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NOTHING ELSE BUT PURE PINOY PRIDE And we continue to do so, every single day in the offices where we work, in the markets where we compete, in the streets where we hustle, or the WWW where we push for our voices to be heard. And yet there is still work to be done and mountains to be conquered, but boy, oh boy, isn’t it nice to be coming from a place of pride, knowing that we Filipinos can do whatever we have set our hearts and minds on, because we have what it takes to succeed?

Photo by Rozen Antonio HMUA Val Montuerto

In keeping with the advocacy we started a decade ago, Illustrado 100 is our way of re-affirming our commitment to uplift the Filipino. This special issue is dedicated to celebrating the best and the brightest in our community, showing the world what we are capable of, while inspiring our compatriots to reach for the sky.

Very few talk about the Filipino’s pioneering spirit. And yet here we are, 11 million of us scattered all over the globe, in once strange lands we now call our home, over a century since the first known big wave of Overseas Filipinos moved to the United States of America to tend to the pineapple farms of Hawaii. Here we thrive, and here we have made our mark. Make no mistake. We not only have our smiles, our agreeableness, our music and our beauty queens to give to the world. The Filipino can and has mustered to do so much more. We have achieved and excelled, made our presence felt, and created value wherever it is in the world we have made our second home. We may be diminutive in physique and mild in our manners, but we have the spirit of giants – of the Davids who can beat the Goliaths of this world with a slingshot bearing talent, deftness and grit. We have the ability and the chutzpah - nay, the cojones, to step out of our comfort zones and stake our claim on our own spot under the sun.

Whether they are trailblazers who are breaking new ground in the process paving the way for others; thoughtleaders who are at the top of their field of endeavor; or tastemakers who are able to imprint on the community’s zeitgeist, they all share the same gift of influence. They are able to shape, not only our collective consciousness, but also the way our community moves forward in this region. Whatever fields these Filipinos excel in, they are at the forefront. They pave the way. They represent the Filipino. Special thanks to all our supporters and collaborators who have contributed to make this issue possible, especially to photographer Alex Callueng, assistant photographer Beethoven Filomeno who have lent their talent and hardwork to capture most of the brilliant personalities in this edition, as well as Monte Cristo Studios. Our gratitude also goes out to photographer Rozen Antonio, HMUA Val Montuerto and the stylists @TheMetroSapiens for capturing the essence of Team Illustrado. And to all of you who believe in honest to goodness pure unadulterated Pinoy pride, “Taas noo, Filipino!” LALAINE CHU-BENITEZ




PINOY PRIDE Is RONY AQUINO aka “Barangay Kapitana” wearing her fierce Caviteña heritage like a badge of honor and inspiring everyone around her to celebrate their own Filipino identity with the same level of style and gusto.



Still finding ways to prove that Pinoy artistry is at par with the best in the region, whilst running and curating an Instagram page for his pet labrador, Pepper.



Daring to do what others find un-doable and ludicrous... like putting up a fashion and lifestyle publication dedicated exclusively to the Filipinos in the Gulf and then running it with undiminished enthusiasm for over 10 years.


Perpetually asking “Won’t it be cool if...?” and believing that because the universe naturally always tends towards order, things will work until they don’t – so people might as well be brave and try everything.

Gathering and galvanizing a community of creative, empowered, civic-minded Filipinos and giving them the platform with which to promote their own passion and at the same time, tell a story of their love for the motherland.



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


















































TRAIL B L A ZERS 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.


“My true aspiration is for Filipinos not to leave their country and their families anymore in the first place to improve their lives - that every Filipino who goes abroad does it out of choice and not because they are forced to do it by economic circumstance.” Such is the best case scenario for Ambassador Constancio Vingno Jr., the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE. As the de facto “father” of the Filipino expat community in the UAE, his is the colossal responsibility of overseeing the welfare of hundreds of thousands of OFWs, as well as creating stronger diplomatic ties. In his words: “As the Philippine Ambassador, I am mandated to put forward the national interest of our beloved Philippines and fellow Filipinos. This is in the areas of national security, economic diplomacy and assistance to nationals, also considered as the three main pillars of foreign policy.”


Upon taking office in the last quarter of 2015, Ambassador Constancio hit the ground running and went on to secure numerous achievements all throughout 2016. He says, “I am happy to note that we have engaged with many UAE officials this year as compared to previous years. Looking ahead, we expect many bilateral engagements, including exchange of high level visits and signing of significant agreements between the Philippines and the UAE, the specific details of which I still cannot disclose at this point in time. I am also proud of the huge turnout of Filipinos in UAE not only for the overseas voters’ registration but also during the one-month long overseas elections in the UAE. 31.74% of the registered voters in UAE came out to vote. The turnout has been the highest in the UAE since the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 was implemented.”


In addition to political and economic engagements with the UAE, Ambassador Constancio intends to continue improving consular functions, including assistance to nationals, and further enhance the Embassy’s reach with the huge and active Filipino community. Of the legacy he wishes to impart to his kabayans, he says: “I want to be remembered as someone who has built an organization, founded on a more solid foundation, for others to build on.”



Ambassador Constancio Vingno Jr. with Vice Consul Anna Guerra, Vice Consul Von Ryan Pangwi, Vice Consul Rowena Daquipil

Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes with Consul Ferdie Flores and Vice Consul Marianne Bangir



Curious thing about Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes – he doesn’t exactly fit the mold of what most people would consider as a “quintessential diplomat.” Yes, he is diplomatic, well-tempered, and in touch. Yes, he carries himself with the gravitas and dignity that befit his position. But what makes him truly exceptional is his palpable sense of openness and inclusivity – even outright friendliness. Where most people would expect a diplomat to be guarded and measured, Consul General Paul Raymund is charming, approachable, and pleasantly spontaneous. But make no mistake – these amiable qualities do not, in any way, make him lightweight. This man gets the job done. And he gets it done well. 2016 has been an inordinately hectic year for the Philippine Consulate, as Consul General Paul Raymund endeavors to expand the reach of the institution, two-ways: by making tangible and lasting improvements in the Consulate’s administrative capabilities, and by opening its doors to the community as a true hub for celebrating Filipino culture. This year, the Consulate launched Monthly Town Hall meetings to provide Filipinos in Dubai a clearer understanding of public policy issues. It also hosted several health awareness campaign forums and gender and development projects, and initiated an aggressive campaign to encourage Overseas Filipino voters to participate in the 2016 Presidential election. 2016 also saw the first ever songwriting competition organized by the Consulate: the Dubai Dubai Musikahan. The Consulate’s list of achievements this year could very well necessitate a double-page spread, and yet for Consul General Paul Raymund, 2016 has only been a warm-up. He sees 2017 as a year of even greater expansion, buoyed by enhanced community participation. He attests: “By understanding that the government is not the repository of all answers, theories, and solutions to public policy issues and concerns, I strive to seek the opinion and studies of technical experts and the community and from there, craft policy issues that would address these concerns. I provided more avenues for stakeholder engagement, making Overseas Filipinos understand that they are part of the policy process and that their views are important and meaningful.”



3 AMBASSADOR RENATO VILLA PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO KUWAIT They say “It takes one to know one.” This certainly holds water for Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait. Having been a migrant worker himself, he has firsthand experience on the true plight of the OFW’s – an advantage that informs his decisions as he looks after the welfare of the more than 200,000 Filipino expats in Kuwait. All throughout 2016, Ambassador Renato stayed resolute in carrying out his original mandate: that is, to advance the national interest of the Philippines, and reinforce the country’s bilateral relations with Kuwait. He launched various activities designed to unite the Filipino community - a massive undertaking, given the many factions and cell groups that the kabayans in Kuwait have formed through the years. He also endeavored to adopt an open-door policy for the Embassy, which gives the Filipinos in Kuwait a bigger platform from which they could express their needs and concerns to the Government.



4 AMBASSADOR WILFREDO SANTOS PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO QATAR Ambassador Wilfredo Santos has over 24 years of experience as a diplomat. His capabilities and achievements are beyond question, and yet he cautions about the folly of resting on one’s laurels. He says, “In my years of service in the Home Office and the Foreign Service, I’ve learned that you should never stand to pat your own back for your accomplishments. You should continue to become better in your work by undergoing training, attending seminars and learning not only from your superiors but also from your subordinates. Experience is indeed the best teacher as they say but being able to work within a team is also a skill that one should cultivate.” This attitude of constant evolution has always done wonders for Ambassador Wilfredo’s service record, as evident in his current tenure in Qatar. In 2016, the Philippine Embassy in Qatar achieved numerous milestone accomplishments, such as receiving the “Best Community Award” at the Labor Welfare Awards 2016 during the Third Annual Labor Rights Protection Conference. Philippine culture was given a brighter spotlight, with the inauguration of the Sentro Rizal in Qatar – a showcase of Pinoy art, language, and culture, exhibited in various media formats. The Embassy also launched Kulinarya Qatar - a program that aims to reinforce cultural and economic ties and promote tourism through the celebration of Filipino cuisine. For 2017, Ambassador Wilfredo endeavors to continue laying down the ground work for more high level visits, as well as the signing of several agreements in the key areas of health, culture, education, visas and investments. ILLUSTRADO 17


5 AMBASSADOR ALFONSO VER PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO BAHRAIN Ambassador Alfonso Ver moved to Bahrain to assume Head of Post for the Philippine government in 2015. This was his first assignment as an ambassador. Just over a year hence, the 60,000 strong Filipino community has warmed up to his hands-on leadership style that has made him a much-loved figure in the island nation. As the head of the community, Ambassador Ver shares that his work is focused on further strengthening all aspects of relations and mutuallybeneficial ties between the Philippines

and Bahrain. This includes initiatives in growing economic relations, fostering greater exchange and cooperation in trade investments, tourism, as well as culture and education. The Ambassador adds, “At the same time we shall continuously strive to do our best to respond to the needs of Filipinos – from rendering efficient consular services to the promotion of their welfare and protection of their rights.” Known for being an open and approachable diplomat, the Ambassador has made interacting directly with


Filipinos integral in his function as the primary custodian of the community’s welfare. He says he likes to mingle directly with clients at the Embassy, helping out in any way he can to get a first-hand understanding of what people think and feel. The Ambassador also underlines the importance of the role played by the Embassy for the Filipino people – that of a partner which will remain committed to safeguarding their interests and rights, while they do their best to achieve their hopes and dreams for themselves and their families.


6 AMBASSADOR NARCISSO CASTANEDA PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO OMAN Ambassador Narciso Castaneda has had a career in diplomacy that spans more than 3 decades. He has served in the United States, United Kingdom, South East Asia and Europe. As the Philippine Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, his focus is on developing and sustaining mutually beneficial relations between the Philippines and Oman. He assures that the three main pillars of the Philippine Foreign Policy – the preservation and enhancement of national security, promotion and attainment of economic security and the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of the OFWs – are always injected in all efforts done to maintain and improve the quality of service for the Filipino community. He desires to expand the economic relations between both countries and ensure that the needs and concerns of the Filipinos in Oman are attended to without fail. He says that the determination of the Filipinos inspires him to always deliver the kind of service the Filipino community in Oman deserve.



