2018 as the milestone year which marks his first ever round of rousing applause from none other than the discerning Parisian couture crowd. Ever the eccentric one, Izhcka’s markedly dramatic style is but the tip of the iceberg in comparison to his immense capacity to dream of fantastical concepts and consistently create exceptional pieces that look more like works of art. Holding off for the longest time from requests for a local gala, those in the know would understand the choice to debut in Paris and not anywhere else, for this designer whose pieces are treasured by the region’s elite.

His collection “Monarchs of the Opera” was presented at the opening of the International Fashion Week in Paris in September at La Maison, Champ Elysees. For the designer, premiering in the world’s fashion capital was a daunting challenge. “I needed to think of silhouettes that are not just crystal-embellished. I wanted it to be Parisian: stylish, intellectual, and with an element of surprise at the end. The collection was inspired by the strength and daintiness of butterflies, especially the monarchs which are such regal queens displaying strength and power to command and nurture at the same time.”


Though his hope was personal, the resulting ripples are inevitably shared, “That was a dream that I thought would only remain a dream. To my surprise, and probably everyone else’s, it became a reality. It was one truly applauded show that brought pride to me and to Filipinos.” Izchka’s urges Filipinos to be equal parts creative and patriotic. “Whatever one creates, make sure the word ‘Filipino’ is carried along with it. My creations have always been characterized by luxury and creativity - and this is what I want everyone to know and realize; that being Filipino is the same as being excellent and creative.”



Just a hop and a skip away from his brand Atelier Zuhra’s debut at Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD) in October 2017, designer Ryan Pacioles has wasted no time accomplishing winafter-win in the last year, not only making his presence felt in Dubai and the region, but also working his way into the international market. In the UAE, Ryan’s pieces shone on the runway at the 1st Bride Dubai in February 2018 at World Trade Center Dubai, and The Bride Abu Dhabi in May 2018 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center Aside. Most significantly, he also presented his collections twice in Paris, at the Caftan

Art Defile Haute Couture show held in Marriott Champs Elysees in March and at the J’Autumn Fashion Show by Jessica Minh Anh SS19 at the Sienne River in September. Atelier Zuhra also marked its first foray at the London Fashion Week in Sept as part of the showcase ‘Stories from Arabia,’ as well as in Moscow at the Al Arabia Fashion Days, where the brand won as Best Arab Designer at the show. Looking back breathless at his packed but exhilarating year, Ryan remarks, “Success is like a rose, you must endure the sting of its thorns before you can relish the beauty of its flower.”


He adds, “I have worked very hard to bring my full gear to the front to show to people and the world that fashion is my passion and through this craft I can serve as an inspiration to others and the world that fashion is life and that fashion is like a light illuminating every shadowy corner of the world. Holding this dearly in my heart, I am more positive and delighted having that resolve to use my talent and craft to showcase creativity, artistry, industry, distinctiveness, elegance, and uniqueness - these special attributes that make Filipinos truly special and different in the world.”




Top Gear, Star Trek, Mission Impossible. These are just a few of the projects master production designer, art director, and artist Andronico Del Rosario Jr. has to his credit. Starting as a props man in Dubai, Andronico is the veritable self-made man. With no capital to his name, the resourceful artist who used to pick scraps from the road to turn into props, he has evolved into one of Dubai’s most gutsy production veterans. He started For Art Sake in the Emirates in 1996, now the leading supplier of custom props set design, and construction,

and established Artfx Canada in 2005. Now he runs both operations and shuttles between Dubai and Toronto managing both local and international projects. Being nominated at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards for ‘Best Production Design or Art Direction in a Nonfiction Program or Series’ was a major career triumph for Andronico. However, the journey toward his present professional standing was far from easy. He shares: “Being a Filipino is like being a soldier with lots of


weapons. You’ve been through harsh environments, tough experiences. It’s my training ground. When you become successful, you don’t realize how important it is what you have learned.” “You don’t create just to sell. You create because you love”. A craftsman of work that speaks for itself, Andronico believes in the sheer power of remaining authentic to one’s interests in any venture. “Be honest. When you create something honest and bold, people start recognizing it”.




Brown Monkeys instigator and founder of Ape Creative, graphic designer and advertising veteran Rollan Rodriguez is highly regarded by fellow creatives in the Middle East, not only as a design professional, a catalyst for the low brow and urban art movement and community in the UAE but also a champion of the Filipino art aesthetic. With exhibits, collaborations and projects he has spearheaded either via Brown Monkeys or through his agency Ape Creative in recent years, Rollan’s distinctive voice stands out in a field

where there is an immense availability of diverse talent. Despite a challenging time for SME’s in the creative industry in the UAE in 2018 and a setback in his health, Rollan’s year was marked by exciting wins, cementing his status in the country as a design innovator. Ape Creative won two international awards from the Indigo Design Awards held in Tokyo, Japan – a silver for typography and gold for lettering categories. “We are positive that 2019 will be an even


more exciting year. See, when God closes the door, he opens the windows,” he shares. Having built a notable career as a distinguished designer, Rollan reveals what has allowed him to excel in his chosen field, “Through the years, discipline, creativity and vision were the values that helped me to get by. These values can be applied by all people of different backgrounds. You’ll see outstanding results.”




“All achievements are directly proportional to your sweat, blood, and tears, so to speak; all the sleepless nights that I had to endure,” says Mario Bejagan Cardenas who is easily the most-awarded Filipino photographer of our generation. His incredible feat of bagging over 350 local and international photography awards is quite impossible to achieve in a single lifetime - by most standards. Never resting on his laurels, Mario continues his pursuit for excellence in his field, landing more accolades in 2018. These include, among others, winning at the

FIBA 2018 International Photography Competition, Professional Photographer Awards, HUAWEI Next Image Awards 2018, being invited to be a juror at the International Photography Award and part of the exhibition in 2019, not to mention, holding his first solo photography exhibition at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche last November. With 2019 in full swing, Mario is working towards exploring more ventures within the photography industry – working on publishing

Photo by: Romy Bacani


a coffee table book, launching a photography group, exploring collaborations within the industry, as well as training and mentoring other aspiring photographers. Professing his passion for photography, Mario shares, “My craft requires a lot of dedication, effort, and determination; it is a never-ending process. I hope to keep on improving and challenging the status quo, give my best in every endeavor, and break more ‘glass ceilings’ as a Filipino trying to make it in the global arena.”




29 Being asked to write and perform at the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first anniversary was just the ‘icing on the cake’ of an exceptional year for artist Danabelle Gutierrez. With her continued push to hone her craft, she has become one of the emirate’s foremost homegrown talents in the arts. Two thousand eighteen was a very prolific year for Danabelle. The poetry collective she founded with ChristineJean Blain and Akousa Fox, performed “We Sat in Silence” at Sikka 18 – a

theatrical reading with songs and poetry centered on issues that are deemed taboo for women. She also won the best actress award at Emirates Short Film Festival for her role in Melon Quinzon Perez’s “The Girl Next Door.” In September, she was awarded by the Filipina Women’s Council as one of the most influential Filipina emerging leaders across the world and December saw her reading at Hekayah, at the NYU in Abu Dhabi. To top that, she is currently working on her third book.


Standing tall amidst the rising stars of the Middle East, Danabelle approaches her art with a professional edge and a lot of common sense. “Be a professional - even in the small things. It will speak volumes about your work ethic. Communicate well. Your grammar doesn’t have to be impeccable nor your vocabulary as large, though admittedly, it does help. What’s important is that your point comes across. So, speak up, but also listen. Be kind. If you can’t be anything else, at the very least, be kind to the people around you, yes, but also to yourself.”



30 Built for the camera and the world of sports, Filipino – American TV personality and host Steve Patrick Moore has grown even more remarkably into a world-class figure throughout 2018. Always active and on top of his game, Steve has hosted over 50 events within the first quarter of the year alone - including the MENA Special Olympics, the 10 Day Yasalam Concert for Abu Dhabi Formula 1 GrandPrix, Zain Supercup and the FIBA World Cup. All these on top of his hosting achievements in previous years which has made him a familiar

fixture in the sporting and events circuit. Aiming higher, Steve who is known in the local Filipino community for his Trending Pinoy Show broadcasted on GMA 7, has also been booked for the 2019 ESPN World Special Olympics. He is also working on launching his mobile podcast/broadcasting platform focused on health and sports. Standing bright among many media all-stars and emerging talents in the Middle East, Steve exemplifies

Photo by: Chrismar Osia


how to become a winner in the media arena by being versatile, charismatic and industrious. “First, know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Know what talents you have that you can turn into a career and help others with, at the same time. Always be connected to the right people, when the pack is strong, no force can stop the drive for life advancement. Working together and setting aside politics towards countrymen is a key aspect of growth as a nation here in this region.”




Thousands of aspiring filmmakers and photographers in the UAE have Ron Awa to thank for championing platforms that allow them avenues for their creative expression. Founder of the Emirates Short Film Festival (ESFF) – now going into its 6th year, with over 500 short films and other award-winning content produced by local talents, and the Emirates Group Photography Club, founded on the same year and still running with some 3000 members, Ron has been the modest prime advocate in the field since 2008.

Moving forward in the new year, Ron is excited to be working in collaboration with the renowned Sikka Art and Film Festival, where the next generation of ESFF participants will showcase their work. Further still, the passionate filmaficionado has his sights set on taking the ESFF to the next level. “I plan to continue the promotion of UAEbased film-maker talents by hopefully bringing the winning ESFF films to the Cannes Short Film Corner next year, along with the winning crew,” Ron adds.


With thousands of untapped talents spread across the physical and digital world, Ron Awa continues to reach out to future cinematographers in the region, collaborating with various organizations in the process bolstering interest in local indie cinema and talent. He reminds enthusiasts, “The business of film-making requires teamwork, attention to detail, innovation, and communication. I encourage current and future filmmakers to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share common goals and dreams.”

Iman & Luchie



Known as the ‘chocolate sisters,’ Iman and Luchie Suguitan are social entrepreneurs who celebrate the art of cacao in its truest form. By supporting local farmers in Agusan Del Sur through their “OFW para sa Magsasaka” initiative founded in 2016, they have brought Filipino chocolate to the Emirates, while providing livelihood opportunities in the Philippines. This year, the two have launched their range of specialty chocolates under the brand ‘Co Chocolat’ promoting their products through pop up stores and leaving the Dubai audience intrigued

and wanting for more. By using superfoods and dried fruits instead of refined sugar, they have successfully championed a healthy formula that excels not only in nutrition but also in terms of taste and variety - definitely a cut above store-bought sweets. US and France-trained Maître Chocolatier Luchie confirms, “Whether you are diabetic, vegan, into paleo, keto, or high protein diet, there is something for you in Co Chocolat.” Bringing a new progressive artisanal flair to the business, the sisters also engage their customers by sharing with them their production methods and educating


them about the cocoa harvesting process and the health benefits behind their bars. Iman and Luchie seek to venture into new fields in 2019, working to grow brand awareness, as well as delving into distributorship and franchising and eventually going international. Admirably, the two are quite exacting when it comes to upholding their values. “We are very discriminating in this though; we want to be partners only with those who fully support our core values - health, cacao, and community.”





Having worked for a Dubai based airline for over a decade has taken Joana Bacallo on several enlightening journeys - even to the most remote regions on earth. Her travels have illuminated a reality that now fuels her efforts as a social entrepreneur and activist – the fact that there is a lack of access to clean water and sanitation in rural communities around the world. In the pursuit of advocating for a better and more sustainable future, Joana has participated in highly regarded international water conferences such as the World Water Week held in Stockholm as a Young Water Professional and spoke at youth conferences on the Sustainable Developmental

Goals, where Goal 6 highlights ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. In understanding such a reality, Joana has even immersed herself in community work back home, crusading with other passionate individuals for Filipino children to have better knowledge of water, sanitation, and hygiene through Unicef ’s global initiative, WASH. Partnering with both Filipino and global organizations - namely Juan Portrait, The Storytelling Project,

Klasrums ng Pag-Asa, The Wimler Foundation, and Art Dubai, not to mention school teachers around the Philippines - has elevated Joana’s advocacy into a shared cause. An altruist at heart, Joana notes that the idea of having helped a single person is rewarding enough: “I feel the relevance of my work when I hear from someone that they have also started a project or organized a movement. The idea of being at the center of the ‘ripple effect’ inspires me to lead and challenge myself do more.” Photo by: Joem Aldea






Public speaking powerhouse, Illustrado Woman of Substance Honoree and all-around lovable comedic personality, Rowena Niduaza occupies a unique position among many of Dubai’s charismatic personas. Well-known in the speaker circuit in the region, Rowena was a keynote speaker at the Dubai Women’s Summit 2017, and once again in 2018, sharing the stage with His Excellency Zulfiquar Z. Ghadiyali, CEO at the private office of His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, as well as other women leaders from the UK, France, Canada, etc.