7 HON. ELMER GOZUN CATO CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES, EN PIED, EMBASSY OF THE PHILIPPINES IN BAGHDAD Diplomat Elmer Gozun Cato became Head of Post in Iraq on 24 May 2015. He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1998 after passing the Foreign Service Officers Examinations. Since then, he had served in various capacities in the Home Office in Manila, including as Special Assistant for National Security, Migrant Workers, Consular and Media Affairs of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Special Assistant for Special Projects of the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs; Director for Intelligence; and Executive Director of the National Council on United Nations Peace Operations of the Philippines in Manila. Of his and his office’s accomplishments in 2016, Honorable Elmer Gozun Cato professes: “Our efforts this year were focused on the third pillar of Philippine foreign policy—protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of Filipinos abroad. In 2015, illegal recruitment and human trafficking was the most serious challenge confronting the Embassy. This problem was particularly pronounced in Kurdistan where most of ILLUSTRADO 20

the more than 3,000 Filipinos in Iraq are working. The problem was challenging not only because those victimizing our kababayans were also Filipinos but also because the Filipino Community had the impression that some Embassy personnel were involved in these illegal activities. Through our joint efforts with Republic of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, we succeeded in disrupting the operations of human trafficking syndicates operating in Kurdistan and rescued and repatriated 30 trafficking victims. Two Filipinos wanted in the Philippines for grand-

scale illegal recruitment and estafa were unmasked, arrested, jailed and deported. We also went after several foreign spa owners accused of exploiting and abusing our women and had their establishments shut down with the help of Kurdish authorities.” Of the legacy he wishes to impart amongst his kabayans, Honorable Elmer Gozun Cato says: “I would like to be remembered as the go-to person to get the job done. As someone who helped make a difference in improving the lives of our people; someone our people could run to and count on.”


9 8 HON. OFELIA B. DOMINGO LABOUR ATTACHE POLO-OWWA, DUBAI It isn’t easy being Labour Attache, but through her hard work, experience, and results-oriented leadership style, Hon. Ofelia Domingo almost makes it look easy. A reformist at heart, she has implemented several strategic changes that vastly improved the operations of POLOOWWA on a cellular level. One such accomplishment: she initiated the development of POLO-DUBAI portal that houses the online submission and evaluation of documents for the accreditation and approval of job orders of principals and agencies. She also conceptualized and implemented the Dubai EntrePinoy Reintegration Program that involves both the OFWs in Dubai and the returned OFWs in the Philipines. The organic rice project of the Reintegration program is a social project aimed to liberate the famers from the bondage of debt. It also promotes savings and investment with social responsibility among the OFWs in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. The Labour Attache’s challenge to the Filipinos abroad: to live up to the image of a Modern Day Hero. It shouldn’t be so difficult, with role models like her around.


PHILIPPINE TRADE AND INVESTMENT CENTER, DUBAI As the Department of Trade and Industry’s frontline mover in the Middle East and Africa Region, the Philippine Trade and Investment Center –Dubai is primarily tasked to promote exports of Philippine products to the region, as well as encourage investments to the Philippines from the Middle East and Africa. Leading this endeavor is Commercial Attache Eric C. Elnar. He is at the helm of promoting Philippine exports to the Middle East and Africa by strengthening the market access to key export sectors that were identified for their high potential for growth in the region: food products, franchising, furniture/ furnishings, and health and wellness products. His office also promotes the Philippines as an investment destination by building business linkages with various entities to generate ventures into key sectors such as agribusiness and agriculture, energy, infrastructure projects, and tourism. They also make representations during negotiations for market access and provide commercial intelligence reports and policy recommendations. Of how they surmount the challenges of representing the Philippines in the creation of stronger economic ties, Commercial Attache Eric C. Elnar professes: “Despite the many obstacles we encounter as we strive to function effectively with the limitation of our resources, we also count the times we are heartened by words of encouragement and appreciation received from those we have assisted. The recognition that we are doing things right makes the journey less arduous. Being recognized by our compatriots and our work being appreciated by our clientele are the rewards that we look forward to the most.” ILLUSTRADO 21


10 MME. YOKO RAMOS WIFE OF THE PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO THE UAE Madame Yoko Ramos had a thriving career in public service back home before she took on the challenging role of wife to the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE. As a diplomat’s spouse, she sees her position as that of a cultural representative, and a mother to the hundreds of thousands of OFW’s in her host country. She attests: “The role of a diplomat’s spouse should be quite simple to many – provide support to your husband, move with him to his various countries of assignment, and help him promote your country. This is, however, easier said than done because most of the time, you have to give up your own career and shift your focus to something that you are not used to at all.” Aiding her husband in carrying out diplomatic duties is a full-time job – one that she takes in great stride, as she continues to conduct various events and activities aimed at promoting Filipino culture and building strong connections with key leaders of other nationalities. Madame Yoko expounds: ““I believe that the tolerance and understanding which developed from these interactions will, indirectly, help the Ambassador in his formal duties of forging closer ties and cooperation with the UAE and other countries as well. The activities also contribute to developing more coherence and unity among members of the Filipino community (FilCom) in Abu Dhabi.”



Grace. Beauty. Dignity. Commitment. These are the words that best epitomize Madame Yasmin B. Cortes, Spouse of the Philippine Consul General in Dubai, Chairman of the Filipino Ladies of Dubai and Vice President of the Diplomatic Ladies Group in Dubai. Ever the empowered Filipina, Madame Yasmin has taken on the immense of responsibility of watching over the welfare of the Filipino community in Dubai with the same motherly eyes that she has for her own children. As leader of the Filipino Ladies of Dubai, she has been at the forefront of conceptualizing and activating various initiatives that are aimed at uplift the image of the Filipinos in the Middle East, as well as help communities in need back home.


This year, Madame Yasmin led the launch of the 1st Filipino Interschool Competition and helmed the Dubai Dubai Musikahan – a songwriting competition that was held in celebration of the Buwan Ng Wika in August. She also played a crucial role in launching the 1st Photography and Film Making Workshop, and the Breast Cancer Awareness Forum, which were both held at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai. Of how she hopes to be recognized and remembered by the kabayans in the UAE, Madame Yasmin says, “I hope that the community remembers me as one who actively promotes the Filipino by coming up with projects and programs that highlight who we are as a people. My focus as Chairman of the Filipino Ladies of Dubai is to host activities that build on the already excellent reputation of the Filipino. To me, this is both a serious responsibility and a source of great joy.”

The Filipino Ladies of Dubai ILLUSTRADO 23


12 CAPTAIN FRANK DESIDERIO PILOT Photo by: Jim Guiao Punzalan

Emirates Airline’s Capt. Frank Desiderio was all over the news when he was named the first ever Filipino to pilot the A380 bus, the biggest commercial aircraft in the world, in 2014. As the aircraft commander, he is responsible for the safety of hundred people on board in the entire duration of the flight. His career did not start well in the beginning like what most would dream of and he had to prove himself before getting the big break in 1994 – the start of his work as a flight instructor.

“The first A380 commercial flight that I did was the most memorable of all my experiences in life as a Pilot. I have proven not only to myself, but to many young boys and girls who loves aviation that they have a place in this career, and a Filipino can be successful in one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious airlines.” He adds that success is imminent, but we have to make those steps forward to reach it.



13 NICK NADAL ADVISOR AT THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, GOVERNMENT OF DUBAI Most often in modern society, those who deserve recognition are the ones who desire it the least. Such is the case with the elusive Nick Nadal – a corporate governance and policy-making powerhouse who, in his capacity as Advisor at the Executive Council of the Government of Dubai, is quite possibly the most influential Filipino in the UAE outside of public office. Nick’s work is so important, most of it is unprintable – which is no skin off of his nose, as he is always very hesitant to participate in any conversation about his immense achievements in the region.

That’s just how Nick rolls: he gets the job done, and then he lets the results speak for themselves. And what amazing things this man has been ticking off his to-do list. Case in point: he is part of the core team that helped develop, articulate, cascade, and implement arguably one of the UAE’s more consequential government plans, particularly in the area of government services improvement and innovation, urban governance, and affordable housing. Through a corporate governance institute that he helped set up in the UAE a decade ago, he spearheaded the enhancements of a number of initiatives related to advocating for greater gender diversity in the workplace, thereby


helping put more women in positions of top management decision-making and innovation-enabling. But perhaps what’s really impressive about Nick is how he manages to remain resolutely grounded and centered despite his sky-high list of accomplishments and frenetic whirlwind of responsibilities. In lieu of his many triumphs in the corporate and government sector, he would much rather talk about the fancy raclette that he whips out during dinner parties at home, or how he - above and beyond being one of the most influential Filipinos in the Gulf - is first and foremost a loving son, a loyal friend, and a dutiful husband.




In Dubai’s thriving community of artists, Mike Fillion has distinguished himself as a renaissance man: he seems to be able to do anything, and he is great at everything he does. Music composer, filmmaker, writer, and now a creator of a sci-fi series called “Deciders.” Mike elaborates: “Deciders is a multi-tiered project that is meant to begin as a toy franchise – but with a universe attached that opens it up to comics, and even movies. The basic gist is that a colonised Mars of the future develops a justice system where disputes are solved by Mecha battles. Sci-Fi gold. The project is in development and looking for funding.” In 2016, Mike played a crucial role in the development du’s Tropa For Life campaign, which was specifically geared towards the Filipinos in the UAE. The campaign was so successful, it won the Gold Award for Branded Entertainment at both the Dubai Lynx and Mid-East Effies Awards. Mike recounts: “The brief was simple: win the hearts of Pinoys in the UAE, and that’s exactly what we did through humor and music. What made the campaign particularly memorable was the soundtrack. The idea for it came from the director Richard Ang, who wanted a hip hop track for the ‘hero walk’ in the commercial. The lead actor, Twisted Martinez, was practically made to perform that track. Twizted and I wrote the lyrics, and my friend Lucky Schild from The Recipe laid down the beats. We wrote and recorded that song in a burst of inspiration. The whole thing was done in two hours. It was a lot of fun. And the sheer joy of putting this campaign together was evident in the final outcome.”

Mike may be a rain man, but he is decidedly clear on the legacy he wishes to impart to his fellow kabayans: that of a story teller. “I’ve always believed that great art stems from great storytelling. Whether it’s design or music, film or video games, when there’s a great story at the heart of it, audiences will be helplessly lured in. It’s something I learned from people like Steve Jobs, J.J. Abrams and Hideo Kojima. I’d be delighted if one day, the younger generation can learn it from me.”




A beautiful, young ingénue with exceptional acting abilities, it’s easy to mistake Mercedes Cabral for a “movie star,” when what she truly is amidst the glitz and the glamor of her global fame is a consummate artist. In fact, she was well on her way to becoming a visual artist – having taken up Fine Arts in college – when she was visited by the opportunity to appear in independently produced movies in the Philippines. Mercedes recounts, “I believe that if it’s your destiny, your path would make itself clear for you. My first movie with Brillante

Mendoza helped me make connections outside of the Philippines. From doing local TV films and TV shows, I had the opportunity to participate in projects abroad and work with talented directors such as Park Chan-wook in South Korea, British filmmaker Isaac Julien in Dubai, Malaysian filmmaker Buddy Anwardi, and Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Samir Arabdazeh.” In 2015, Mercedes starred in Rosita, a Danish film about a Filipino mail-order bride in a small fishing village in Denmark. She considers this her biggest project to date.


Recently, Mercedes starred in a hit TV show in the Middle East, Saq Al Bamboo. Her portrayal of a Filipino maid in Kuwait earned her countless praises, from critics and Gulf-based OFW’s. Of the show’s success, Mercedes attests: “I think my performance as Josephine made an impact because of the emotional truth that I gave. That’s the most important thing and a very vital responsibility of being an actor - to show the audience the TRUTH in your character and story to make it believable. To make them feel what your character is feeling in a given situation. This is what I find most beautiful and addicting in acting.”


16 BONG GUERRERO CEO OF BRAG EVENTS As founder and CEO of Brag Events, and the Alpha male of Fashion Forward – the UAE’s most prestigious fashion industry event – Bong Guerrero has not only carved a name for himself as an entrepreneur: he has transformed himself into a true society icon. With over 25 years of experience in the Gulf, Bong’s expertise in the field of events management, concert production, and fashion is difficult to match. And in 2016, he helped orchestrate a major evolution in the Fashion Forward brand – moving the venue of the shows from Madinat, Jumeirah to D3. More than just a change of space, the move signifies an enhanced focus on marrying the concept of sustainability with the fashion industry. 2016’s Fashion Forward is noted for having a more casual and relaxed than its previous iterations. In an earlier interview with Illustrado, this notable Filipino sums up his simple philosophy, “I enjoy the work that I do. I truly love what I do, and I’m very passionate about what I do. I’d like to think that [passion] brings out some kind of creativity.” ILLUSTRADO 28



2016 saw Michael Cinco shedding tears at the Jardin de Tuileries after mounting his very first show at the Paris Haute Couture Week - a dream fulfilled, with the support of the Asian Couture Federation where the designer is a founding member. It was not just another milestone. It was THE milestone - the achievement of the ultimate aspiration, within the stellar career of this world-renowned designer. The last decade has seen Michael Cinco’s unstoppable rise into both local, regional and international prominence,

with his brand of haute couture gracing runways and red carpets around the world, his extravagant creations worn and sought-after by royalty, the elite and Hollywood A-listers. His involvement with America’s Next Top Model, as well as Asia’s and China’s Next Top Model has also made Michael a household name adored by fashion fans across the globe. The awards he’s received through the years, including one for Breakthrough Designer at the WGSN Global Fashion Award in New York and the Philippine Presidential Medal of Honor, well, those

Photo by: Jef Anog


are just the proverbial icing on his already über rich cake. He says of his ride to success so far, “My career journey is at times giddy, other times calculated. But mostly impalpable and beautiful.” Looking back on his wins, the hardworking designer shares thoughtfully, “Being a Filipino in the international fashion arena is a challenge, though a little clichéd. But I made it work for me. So, be the best that you can. I can, therefore, you can. We can.”



If there is one designer in the region who has utilized and championed Filipino design aesthetics to great effect, it is the divine Ezra Santos. His offering at Fashion Forward’s October 2016 edition with the haute couture reincarnation of the humble ‘banig’ as ‘piece de resistance’ was not only a feat in fashion design and fabrication, but also a triumph of indigenous Filipino artistic sense reinterpreted for the world. The collection which consisted of stunning, painstakingly handwoven Filipiniana-esque pieces was

an astonishing follow-up to Ezra’s past assemblages featuring refined contemporary creations inspired by the Maria-Clara and terno dresses, not to mention the iconic ‘Imeldific’ butterfly sleeves. This time around, apart from promoting Filipino culture, which he believes is part of his calling, the designer has also dedicated his show to his artisans, commemorating his atelier’s 12th year anniversary and sharing the glory especially with those who have been there with him from the very beginning.


2016 not only marks a special birthday for his business. It is also the year when he has finally become sole proprietor for his brand, quite a rare privilege for very few fashion entrepreneurs in the country. Ezra who is deeply spiritual reflects, “This was a year of blessings and breakthroughs and I am very thankful. One reason that has always kept me strong and courageous is knowing that I was never alone in my journey. My best friend, confidant and adviser, our Lord, has always been there.”


19 Head over to the fabulous Dubai Design District and you will be pleased to note that one of the most prominent fashion spaces is owned and headed by a Filipino - the “One and Only” Furne One, he of the Dubai fashion rock star stature, whose dramatic haute couture extravaganzas are the hottest tickets come fashion season in the city of bling. From being a Fine Arts student, to winning a fashion design competition in the Philippines, to becoming a mentee of Josie Natori, to having his own haute


couture brand worn by international A-list celebrities, and receiving numerous awards, Furne One has steadily built his career with exacting precision, dogged determination and pure discipline. He offers advice to would-be designers, “A lot of young designers think that the fashion industry is just about pretty dresses, fabulous parties and being famous. They often forget about the responsibilities that go along with it. The truth is, it’s all about having a clear vision of your aesthetic, good business acumen, hard work and perseverance”.


With his diligence paying off in aces, Furne continues to grow his renowned brand Amato Couture, opening two new spaces at the Dubai Design District this year, while officially launching his preta-porter line to provide a more accessible fashion collection for the younger sartorially savvy audience. He adds, “You need to focus on your goal, work hard and persevere. The only person you have to prove yourself to, is yourself. ”


20 YEN AB FASHION DESIGNER Yen is a proud Filipino couturier/ businessman and the co founder of Yen Fashion Design – a couture atelier based in Abu Dhabi which has branches in Doha, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo. The brand also retails in House of Fraser and Bloomingdales. Yen’s works have circulated around the fashion capitals of the world and have been noticed by world’s premiere international glossies. Revealing his “trick of the trade,” Yen says that the biggest and the most important investment he has made is in hiring a reliable staff. He adds that the key to “yenify” results is working smart not working hard. He shares: “My philosophy is ”Always pushing forward.” If there is an unforeseen error – instead of pointing fingers, let’s think of a solution and move forward. If we achieved our goals – let’s think of a way to be even better at it. And in times of stress – chill, evaluate and move forward with the solution. I have no time to dilly-dally and apply Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in every obstacle.” Ever the intellectual, Yen is currently formulating “The Yen Method” – a principle of entrepreneurship that, he says, can propel anyone into achieving their goals and unlock any enterprise’s full potential.




IVY GRACE PAREDES AKA AYEGEE SINGER The Middle East will never lack for fantastic Filipino singers, but amongst their ranks stands Ivy Grace as one of the most exceptional. A seasoned vocalist who started her career in amateur singing competitions in the Philippines, Ivy is a “singer’s singer” – an artist of such prodigious skill that she has become a true benchmark in her field.

Ivy’s immense talent has taken her career far and wide – even more so in 2016, when she had the chance to have a short stint at X Factor UK, where she wowed the judges and earned legions of fans with her powerful vocal stylings. But even with her remarkable accomplishments as an international artist, Ivy’s source of pride stays closer to home. “One of my proudest moments is when I gave birth to my daughter, the love of my

Photo by: Wenwen Zaspa


life! I never knew that one person could hold so much love for another, until I became a mother. I must admit that in the beginning, when I figured that I was going to raise my child as a single mother, I had a lot of doubts and apprehensions as to whether I was capable. But once I laid my eyes on my ‘Budang’ as I fondly call her, everything just fell into place. It’s as though I was made for this!”



Atty. Barney wasn’t just handed the monicker, “The People’s Lawyer.” He earned it through years of relentless diligence, perseverance, and commitment to providing free counsel to those who may not be able to afford world-class legal advice. He is an attorney who doesn’t just win cases – he wins hearts. Once named Young Lawyer of The Year by the Asian Legal Business Philippines, Barney specializes in International Business and European Union Law, advising high net worth individuals majority of whom are Europeans from

the Middle East Oil and Gas sector - in investing and establishing business in the Philippines, with an aggregate value amounting to USD 27 million in 2016. But despite his success in the business sphere, Atty. Barney still finds time to lead numerous initiatives that help improve the lives of the Filipino expats in the UAE. This year, he distributed interactive digital kiosks at RTA bus stops in Dubai and at the Philippine Consulate to help Filipinos get up to speed with UAE laws. As he continues to conduct free legal aid clinics at the Consulate and at the Embassy, he updates his well-received


first book, The Essential OFW Guide to the UAE. He also currently functions as the Corporate Secretary of the Philippine Business Council in the UAE. Of the legacy he wishes to impart to his fellow kabayans abroad, Atty. Barney says: “My mission objective is for the Filipino community to have a better understanding of the laws. I want them to stand proudly as they own and celebrate their heritage. I want them to chase the dream they are dreaming and return home as better people to their families in the Philippines, with a business that can support them and their families.”


23 DR.BECKY DESIDERIO CEO OF THE MEDICAL CITY, DUBAI As the CEO of The Medical City Dubai, Dr. Becky spearheaded the launch of the first ever Filipino healthcare corporation in The Middle East. Her list of responsibilities includes positioning The Philippines as a medical tourism destination, and promoting The Medical City as one of Asia’s most trusted names in quality, world-class medical treatments. She says, “I am essentially a health ambassador not just for my organization, but also for my country.” Through Dr. Becky’s tireless efforts, The Medical City has become a major force in the region’s healthcare industry. She attests: “We participated in several international medical conferences and events, and facilitated agreements with private enterprises, medical insurance firms and health maintenance organizations all over the GCC.” Above and beyond her role as a healthcare professional and The Medical City’s primary representation in the Gulf region, Dr. Becky hopes to be recognized as a Missionary Doctor. “Working in such an influential position, I want to use my work as a way of channeling blessings to others.”





The Philippine Business Council - Abu Dhabi continues to grow and enables high quality business interactions among Filipino businessmen and professionals at par with international business/ local community. Their work involves promoting private sector trade and investment between the Philippines and the UAE; providing assistance, advice and promotional support to all members and sponsors. Being A nonprofit organization, PBC Abu Dhabi has established a reputation

for providing service to Filipino and international business communities and has thereby positioned itself as an important member of Abu Dhabi’s private sector business community. , PBC - Abu Dhabi has been particularly active this year, with internal and external events designed to foster unity amongst its members and expand the groups local and regional footprint. The PBC Abu Dhabi’s Execom and Coordinators for 2016. In this photo (left to right): Elham Ali Al Tunaiji


– Vice Chairman, Agnes Marelid Membership Coordinator, Janet Tuano (member), Jan Barlow – Chairman, Yen AB (member), Ms. Agnes Stott-Briggs - Head of Special Projects, Angela Muir - Communications Coordinator, Jovy Tuaño - Director of Trade, Industry and Entrepreneurship, Ms. Teresa Keating - Director of Events/Sponsorship. Not included in the picture are Atty. Michael Barney Almazar - Corporate Secretary, Dr. Joey Villanueva - Director of Healthcare and Well-being and Vicky Mikkelsen - Events Coordinator




The Philippine Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates (PBC Dubai), is a non-profit organization established in 2001 under the patronage of the Philippine Embassy and Consulate General of Dubai and the Northern Emirates. It is the only Filipino organization recognized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the role of facilitating business opportunities for the Filipino community and their commercial partners in the country. As vanguards of Philippine entrepreneurship, the council provides avenues for business exchange among Filipino entrepreneurs, and other parties with an interest in the Filipino market.