In 2019, She is slated to be a part of another Women Empowerment Summit, this time in Manila. Away from the gravitas of the female empowerment summits, Rowena is also a comedic talent, performing stand-up at the wildly successful “Comedy Cocktails” with wellknown personalities from India, and Saudi Arabia. Her comic routine centers on the humor of the mundane, the amusing points of motherhood and family – something Rowena relishes talking about.


Always grounded and comfortable in her skin own skin, Rowena swears by honesty and faith as her guiding light in life. “If we can be honest with ourselves about who we are, our relationship with others will be deeper and stronger. Then we seal it with faith. The same goes for improving ourselves; we need to be honest about what we can and cannot do because it’s only through this process we can take in the right learnings to improve ourselves. After that, all we need is the faith that we can do it.”



35 Go-getter Cristina Magallon runs UAE DNA, an authority in chronicling business stories from around the UAE. With a strong online presence on platforms like Linkedin and Twitter, UAE DNA has become an epicenter that purveys valuable information to aspiring entrepreneurs and facilitates crosscultural idea sharing among its followers across the GCC and beyond. Coming to the UAE was a hard reality check for Cristina due to the drastic difference that exists

between Philippine and Emirati corporate climates. With no local connections at the time, and nobody to give her a job in media, she then came to a poignant realization: “I had a very clear understanding that if anything was going to move forward in my life here in the UAE, I was the only person responsible for making that happen. So, I made my channel.”. Now apart from her platform, Cristina has also written four books and is currently working on the “Descendants of the Dirham,” a project she is closely working on with top UAE advisers, slated to be


released in time for Expo2020. She has also spoken at several events, including Mother of the Nation, where she discussed the power of social influence. Of her learnings from interviewing some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country, Cristina shares with Filipinos aspiring for success - “Think big. Continually challenge yourselves, and yes, break ceilings. Equip yourselves with the knowledge to broaden your horizons and mostly, have a positive attitude even in the face of despair.”

At the forefront of Filipino entrepreneurship in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, the Philippine Business Council – DNE, a member of the ASEAN Business Councils Alliance – plays an intrinsic role in elevating the Filipino community. As a unique non-profit organization recognized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the PBC DNE does not only represent the Philippines within the multicultural business fraternity of the country, the organization is also instrumental in connecting Filipino businesses for mutual opportunities, as well as providing learning opportunities to current, as well as, aspiring business people. Always pushing to bolster Filipino visibility, a spirit of cooperation and an appetite for learning, the group’s year has been peppered with many achievements. 2018 saw the continuation of the group’s series ‘Sobiz’ short for

Socializing for Business – an innovative and fun networking platform, as well as ‘Edubiz’ (Education for Business) which facilitates workshops on topics relevant to entrepreneurs. The PBC’s cornerstone event created to connect foreign and Philippine businesses towards mutual development and growth gathered for its 3rd-year captains of industries, entrepreneurs from the Filipino community as well as other key expatriate groups and UAE, ASEAN and Philippine dignitaries. This year’s theme “Ascend Through Innovation” featured talks and discussions on how businesses can move forward empowered by technology. Heralding a new level of expansion, the PBC DNE also facilitated the establishment of its first business sub-committee under its purview. The League of Freight Forwarders (LFF) gathered 37 of the top Filipino operators in the sector. 2019 is set to be an even bigger year with the launch of the PBC Fellowship an 8-month development



Photo by: Salavador Codo Jr. & Danilo Valentine of Kabayan Kamera Klub ILLUSTRADO 62

and empowerment programme to help Filipinos transition from employees to entrepreneurs. Speaking on the PBC’s growth and dedication to the Filipino community, Chairman Marian Celeste Carella affirms, “We remain fully committed, and at the same time continue to be energized by our mission and vision. To be able to serve our compatriots and light the fire of competitiveness, leadership and the spirit of enterprise within them is quite a privilege. Hence, we forge on.” PBC DNE Board of Directors: Chairman - Marian Celeste ‘Bobbie’ Carella; Vice Chairman - Lalaine Chu-Benitez; Acting Secretary - Renz Dominic Salada; Directors - Finance - Anna Orlina; Membership - Allan Bautista; Education - Marlene Murphy; Social Media - Eden Nebreja, CSR - Leo Barrameda; Business Development - Enrique Yamzon; PR and Communications - Ken Peralta; Projects & Events - Andy Minodin

Of all the educational courses that have been offered to Filipinos outside the Philippines, the Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (LSDE) program stands unrivaled in being the largest international Filipino organization of its kind, spanning 27 countries, birthing thousands of entrepreneurs each year. With 2018 marking the 10th year of their operations, the Ateneo LSE has successfully produced 2500 graduates, with 460 of them from the UAE. With their 6-month training programs, they have provided entrepreneurship, financial literacy and leadership skills to a growing number of professionals within the region. This year, they have also launched their Continuing Education Series, providing alumni with the opportunity to continue

adding valuable knowledge and skills under their umbrella. Moving into 2019, the LSE will be launching more programs to be of further support to overseas Filipinos, with Women and Youth Empowerment, as well as other packaged courses in the pipeline. According to LSE ??? and spokesperson JR Papel, “People should always be clear about why they join and serve organizations. At the Ateneo LSE, we believe that values should always be at the heart of why and how we do things. Respect, humility, integrity, selfless service and excellence are the values we believe in. It is also clear to us that our mission and vision for the Ateneo LSE is to uplift and empower Filipino migrants and their families. “





E ATBoard I V E D IR CTO R ATENEOCRLSE of ETrustees: Chairperson - JR Papel; President Cristina Calaguian; Vice President Paul Moralde; Secretary - Renz Dominic Salada; Asst. Secretary - Eden Nebreja; Treasurer - Leo Garcia; Asst. Treasurer - Rolando Lucero; Auditor - Rafael Apolinario III; Communication & Public Relations - Rachel Salinel




38 In this photo: Trevor, Agnes, Kyle & Colby Briggs Photo by: Joie Agtarap

Very few fans of the sport would probably know that a British citizen enamored with the Philippines and a Filipina was a major driving force behind the establishment and development of rugby as a sport in the Philippines. His story and his family’s are somehow inextricably linked to the sport in the homeland. Trevor Stott-Briggs arrived in the Philippines in 1981 and lived there for over 27 years working for the ADB World Bank, pursuing projects aimed

to improve the life of the urban poor. He met Agnes Aquino in 1989 and the rest is history. The two now have three talented children – Jason (23), Kyle (17), and Colby (13). A passionate rugby fan enthusiast, Trevor played for the only club in the country at the time - the Manila Nomads. Realizing the lack of activity directed to his favorite sports Trevor endeavored to change things. In 2004, the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) was formed with him as one of the founding members, its firstILLUSTRADO 64

ever Executive Director, and most passionate supporter. Standing today, the PRFU has transcended original expectations and has become part of the International Rugby Board. It has also expanded into eighteen different rugby clubs around the country and has served an integral role in the orphaned youths as part of a PRFU outreach programme giving kids a sense of pride, discipline and team spirit. Moving to the UAE in 2007, Trevor started another rugby club - the Arabian Potbellies/Dubai Sharks RFC in the



Emirates. But life for Trevor and his family changed in the blink of an eye in 2011. An accident while playing broke Trevor’s neck rendering him a paralyzed quadriplegic. His wife Agnes – real estate broker, image consultant and former Chairman of the Philippine Business Council in Abu Dhabi, had to stand as the family’s primary support system and its symbol of strength, despite the hardships. Still, being an optimistic family, the Stott-Briggs’ managed to conquer what others are unable to. Trevor says, “It’s the distinctly Filipino TLC that helped me get back on my feet.” Now he walks with crutches, drives, and works. He even published a book called ‘TSB: Confessions of

an Ex-Hooker (aged 66 and a half) AKA Don’t Stop Believing’, about having faith in oneself and your body’s ability to recover. Never giving up on their passion, the family also returned to their love of rugby, starting up mixed-touch rugby in Ruwais where they now live and where Trevor coaches. Somehow, life came full circle in 2018. Amazingly, a number of the kids who have come under Trevor’s coaching have moved on to join national teams. Most significantly, their son Kyle, who shares the love


of the sport with his father, has been selected to play for the Under 19s Philippines Volcanoes squad. Kyle has joined the team in November for the Division 1, Asian Championship – significantly being part of the team and the movement his father helped build. Ultimately proud and fulfilled, the Stott-Briggs family looks back to their past and their future, where it seems Trevor’s legacy and their divine link to the sport of rugby in the Philippines, will continue on.








W W W. F I L B R I T T R A I N I N G C E N T R E . A E


The THOUGHT LEADERS. Here’s to the ones who have become the benchmarks in their fields, and proved that greatness has no racial boundaries. Not satisfied with competence, they aim for transcendence, and as a result have become the paragons of excellence in the Gulf region and beyond.




“True to my birth name, I’ve always been a dreamer. Yet, what sets me apart from other Josephs is that I will never stop persevering until I make every single dream a reality.” And make his dream come true he did for Joseph Alcantara who is exactly where he hoped to be - working in a leadership role for his dream company, which happens to be one of the world’s most admired brands. Head of Marketing Communications for internationally-renowned Emirates Airline, Joseph brings with him over 17 years of corporate experience from across seven organizations and four countries, not to mention charismatic leadership that brings out the best in others. Starting his career with the airline five years ago, as the triumphant sole Filipino applicant among over 300 aspirants from around the world, he now runs a specialized multicultural team overseeing advertising, digital, PR, social media, events, and sponsorships for the UAE hub and Southern Europe. He shares, “More than the prestige and title, I also thrive in knowing that I’m inspiring other Filipino dreamers who just need a proof that we have what it takes to conquer the world.” He also

advises, “Be an epitome of world-class Filipinos that make the Philippines shine internationally. Make other global citizens respect, look up to and love Filipinos for their unparalleled talents, admirable ingenuity, and aspirational values. Let’s collectively inspire our fellow Pinoys to create a positive dent that results in meaningful actions for themselves and the world around them.”


Hoping to motivate Filipinos to raise their profile further globally, Joseph has launched his own digital platform which features inspiring entries on career development, positive lifestyle, travel, and fitness. He is also writing a book containing a collection of his learnings and insights that could prove valuable to other Filipino expats.

Danelle Ruth PALANG



For most, Danelle Ruth Palang, Director of Marketing Communications at the Dusit Thani Hotel Dubai, is responsible for promoting and upholding the iconic Dusit lifestyle, but to her peers, she is a formidable thought leader and innovator, the skillful intermediary between one of the world’s finest luxury brands and the ever-changing market dynamics. Having spent nearly a decade in Dusit, moving here as a transplant from Dusit Thani Manila four years ago, Danelle professes that she finally found a place

to call home. Regarding the Dusit as a company that has provided her a “stage to shine,” Danelle has played her role with the utmost aplomb and has been at the forefront of innovative communication that has reinforced the Dusit’s brand visibility, as well as relevance across platforms in recent years. Her initiatives and depth of insight into the market have helped the company to produce not only campaigns but also contemporary outlets that have breathed new life to the business. Just recently, Dubai has seen the launch of two exciting outlets

Photo by: Mohamed Abdelwahab


under Dusit – namely, 24th Street – Asian Street Food, and Another Bar – bringing a new hip and quirky dimension to hotel customers and guests. Always open to new ideas, experiences, as well as people, Danelle feeds off the energy of being surrounded by highperforming professionals. She says, “Being around accomplished people keeps you grounded but ambitious.” She also advises, “Stop thinking about yourselves. You accomplish more when not focusing only on you. Focus on the bigger picture.”

Rosemarie TACORDA



Living what seems to be a charmed life behind some of the world’s most admired luxury hospitality brands including the Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers, The Address, Madinat Jumeirah and now Palazzo Versace where she is Director of PR and Marketing, is hardworking and brilliant marketing professional Rosemarie Tacorda. With an impressive career background and a pragmatic can-do mindset, Rose has made herself into a positive driving force within her industry, championing Filipino representation in a sector where our presence has become

palpable only in recent years. Lowkey despite being her position, Rose considers herself fortunate to be given the breaks she has received throughout her professional life. She says earnestly, “I’m still the same person with the same fundamentals, living a life parallel to my principles. I’m grateful for the things I have been given the opportunity to be a part of, as well as the opportunity to grow and lead a ‘procrealligent’ team within a highly regarded brand.”