In 2016, in keeping with the group’s mandate, the PBC hosted a Franchising Seminar, Stock Market Seminar, participation in Art Dubai, as well as networking events. PBC also serves as the parent organization supporting the Ateneo LSE (Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship) School overseeing their annual education program. Most significantly, 2016 saw the PBC cementing its ties with the councils of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, to form the ABCA (ASEAN Business Councils Alliance), formally launched in September 2016 in an event that featured a briefing for entrepreneurs from the EXPO 2020 Leadership.


PBC Dubai is led by Chairman Bobbie Carella, and Executive Committee members (from left to right): Leo Barrameda (Secretary), Lalaine Chu-Benitez (Vice Chairman), Martina Plumley (Outgoing Head of Membership). Not included in the picture are Andy Minodin (Head of Projects) and Eden Borja (Outgoing Treasurer), as well as newly-elected Execom members – Dr. Becky Desiderio, Ken Peralta, Annabel Ramirez and Sharon Magsino. PBC’s corporate partners include –Western Union, The Medical City, llustrado, Tara Kabayan, Chestertons International Real Estate and Brokerage, Startup Business Set-up, Little Manila, Pentaglobal HR Solutions, Cresco Chartered Accountants FZE, CMG





The Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Basic Course (LSE 101) of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) of Ateneo de Manila University is a six-month empowerment program consisting of 12 full-day sessions, each for Leadership, Financial Literacy and Social Entrepreneurship. In Dubai, the program is adopted by the Philippine Business Council – Dubai & NE chaired by Marian Celeste Carella and fully

supported by the Philippine Consulate and POLO/OWWA. It has been responsible for producing some of the most accomplished and socially engaged entrepreneurs in the UAE in recent years. The core values of the LSE Dubai Secretariat have always been anchored on selflessness, humility and becoming men and women for others. Gina Valbuena, Head of Ateneo LSE Dubai


Secretariat, expounds: “Undeniably, we experience challenges and issues along the way. However, at the end of the day, it is always about understanding, perseverance, learning and most importantly the love of what we are doing. As part of the leadership team, our job is not just about churning out glorious moments. It’s also about keeping the team vibrant, focused and motivated – working and overseeing in the background as we lay the ground work for the participants to succeed and allow them to shine.”


JOVY TUAÑO ENTREPRENEUR A master in food innovation and distribution, Jovy Tuano of La Comida Express Gourmet is a true Filipino success story in the food industry of the UAE. He is living on a mission that goes beyond the call of duty to help build a viable business ecosystem that can provide livelihood to industrious people in the community. Just this year, he was able to sell over 200,000 units of his UAE home-grown brand across the emirates, but it was not an overnight success. Jovy has been studying the industry’s ins and

outs for the last 12 years which made him very effective in what he does. Of the entrepreneurial journey that he has had in the UAE, Jovy professes: “It’s not about being great or famous in what I do. It is about planting the seed or foundation of my enterprise wherever it is needed by the community. The fruit of the seed is not limited to money or currency alone. The real fruit and greatness lies in the immeasurable value of our product from the people who make it and to the people who consume it. I trained



myself to patiently listen and engage with them day by day to keep and grow relationships.” Of how he wants to be recognized and remembered, he says, “…nothing other than someone who lived as a simple human being - someone who performed his God-given role and purpose in the family and community, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer. It’s like being married to my mission in life.”


IMAN & LUCHIE SUGUITAN SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS Sister power duo, Iman and Luchie Suguitan have been working altruistically on bringing positive social and economic change in the lives of Philippine farmers through their co-founded Mindanaobased enterprise known as “OFW para sa Magsasaka”, or OPM. Their advocacy stems from the frustrating reality that the farmers who grow the nation’s staple food end up not being able to afford their own crops. They elaborate: “In every community we enter we should be able to increase farmers’ crop prices and stabilize their income, invest or link farmers with

public goods, as well as create incentives and deliver training required to sustain farmers’ ecosystems.” 2016 has been particularly productive for their endeavours. In addition to legally setting up their social enterprise, Iman and Luchie, along with their sixty-eight year old mother, completed their cacao doctors training in Davao. Concerning the success and influence of their social enterprise, Iman and Luchie shares: “As of November 24, we have already taught more than 150 farmers on proper cacao



farming and harvest. That’s a potential 150 families with better livelihoods in the next three years. For the future, we envision being able to create products that will serve not just our farmers, but our fisherfolk and going into agritourism.” Hoping to pave the way for a brighter fate for those at home, Iman and Luchie elaborate: “As Filipino Muslims, we want to be recognized as influential sisters who tried our best to help our fellow Filipinos regardless of religion, politics and distance.”


29 TENG ROMA BEAUTY GURU, ENTREPRENEUR Salons are said to be haven for loose talks, rumors, and gossips but Teng Roma is serious about this business. It is his duty to make people look and feel good through world-class grooming and a luxurious salon experience. He is a co-owner manager of his flagship Emphasis Salon in Rockwell – an institution of style and beauty in the Philippines, with a 15-year track record of providing “opulent salon” experience to Manila’s crème dela crème. Teng has also launched two eponymous branches in swanky Fairmont Hotel and Alabang. Recently, he opened the Teng Roma salon in the luxurious Desert Palm in Dubai, with another branch opening soon at the Conrad Hotel bringing his well-respected Philippine-grown brand and signature service to the well-heeled of the emirates. Even at this stage of success, Teng still constantly seek for self-improvement. He says: “I read a lot, travel extensively, study competition ferociously, and associate profoundly with individuals who bring positive vibes.” It’s unfortunate how some people give up on their dreams, so Teng points out: “Dream. Dream big. Don’t let poverty hamper you to pursue that dream. Work hard. Work with optimism. Work with people who can help improve what you do. Work with the resolve to succeed in everything that you do.”





Having accomplished scores of noteworthy milestones and bagged various medals in the world of athletics, Charles Marelid continues to make his mark and carve out a name for himself as one of the youngest, most esteemed short distance sprinters in the U.A.E. A student of the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, Charles balances studies with training, with most of his free time spent towards his honing craft. This year, Charles’ central focus has been

specifically on running the 100 meter sprint below 11 seconds: “For a young athlete running the 100m, most of us hover around 11 seconds and above. My personal best last year was 11.03 seconds last October 2015.” However, regarding the relentless time and effort he has invested, Charles was successfully able to do so. Running his first ever “sub 11” this May, Charles proudly bagged gold for the league’s best under 17 sprinter, and achieved a record-breaking 10.94 seconds under the watchful eye of Olympian Said


Aouita. He has since improved, now with a personal best of 10.81 for the 100m. As for what the future holds, Charles plans to study in the US under one of the most prestigious sports academies. But for now, along with conquering the 200 and the 400 meter sprint, he intends to work on his versatility as a sportsman. For anyone out there who plans on pursuing athletics in the future, Charles attests: “Start young. Try as many sports as possible. And value sportsmanship.”


31 THE ARCENA SISTERS TENNIS PLAYERS Watch out, Venus and Serena! A new breed of sibling tennis champs is on the rise, and it goes by the name of The Acena Sisters. Renee and Bea have been displaying prodigious skill in tennis from a very young age, and through hard work and discipline, they have individually become exemplary champions in their sport. In 2016, Renee reached the seminals of both the singles and doubles categories of the Asian U14 Tennis Tournament held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November. She also reached the semifinals of girls’ U14 category of the PCA Open 2016, held in the Philippines. On the other hand, Bea won the Masters Finals in the Clark Francis Tennis Academy for the girls’ U14 and U18 categories last May. For her victory, she was given an all-expense paid trip to watch the French Open 2016 at Roland Garros in Paris. In addition to their impressive skill and talent, Renee and Bea exhibit a level of dedication and professionalism that belies their young age. Of the secret to her success, Bea professes: “The saying ‘There is no substitute for hard work’ is actually what has propelled me to where I am today as far as my fledging tennis career is concerned. I am not the most athletically gifted girl out there, but I make up for it with hard work. My practices are marked by fierce intensity, which I also bring to my matches. I believe that winning is a direct consequence of the amount of work one puts in.” Renee offers a more intense point of view: “I hate to lose. In every match, I always come in with the mindset of winning it. And because of that, I never give up, and play each point as if it were my last. Of course, I do lose matches, but I always treat each loss as a learning experience, which helps me improve on my game going forward. For anyone aspiring to be good at any sport, and in life for that matter, work hard and believe in yourself. I am a firm believer that if one works hard, dreams do come true.”

YOUNG BLOOD “The youth are the hope of our nation.” Meet the young‘uns who are already clearing the path for their generation. ILLUSTRADO 43



His name is Antonino. His colleagues also lovingly refer to him as “astronaut,” as he is so good at everything at he does, he is not even limited by outer space. You see the track record of success that he has managed to generate, the foreign languages that he can speak (3, and still counting!), and the tasks that he can surmount with almost alarming ease at such a young age, and you just have to ask, “Really? Why not an astronaut?” In many ways, he is the exemplary overseas Filipino student – resourceful, unbending in his commitment to higher learning, but imbued with the unmistakably Pinoy values that brings great pride to his motherland. Despite being only 15, Antonino who is a consistent A star student at the prestiious Dubai British School is already a published writer, serving as a junior contributor for Illustrado GO. Through his unique style of writing, he provides a fresh take on a variety of subjects from a fascinating perspective. 2016 has been a particularly momentous year for this wunderkind, as he was chosen as one of the 5 students out of hundreds to win an essay competition hosted by Western Union in the UAE. Under the topic of ‘Delivering education, facilitated by technology, to the refugee children in Syria,’ Antonino was also able to read and elaborate on his essay at a global financial leadership summit attended by dignitaries, entrepreneurs, academics, and community leaders of various nationalities. Of this triumph, he attests: “The most rewarding aspect of the experience was discovering that I was the only Filipino winner. I consider it a truly a pivotal moment in my life. It galvanized my belief that Filipinos, regardless of age, can excel in a myriad of fields.”


33 COLLIN DAYLE TORRES PHOTOGRAPHER, COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This adage applies to young photographer Collin Torres, son of renowned photographer and entrepreneur Milo Torres. A student of The Westminster School, two of Collin’s photos were shortlisted at the 2016 Expo2020xHIPA Photography Competition – an exceptional achievement that he credits to the loving guidance of his father. He recounts, “Since I was very young, my dad has been teaching me how to handle a camera. I didn’t take it seriously at first. It took me years to fully understand what the camera was capable of. It was only recently that I’ve started to pursue the photography scene. All it took was a lot of perseverance and the passion, and of course, a lot of patience from my dad.” Engineer Milo didn’t just teach Collin how to take good photos – he also taught him the value of volunteerism. Collin attests: “I’ve been a community volunteer ever since I was a toddler. I was influenced by my parents, who are community leaders. They have helped me to become a better humanitarian and a patron for the less-privileged. Along with that, I’ve been a part of the Youth for Christ community for four years now, acting as a leader, helping young people like me become better versions of themselves.”



His advice to his fellow Filipinos: “You are your own person, you have the power over yourself, your choices, your feelings and your life. The only way that you’d ever feel that you’ve lost is if you didn’t take that first step, that you didn’t take the initiative - that you didn’t try. Have faith in yourself, believe that you are capable of doing amazing things, and I’m sure that you’re going to leave your mark on the world.”

Jacob is a 15-year old film maker with an eye for imagery that belies his young age. In 2016, his film was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Editing at the 2016 Thimun Qatar Northwestern Film Festival. Entitled “Connectedly Disconnected” the film tackles the pitfalls of seeking comfort through temporary connections. With all the success that he has achieved at his age, he says that his father keeps him grounded by constantly reminding him that “It’s not enough to rely on talent alone, you have to have passion. You must love what you do and not treat it like it is ‘work.’ Most of all you have to treat yourself as an “amateur” because no matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement.” He adds that he wants to someday represent the Philippines internationally and lend his talent in raising the standards of quality film making in the country. His advice to his fellow, young Filipino artists: “Never let the fear of not being good enough stop you from trying something new. If I had let that fear stop me, then I would not be where I am and who I am today.”



35 JOHN RAY CERNA The UAE’S FIRST FILIPINO POLICEMAN Filipinos have penetrated most of the Middle East’s leading industries: construction, oil & glass, hospitality, F&B. Now, thanks to John Ray, we have planted our flag unto a completely new territory: law enforcement. “It all started when Dra. Maria Jade Catalan Opulencia introduce me to Atty. Barney at the Consulate in Dubai,” he recounts. “Atty. Barney then introduced me to Consul General Raymund Paul Cortes who gave me the job interview.” Right after he got officiated, John Ray faced a deluge of enquiries and invitations from the UAE’s leading publications and media entities. He has been featured in various TV programs, radio stations, newspapers, and magazine. But beyond the novelty of being known as the UAE’s first Filipino policeman, John Ray appreciates how closely he is able to work with the kabayan community on a regular basis. He says, “I want to be known as a role model police officer - someone who cannot be bribed. I would love to be known as a simple, friendly, humble guy, and good friend to everyone; a good Filipino citizen who is, in his own right, a good representative of the Philippines.”




THOU G H T L E A DERS 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.




A cut above your average college professor, Rex Bacarra exemplifies the Filipinos’ ability to excel in an environment of diversity and ambition. A teacher of Philosophy and Humanities at the American University of Dubai and the American College Dubai, Rex considers his work - shaping the impressionable minds of today’s youth - as the acme of his life’s purpose. He articulates: “I encourage critical thinking among the ubiquitously multicultural young about the fundamental questions of life, its meaning, truth and falsehood, belief, and the nature of reality, knowledge and society.”


Rex’s earnest desire to impart knowledge and affect positive change in the lives of the younger generation has proven to be a boon to his career. He is highly regarded as one of AUD’s top professors, and a clear favorite among the students. During the graduation ceremony for the class of 2016, Rex was given a standing ovation by the entire hall when the Magna Cum Laude mentioned his name during his speech, and referred to him as “the most ideal professor.” In Rex’s own words: “There is no legacy so rich as the gratitude of the young.”


37 SUSAN PUNO VILLANUEVA EDUCATOR, CONTEMPORARY ARTIST Perhaps the most influential line of work one could take is that of an educator. Case in point, Susan Puno Villanueva – an educator of such skill and dedication that she has, not only become a true community leader amongst Filipino expats in the UAE, but also a key formative figure for the female Emirati students she teaches and mentors . She elaborates: “My passion is to propagate learning through different creative means. May it be, through online learning, face-toface learning; blended-learning, or simply through art. I continue to innovate and search for interesting material for my learners, and create live projects that would challenge young minds.” 2016 has been a highly decorated year for Susan, as she received recognition from various institutions, and some of the most prestigious industry award giving bodies for the arts in the region: Excellence Award from the Higher Colleges of Technology, Emirates Skills Award from ADNEC, and “Innovative Champion” from Sharjah Women’s College, to name a few. But despite the accolades that she has received and continue to receive, Susan keeps her eyes on the real prize - that is, playing a pivotal role in shaping and molding the creative mindsets of the younger generation. Susan says, “I have inculcated the understanding that education is a non-negotiable deal. I would risk student evaluations, and shy away from popularity. They know if there’s a teacher named Susan and she is listed in their schedule, it will be a ‘toxic’ semester. I’m fine with that. I want to continue and hold my principles in education. I know one day they will be serving this country and they will be working with fellow Filipinos. It’s my job to help them get ready.” ILLUSTRADO 50


38 ROMMEL PILAPIL SERGIO, PHD AWARDWINNING ACADEMIC Rommel is the Human Resource Management Program Chair at the Canadian University Dubai. His is a distinguished position earned through years of outstandingly hard work, but to him, it is more than just another job description. Being in the scholastic industry for 18 years, it has been his life’s mission to help pave the way for the younger generation, and guide them as they fulfill their role as the hope of the future. He is one of the recipients of the 2016 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals Overseas (Pamana ng Pilipino Award Category), Top 50 Global Educators Award as conferred by the Oxford Journal: International Journal of Business and Economics at Cambridge University and has been recognized by other global award-giving bodies. Even being away from the Philippines for a decade now, his way of giving back to the Filipino community is by extending help to those who are impoverished but aspire to finish education through Dr. Rommel Sergio Scholarship Foundation. He understands the challenges of a financially burdened family because he himself came from one. He shares “I earned things the hard way. I have been a consistent scholar from secondary to my tertiary education. The challenges in the past had pushed me to strive for excellence and at the same time have the passion to serve others by educating young minds and participate in community service.”



39 FROILAN MALIT PROJECT MANAGER, POLICY RESEARCHER Froilan Malit is a relentless academic, an Oxford-educated leader, and a wunderkind – a person of such immense skill and intelligence that despite being in his 20’s, he has already carved a career that most people could only dream of achieving in an entire lifetime. He currently works as Project Manager at the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (UAE MOHRE)’s International Relations Department in Dubai. Through this role, he manages a scientific pilot project that aims to examine the effects of a comprehensive approach to the certification of construction and service workers’ skills – more importantly, how it impacts the workers’ productivity, welfare, and income potential. He also conducts research on special policy topics related to labor migration, mobility, and other sectoral based policy studies on the GCC labor markets. In the past four years, he has also held academic research and policy positions at the American University of Sharjah, Zayed University, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, with a focus on labor migration and governance.

His story is one of perseverance. He recounts: “As a child Sampaguita picker from Lubao, Pampanga for more than 10 years, I have always worked very hard to ensure that I would bring honor and happiness to my family. When I migrated to the United States more than ten years ago, I initially worked in multiple jobs, working as a gardener, a gym cleaner, and a sausage product demonstrator. These


particular jobs taught me the critical importance and value of hard work, relationships, determination, patience, and preparation in life.” His advice to his fellow kabayans: “Be true to yourself, appreciate your family and friends’ presence, and cultivate your relationships in life.”



ROSEMARIE TACORDA MARKETING & PR PROFESSIONAL Rosemarie is in the field of Marketing and Public Relations, which she very succinctly describes as “a way of solving challenges creatively and making sure that the communication reaches the target audience in its simplest and most elegant form - either by way of creative visuals that convey a specific message or forging business relationships with strategic partners.” Through her experience in a craft that requires meticulous attention to detail, patience, and belief in both the people and the product, she has come to grasp the effect of having a love for what you do; that without it, success would be unachievable. Previously fueling all of the PR and Marketing strategies of some of the most iconic and sought after hotels in Dubai, of which include – the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the Madinat Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab, the Dusit Thani, The Address Hotel, IHG, and Jumeirah Creek side, she now currently commands the creative force behind the Palazzo Versace Hotel. Having opened earlier this year with the presence of big names such as Donatella Versace, Rosemarie was beyond honored to play an influential role leading up to its successful launch: “The event paved the way to massive international PR coverage.” Her advice to her fellow kabayans in the Middle East: ““Do what you love and find your core genius, because this where you will ultimately get your job satisfaction. Try to always see the big picture, as this will be your guide when things go wrong along the way. Most importantly, be fair to the people around you.”





The hospitality industry in the Middle East is one of the most dynamic in the world. In this highly competitive environment, Leon stands out as a frontrunner. In terms of expertise and workplace excellence, his career record is second to none. As Sales & Marketing Corporate Director for Oman-based, Omran Hospitality Group, Leon manages the company’s owned assets

which includes Atana Khasab, Atana Musandam, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, Masira Island Resort, City Hotel Duqm and Al Hoota Cave. Of his successes, Leon says: “As a Filipino in an industry that is predominantly rostered by Caucasians and Arabic speakers, it brings me great pride and joy to see just how far I have managed to advance my career, and in doing so, break the glass ceiling for


my fellow Filipinos in the Gulf. To head a 25-strong team of various nationalities and experience is not an easy task – one that I surmount through determination and plain ol’ hardwork. What’s even better is that through the guidance and training that I provide to my team, I learn a great deal about myself too.”


42 DANELLE RUTH PALANG MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR Danelle is one of the most authoritative Filipino figures in the UAE’s MarComms scene, but you will never hear this from her. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to engage Danelle in any conversation about her many achievements, as she is decidedly, resolutely low profile. As Director of Marketing and Communications, Danelle has been responsible for expanding the reach of the Dusit Thani Dubai brand and helping it assert a stronger presence on the digital space. She has also been a formidable force for corporate social responsibility, spearheading many projects that aim to raise environmental awareness and foster unity amongst Dusit Thani Dubai’s internal and external stakeholders. But amidst her stunning range of accomplishments and responsibilities, Danelle is most fond of her role as a mom. She says, “I am proud to know that my son understands and grasps the balance of struggling in life and working his way up. This beats any award, any day.” Of the legacy she wishes to impart, she says: “I want to be remembered for the good and blessed lives left for my son and my sister, who are my principal source of inspiration in giving my best foot forward, in anything that I do.”



43 ISHWAR CHUGANI CEO He is an award-winning entrepreneur, one of the first few pioneers who, as a young man ventured to set-up business in unchartered Dubai in the 70s. He heads one of the most well-loved global brands, Giordano, in the Middle East, India, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. But more than his position of distinction, his industry accolades and business acumen, what is most endearing is the fact that Ishwar Chugani is and will always be “Dugong Bumbay, Pusong Pinoy” to us Pinoys in the UAE. True greenie La Sallista, and longtime Filipino-community supporter participating in both initiatives for charity and camaraderie, Ishwar was born and raised in Bacolod, educated in Manila, speaks English like Manileňo, and Ilonggo like a Bacolod-native. Plain speaking, Ishwar is one of us. Beyond his unwavering ties with our community, budding entrepreneurs and even professionals would do well to learn from the experience and skills he’s gained through the years, as well as his humane yet pragmatic leadership style that puts him a cut above the rest. Asked about his recipe for success, Ishwar reveals, “Keep it simple. Empower people. Have motivation from within, not from out. Don’t be scared of competition. Know that knowledge is power. Create a company culture. Remember the 3Hs – Head, Heart and Hand. Simply put - use common sense, love what you do and work hard. And finally, define success. Because believe me, it is relative. “



44 VAGELYN FEDERICO HR DIRECTOR Vagelyn is a global Filipino achiever who brought honor, prestige and recognition to the Philippines, and whose notable achievements in the field of social and community service thru hospitality and human resources have been recognized far and wide. She has led a life that’s certainly one for the books: from a being a humble farm girl from to a secretary who had to make 13 exits to Kish Island, to the youngest General Manager of a 4 star hotel at the age of 28. She had proved that big dreams do come true if we just believe and never give up. In recognition of her relentless commitment towards social responsibility, Vagelyn was named the 2016 CSR Champion of the Year Grand Winner at the Hospitality Excellence Awards for Middle East and North Africa. Her life story was also featured in the hit TV program Maalaala Mo Kaya, earning her countless of OFW followers and admirers all over the globe. As an HR professional, part of Vagelyn’s duty is to embody the essence of workplace excellence and community spirit. She elaborates: “I always tell people to go out of their comfort zone. It’s a risk not to take risk! We need to be better than yesterday. Level up and do something that will make you more fruitful, productive and beneficial to others in the society. Our life is a gift from God and what we do with our lives is our gift to Him.”