Transposing her critical thinking into her prescription for Filipino greatness, she shares, “We have to be dream builders and be happy for our fellowmen’s success. Genuinely listen. Everyone wants to be heard, and sometimes this is all that a person needs. My favorite literary piece of all time ‘Desiderata’ says “… listen to others, for even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.” Let’s exercise compassion, never take for granted and take advantage one’s kindness. Each of us can contribute to the healing of our nation, and the world.”


42 Geny

BALUYOT While she is mostly known for her bold, moody Instagram photography and involvement in the #shotoniphone6s ‘Colors’ campaign, Geny Villareal Baluyot (aka Genyvb) is, in fact, the strategic core of six highly respected brands in the GCC. Geny made the big jump from doing agency work to doing client operations, now managing the marketing strategies, content creation and social media management of brands under the Apparel Group. She has used her social media knowledge to drive the presence of the biggest franchises in the region’s food industry including Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria, Sumo Sushi & Bento, Cold Stone Creamery, Sbarro and Molten Chocolate Café. She has played a vital role in acquiring many awards for her restaurants, including the ‘Best International Franchise’ (awarded from Jamie Oliver’s UK) and the Fact Dining Awards ‘Best Newcomer’ and ‘Favorite Casual Dining Restaurant.’ Purpose, positivity, and passion have had a profound effect on Geny’s work. Aligning work with her goal of traveling the world one day, she works tirelessly to make her dreams come true. “If you’re truly passionate about something, you will not allow yourself get distracted by anything. Do something each day to align your interests with your goals.” ILLUSTRADO 74


ESTRELLADO Whoever said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” has not met Rudstin Chopper Estrallado. This soft-spoken bright young’un has earned his company numerous awards, surpassing even veterans in his field. Fully immersed in today’s battlefield market, especially for the lifestyle consumer industry, Rudstin works as a Digital Marketing Executive for one of the most prominent retail groups in the Middle East – the Apparel Group. He is responsible for creating and executing digital campaigns, community management, and influencer management for some well-known international brands. With his digital savvy and working with the best in the field, his efforts have yielded not just one, but three top honors at last year’s Retail Middle East Awards – his projects for Ardene and New Balance hailed as Brand Campaign of the Year and Herschel Supply Co. as Rising Star of the Year. He gushes, “It felt good to have the right people validate your ideas and your hard work.” Being in the field as a youngster among more seasoned professionals, Rudstin has a very pragmatic approach that keeps him bold and unwavering in pursuing projects for his brands. “All it takes is that one person to believe in you, who will help and motivate you to pursue your ideas and guide you along the way,” he says



Michelle ROBIS

Michelle Robis works in Corporate Marketing as a Brand Social Media and Activations Manager at one of the region’s most valuable real estate development company and the developer of prestigious and exceptionally built property, malls and hospitality projects in the UAE. A graduate of De La Salle - College of St. Benilde in Business Administration in Computer Applications, and backed with experience in leading a talented digital team before moving to Dubai, she joined the hospitality industry back in 2015. She is currently responsible for driving the social media marketing and communications initiative of four highly acclaimed hospitality brands. She also looks after each social media platform of the company’s 14 operational hotels and leisure clubs.

Behind some of the region’s most prominent initiatives on the social media scene are young and brilliant Filipinos in the driving seat.

Working in such a fast-paced and competitive industry is genuinely demanding. In surmounting these inevitable hurdles, Michelle shares that striving to be an exemplary Filipino and an individual that emboldens the community serves as an inspiration to rise above: “It’s no secret that Filipinos are very resilient. To be able to represent Filipinos abroad and prove to everyone that Filipinos can stand out, lead and inspire - that would be such an achievement ILLUSTRADO 75a




Meet the Filipina who is the proverbial glue that holds the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG) together. For fourteen years, Josephine Cuthbert, a registered nutritional consultant, has been serving the Emirates Culinary Guild as Vice President of Administration and Affairs, in-charge of ECG’s high-profile industry events, which lie at the core of the guild’s achievements. Drawing strength from her calm nature, Josephine is tasked not only with communications, but also with

the gargantuan project of bringing in and organizing no less than 1,500 chefs and 40 international judges from across the globe, for the Emirates Salon de Culinaire, the country’s pre-eminent annual culinary event – a complex symphony that she conducts with great aplomb. Several years back, she was also instrumental in setting up a Guinness Book of World Records feat under a collaboration between ECG and the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing bringing together over 2,800 chefs from around the Emirates - the most number of


dressed chefs in one sitting, beating South Korea. Despite her ability to lead some of the most complex and challenging projects for the guild, Josephine considers her achievements within her family as the biggest in her life. “Seeing my children grow with my eldest studying to be an actor in Australia and my youngest wishing to be an animation artist, and being able to support the education of my nieces and nephew. Those are the things that make me most proud.”

Dr. Niño


46 He is a modest, soft-spoken man. Almost shy to a degree. But don’t let that fool you, Dr. Nino’s real stature lies in his advocacy and ability to help young Filipinos get the best education possible despite their financial limitations. Because of him, hundreds of Filipino scholars have received their world-class degree from the United Kingdon, with some of them already landing good jobs preparing them for a productive future. Armed with shining credentials including a Ph.D. from the Philippine Christian University, as well as study at the Harvard University in Boston Massachusetts, Dr.

Nino Decenorio is the Vice President of Bath Spa University in the UAE – a respected 166-year-old public British higher education institution. He was instrumental in creating an exceptional scholarship programme at the university which has benefited many Filipino families in the emirates. He is also involved in community service providing seminar-workshops, training, and support to Filipinos the founding Secretary General of Filipino Educators in the UAE. An altruist whose efforts are fueled by the sight of individuals flourishing, Dr.


Nino continues to work in the service of others. He aspires to further reach out to more Filipinos across the UAE with scholarships and educational support: “Every smile of a parent, student, and individual that I interacted with has made me feel very special in my rights and capacity as an educator and administrator. Being considered a conduit in achieving their dreams is beyond inspiration and motivation. It is beautiful and lovely to see Filipinos working hand-in-hand raising the bar of excellence in all fields of endeavors. I still have faith that Filipino people are worthy of respect and emulation.”



“Our abilities are futile if we will not use it for the benefit of humanity. Making things happen is not just to realize our goals in life, but also to help others hone their full potentials.” Dr. Rommel Pilapil Sergio, Professor Faculty of Management at the Canadian University Dubai, writer, mentor, community leader, and philanthropist has found his life purpose through supporting and guiding the young to become leaders of today’s global society. Two of the highest awards given to an academic in the area of research and publication were bestowed upon

him in 2018 - Research-Scientist of the Year and the Research Advocacy Award - from the International Association of Scholarly Publishers, Editors & Reviewers. Dr. Rommel also received the ‘Heroism Award on Community Engagements’ as a part of ABS CBN’s Global Pinoy Idol series, and was named as an Outstanding International Educator by the United Federation of Filipino-American Educators in a ceremony held in Washington, DC. These honors come on top of his 2016 Presidential Award for Filipino Individuals Overseas, as well as his inclusion in the Top 50 Global Educators Award conferred by the Oxford Journal: International


Journal of Business and Economics at Cambridge University. Academia aside, Dr. Rommel is a humanitarian at heart, having led pro bono counseling programs for distressed OFWs. Through the scholarship foundation he built in the Philippines in 2015, he has also supported the education of underprivileged students. He shares the ultimate prize for all the work that he has put in to further his advocacy, “The greatest reward we acquire in our sojourn is not monetary, it is when the person we have helped has also touched the lives of others by extending themselves unconditionally.”


To call this man, a ‘teacher’ does not fully encompass how he has brought enlightenment to the lives of his students, not to mention to the Filipino community as a servant leader. On the surface, thought leader Dr. Rex Venard Bacarra is an educator at the esteemed American College of Dubai, and a Digital Faculty Consultant for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for international educational publisher, McGraw Hill. Beneath all this, he is a man who has inspired many to make their own lives extraordinary. This year, Rex has spoken at various

Dr. Rex


events, and media features shedding light on topics ranging from digital innovation in the classroom, disruption, and innovation in business, as well as leadership. On the academic front, his recognition continues with yet another standing ovation at the 2018 Graduation Ceremony at the American College. Grateful for the accolades he is receiving, Rex humbly credits his success to those who have aided and encouraged him along the way: “Many hands toiled for what I have achieved through the years – teachers, friends, family, those who inspired me. Treating them with respect


and consciously reminding myself that I am not first, is the guiding light that has helped me achieve meaningfully all that I have done.” Rex’s single most powerful piece of advice to those aspiring for greatness is sharing one’s story: “When you tell the story of pain and comfort, battles lost and won, you get to set a ripple of encouragement and inspiration. People become aware of what it takes to succeed and be accomplished - and collectively, no matter how small at first, follow the examples you set through the stories heard from you.”


VILLANUEVA E D U CATOR , A RT I S T Educator and artist, Susan Villanueva Puno has struck a fine line, embracing both artistic expression while fulfilling her duties as an educator to young Emirati women. Unsurprisingly with her initiatives yet again this year, she has not only brought recognition to the Higher Colleges of Technology – Sharjah Women’s College (HCTSJW), she has also contributed to the Filipino community through her art. Through her guidance and unwavering patience, Susan’s students have become game changers in the advertising field, with their campaigns featured across the UAE, as well as in prestigious events such as the Asia World Summit at the Dubai Trade Center and Sharjah’s Space Science Center. An innovator in her own right, she has transformed class as educational, engaging and

49 exciting for her students through teaching experience instead of theory. “I love teaching beyond the books; I teach experience because, in this way, it’s more rewarding,” she says. Shaping her students’ creativity and resourcefulness has yielded prominence for HCT-SJW specifically at respected sector competitions like Emirates Skill, WorldSkills Asia, and EuroSkills. This 2018, she also received the Lifetime Service Award from her beloved college, while her art was showcased at the “Shukran Baba Zayed” exhibition as well as at the


Pamaskong Handog event organized by the Philippines Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Susan’s belief in always trying to see the beauty in everything is her formula in work and in life that allows her to be a conduit for good. She imparts, “Always focus on positivity, tolerance with compassion, innovative/critical thinking and most of all respect for others. Respect travels a long way. It is important always to learn and share knowledge with others. At work, stay focused and love what you do.”

50 Marlon



Senior Editor of Kuwait’s leading English daily Arab Times, Marlon Aquino Malinao has become a conduit for Filipino excellence. Beginning his career as a sub-editor in 2005, he rose to Business Editor in no time and was eventually promoted to the third highest post in office. In a field where Filipino representation in leadership positions is rare, especially in the media, Marlon is a testament that Filipinos are indeed world-class and can make a difference in the workplace.

Aside from being a respected journalist, Marlon’s passion for creative expression has led him to the vibrant field of makeup. “For me, make-up is a stressrelieving form of art; a haven from the challenging routine of a newsperson.” Through make-up, he has collaborated with many talented individuals and celebrities, for television commercials and editorials, not to mention projects for a cause. His artistic prowess was showcased abroad when he directed Resty Lagare’s fashion show in the USA, and when he worked on Miss Austin Texas 2018, as well as Miss

Photo by: Ino Florencio ILLUSTRADO 81

Austin Texas Teen 2018. Just recently, Marlon also launched his make-up line called ‘MARvelous’ which he hopes to be a global household name someday. With his unique career path, pursuing two entirely different disciplines, Marlon shows that indeed, one can have a flourishing career while pursuing another passion. He underlines the importance of balancing his pursuits properly, but even more of having a good attitude in life. He advises, “Let other people’s success or happiness, be your success or source of joy and inspiration. With that attitude, this world will be a better place.”



51 Joan Tuaño is an intrapreneur, foodie and marketing prodigy – spearheading Asia Gulf Companies’ - La Carne, the UAE’s rising specialty butchery. With her talents and sector savvy, not to mention, her absolute geekiness about all things ‘meat’, she has brought a new level of flair to the gourmet meat market in the Emirates. Working full-time in a family business can feel limiting and at the same time intimidating to many young people. However, Joan has channeled both the challenges and opportunities intrinsic

to her situation, not to mention knowledge and experience gained from studying in Les Roches Bluche – Switzerland, as well as working for hospitality brands Shangri-La, Louis Vuitton, The Ritz Carlton and Aman Hotels, into pushing a homegrown SME brand to prominence in the capital. For her, an environment that nurtures passion and constant learning is key in sustaining her businessoriented mindset. This 2018, through her leadership, La Carne has gained a solid clientele made up of chefs, hotels, restaurants and meat connoisseurs in


the capital. Joan has also launched a loyalty card system, with La Carne becoming the first butchery in the UAE to do so. Joan’s method for striving towards success lies within constant optimism and always remaining outside of one’s comfort zone. “Always avoid feeling too comfortable,” she says. “Keep trying new things and never think that wherever you are in life is the final stage. You are only old when you are 99.”