45 WAFA QASIMIEH MAJOR CULTURAL CONSULTANT Dignity and integrity: these are the two words that sum up the two decades worth of Wafa Qasmieh’s career as a Major Cultural Consultant in Cultural Administration at the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities – Government of Dubai, where she vowed to respond to the call of duty with heart. Wafa attests that her success can be traced back to the trust and faith that others have bestowed upon her – a sentiment that has asserted itself in full force this year, as she was given the responsibility of acting as Chairman for two of the Philippine Consulate’s biggest community events: the Independence Day and Bayanihan Festival. Wafa is also a strong advocate for peace, education, and community service. Her works are inspired by the immeasurable efforts of other leaders who made great strides in promoting cultural diversity. She says, “Being exposed to different communities and different nationalities is the best training I received. I’ve met a lot of people and knew their problems, their victories, their fame - and their simplicity helped me develop a sense of awareness on how to approach matters that involve cultural differences.”



46 MARY JANE ALVERO CEO Mary Jane’s name is a fixture in any conversation about Filipino workplace excellence in the UAE. Through her exemplary hard work and discipline, she has carved a reputation as a true benchmark of what Filipinos can accomplish abroad, an an icon of female empowerment. As CEO of Geoscience Testing Laboratory, she is able to run every aspect of the business with the leadership and management skills that she has gained through 22 years of experience in quality assurance and analytical laboratory services. 2016 has proved to be a particularly fruitful year for her, as she bagged various industry awards for her outstanding body of work: CEO of The Year award at the World Water Leadership Congress, the World Women Leadership Achievement Award at the Women Leadership Congress in India, Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globe Tigers in Kuala Lumpur, Quality Leadership Award at the Global Awards for Excellence in Quality Management and Leadership, and the distinction of being included amongst Dubai’s 100 Global Sustainable CEO’s. Of the legacy she wishes to impart to her kabayans, Mary Jane elaborates: “I would love to be known for my humility. Regardless of what I have achieved in life, I will be the same Mary Jane Alvero 24 years ago. I want my worth to be measured by the values I have added and influenced in the life of the people I inspire every day in my life.” ILLUSTRADO 59


48 MAXXY SANTIAGO Maxxy is one of the most – if not THE most – highly awarded media personalities in the Gulf. As Senior Correspondent and Consultant of ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau, Reporter of the Arab Times in Kuwait, and Program Director and Announcer of Pinoy Arabia FM in Kuwait, she eclipses most other journalists by virtue of sheer media mileage. In 2016, Maxxy was instrumental to the release of the longest serving Filipino inmate in Kuwait, Joseph Urbiztondo who was in jail for 20 years for alleged murder. From her alma mater, Claret High School in Zamboanga City, she received the Gawad Alab ng Puso Award – Nag-aalab na Puso sa Pamamahayag, for her work as a journalist in helping expose issues and problems of OFWs and getting the concerned government authorities to act swiftly.

47 MARIECAR JARA Mariecar is your quintessential journalist – evercurious, resourceful, resilient, and with a level of integrity that has become an inspiration to the Filipino community in the Middle East. Coming from a family of media men, Mariecar has always displayed a natural propensity for story-telling, having started her career in her teens as a reporter for the Pauliteen, the campus paper of St. Paul College of Manila-High School Department. Since then, her beat has taken her far and wide and has earned her various recognitions, such as the The Journalist Award that she received this year from a well-known Gulf-based publication. Asked about what fuels her success, Mariecar points upwards. She says, “I would not enjoy a life of sufficiency, contentment, happiness and forgiveness if I had not realized that in the midst of all my accomplishments and failures, God is up there guiding me every step of the way. I would not enjoy life had I not known that despite all trials and tribulations, God is there with a grand design for my destiny.”



49 DR. ABDUL HANNAN TAGO Dedicated to using his platform in serving his fellow kabayans, Dr. Abdul Hannan Tago has earned a reputation as a journalistic hero in the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia. As a media veteran and lone Arabic-speaking Filipino journalist in the kingdom, he has utilized his skills not only to foster understanding within the local community, but also to advocate for the rights of fellow Filipinos.

With courage, talent and conviction, these media custodians not only cover the news, they also serve their community.

In 2016, he received various awards for his outstanding body of work in media, such as the Filipino Media Icon Of The Year from 4th Global Officials of Dignity Awardsin New York, Bagong Bayani Star Award from Star Pinoy TV, and WOWHERO Award from WOWTV. He also led various, well-attended speaking engagements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His advice to his fellow kabayans: “Don’t let your mistakes stop you. It’s your weapon to continue and face the day with all your heart and make the best out of it. Every change must come first within yourself.” Photo by: Elichander M. Nolasco



50 RACHEL & ART LOS BAÑOS COMMUNICATORS & SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS Rachel and Art have always been bound by their shared commitment towards achieving excellence in everything that they do – as individuals and as a couple. Rachel is a prolific media personality who covers the UAE’s most important Filipino events via TFC and Tag Radio. Art is a seasoned PR consultant who currently handles the corporate communications and CSR efforts of a large multinational company. Together, they have spearheaded the launch the FEME Connect Directory – a free directory distributed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi containing names and contact details of Filipino professionals and entrepreneurs in the UAE. The FEME Connect Directory is the natural progression of Rachel and Art’s excellence-themed journey through the UAE’s business and media sector. What started out as a radio show at the Dubai Eye 103.8 FM has now turned into a movement, with various activities in the pipeline all designed to propagate the FEME brand of Pinoy pride. Art elaborates: “FEME inspires, encourages and empowers everyone to rise above their fears and insecurities and to raise their level of professionalism and entrepreneurship without forgetting God as the source of everything.”




Roxane Magbanua is a multi-award winning media practitioner with almost 15 years of experience in the industry. She is currently the Senior Planning Director for the media agency PHD. Showcasing the Filipino’s strong work ethic in the field of Media and Advertising, Roxane has successfully produced work for some of the most esteemed brands in the sectors of FMCG, technology, airlines, automotives, retail and real estate. Of her illustrious career, Roxane attests: “If I sum up the 15 years of my career so far, I would say that it has been a mixed bag

of experiences - lots of achievements and also lots of failures. You don’t get to win all the time. What works for me is my ability to pull myself up again and have the courage to start over and over again until I get it right.”

responsibility on a large scale, for the benefit of the Filipino community.” In 2016, Roxane was one of the only two Filipinas awarded at the Global Women Leadership ceremony that took place in Mumbai, India.

Back in 2014, Roxane’s won gold at the GEMAS EFFIE MENA for her contributions in a project for Nokia called “Ana, I’m Coming Home” - a campaign highlighting the plight of OFW’s in the UAE. Roxane elaborates: “It is one of my proudest moments because I had always wanted to exercise social

Of the legacy that she wishes to impart to her kabayans, Roxane says: “I would like to be known as a Filipina who dreamt big and pushed herself beyond her limits to make a difference; that I’m a fair and humane female leader who dedicated her time and energy in leading others towards achievement.”





Sheryll Bacay-Agbing, Jessie QuintillaNanoz, and Catherine Ordonez-Rivera are the three ladies behind Pentaglobal – a team of human resources experts who are making a mark in the Middle East HR industry by approaching and delivering projects with the Filipino standards of diligence, ethics, and commitment to excellence. With the members’ positions in the Filipino Human Resources Practitioners Association – Cathy being the President – Pentaglobal played a crucial role in the development and

activation of DOLE-POLO’s Dubai Reintegration Program. The program aims to provide the doorway for economic and social reintegration, which assures a process of brain gain, in lieu of drain or loss of talent and human capital for the country, reducing the social costs of migration as it endeavor to assist returning OFWs and their families. As a business, Pentaglobal is also a part of EntrePinoy FZE – a distribution company that promotes socially responsible


Filipino products in the Middle East. The team is currently finalizing plans for projects that will be launched before 2020, all with the common objective of promoting social entrepreneurship amongst OFW’s. Of what makes Pentaglobal unique, the team says, “We believe in continuous development. We believe in taking ownership of our careers and our businesses while effectively balancing our family and social life. To be able to be good at what you do is to love what you do.”


53 DESIREE VLEKKEN ALZHEIMER’S AWARENESS ADVOCATE Desiree is an example of how a single voice can resonate amongst thousands, when powered by the earnest desire to create positive change. She is the Founder & CEO of 4get-me-not Alzheimer’s, a non-profit organization raising awareness on Alzheimer’s disease in the UAE. Through her advocacy, Desiree has been able to shed a greater light on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the region, and give countless families the knowledge they need to cope with this immensely challenging health condition. In August of 2016, Desiree attended the Alzheimer’s University in London. This brings 4get-me-not one step closer to becoming a member of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) UK and gaining an even bigger platform for raising awareness. Of her year’s most triumphant moments, Desiree says, “Throughout these years our volunteer base keeps on increasing. This is a milestone considering when we started it was only a handful. We have a loyal volunteer group from SCOPHEMSS. I met them as pre-med students and when they graduated as doctors they still continue to volunteer! We also have teen volunteers from Ambassador School.”



54 MARIO CARDENAS PHOTOGRAPHER, ARCHITECT One cannot talk about “The Best Photographers In The UAE” without mentioning the name, Mario Cardenas. With over 200 photography awards under his belt, Mario is a leading figure in the Middle East’s immense community of photographers and visual artists. Not only that, he is also a force to be reckoned with in the Design & Construction industry, with over 15 years of experience in Architecture, Design, and Planning – 13 and a half of which were earned in the Gulf region. 2016 has been nothing short of phenomenal for Mario. In addition to bagging several more accolades for his photography, he was also promoted to Deputy BIM Manager/ Architect at KEO International Consultants, one of the leading architectural and engineering companies in GCC. He also had a chance to work closely with Santiago Calatrava – an international award-winning and highly celebrated architect, engineer and artist. His advice to his fellow Filipinos: “Find where you are good at and focus on the things you love to do. Start using your skills and talents to create things that would turn your ideas into something tangible. Work hard, keep learning and hone your talent.”





Being a photographer means having a deep connection with one’s surroundings and knowing how to make it come alive. Nowhere is this clearer than in the work of Chris Calumberan. Chris started working in Advertising in 2003. From there his career progressed to encompass other facets of media communications such as model booking and talent coordination. In 2008, he decided to pursue photography seriously. Now, he stands as one of the most accomplished Filipino commercial photographers in the Gulf.