Agnes Pedrosa Marelid has been a living-breathing advocate of “brand Philippines” in the last two decades. Living in Sweden, and then Abu Dhabi, she has worked in diverse industries including biotech, education, and food, as well as for ABS CBN Europe as a TV correspondent and events producer. She is currently Senior Account Manager for digital agency Sandbox Creatives. She states, “My occupation doesn’t define me, but I find ‘purpose in life’ as a determinant of who I am.” And true enough, with her strong calling to serve, Agnes has been an active contributor to the Filipino community both in Europe and the Middle East since 1997, instigating projects including protecting Filipina women from abuse, as well as promoting Filipino business, culture, and tourism. An active supporter of Filipino entrepreneurship in the capital and



former Chairman of the Philippine Business Council in Abu Dhabi, Agnes’ most recent mandate is to spearhead the campaign for the Filipino Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020, with the objective of giving Filipinos their best representation on the world stage. Still, despite her track record, Agnes’ real clout lies in the intangible. Her biggest gift, which has become an asset to the Filipino community, is her unique and unsurpassed ability


to connect people and bridge the cultural gap. Perhaps, it’s that megawatt smile, or that easy gait matched with her soft-but firm way of getting things done, that allows her to bring new meaning to the phrase ‘Filipina in-charge.’ Whatever it is just comes part and parcel to the advocacy she’s chosen in life. “I do not only represent the Filipino community. I also tirelessly protect and uplift the Filipino brand. Ultimately, I consider myself, a Filipino brand ambassador.”



53 A modest entrepreneur whose business acumen speaks for itself, Victoria Mikkelsen runs a successful nursery, school, and freight business. Inspiring is her advocacy: to help children cultivate positive values that enable them to become smart and responsible individuals. Victoria runs two of Abu Dhabi’s oldest schools - the ABC School and the ABC Nursery est. 1979, as well as her freight and logistics management company Victors Freight International Corp. with four branches in the Philippines,

and 1 in Abu Dhabi, with plans of expanding operations in Europe especially in Scandinavia. Her expertise in business management and cross-cultural communication can be attributed to her vast experience – fifteen years from the wellness industry, and fifteen in the educational sector. Dealing with a multicultural clientele has also taught her some integral skills: “Through the years, I have developed the virtues of tenacity, flexibility, and fortitude. Like gold, I have learned to be

Photo by: Nick Velarde, Mayo Gayares & Remar Toledo of Pinoy Digital Photographers in Kuwait (PINDOT) Makeup : Marlon Malinao of MARvelous Make-Up Artistry


flexible, and I strive to shine and bring light to people”. Victoria also swears by the power of valuing one’s team and advises, “Whether you are employed or starting or running a business, always think of how to motivate people around you. If you are doing the things right with integrity and consideration for others, you can influence them. Always strive to do good to others in whatever ways you can, and mentor those who have the same passion as you have.”




54 “Be professional; learn how to do something and then deliver whatever that is every day, to the same standard.” Such is the life motto of Janet Barlow, technical writer and co-owner of Pacific Consulting Services (along with her husband, Peter). Together with their multicultural and multi-talented team, they have handled accounts and projects for major government and non-governmental agencies, namely: Masdar, ENEC, Presidential Flight and ADNOC – a rare feat among the already few Filipino professionals within the field.

Janet is also a guiding hand in the community who lives to serve. She was an active part of the Philippine Business Council in Abu Dhabi since 2008 and served as Chairman of the Council from 2016 to 2017. Before that, she was also a volunteer catechist for eight years, at St Joseph’s Cathedral in the capital. From her humble beginnings as a factory worker to being a significant contributor to the capital’s development, Janet’s talents are a product of extensive experience and the nurturing environment she has been exposed to. “Most


of what you need to know in life does not come from college or books, but experience and the environment. I have been lucky that all our professional engagements give us the opportunity to learn more.” She has this to say about the community, “We have a lot to contribute, but simply smiling and being able to sing and dance do not guarantee a living. For that, we need to become more capable, particularly in terms of getting the job done and guaranteeing results. If we can do that, others will continue to recognize the Philippines as a talented, professional nation.”




Transitioning from the medical field into entrepreneurship in 2013, Mayet Galang Evans is a business owner and community volunteer who shares her passion for learning with the people. As a ‘serial entrepreneur,’ she is the founder and CEO of the Filbrit Training Center chain, Sampaguita Salon, as well as an events and a digital marketing service company. Through Filbrit, she and her husband have made shadow teaching and

workshops accessible to the masses. Having taught practical and business skills to hundreds, her talents have translated into invaluable skills in the future corporate lives of their students. Her hair salon has also become famous for providing an international level of services at reasonable pricing too. Mayet says her success and talent within multiple fields can be credited to her innate good nature. “If God is the center of your heart, follow up with hard work, keep a good heart,


never give up and learn from your own mistakes, you will make your own luck” she shares. With her family’s support and the continued push for growth, Mayet forges ahead to expand her business empire throughout the region, lending a guiding hand to many Filipinos by bolstering their skills. “We should work together for the good of Filipinos in the UAE and at home and utilize the fantastic multicultural opportunities we have here.”

Maria Josephine ABINA


56 A dynamic entrepreneur, community leader, and networking master, Maria Josephine has provided countless business and job opportunities to many and strengthened relations between Oman and the Filipino community. She is the Founder of Fashion House Oman, and partner for the first international center of Vantage International – a Kamiseta Company from the Philippines. Just recently, Maria Josephine has also been appointed distributor of Omani essential oils brand – OLIBAN. Using networking

exceptionally as a vital business tool, she is also an active Consul of four groups including the Muscat Business Networking group at InterNations, one of the world’s largest international communities, where she has organized 75 activities in the previous year. Moving forward, she also wishes to take part in trade missions working with local organizations and companies to help boost bilateral trade and business matching opportunities between Oman and the Philippines. She hopes that all this will come into fruition with the formation of their new

Photo by: Miko Garcia of LensCapt Studios


business group - Oman Philippine Friendship Association (OPFA). An entrepreneur through and through, she believes that being an independent business owner is one of her most significant achievements in life saying that it has afforded her the freedom and motivation to be the best that she can be. She also adds, “This achievement is a form of servitude that compels me to go even higher. When I set my mind to achieve something, no matter what it takes I have to figure it out, and I must get it done. I am aware that I need to strive harder and keep pushing myself above average.”




With over 12 years of marketing and advertising experience with worldwide brands like Complex Magazine, American Airlines, and Microsoft, BJ De Guzman is no stranger to the marketing game. Now the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Jungle Beige, he spearheads projects for leading lifestyle, fashion, entertainment, and hospitality industries.

Specializing in brand creation in all fields art, social and influence based, BJ and his team have produced high level, authentic content, and branding for the likes of Puma Middle East, Christian Louboutin, Ford, Levis and more – playing the defining role in shaping their image among the middle east’s brand savvy and culture aficionados. With his multitalented team, Jungle Beige’s outreach has slowly risen to a global level, collaborating with Amongst


Few and placing their brand on stars like Ed Sheeran and DJ Snake and designing the booths for Levis and Puma ME at Sole Dxb. Getting to this level of recognition and founding his label is no easy feat. BJ remarks “A combination of courage, focus, and luck go into starting and sustaining your own business. You also need a great team and a set of standards you won’t sacrifice for anyone or anything.”




58 Two thousand eighteen has been a monumental year for photographer turned entrepreneur Hyku Desesto. She has brought some collaborations to life, executing creative direction for luxury and fashion brands and delivering a new level of Filipino presence to international marketing campaigns in the region. Having founded Soul Trap Studio, Hyku and her team have worked with the biggest names in the region including Vogue Arabia, Burberry, Dolce and Gabbana, Adidas and more. Hyku herself has become a brand


ambassador for Nisnass and has made appearances on OSN’s ASLI show and Netflix’s Girl Boss campaign. She was also featured on the Women’s Health Middle East list of game changers and Tag Heuer’s campaign on Marie Claire middle east. On empowering and elevating Filipinos, Hyku strongly emphasizes learning and bridging passion with work. “Never stop learning, to always be innovative and lastly, you have to love what you, because working hard and being a go-getter will come naturally.”




Beneath his humble and timid visage, Leo Barrameda proves how the power of one can make a huge difference in changing the lives of others. After experiencing a series of harrowing events and challenges over the years and his exposure to charity work in 2015, he gained clarity on his life’s purpose and has since devoted his life to helping those around him. Manager for the International Collectors Programme at Art Dubai, this philanthropist and community volunteer has been supporting the

underprivileged through his skills as an entrepreneur and by sponsoring numerous charity organizations and initiatives. In recent years, together with his friends and himself driving the scholarship project, Leo’s group has sent hundreds of B’Laan kids to school. 2018, was a continuation of this effort, Leo has sent 100 kids to elementary school, supported ten high school students, and 50 enrollees of the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System. Through his social advocacy, Leo has also been awarded the title of “Global Pinoy Idol” by DZMM


and TFC. This year, in Dubai, through the Philippine Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates, he is also spearheading the PBC Fellowship: an intensive eight-month programme consisting of seminars and workshops aimed at skill and character building for young, upcoming entrepreneurs. “I just want my actions and advocacies to inspire others. There is life after your eight-hour work routine, and there is a special feeling in helping those in need and giving back to the community,” Leo shares.



Making a difference in their own terms is this Dubai-grown Filipino founded brand that has set a new standard in the male grooming sector in the country. The story of Brusko Barbers just goes to show that even a simple business, if done with pride and creativity can cut through the clutter. Not the barbershop of old, Brusko Barbers, the brainchild of co-founders Roy Cruz, Abi Gaddi Cruz, Algene Suria, and Malu Gallardo has climbed from being your typical haircut place to a hotspot among the hip and happening gents of Dubai. With a quirky brand

identity, Brusko’s founders have pushed the grooming envelope, delivering their authentic take on the modern barbershop experience from the services, to the nostalgic atmosphere, down to the camaraderie offered by its affable staff. Brusko Barbers has gained patronage among some rising personalities, including artists and influencers, and have also garnered industry recognition landing in finalist position in the category of ‘Best in Grooming’ at the recent #mhwhawards18 by Men’s Health & Women’s Health Middle East.


A specialty brand that serves a growing international clientele built on 100% Filipino entrepreneurship is somewhat of a rarity in Dubai. Undaunted, spokesperson Roy Cruz shares, “Building a brick and mortar shop targeting to serve multinational clientele by 100 percent Filipino first-time entrepreneurs in the service industry was not an easy feat, but it is a challenge we accepted headstrong. By staying optimistic, putting in the hard work, and relying on each other’s expertise, we overcame these challenges. Armed with grit, professionalism and creative innovation, now we’ve built a place that has become worthy of very happy and proud customers.”


61 There are many ways of honoring Filipino culture. Promoting our own through traditional flavors and aromas through beverages, is Alberto Opena’s way of celebrating and introducing the Philippines. An award-winning mixologist and bartender turned entrepreneur, Alberto’s passion lies in innovation through food and entertainment. Being able to promote the Philippines, through his take on drinks, utilizing familiar ingredients, as well as techniques, whether by design or for his pure enjoyment, is a definite plus and almost always

becomes a high point of interest for people who experience his brand of bartending. Armed with a decade of extensive experience within the field of bar, club and restaurant management, Alberto has worked across the world with some of the best fivestar brands – from a luxury cruiser in Miami to hotel franchises in the Philippines and UAE. His venture Ounce Facilities Management LLC provides bar and lounge services for private, public and corporate events, as well as trade marketing solutions for many renowned brands such as


Jack Daniels, Skyy, Russian Standard and more. Always driven to succeed, Alberto attributes his achievements to his motto: learn, work, share, repeat. He shares, “The passion that I have in my craft always brings out my creativity and inspires me to keep innovating. What probably sets me apart from most people is that I don’t measure success in material things. Rather, it is my client’s success, my family’s support in my craft, and other people who emulate me, that makes up my success.”



62 Armed with 15 years of industry experience, Ernesto Flores and Oliver Serrano, the two creatives at the helm of audio-visual production company Alpha Media Productions have given rise to a new level of professionalism to content produced not only for the Filipino community but also for commercial projects in the emirates. In just two years since its formation, Alpha Media has become one of the trusted production companies in the UAE servicing the biggest brands, government agencies and covering significant events, conferences, and concerts in the country. Keeping true to their core and always ready to serve the Filipino community, the company also has racked-up some

high-profile partnerships including collaborations with GMA Pinoy TV with the popular Trending Pinoy Show, and the Dubai Filipino community’s Philippine Independence and Christmas celebrations lead by the Bayanihan team, among others. Aspiring to be the production company of choice in the UAE and to train more kababayans in honing their production skills in the future, Ernesto and Oliver swear by the determination in continuously pushing their endeavor ahead. They


say of their compatriots, “We are gemstones scattered all over the world. Some are polished, some are not, few are rare, and others are tested through time. So always be proud of who you are, never stop learning and dreaming even if you are already a CEO, cultivate the incomparable talents that you already have, benchmark excellence in whatever you do, follow your passion and never forget to give back to the family, friends and community that put you where you are today!”


S u i t e 2 8 0 3 , I r i s B a y, H a p p i n e s s S t . B u s i n e s s B a y, P O B o x 1 9 2 8 6 , D u b a i , U A E +971 54 324 7140 • +971 4 240-7082 w w w. G R C o u t u r e . c o m instagram : @garimonroferos


The TASTEMAKERS. Here’s to the deviants, the explorers, the style-setters, the innovators who push the limits of what is and should be. They see what could be, and in breathing life to their vision, they reengineer our reality.


63 With the local world of advertising and fashion heavily dominated by Western and Arabic models, Paul Kiefer is one of those rare talents that represent the Filipino; and represent well he has. Having graced countless buildings, billboards, runways, and magazines across the Emirates and the rest of the world, his is one of the most recognizable premium faces in the country. Paul elaborates on identity

and representation: “Never feel you are under someone or don’t have the power to achieve what others do. We are all people, and it’s not about where you are from or what you have, but how far you are willing to go to achieve what you want to achieve.”. “So many new things happened this year. I’m always learning more and more about myself and the world we live in through my travels as a model and from new experiences.”.

Photo by: Kerem Cobanli


Besides modeling, Paul has further expanded his career exploring a separate avenue in the industry - photography. Devoting more time behind the camera these days, Paul considers photography to be a profound passion he was just waiting to immerse himself in. Just recently, Esquire Magazine featured his work – a coup he considers to be one of his great achievements.





Roberto Cavalli, Hermès, Bvlgari. These are just a few of the prominent luxury brands model Fara Manalo has walked for. She has also appeared in numerous commercial campaigns for brands like Emirates, Samsung, and Atlantis Hotel. With Illustrado serving as her first ever magazine cover, Fara to this day dons her culture and ethnicity with pride: “To be amongst the few Filipino models here in Dubai, I am proud to wave the Philippine flag till the end.” While modeling as a profession is notoriously considered to be quite demanding, Fara’s unbending optimism has helped her remain a cut above the rest: “My advice to Filipinos, or anyone for that matter, would be to sincerely believe in yourself and be confident when you are working to the best of your abilities. I feel that if everyone lived their lives genuinely and with passion, anything can be achieved.”





Danish-Filipina beauty, Benedickte Gammelgaard has been modeling since the age of twelve. Now twenty-four, her career in the industry has been blessed with both local and significant international gigs. Benedickte has modeled for several illustrious beauty brands - Huda Beauty, Makeup Forever, Loréal PH - she has graced the pages of publications from around the world – Harper’s Bazaar, ID Magazine, Preview PH, Illustrado Magazine - and has as well walked for Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos, MSFTS, American Eagle Outfitters, and more. A multi-talented artist that specializes in graphic design, who also has a passion for music, one parallel challenge Benedickte has encountered on several fronts of her life concerns self-acceptance. She shares: “I think my main challenge, to this day, is believing I was never good enough. Something a lot of girls and boys struggle with, especially in this industry. There have been times where I have refused to sing on stage and refused jobs I thought I was incapable of doing. However, the sooner I accepted who I was, the sooner I could work, and the more I would be able to achieve.” Benedickte finds inspiration in the values and culture of the Filipino people. “It’s almost difficult for me to give advice when I can look up to almost every Filipino I know. Their determination and perseverance in anything they do is admirable and is something I try to learn from always.”.





66 A Dutch boy with both Filipino and Spanish blood, who was raised in Belgium, model Dimitri Tolenaars proves that today’s Filipinos are the picture of ethnic diversity. With an equally diverse portfolio, ranging from commercial campaigns to luxury fashion editorials for the likes of Michael Cinco, Dimitri recently graced the pages of the first editions of GQ Middle East (modeling for Bottega Veneta), and Vogue Man Arabia.

Photo by: Rozen Antonio


The world of fashion and modeling is ever-changing and rapidly evolving. For a young model like Dimitri, it is this very uncertainty that drives him to be the best version of himself. “Since I’m not one hundred percent sure about my plans, I hope to be the best I can be in whatever I decide to undertake. It all starts with yourself. Be confident. Looking up to other people is fine as long as you don’t look down on you. After that, it’s not just advancing as Filipino people, but as human beings in general.”


One of the greatest compliments a designer can ever earn in their career is being asked to exclusively design for one of the most prominent families not only in Dubai, but also in the world, and Jimi Buenconsejo has had that pleasure as a royal designer for over twenty years. The creative force behind La Donna Couture for nearly two decades, before he joined the palace, the incomparable Jimi Buenconsejo was a graduate of the Philippines’ Slim’s fashion school, and


was one of the youngest members of the Isetann Board of designers, before he moved to the Middle East. His extensive industry background coupled with his eye for timeless glamor has cultivated expertise for creating pieces fit for the most discerning. With him leading a team of 22 composed of designers, pattern makers, tailors, beaders, and embroiderers, the royal atelier creates up to five intricate pieces in a single day. Of what may seem like a demanding profession, he shares: “I guess you simply have to love


what you’re doing. If you love it, you can overcome any difficulties that may come your way, and continue to do so for a long, long time. The best part is, we don’t have to work on a budget – so creativity is endless”. As for his hopes for his fellow countrymen, he shares: “The Philippines has a lot of young, creative, and talented individuals. I want to share the learnings from my experiences to prepare aspiring designers for a career, and how to sustain one.”



68 Ignacio Loyola – the entrepreneur behind Atelier Ignacio of the prestigious Dubai Design District – is a prolific craftsman and fashion designer born. A master of the unexpected and an avant-garde fiend, his unique creations that exemplify his love and skill for fabrication of the unusual are what makes his designs so innovative. Creating pieces that have been featured in music videos and brand campaigns, including Boucheron for Abu Dhabi Art, Ignacio has racked up an impressive array of

accomplishments throughout his career. He won the FDCP’s Philippine Fashion Design Competition twice, where he subsequently represented the Philippines in the Paris Young Designers Competition. He too brought home the grand prize from the Smirnoff Mule Fashion Awards, both in the Philippines and internationally, designing three pieces inspired by the tribes of the Northern Philippines. A fashion design graduate of Instituto Marangoni in Milan, and interior design alumnus of the

Photo by: Joan Bitagcol


Philippine Women’s University, he now runs his very own atelier - Atelier Ignacio of Dubai Design District, an accomplishment of paramount importance, with future pursuits of breaking fashion boundaries intrinsic to his brand’s DNA. Regarding the advice he gives to Pinoys when it comes to advancing in one’s career, he shares: “No amount of talent, skill, knowledge and hard work is worth it if you have no focus and objective. Once you have a target, planning is the key.”



69 ‘Knocking on doors can lead to fantastic and inspiring opportunities.’ Says former Concours Internationale des Jeunes Creatures de Mode’s D’Incitation awardee Garimon Escandor Roferos, looking back at the year that was. Together with his Garimon Roferos Couture team of artisans, he has produced a collection in 2018 that bridges the gap between comfort and functionality with authentic couture aesthetic. His masterfully crafted gowns have been seen on a fair share

of celebrities this year – including Yemeni-Emirati opera singer Balqees Ahmed Fathi, Miss World Manushi Chillar, Bollywood star Pretty Zinta, as well as Filipino celebrity Nadine Lustre. By applying out of the box concepts into universal fashion sensibilities, the designer has consistently produced memorable pieces that have a decided edge through the years. Always driven to reach the next level, Garimon asserts, “You are only as good as your last design. If success is in your past, do not rest and be content with what


you have done. If failures are in your past, today may be the time for a new beginning.” Sheer faith in hand combined with his pragmatic ever-surging career approach, Garimon is working towards becoming a global name someday, producing gowns and collections representative of the modern-day Filipino’s best traits: versatile, unique and ever-changing. “My future will be filled with new interests, learning curves and challenges. This is how Garimon Escandor Roferos works.”

Harvey CENIT


70 When Harvey Cenit showcased his collection in Cebu as the opening act for the prestigious “World Class / Weddings at the Waterfront” show alongside icons Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos, and Furne One – who Harvey says influenced him subliminally throughout his career, it was a tremendous validation that the designer has indeed, entered the big leagues. Continually delivering exquisite pieces, Harvey’s rise within the highly cutthroat local world of fashion in a mere span of five years since he set foot in the Emirates, is quite impressive. His


penchant for making successfully deliberate choices has definitely set him on a path towards future leadership. With his elegantly feminine design aesthetic, a good balance between extravagance and restrained class, that’s difficult not to love, Harvey has become the designer of choice for affluent women in the country. Just recently, Harvey was featured in a Gulf New interview. He also had the pleasure of dressing up some Filipina muses, including reigning Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, respected indie actress Mercedes Cabral, model Barbie Imperial, and singer Morisette Amon.

Looking forward to an even greater future ahead, Harvey affirms that the importance of being able to experience as many aspects of one’s craft as possible is truly valuable: “Because of my experiences, my ability to learn has also increased. The more I have used them, the less frustrated I have become, and the more rewarding life has become for me. Don’t waste your time learning something you aren’t willing to use in the future. If you’re spending your time and effort on something make sure that, if you get a chance to, you use it. It’s a beautiful world out there. One must have to believe.”





Going through a series of traumatic events in 2018, including his break from the original brand he created, as well as the death of his father, Iain Roy had to make a number of sacrifices in order to find his footing again and achieve a new level of re-direction. Rebirthing his own brand, Iain Roy’s renewed optimism has planted the seeds for a future high street powerhouse with bridal couture at its core. “It was hard to let go of something that I conceived from infancy. But in order to flourish, I

have to know what lies beyond, hence Iain Roy is born!” With his impressive presence and the following he has gained in the fashion industry in recent years, spanning numerous fashion capitals across the world (Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, and New York), Iain Roy tackles this new chapter in his life with the same conviction and pragmatism that allowed him to excel, not only as a designer, but also as an entrepreneur. He shares simply, “I will go back to my


formula before. I know what I want to achieve. I know my goal, and I know the steps I need to take, to reach it.” Despite the challenges, Iain Roy is excited about the prospect of his ‘new beginning.’ He shares, “I feel like a bountiful spring of ideas sprouting endlessly. It feels like I’m a kid again, just like when I started eight years ago. Only this time, I have better connections, better clothes, and I’m hungrier than ever!”



72 Designer/entrepreneur Jun Ricaforte has brought diversity to the very competitive field of fashion design by being the premiere Filipino designer of abayas in the region. Through his brand, Dune Abaya, he has created classic and timeless pieces of refined elegance for many powerful women, including royalty in the Middle East. Being the most notable Filipino in the sector, Jun stands proudly knowing that he has penetrated a niche market and distinguishing himself from the rest.

Dune Abaya has been gaining prominence in the market, primarily via cultural and fashion exhibitions across the seven emirates, as well as expanding through to online platforms. Through the years, much like other intrepid entrepreneurs, Jun has also experienced his fair share of struggles and challenges to get where he is today. But he swears by his unwavering determination and faith that helped him carry on. He shares, “I have experienced failures before... a lot! But God’s grace and provision are always there. I just


stand up again and again ‘til I fulfill God’s destiny for me. I have to do it whatever it takes.” Jun’s future goals involve supporting Filipinos to gain more presence in the local fashion exhibitions. He desires to see more Filipinos displaying their work in these venues where we not wellrepresented, and win business in the process. He also encourages Pinoys to bolster each other for the community to move ahead. “We should always be happy with all the achievements of our fellowmen. We should stop crab mentality.”