Chris works closely with the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai in transforming the Consulate office in Dubai into a true hub for Filipino arts and culture. Marking the 118th Philippine Independence Day, Chris launched his ‘Kumer-Solo’ exhibit on the 12th of June. With a strong collection of compelling photographs, he used these images as representation of the never dying Filipino spirit – portraying that we are still talented and resilient in the face of adversity.


Bolstered by the success of his exhibitions and commercial work, Chris helped establish a non-profit organization called 4get Me Not – an advocacy group that aims to raise awareness on Alzheimer’s disease in the U.A.E. This testifies of Chris strong moral philosophy: “Awareness and being now-centered helps advance the society.”


56 EROS GOZE If Barney Almazar is “The People’s Lawyer,” Eros is “The People’s Photographer.” A consistent figure in the UAE’s most important Filipino events, Eros has thoroughly endeared himself in the heart of the Filipino community through his world-class talent, positive attitude, and generosity. His track record as a portraitist is unmatched by any other Filipino photographer in the region, having photographed the Gulf ’s most celebrated personalities, from models to dignitaries, community leaders to entrepreneurs. While his celebrated body of work in fashion has graced the campaigns of local and regional fashion houses and glossies. In 2016, Eros also took on the role of educator, in partnership with one the world’s leading imaging companies. He says, “I believe in leadership by collaboration. Creativity and beauty thrive where there is freedom. My job is to guide people into finding their own greatness – whether it’s in front of my camera, or the classroom.”

57 ALEX CALLUENG Models transitioning to photography has become a popular career shift, but not everyone has done it with the same level of success as Alex. Asked about how he has navigated the shift, he simply says, “ I’ve become good at photography by doing it religiously and continuously. I don’t stop. I never stop. And I don’t take no for an answer.” In just a few years, Alex has transformed from an international model into one of the region’s most prolific Filipino fashion and commercial photographers whose work has graced top fashion magazines, fashion houses and even billboards. His secret: “Don’t be onion-skinned. In this type of industry, you need to be able to stand up for your aesthetics, whilst staying open to constructive critique.”





JEFF ANOG It was a big leap for Jeff when he started clicking photographs in the world of fashion - a very tough and cutthroat industry where he now thrives. It was his fascination with how editorial perspectives are turned into artistic visuals and his desire to create something impactful through his lens that paved his way to becoming a full-fledged photographer. He shares that his big career shift is in fact his proudest moment so far. Since migrating from his desk top and into full-time photography, he has worked on a diverse range of projects for government agencies, haute couture houses, magazines, advertisers and some major local and international brand campaigns. His advice for his fellow Filipinos is “to be passionate and resilient about whatever you want to do in your life. Challenges and failures will always block you from achieving your dreams. But no matter how hard the struggles are, always bear in mind to keep going and keep doing whatever is necessary to achieve your goals in life.” Photo by: Rj Enriquez

ROZEN ANTONIO Fashion photographer Rozen Antonio knows how to capture the essence of beauty and translate it into stunning photos. Currently running his own company that specializes in boutique event management and fashion & beauty photography, Houz of Zen, Rozen on several occasions has had the opportunity to produce work for big clients here in the UAE and back home. He has done ad campaigns for Bench, and is the go-to lensman of celebrated designers such as Furne One and Michael Cinco. Understanding how competitive the photography industry in the region can be, Rozen operates with the philosophy that his true competition is himself, believing that in order for him to be continuously successful, he should always strive to surpass his own achievements. Photo by: Valentino

A designer’s work is for naught if it cannot be presented beautifully. This is where the talent of Filipino fashion photographers becomes invaluable. Meet the 4 lensmen who are redefining the standards of high fashion photography in the region. ILLUSTRADO 69


There is no deficit in talented Filipino photographers and visual artists in the Gulf, but few have reached the level of success and relevance that Eng. Milo Torres currently has. As a digital media creative, he has had over 13 years of success in designing various material for an impressive lineup of clients, including Dubai Duty Free, Sharjah Duty Free, Air France, Turkish Airline, MAERSK, University of Wollongong in Dubai, EMAAR, Yamaha ME, Giordano, and Patchi.

He is also a seasoned photographer, as evidenced in the numerous recognitions he has received through the years, such as placing 3rd in this year’s Emirates Heritage Club Photo competition, and being shortlisted in the “Abu Dhabi Through Your Eye” Photo Competition. Moreover, he was recently made an adjunct faculty member at the Amity University as a Photography and Videography professor in the MBA PR & Events Management course.



Eng. Milo places volunteerism high on his list of priorities. In 2016, he helped organized the Kabayan Fun Day at the Sharjah Expo Center, in partnership with the Sharjah Book Authority. He also contributed his talent in raising awareness for the importance of Overseas Absentee Voting, posting various visuals on social media to convince Filipinos to exercise their right to vote. Of his legacy, Eng. Milo says: “I would love to be known as an engineer with creative talents.”


61 HYKU DESESTO PHOTOGRAPHER, ENTREPRENEUR Hyku arrived in Dubai with practically zero connections in the photography industry. She started what has turned out to be a remarkable career by working in a portrait studio. Eventually, she decided to pursue freelance photography, armed with just one camera body, a flash and two lenses. And by virtue of her hard work, sleepless nights, and ability to market her work, she was able to nurture her career and launch her own company: Hyku D Photography. With a strong track record of success that spans 4 years, Hyku decided to expand her business in 2016 by setting up an office and hiring full time employees, with the objective of attracting larger, more multinational clients. As a result of this expansion, Hyku’s company was chosen as the official photographer of the recent Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign, featuring A-list model Gigi Hadid. Additionally, Hyku was also elected as the brand ambassador for companies Huawei and Timberland. Of her struggles and hustles as a photographer, Hyku elaborates: “The biggest lesson that I learned is no one else can make it happen for you but yourself. Be a go getter. Do whatever it takes and never settle. Be ambitious without stepping on other people’s toes. And always give back.”





A content director by trade, multiaward winning Patrick Fronda is widely recognized as one of the UAE’s most prolific authorities in videography and film making. His is a unique eye for finding the heart of any frame and turning it into stunning visuals. This year, he wrote and directed a short film called “Sa Tuwing Kapaskuhan,” which received over a million views on social media. He also signed into Nikon Middle East as a Nikon School instructor, tasked with

travelling to key locations in the GCC to teach videography and help the brand assert its commitment towards fostering the continuous education of visual artists in the region. On how he manages to thrive in the fast-paced, hyper competitive communications landscape of Dubai, Patrick professes, “I keep my chops on point through constant research and practice. I never rest on my laurels,


because I think that there’s always something new to learn. I believe that when you embrace the future, you conquer it. I am a listener and a problem solver. I don’t complain too much and thinking positive is a way of my life.” His advice to his fellow Filipinos: “Dream big. Find your inner strength and find your hidden potential. Everyone has purpose and I believe that life has an expiration date. Don’t wait for your success to come to you. You need to find it and work for it.”


63 FLOR PESIGAN ARTIST To evolve, heal, transform, and encourage people to explore their own unique gifts; this is the mantra of Flordeliza Pesigan, an artist who has made it her life’s mission to teach others how to find inner peace. She translates her inner universe to music and painting. She is an advocate of the importance of creative energy; how every man, woman, and child on Earth need to be in touch with it to be truly alive. This year has been a year of integrating her new found path with her art. Flordeliza says: “My journey keeps evolving. There is no destination. Trusting the process and emptying myself so energies can flow through me has become my way of living. I have learned and still am learning to ‘unlearn’ layers of conditioning that do not serve me.” She encourages her fellow Filipinos to let go of the limiting beliefs that obstruct their growth, and allow themselves to evolve, experiment, express, expand and ultimately experience their full potential. In her own words: “Life has a lot to offer, and you have a lot to offer in your life.”





As a couple, Lou and Cesar sustains their happiness by helping sustain the happiness of others. This inspirational, lead-by-example lifestyle has worked wonders for this delightful duo, as they have become one of the UAE Filipino community’s #RelationshipGoals. Of their generous spirit, Lou professes: “We live with an advocacy of sharing your blessings and inspiring people to pay forward by helping others too. Blessings can be in a form of time, talents, opportunities, counsel, wisdom, money, food, etc. We realized, inspiring others to pay forward the good that you have done to them makes more positive impact to the lives of many, more than the charity events that we still occasionally do.” Individually, they are forces to be reckoned with. Cesar has earned GCC-wide acclaim as a brilliant photographer, educator, and the Manager of Digital Media and Training for Nikon Middle East. Lou on the other hand is currently the Human Resources Director in Canadian Energy Equipment Manufacturing, has continually been considered as one of the well-respected specialist in her field and takes joy in sharing her knowledge and experiences as resource speaker in various seminars and conferences.


Despite their multitudes of successes in the corporate world, Lou and Cesar’s greatest pride and joy can still be found closer to home. Lou says: “One of other proudest moments in our lives was when we became parents to our eldest son, Patrick. Giving birth to a child in a foreign land without parents to help and guide us, and being able to juggle that with the challenging jobs, had been a difficult yet very rewarding an experience. That was the phase in our life when we felt truly grateful and blessed and vowed to work harder not only to serve our family but as well as the community. To feel grateful and blessed is a choice that drives you to do good to others.”



SAHRON ROY TAMANO COMMUNITY LEADER “As a Moro from Mindanao, I dream to see a future progressive country wherein its people live harmoniously in peace and no one will leave his family to go abroad for financial needs.” A proud member of the Maranao community, Sahron Roy Tamano carries the resilient and majestic spirit of Mindanao wherever he goes. This is the torch that has illuminated his path all throughout his journey in the Middle East. Powered by a formidable background in HR, Roy spearheads many community events in the UAE, all designed to foster a sense of unity amongst Filipinos, especially amongst the Muslim OFW’s. Having launched many charitable projects in 2016, Roy emphasizes how faith in God is fundamental: “At times, people go after the ‘perfect life’ – which is an impossible task. Every human being has the ability to define his own contentment as to what extent. Through all of my challenges, my faith with the oneness of God, Allah has kept me stronger and thankful. My faith and my strong family life are my two most prized possessions. These are my biggest blessings this year, and for every year hereon.” His advice to his fellow fellow OFWs: “UAE is a consistent top destination for both tourists and workers, with first-class infrastructure that makes everything easy for the working expatriate. As migrant workers and guests of this noble nation, we should do our part in maintaining the strength of the society by being excellent at our jobs – approaching them with utmost care and dedication.” ILLUSTRADO 75



Athletes, educators, and wonder women Rica and Divine are two of the most sought-after and respected professionals in the fitness industry in the UAE. Each armed with their own individual track record of successes in the Gulf and in the Philippines, they have combined their decades of experience to form their own company this year, Dynamic Duo Inc., which aims to promote fitness, health, and wellness through group classes, personal training, events, certification courses or workshops, and management consultancy.

FITNESS EXPERTS Despite being at the pinnacle of their careers, Rica and Divine are never the type to rest on their laurels. Of what keeps them going after years of continuous triumphs and accolades, Rica says: “We stay on top of our game through constant learning. We try our best to keep updated with the trends in the fitness industry by attending fitness conventions and summits. We learn from our students as well, with every course or class we conduct. We have also been very blessed to be surrounded by like-minded people that have been very supportive and encouraging to us throughout all the years we have been in Dubai.” Divine offers a practical piece of advice to Filipinos who want to pursue a career in fitness: “Choose your leaders and mentors. Apart from being blessed to be at the right place and the right time to meet inspiring leaders, we seek them out. Be daring enough to admit you need help and acknowledge that there is a lot more to be discover out there.”