73 Phio Enaje practically lives and breathes fashion. Designing from the age of sixteen and opening his very first couture label at the mere age of twentyfive, fashion has always been intrinsic to Phio. As the creative director of Nymph Couture, Phio was the catalyst in the brand’s venture into prêt-àcouture this year, which garnered great feedback at the brand’s swanky outlet at the luxurious World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi. Two thousand eighteen also saw Phio’s elegant collection ‘Mystique of Geisha’ showcased at the Elite Bridal and

Fashion Fair held at the Ritz Carlton in February. His dreamy collection caught the eyes of many, especially HH Sheikha Hend Al Qassimi of Sharjah, earning him a feature in the widely celebrated Velvet Magazine, by invitation of the Sheikha herself, who is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. On the sidelines, the designers’ creations have been invading Bollywood as well – via fashion and celebrity pages, with his continued rise in prominence in this market fuelled by the strong connections established with some of India’s stylists and highILLUSTRADO 107

profile clientele. Glamorous Bollywood stars Debina Bonnerjee, and Malvika Sharma wore Phio Enaje at the Film Fare Magazine Red Carpet event, and for at the South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA). Phio’s first foray into menswear in the region, also made it to the Oscar’s Academy Awards red carpet, his tuxedo worn by OSN’s Fathi Azouz. Phio shares, “Don’t be scared to try new things, you wouldn’t know the significance of what you are doing without trying to do something out of the box. And of course, always be you, no one can best represent you but you alone.”




74 Creating stunning masterpieces was something Jhoe Lina was born to do. Coming a long way from his humble beginnings starting as a designer in Saudi Arabia in 1996, he moved to Qatar in 2000 and had the privilege of finally launching his brand and atelier in 2016. All these years, he has built up his name and a passionate following for his grand and whimsical designs, earning respect and patronage of members of the royal family, as well as elite clients and the country’s most influential media personalities as his regular clients.

Talking about his path towards opening the doors of his very own atelier in a foreign country, the designer shares, “The creation of the Jhoe Lina brand is a heart-warming reminder that the journey is indeed worth it from the beginning.” Through his brand, the designer also seeks to uplift and elevate the status of Filipinos in fashion, as talents capable of competing on an international scale. Moving towards 2019, he plans to launch his prét-aporter bridal line, expand his oneof-a-kind couture collection, dabble

Photo by: Carmelo Cavada


into furniture design, and stage his first solo show in Ramadan. With his unwavering dedication in the last two decades manifesting into his dreams, Jhoe Lina demonstrates how passion can be the single most critical driving force towards one’s future. He also encourages people to fully embrace their choices, “If you love what you do, your workspace is not defined by the job description alone, it permeates boundaries and becomes a lifestyle.”



75 Having one’s creations worn by an array of high-profile clients is one thing - and an amazing feat at that. However, using one’s craft to help others in need is something that’s even doubly commendable. For the prolific Kuwait-based designer Resty Lagare, 2018 has been a generous year that allowed him to further both his career, as well as his passion for supporting worthwhile causes. Dressing very prominent celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Mel B, and Ashanti, not to mention the entire model lineup of Germany’s Next

Top Model for the third time in a row, including the iconic Heidi Klum herself, has bolstered Resty’s continued climb in the international fashion scene. Combining fashion and a cause close to his heart, he also staged an exclusive fashion show in Austin, Texas, called Opulence, which raised funds for Project Malasakit under the Kara David initiative towards supporting underprivileged children. Over in Kuwait, Resty has also collaborated with regional designers and artists in support of humanitarian efforts including the Kabayan Cancer Support group. The designer

Photo by: Emil Vilchez


professes, “It feels good to be able to help in our small way to alleviate the plight of the needy. Thank God for these hands!” A believer in the innate power and the capacity for the kindness of the Filipino people, Resty underlines the importance of always taking pride in what we do. He says, “Be proud to be a Filipino because wherever you go, you will always carry with you the heart and soul of a Filipino who takes pride in his rich culture and heritage, molded by his nation’s colorful history. We have to carry this beacon to the rest of the world.”


76 Hailing from Sultan Kudarat, Sherwin Darrel’s couture journey across the world has landed him in Saudi Arabia, where he has gone on to garner fame through his active contributions to the wedding industry. Championing his atelier, Emperatora Fashion, he has become one of the hottest wedding gown designers in the kingdom. Sherwin’s designs shift between effortless minimalism to eloquent boldness, emphasized through clever embellishments. The designer’s gowns can be seen worn

by women from around the world on the most important day of their lives. Well-known in the regional bridal circuit, Sherwin carries both the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, every time he participates in international shows side-by-side designers from across the world. Regarding his contribution to fashion as his most significant achievement in life, Sherwin shares his secret to success. “I’m able to achieve my triumphs by being consistent in everything I have planned with the utmost patience, self-discipline, and perseverance. My motivation is

Photo by:– Melody Solana Alabastro


simple. It is my passion, and I want to be best in what I do. It’s not about fame, money, or power. Sherwin also reveals, “I have also received a lot of criticism about my work. But I take them as constructive criticism, and a motivation for me to do more and stay focused in my chosen field.” Ultimately, the designer aspires to be able to inspire others. “I want to be a role model, to others and leave them a legacy for the next generation of fashion designers. I hope I will be able to continue to influence them to fulfill their dreams.”

Casting and show director/events producer Michael Amazona has come a long, long way from his model booker days. The casting director for the initiative that marked Dubai as a fashion destination for the world, Michael has also worked with some of the world’s and the region’s biggest brand names not only in casting but also in show directing as well as producing events.



From directing the launch of Louis Vuitton’s Haute Joaillerie, to directing Michael Cinco’s show at the Arab Fashion Week, 2018 has been a year of many firsts for Michael. He also managed the Dolce and Gabbana show at the Dubai Mall - his most massive production to date featuring 130 top models flown in from Milan. Splash Fashions also turned to Michael for casting and backstage management on their return to the runway after a three-year hiatus, for their 25th Anniversary Fashion Show. On the events front, Michael also conceptualized and produced “Jungle Journey,” the most visited in-mall children’s attraction during DSS 2018 which saw 20,000 visitors.



Being part of the frontline in a vibrant industry, Michael believes that Filipino representation can be further amplified if we pool together our expertise. “It is important that we unite for our common good. Given that we all have personal interests, if we pool together our expertise especially on solutions and services that we excel in, then we become a driving force in this economy.”

Photo by: Rozen Antonio



Rolando LOTHO

C REATIV E DIR ECTOR With a discerning eye for detail, Rolando Lotho has played an instrumental role in developing a formula for the region’s most fabulous fashion and commercial events. Having managed a number of leading luxury retail brands – namely Armani, Fine Jewelry, as well as Bloomingdale’s Dubai – as the previous PR & events executive for the Al Tayer Insignia, Rolando is now the marketing manager of Atelier Ignacio, as well as the special events director of All Access Events – a venture of his own.

Before establishing himself in this part of the globe, Rolando was initially a fashion stylist for Saga Events. In need of a larger arena for creative expression, he became a protégée of the esteemed fashion show and event director, Robby Carmona, where he learned the tricks of the trade. An early career feat of his regards touring the entire Philippines, staging live events for the number one telecommunications company – Smart Communications. These days, he is the prolific driving force that fuels a diverse range of the Middle East’s product

Photo by: Rozen Antonio


launches, store openings, and events attended by mainstream celebrities. Aspiring to seek balance within a tumultuous work life, Rolando is also a teacher of yoga. With hopes of convincing others to take part in such an activity, it is this spirituality that Rolando has found in yoga that has provided clarity in both his personal and professional life. “The most elegant of all luxury is peace of mind. I practice yoga and never let a day pass without it. It keeps me sane and grounded.”

Rozen Antonio’s work speaks for itself. A fashion photographer armed with a striking body of work – consisting of projects for publications like Velvet, OhLaLa, and the Art of Living, not to mention commercial projects for brands like Himalaya, Coca Cola, Lords, and United Colors of Benetton, his eye for captivating imagery is nothing short of profound. While 2018 has jolted even the most prolific industry professionals, Rozen has persistently brought several exciting projects to life as the photographer of choice for the region’s most highly revered designers. A master at spinning fantasies from a single composition, this year was marked by an extraordinary feat for Rozen having shot Filipino fashion’s ‘Holy Trinity’ – Michael Cinco, Furne One, and Ezra Santos for the cover of Illustrado Magazine’s 12th Anniversary Fashion Issue. Of the landmark project he shares: “The latest cover of Illustrado Magazine is very important for me as it was the first time we had the 3 of the best fashion designers to collaborate.” On another front, as an entrepreneur running his events management company Houz of Zen, Rozen has also worked with hotels and renowned brands, providing design services for weddings, events, and other occasions.




In the continuous pursuit of knowledge and experience, Rozen voices the sheer importance of adaptability when it comes to thriving within such a fast-changing economic environment: “The world is moving so fast, and we need to keep up with it and learn continuously. You can never learn enough.”




80 Despite shifting career trajectories not too long ago - from leaving the corporate world, to becoming a full-time photographer - Alex Callueng has made a fantastic impact at such a short time. Now fully immersed within his craft and regarded as one of the most successful fashion photographers in the city, Alex has quickly surpassed field veterans, having worked alongside some of the region’s most well-known fashion houses, publications, and businesses. Alex has produced work for Harper’s Bazaar Middle East, Grazia Middle East, Riva Fashion, and Bedouin Studios to name a few. The highlight of 2018 for him was shooting an exclusive fashion editorial for Vogue Arabia. Maintaining a consistent track record and relevance is every photographer’s challenge each year, besides familiarizing oneself with market activity and developing strategies to succeed. Alex shares that always having something new to offer is of paramount importance: “In this industry, we have to be constantly evolving, innovating, and re-inventing ourselves.” ILLUSTRADO 114





Jef Anog had come a long way from his corporate beginnings as an accountant back in 2010. Today, as one of Dubai’s most sought after and accomplished photographers, he runs his free zone agency, tackling a growing list of regional and international clients from government agencies, couture houses, magazines, and publishers. Some of his most recent notable projects include shooting fashion editorials for Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos, Amato, and Mona Al Mansouri, as well covers for Eluxe

Magazine – Paris, and Zahrat Al Khaleej. Apart from his commercial projects, Jef counts his most recent involvement with the Philippine Consulate’s initiatives for the community as part of his achievements for the year. “It has been eight years since I started working in the UAE, and I owe everything that I’ve achieved to the people who’ve helped me. It is time to pay it forward. So, whenever I have the chance to


participate in any projects for the Filipino community, I’m always more than willing to help.” Hard work prevails for this artist/ entrepreneur in the end. In pursuing his future ventures, Jef always puts his best foot forward. “I always show my commitment not only to an on-going project but also to any of my promises. I want to create a reputation for not just working hard, but also showing clients that I put my heart in my work.”

82 Jear


Jear Velasquez’s innate flair for filmmaking has landed him some truly significant opportunities with some of the most well-known brands locally, as well as internationally. Specializing in fashion and commercial films, Jear has produced videos for the likes of Harvey Nichols, Sandro Paris, Bambah, and Dior. Since completing his education at the Makati Institute of Fashion, Jear’s discerning eye for film, coupled with his impressive portfolio belie his young age. Crediting the success he has achieved thus far to being decisive in one’s goals, Jear attests: “Just follow your gut. Wherever it leads you, is where you’re supposed to be. Do not overthink stuff and just grab opportunities. Give your heart on whatever you do, and soon you’ll realize that people would see thru it and would feel the love you’ve put in your work.”





83 Donell Gumiran has a reputation for being one of Dubai’s most seasoned and well-respected photographers, amassing one of the most significant creative portfolios to date and becoming a standout in the international photography scene, representing Filipino talent on a global front. This year, Donell has shared his passion and expertise with young photographers, helping them expand their skill set and enhance their artistic

eye through collaborative workshops. His masterful photography has racked up a long list of regional and international awards including 1st place at the Los Angeles International Photography Awards, the UAE’s number one in One Eyeland’s Black and White Competition, Urban Art Festival DXB’s first prize and Curtin Dubai’s Photographer of the Year. He has also had his work exhibited in Milan, New York, and Tokyo as part of the Life Framer World Travelers Competition


(which he also won). Donnel shares, of his approach to his photography and life in general, “There are challenges in everything we do; you just have to take the risk and believe in yourself. As a photographer, I plan to continue my journey to explore the world and share it with people thru my photos.” As for his guiding light through all his endeavors, the artist reveals, “Always make sure you do everything with heart. Nothing is impossible if you have faith in yourself and with God.”




It’s a well-known fact, especially in the Emirates that Filipinos are quite the gifted visual story-tellers. Whether they are doing that via still photos or through videos, Pinoys are hands down leaders in the field. Meet the next crop of young talents making a mark in the business.

Ace Reyes

“Each one of us has a chance to be in the spotlight. Everyone can make it,” said Ace Reyes who first got recognized as a promising Filipino photographer when he debuted as a featured artist in Illustrado Scrapbook. From his small beginnings four years ago, Ace has quickly become one of the most dynamic fashion and event photographer in the city working for some of the region’s most wellrespected brands including Sony Music, Clean & Clear Arabia, Maserati, and Namshi. Ace’s works have also been featured at the Dubai and Paris Fashion Week. Ace also supports local artists in the region, doing editorial shoots and album covers for local pop bands Carizma and The5.

In a land where talents are plentiful, yet support is hard to find, Augustine works towards raising the status of not just Filipinos, but artists as a collective community. “My hope for the future is for a fair playing field for creative individuals, where passports are looked beyond and portfolios and talent matter more.”

Tonyo El Estwani

For the young photographer, everyone has a chance to follow their dreams and make a difference, as long as they put in the hard work. He says, “You should never stop grinding for your dreams and aspirations.”

Augustine Paredes

Artist, photographer, art director, and creative consultant Augustine Paredes proves that success can be achieved even at a young age. At just 24 years old, he has already staged solo, as well as group exhibitions outside of the Philippines. His work for Campus Art Dubai, as well as the #WeAreNamshi campaign, have been featured prominently in the UAE. Augustine has also collaborated with PUMA, Farfetch, as well as Zadig et Voltaire. For Augustine, working in the creative field means being among the fiercest competition within the market. “I’ve overcome self-doubt and self-inflicted insecurity by looking back and reminding myself to not be too hard on myself.”


Sometimes credentials and fancy degrees aren’t the determinants to a great future, and that’s especially the case with Filipino-Lebanese Tonyo Al Estwani. Born and raised in Agusan Del Norte, he initially gained a culinary arts degree and worked in the kitchen for four years. That is until he discovered his passion for cinematography through surfing and longboarding. “I started with simple sports documentaries until a UAEbased media entrepreneur saw my videos and asked me to work with him.” Since 2015 Tonyo has been steadily making his way into the film industry. Currently working for Chopper Shoot, an aerial filming company in the Middle East, he has worked for both Hollywood and Bollywood films. Tonyo’s recent film on Armenia showcasing the country’s beauty has also been recognized and commended by the Armenia Department of Tourism and featured in their local TV channels and newspapers. Tonyo’s story is one of his real passion taking over his life. “When I dream, I dream big. So, I always make sure I consistently move closer to my triumphs. For me, there’s no such thing as an overnight success, so I invest in small, manageable bits of progress every single day.”


Augustine PAREDES





Since their first foray into the fashion business in 2017, Niche Modelling Agency has been quickly growing from strength to strength and has become one of the most dynamic providers of talents for brand campaigns in the country. The agency, under the leadership of Founder and CEO Glitzy Robles and Co-Founder and COO Ingrid Aureada,

has carved a name for itself in the competitive fashion industry racking up an impressive list of clients in their short existence. They have provided local and international models for well-known brands in the Middle East such as EMAAR, Splash, Iconic, and Namshi. They have also worked in tandem with some of the biggest names in Filipino fashion, including Michael Cinco and Ezra couture, to name a few.


CEO Glitzy believes that the company’s rising trajectory is a testament to their quality of teamwork. She advises wouldbe entrepreneurs that maintaining an effective team is critical in gaining the most out of one’s hard work. She says “I truly believe that your employees are your first customers, if you take good care of them, they’ll be able to take care of your business.”



86 Much like the fashion she dons, daring Gweys Soriano is one of Dubai’s hottest rising stylists du jour. She has been a fixture for some prominent styling projects this year. Working alongside Law Roach – America’s Next Top Model judge and celebrity stylist to Zendaya and Celine Dion – as well as styling glamorous German-Turkish actress Meryem Uzerli for a jewelry campaign, were definite highlights. Parallel to this, Gweys was also a speaker at the esteemed international style forum ‘Simply,’ and even had the

opportunity to work under Create Consultancy – a celebrity and designer agency that bridges the gap between the Middle East and the Hollywood – for the styling aspect of a Nicki Minaj music video. Gweys, who rose from mere OOTDs as a style influencer, has a certification in editorial, commercial, and catwalk styling from Central Saint Martin’s London. She is also a co-founder at the Style Curators Dubai and is the resident fashion stylist and personal shopper at Fashion Avenue, Dubai Mall; a job


that entails styling and shopping for the UAE’s most fabulous high-profile visitors. A part of the new breed of young Filipinos making headway in the region’s thriving but super competitive fashion industry, Gweys says Pinoys should not be shy in getting what they want: “Get your face out there. Don’t just build networks, but build relationships as well as a personal brand. We Filipinos have so much to offer - the world needs to see what we can do.”

JhaJha RIVERA Jessie TABLA When it comes to the fashion industry in the emirates, Filipinos are hands down the front liners. The same is true for the segment of hair and make-up, and Jessie Tabla is one of those leading the pack. He’s the kind of artist/star who gets flown to other countries to do make-up for some of the world’s most recognized celebrities and socialites. He’s worked with top models for the UAE’s most prestigious runways, and his works have adorned too many fabulous glossies to mention (most noteworthy among them is revered Vogue). Jesse has also worked for many luxury brands including Valentino, Ungaro, Kenzo, and so much more. In 2018, Jesse added Raya Abirached (Lebanese TV personality), Dorra Zarrouk (Tunisian superstar) and even Victoria’s Secret Supermodel Adriana Lima to his list of make-up conquests. Always aspiring to be his best self, Jessie encourages fellow kabayans to keep pushing for better. He shares, “Living in this imperfect world surrounded by imperfect beings doesn’t stop us from pushing ourselves higher, aiming for much higher dreams and becoming the kind person whom we want to be.” ILLUSTRADO 122

Armed with over a decade’s worth of experience in the region’s beauty industry, seasoned hair and makeup artist Jefferson “Jhajha” Rivera has, under his belt, an impressive portfolio of work for prestigious brands including Chanel, Dolce, and SGabbana, Bulgari, Elle Arabia, as well as Marie Claire Arabia, Emirates, ENBD, Samsung, and Pepsi. Besides skill, Jhajha voices how vital resilience, creativity, and flexibility are to one’s survival in such a competitive field. He attests, “As a creative, you’re working against the clock to meet high standards. Every challenge you face provides a new opportunity to grow and rediscover how you as a person can learn to adapt to whatever is thrown at you.” Familiar with challenging artistic boundaries, Jhajha encourages the elevation of one’s craft through experimenting with the unfamiliar, and working with people from different walks of life: “If you have a dream to do something unexpected, or outside of your current field, don’t be afraid to go after it. Make connections with people outside of your circle and watch how this openness will also open doors to making your aspirations come true.”




His works have graced the pages of both local and international glossies – Vogue US, Vogue Italia, OHLALA Magazine, and Velvet Magazine – as well as the model muses of Michael Cinco, Furne One, Rocky Gathercole, and Zuhair Murad. Dubai based makeup artist Ivy Kep Peralta has always had a knack for aesthetics and creative expression. Amidst all of the projects he has worked on, fostered a new approach to his craft that views makeup as more than just an art form. Alongside other career endeavors, he now mentors aspiring makeup artists by the medium of his craft: “It started with a passion for art and makeup, but as time went on, it has evolved into a love for helping others achieve their dreams. As a people, we should be supporting each other by bringing out the best in all of us”.



MONTUERTO From collaborating with brands like Tryano, Robinsons, Maxmara, Van Cleef and Arpels, playing major roles in events like Dolce and Gabanna’s first international fashion show and editorials for Harper’s Bazaar, Emirates Women’s, and Vogue Arabia, makeup aficionado Valentino Montuerto Jasmin has successfully turned makeup into an artistic medium of expression and empowerment. He has also conducted various masterclasses and talks about beauty trends within the region. Seeking to elevate his art form, Valentino works towards representing the margin that the fashion and beauty industries overlook. “I’m giving my artistry a different approach. In a world full of narcissistic and Ideal beauty, I want to empower ‘imperfection.’ The beauty industry poorly talks about the other side of, I want to change that.”


Jo Anthony SILVA

a.k.a Joe Dark



It’s hard enough to stand out in a category where everybody is trying to be ‘extra,’ but to come out as truly unique is something else. Meet Joe Dark - fashion instigator; veritable clothes horse; an original. This Regional Visual Merchandiser for Diesel and Pinko in the Middle East who has become one of the most colorful and recognizable personalities of the local style community shows how far, how significant and how “hot” Filipinos have become in corners

as unexpected as the local hallowed fashion scene. Joe’s striking aura is a virtual ‘spit in the eye’ to the derogatory archetypal jean jacket; gold jewelry bedecked ‘katas ng Saudi’ imagery folks back home used to associate with Filipinos in these parts.

styling and creative direction training from the London College of Fashion, Joe’s portfolio includes collaborations with some of the most formidable Filipino talents in the region, with his works featured in international fashion magazines and online platforms.

Joe explains, “I love the idea of being able to create beauty without having to explain it to defend it.” The same point-of-view has allowed this selftaught artist who started his career as a stockboy at Harvey Nichols, to broaden his horizons. Armed with editorial

A man who shines through his work and his distinctive style, Joe says, “It’s high time that we Filipinos become more active and have the proper conviction to do and stand up for what we believe in, and what we love doing.”





The UAE’s commercial and underground dance scenes would simply not be the same without the exuberant Christopher Lawrence Trasmaño. Regarded as a breakdancing role model by many local aspiring and established dancers, Christopher, a.k.a “CL Frostyle” as a disciple of Hip-Hop culture, holds the morals of respect, unity, and camaraderie close to his heart. Under his tutelage, he has empowered many dancers and manages two performance groups across Dubai. “I love helping people out and seeing

their potential and talent grow in the entertainment industry of Dubai. The UAE and the Middle East have been such a blessing to us dance artists. They have given us a lot of opportunities here. He adds, “I guess I have a big heart for the community because of my sense of patriotism. I also love seeing Filipino talents rise in one of the best cities in the world.” As an individual who displays unwavering support for his community and fellow Filipinos, Christopher proudly represents his culture and


identity in each of his undertakings. This year, he co-founded Titan Dance DXB, the UAE’s largest Hip Hop crew competition to date. He has also performed on stage with young Platinum Record artist Hala Al Turk and choreographed for LA records artist Ada Satka and Dmadd’s music video, which was aired across Europe, the Middle East and the USA. All these are on top of his many wins through the years, which include performances in events, concerts, music videos, as well as brand endorsements, not to mention a Guinness Book of World record.

91 90



OF INDIE RAPPERS In recent years, the UAE’s burgeoning scene for artistic expression - lead by the nation’s dancers, musician, and poets - has become more widely embraced. While rapping is a relatively new addition to the landscape, some Filipinos have taken to the scene and made their presence felt. These forerunners include veterans from the homeland and a new breed of homegrown rappers at the epicenter of Dubai’s emerging hip-hop core.

MC Twisted Stylez As one of the pioneering rappers of the Filipino hip hop scene both in the Philippines and the Middle East, Vin Albert Martinez AKA MC Twisted has

92 powered through many obstacles to bolster the representation of Dubai’s underground Filipino rappers. He has brought the community together and organized a number events including Bar4Battle, known as a stomping ground for Pinoy rappers and the first OFW battle league. Promoting the value of succeeding together as a united fraternity, Twisted promotes and upholds the spirit of collaboration founded on a code of respect. “As Filipinos, we need to stop hating. Remove the crab mentality and start


MAKAVELY appreciating. Help others as much as you can, learn to obey, follow, and support the community.”

Makavely Along with other heads of the rap community, Anthony “Makavely” Noche has continually provided support and a platform for Filipino rappers, producing some songs and

music videos that have featured fellow artists. Storytelling is a crucial aspect of Makavely’s music, with his family back home being the driving force for his lyrics. Realizing that all OFW’s have a voice to be heard, he turned his bedroom studio into a production center in support of the rising Pinoy rap talents of Dubai. With songs like ‘Saludo’ and ‘Elena’ he paints the story of the OFW in a new and profound light; speaking of conquering adversities and the joys of life away from the Philippines.

Phat G Transitioning from his hip hop roots in Batangas to Dubai’s multicultural playground, Patrik Garcia aka Phat G has managed to carve out a unique presence and following in Dubai’s Filipino hip hop underground. He has released a number of EP’s featuring pieces which talk about his Dubai hustle. He also established the “Lipad ng Malaya” vlog platform, where he supports a growing number of artists. As a


musician, Phat G has set a new bar for aspirants by combining his eyeopening lyrics with his talents as a videographer. Sharing his insights from the indie scene, he says, “I want my fellow kabayans to become more aware that success and prosperity are self-made and there’s a genius in every human being that we just need to unlock.”

Menon Much like a lot of artists, Sri Lankan/Filipino Gerrard Anthony

Photo: Khaloof (instagram @5lov)



Menon has emerged as a self-made talent by drawing inspiration from his life, in this case overcoming a traumatic event for him to realize his full potential. After a near – death experience, he has gone on to become one of the UAE’s most recognized hip hop stars and active artists of the year – performing at the ABT music festival and STEP music fest among many of Dubai’s local and upcoming talent. He also released his first full Album, “Epiphany of a Misfit” and had become a permanent fixture in SoleDXB’s lifestyle movement.


94 Comprised of Jules and Mitch Suarez, Nowhere Birds is an Indie Folk duo based in Dubai who’ve made a lasting impression on the indie talent scene with their chemistry, harmony and instrumental mastery, and in 2018, they became a permanent fixture among Dubai’s growing sea of international indie musicians and talents. The year saw the launch of their self-

titled EP and its distribution in Virgin Megastores across the country. They also performed in various venues and events across the city and were interviewed and recognized by local publications like Hype and Khaleej Times, and have made recurring appearances on the Dubai Eye radio show. According to Jules and Mitch, stepping out of your comfort zone is the first move towards gaining success. “We have to step out of our shoes to see how


people see us and be mindful of how we deal with others. That way, as individuals, we, could not only succeed but also influence others.” For rising stars like Nowhere Birds, music is not just a method of expression, but a necessary part of life. “It’s our passion or thirst for our craft that keeps us doing what we do. It’s like we have to do it to keep our sanity intact.”


95 Formed by multitalented musicians and real-life couple X and Mckie Alvarez, WYWY’s experimental style and psychedelic performances have become a big hit among the indie music enthusiasts across the country. Through their success in the musical underground, WYWY has become a cornerstone among the many alternative bands in the emirates. From having their regular gigs in Dubai’s underground joints and

indie musical events, WYWY’s musical journey’s highlights include performances at Dubai’s most celebrated art fairs and music festivals. They recently played at Mutek UAE (a worldwide series of electronic music festivals held in over seven countries) and Sikka Art Fair (one of Dubai’s biggest annual art festivals). The duo also had their first landmark concert at Season Seven of the Fridge Concert Series. Not only has WYWY paved the way for Filipino presence among


artists in the region, but they also represented Filipino musical talent at the Aqtushetti Music Festival in Georgia along with different artists from across the world – a first for our coutrymen. “We always tell our friends and fellow musicians to follow their hearts, focus on things you love to do and don’t let people pull you down. We survived our music journey with criticisms, but that made us more rock solid.”

Nathaniel ALAPIDE A RT I S T

96 Many of today’s artists turn towards the convenience of digital platforms for the creation and preservation of their art. On the other hand, Nathaniel Alapide has made a name as a rare artist who creates his passion pieces on a medium as ephemeral as sand, in the process making an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of the people and visitors to the Emirates. Since we first featured the artist in 2016, Nathaniel’s works have piqued the interest not only of beachbound visitors but also of local and international media, as well as netizens in and out of the country. In fact, in

recent years, his work has become synonymous to the eternal sun-kissed beach life in the UAE. Moving from the shore to the gallery in May 2018, Nathaniel also showcased his art as part of a group exhibit representing the Philippines with 10 other artists from Australia, Canada, Iran, UAE, UK in The Diving Bell & The Butterfly exhibit curated by Anna Seaman, held at artist hotspot Al Serkal Avenue in Dubai. The year also saw Nathaniel moving to a new professional home as he moved from the Jumeirah Beah Hotel to the hip Rixos Premium Hotel – Jumeirah Beach Road.


Nathaniel’s choice of a fleeting art form perhaps exemplifies the artist’s appreciation for life and for things that go beyond the physical realm. He reveals, “My guiding light has always been about following that very thing that makes me feel alive - my passion for creativity, and sharing it and making it a tool to make the community I am living in, a little bit better.” He adds, “I would advise our fellow Filipinos to be a lot kinder to themselves, keep doing the things that make them feel alive and realize that they are a part of something bigger.”

Dr. Angelo




Clinical advisor, Dr. Angelo Niño Santos, known simply as Doc Gelo has championed the concept of living a dual life as a medical professional/travel blogger. Famed for his captivating imagery of places unknown and well celebrated, he is one of the most prolific travel bloggers in the Middle East and has become synonymous with the iconic Dubai image. Beyond his medical career, Doc Gelo’s milestones include visiting 45 countries

in over five continents and publishing two travel photo books (with a third on the way) that showcase the beauty of places near and far. His photos have been featured in the tourism book ‘My Dubai,’ as well as in the city’s official Instagram page, and also published by the Manila Bulletin, along with an interview where he spoke about his journeys across the world. “I hope readers have picked up something from that article where I shared that photography remains a powerful and


effective medium for the expression of freedom and creativity,” Gelo shares. As a Filipino before anything else, Doc Gelo also hopes to promote the community through his platform, enforcing that Filipinos are indeed global citizens. “Wherever you go and whatever you do, always aim to be a better global Filipino, and be proud of the Philippines no matter what.”






















Junimar GECA


Abeer ABURA I always get questions like, ‘Uy Pinoy ka pala, how do you get to read a lot of books?’ or ‘Pure Pinoy ka ba?’. Maybe it’s my name, but I found out that it’s because of my feed—what I share, what I do. A lot of people would assume that Filipinos aren’t “readers.” Yes, we value our education but compared to other Asian countries, we aren’t known as the ‘geeks’ or the bibliophiles. But doing what I do now, I had the privilege to get to know Filipinos around the world who are passionate readers as well. So with my platform, I hope to connect all Filipino readers alike and let them know that they are not alone; that reading is not “baduy” so they should loud and proud.

Alyssa NICOLE I use my platform to showcase my creativity through my drawings and personal style. This is my way to connect with those with the same passion beyond borders.

Metrosapiens – Khel RECUENCO and Ivan CABATIT By nature, Filipinos are very modest and timid. Though these traits keep us grounded and humble, sometimes these also become our Achilles’ heel. We are very creative, cerebral and innovative. We should take pride in our work and know how to take a compliment when it


is due, or we will drown to oblivion with the world’s might. This is what we want to achieve – arm the Filipinos with the right information about how they can present themselves better that would make them feel confident about themselves. We want to be able to give that extra push to our kababayans, so every time they step out of their houses every day, they are ready to take the world on, but this time, sassier, more stylish and feeling a little bit extra.

Jayven TABERNILLA Being in Dubai, a melting pot of different cultures and people, I am in the best place to show our culture as a Filipino. We love to explore things, and that’s what you can see in my platforms. Through my platforms, Filipinos can see what life looks like in a different side of the world. On the other hand, the rest of the world can see how Filipinos live in a foreign country. Thus, I’m bridging the gap of our community towards the whole world.

Kier PASCUAL I’m glad that I’m not only able to inspire my fellow Filipinos but somehow also other nationalities who enjoy my content. Hopefully, I can encourage people also to do the things that I do. It’s all about being proud and confident about your skills and talent. You can be humble and modest, but if you know you are good, believe it and dare to tell people that you are competent and have the skill to shine. Eventually, the rest of the world will notice.

Angela FERNANDEZ By sharing my passion for life, my adventures and experiences on social media, I wish to inspire the Filipino community and get them motivated especially those who are in a challenging situation. I want to share with the rest of the world one of our unique traits as Filipinos – and that is having a positive outlook in life.

JM GECA I started working on my platform as a hobby and didn’t expect that it would turn out as some platform where people look for creative inspiration. I believe that my platform can represent the Filipino community and show that we are bold and innovative in whatever passion we pursue. My only goal is to help promote and showcase the best work and expertise and likewise meet the needs of the creative society as a Filipino.

Faith RODRIGUEZ I wish to inspire Filipinos (and the rest of the world), in showing them that there is so much to explore off the island, outside one’s comfort zone, that travel experiences are worth more than the infamous LV bag everyone wants for Christmas. Whether you are part of the Filipino community or outside looking in, there are stereotypes that make people assume how Filipinos should look, or behave in certain ways. It’s important to be reminded that your passport is not

only your identity; it is your ticket to discovery. And when you put yourself out there, you will enjoy the freedom of self-expression, widen your thoughts and horizons, in the way you speak, the way you dress and the way you look at life.

Nina PEÑALOSA CARPIO Through my platforms, I try to produce content that highlights the beauty and talents of the Filipino people. My travel vlogs provide little glimpses of the different cultures of countries that I’ve had the pleasure to visit. As part of “The Style Curators Dubai,” I also get to showcase our unique talents in that are definitely up to par with international standards. I believe that beauty, travel, and fashion are universal languages spoken by many. It is something that everyone can relate to. I hope that through these, I have been able to help bridge the gap between the Filipino community and the rest of the world and I will endeavor to continue to do so.

Jason JAGUIRE Social media is all about people and how you engage with them. Contrary to popular belief, Filipinos have a unique personality which we can use to influence our fellow kabayans. We don’t need Western features to rock a suit. I hope to inspire my kabayans to always look their best through my platforms, by expressing myself through my images and motivating other people to explore new places and to enjoy simple perks of life.

Anjo MERCADO I was lucky enough to be given a platform wherein I can express myself through art using photography and film making. Being a content creator has given me my voice to help bridge the gap between the Filipino community and the rest of the world. And it doesn’t stop there. Influencing people is one thing; inspiring them to be creative is another. I am all for the latter.

Patrick CALDITO Photography for me is not just a mere hobby but a passion intended to influence people. By using my skills, I can share Filipino culture, our delicacies, our traditions. I can also share the beauty of the Philippines. Nowadays, it is not impossible to reach millions of people in a matter of hours. I can use this opportunity to encourage people to look into how Filipinos should be treated, and how the Philippines should be known for its beauty.

Charles LIBAN Jr. I think that by the simple virtue of constantly trying hard to be the best at what I do, I am already doing my part in championing the excellence of Filipinos. I don’t believe that there is a “gap.” Any “gap” between us and the rest of the world is simply a product of our insecurities - a manifestation of our selfimposed limitations. I am an artist and

a proud Filipino, and I strive towards limitlessness. I represent the Philippines well by showing myself and my art in the best possible light.

Aaron FORTEZA Ever since I became part of the creative community, reaching out to everyone is easier than ever. Through the use of my platform, I was able to express my love for creating content. People look past my color – beyond whether I am a Filipino, or wherever else I might have come from. Because they resonate with my work and love my content. My goal is to create, inspire and show the rest of the world that we are not different, despite race or religion.

Debbie FORTES Through my photography and the visuals I have created over the years, I am able to break the barrier of language. I can interpret the places I visit and the people I meet through my lens. I sometimes don’t know how to express my thoughts and feelings using words. Thus, photography became my language.







Charles LIBAN Jr,




Hannah Lady Anne ABIT

I am able to reach people around the globe through my travel blog. It is a joy to think that this passion has built friendships, has helped other people make their dream trips happen, and has introduced Filipino culture to the rest of the world.


MAGSAYO I travel a lot, and that’s not only to see new places but forging new friendships and meaningful relationships. We as Filipinos are just like that. We are friendly, hospitable, and caring and through my platform, I am able to impart my Filipino values to places all across the globe. Whether simple memories of one-night stays or long vacations full of exhilarating activities, each trip has its own unique story to convey. I live with it; I capture it, I share it and tell it.


Debbie OCA

Traveling in itself is a means to connect. As a cabin crew for a Gulf-based airline, I have the great opportunity to represent and share the beauty of the Philippines and the kindness of Filipinos to the rest of the world while in the aircraft, and in the cities I’m visiting. And because of flying, I am able to provide content through my social media platforms, bridging myself with others who have the same interests and dreams like I do. Beyond showing them beautiful places, where and what to eat, I also show them the realities that come with the job, from living away from home and family, and the hard work that comes with it. And through all these, I can only hope I fuel that spark within people— no matter what background, to go out there, to explore, to chase their dreams, to break down walls, and—to live.



EMLANO Traveling for me is an eye-opener. It is a great opportunity to discover different cultures and explore beautiful places. Through social media, I can share my photos and travel experiences. It also allows me to meet new friends and connect with the rest of the world. Whenever I travel, I always share what the Philippines can offer and how friendly Filipinos are. This way, I think I am able to bridge the gap between Filipinos and the rest of the world.


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Profile for Illustrado Magazine

ILLUSTRADO 100 Most Influential Filipinos of the Gulf Q1 2019  

This edition of Illustrado 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf is dedicated to those who have elevated the Filipino people as game ch...

ILLUSTRADO 100 Most Influential Filipinos of the Gulf Q1 2019  

This edition of Illustrado 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf is dedicated to those who have elevated the Filipino people as game ch...