Top Pinoys coaching fitness enthusiasts towards their best form!

ALDRIN DE LA VEGA BODY COMBAT TRAINER, LES MILLS PRESENTER Being a Body Combat Trainer isn’t just a career choice for Aldrin Dela Vega- it’s a full-fledged lifestyle. As a Senior Group Exercise Manager for Fitness First and ambassador for Les Mills in the Middle East, Aldrin has been one of the most admired figures in the UAE’s fitness industry for over 11 years. Asked about what he considers his major accomplishment in 2016, Aldrin simply answered, “My major accomplishment doesn’t happen once a year; it happens every day.” His dedication, discipline, and passion for fitness education has earned him the respect of his peers and the loyalty of his students. “It is amazing to be involved with a company like Les Mills that aims to create life changing experiences through exercise. It’s all about getting people moving, inspiring them to maximize and enjoy their workout, and ultimately encouraging them to strive for a healthier lifestyle.” The journey which eventually led to where Aldrin is in his career today required immense dedication and patience, and he shows no signs of slowing down. To his fellow Filipinos, he has these fighting words: “Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you’ve come. Remember everything you have faced all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”




TASTE M A K E R S 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.



67 IZHCKA ZETA FASHION DESIGNER With a skilled eye for intricate and dramatic details, and a natural talent for the beautiful and grandiose, Izhcka Zeta has crafted a name for himself as one of the UAE’s most sought-after fashion designers. His sumptuous creations are the exclusive domain of the well-heeled from the UAE and the Middle East region, to the opulent set of Russia and the rest of Europe. Izhcka, who is not only known as a distinguished designer but also as a unique sartorial force in the local fashion scene, attests that the success he has today is the result of constant, unrelenting diligence. He elaborates: “I was a learner. I rarely slept at night without reading and practicing what I read. I asked how to do things. I researched on the trends and what the people in the Gulf desire for their weddings. I went into the tiring but rewarding field of detailed artistry, wherein every nook and corner of the dress has to be taken cared of, with no precious stone left unturned, as they say. I realized that when one makes no excuses, then quality shines through in whatever I create.” His former career as Art Director and Creative Designer for select shows on major networks in the Philippines was illustrious enough on its own, but Izhcka reiterates that it pales in comparison to the moment when he was granted Creative Directorship of the esteemed Emirati fashion house Jacy Kay Couture: “It was a complete validation of my hard work as a designer. It is a triumph in itself to be able to make one’s visions a reality.” Of his legacy, he professes: “I would love to be known as somebody who started with only dedication and hard work – someone who was able to hurdle difficulties and attain success despite overwhelming odds. I have nothing against inherited success, but I place more value on achievement that is gained through one’s own effort and discipline.” ILLUSTRADO 79



HARVEY CENIT FASHION DESIGNER Just over four years in the emirates, at a young age of 29 years old, and yet emerging designer Harvey Cenit is poised to carve a memorable name for himself within the country’s competitive fashion scene. More than just playing his cards right, Harvey’s got a winning formula for aesthetics that does not come naturally in a region where over-the-top lavishness, often meaning gaudiness, is more the norm than the exception. His style is that of balance – a delicate tightrope act between classic and contemporary, with one part extravagance, one part elegance, and all parts femininity. Armed with education in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines, Harvey has dressed beauty queens, brides and affluent clients including royals, as well as celebrities such as fellow Illustrado 100-lister actor Mercedes Cabral who’s dangerously low plunging neckline Harvey Cenit number caused a paparazzi commotion at the Venice Film Festival a few years ago. As the Head Designer of fashion house Al Arousa Al Aniqah leading a team of designers and artisans, Harvey notes how this year has been such a providential time in his career. “2016 has been the greatest year so far. And it may sound so cliché but it’s all because of the love I have for my craft and everything I do. Every day, I wake up excited to pick that pen up, and let my imagination wander. I treat every dress and gown I make as a work of art. So I make sure I always work hard and do my very best.” ILLUSTRADO 80


69 PHIO ENAJE FASHION DESIGNER Opening his own atelier and releasing his very first couture label, Enaje Couture, at the age of just twenty-five, Phio Enaje has forever been dressing his clients with awe-inspiring fashion masterpieces. Using his skills learnt from a background of Fashion merchandising and Brand management, Phio brings a fresh take to the world of bridal fashion as the Head Designer for Roxx. As he seeks more innovation, he broadens the business direction by providing pieces that range from couture to prêt a porter. Phio attests that despite going to design school, the lion’s share of what he knows today came from self-studies. He says, “Having Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel as teachers who have influenced my creative heart and mind has aided me in elevating my taste and critical eye in fashion.” Not only that, but Phio also reiterates that having the knowledge of classically great designs has allowed him to continually set the bar higher for his own work. He adds, “I’m not a fan of mediocrity.” Designing since the age of 16, all Phio wished for was to create beautiful dresses and to see his fantasies come to life. Only later on in his career did he realize that the true splendor of his job was seeing how his work makes a positive impact on the lives of his clients.




MICHAEL AMAZONA DEL MAR CASTING DIRECTOR OF FASHION FORWARD Michael Amazona Del Mar is the Casting Director of what is regarded by many as the single, most definitive platform for fashion in all of the Middle East: Dubai Fashion Forward. Having started out as a model booker, Michael slowly but surely found his way into the elite cabal of Dubai’s fashion intelligentsia, where he now sits as a production tour de force. He expounds: “In a crammed period of three weeks, it’s my job to be present in all the go-sees, plan & schedule all separate events, and coordinate everything without hitch nor fail.” Michael also takes great pride in having a hand in revolutionizing the standards of casting in the region’s modelling industry. He recalls, “In 2012, Bong Guerrero, CEO of Fashion Forward and someone whom I consider a great mentor, gave me a call and asked if I wanted to come on board his company as Casting Director. At the time, ‘Casting Director’ was not a real profession in Dubai, as models got their bookings directly from the clients. And when I took on the challenge, the tides shifted dramatically. The ‘small time model booker’ became the ‘client’ to all the major model agencies in Dubai and around the world.” Of the legacy he wishes to impart, Michael had this to say: “I would like to be remembered as the person who started the casting direction revolution in Dubai the person who standardized the Quality of Fashion Show Models across the board and established protocols by which model agencies now abide. ” Photo by: Rozen Antonio



71 ANN LLAGAS MODEL, ENTREPRENEUR Going beyond her fame as a leading figure in the Filipino modeling community in the Middle East, Anna Llagas has taken a leap of faith in 2016 by opening her own modeling agency – ‘ANNA Model Management’. With the keen intent of directing the public eye to undiscovered Pinoy talents in the region, her main objective above all else is to introduce a higher degree of cultural diversity to the region’s fashion industry. Recently gracing the cover of STYLE VIETNAM, Anna’s love for modeling stems from her love for fashion. Hence, it was exciting for her to transition into another facet of the industry: from modeling, to model management. 2016 has been a particularly trying year for Anna, as switching from a regular employee to the sole head of a business she now owns has had its highs and lows. However, in light of the many challenges she faces, Anna continues to strive in style, buoyed by the will to achieve her goals. Of what lays ahead for her and her business, Anna shares: “I want my modeling agency to succeed not only in this part of the world but also in Europe and Southeast Asia. I want to provide more work opportunities for my models, artists and talents.”




72 JESSIE TABLA Being part of this year’s Illustrado 100 came as a big shock to Jessie Tabla. As a makeup artist who is used to working behind the scenes, he never expects to be recognized for his work in any large scale – but his impressive body work has earned him the spotlight. This year, Jessie headed the makeup artist team for Vogue Fashion, organized by Vogue Italia Editorin-Chief Franca Soccani. He also did make-up for Gerard Butler, Frieda Pinto, and other celebrities. Of his achievements, Jessie testifies: “Hard work really pays off. I get the kind of jobs that I’ve been getting because I am always on my toes, learning new skills and expanding my talent.”

Widely considered as the Gulf ’s top beauty veteran, Bobby has a career that extends 36 years as one of the most admired make up artists in the Asia Pacific. Two years ago, he won the Asian Trend award for Make Up Artist Of The Year in Chengdu, China – proof positive of Bobby’s ability to transcend trends and stay relevant amidst the ever-evolving standards of beauty. Bobby elaborates: “They say experience is gold, but I’d say perseverance is platinum! I always push myself each time I do a project motivated not only by financial reward, but mostly by my love for the art of makeup and style. Passion ignites creativity. It is the impetus that propels us to greater heights. You don’t influence or rock the status quo with familiarity. You do so with a spirit of adventure and curiosity.”

Photo by: Rozen Antonio




If it’s true, what they say, that “Magic is in the makeup,” then these three gentlemen are the region’s most distinguished magicians.

They say that the best way to learn something is to learn it well enough to teach it. That is exactly what Valentino has done with makeup. As a regional makeup trainer for a professional makeup brand, Val is is at the helm of evolving the standards of beauty in the region. In his words: “Makeup is not just all about applying cosmetics to someone’s face. It’s an art form. You transfer good energy and creativity to someone, and its empowering.” He has always been passionate about the arts, having been obsessed with musical theater since childhood. Of the legacy he wishes to impart to the community, Val professes: “I exist and live for my art and passion. It’s the air that I breath. I’m very rebellious when it comes to my choice of art form, because it’s a personal space where I can unleash creativity and good energy. The connection between me and art is very strong. I’d die without it. And people can be prejudiced about my work – what matters is that I am happy with it.”



RADIO PERSONALITIES Not just another job. These radio jocks bring happiness to the masses over the airwaves.





Dubbed as the voice of the masses and Mr. Congeniality of the Filipino community in the UAE, Joselito Echivarria aka Bluebird is a senior presenter at TAG 91.1. Filipinos are so accustomed to him because of the familiarity and the “kabayan connection” they get everytime they tune in to his show “Gandang Umaga” during the morning commute. His trademark humor is a testament to how much he understands what makes the Filipinos tick. Bluebird says, “I’ve achieved the level of success that I have by initiating friendships among our kabayans and doing community-service oriented programs.”

One of the hosts of Tag 91.1’s breakfast show, “Gandang Umaga” and “Bandang Hapon”, Louie Da Costa is always set to brighten up the day of the listeners. She is a living inspiration to other Filipinos who struggle to make it in the cosmopolitan city of Dubai. She started as a traffic reporter in the Philippines before gaining experience in radio broadcast which eventually led her to become a primetime jock. In the UAE, Louie started as a freelancer before eventually landing the senior presenter role. Of the key to her success, Louise professes: “I suppose it’s all about staying humble; accepting that you don’t know everything and that you’re not that great. That way you’ll never be too complacent, you’re open to criticisms and learning, and will always allow yourself to grow.”


77 NATHALIA CERMINO aka CHIKAY of TAG 91.1 Radio Since she was 6 years old, Chikay always knew that she wanted to work in the media - and luckily for her, dreams do come true. Being a radio presenter for 10 years now, her voice is one of the most recognizable when you hear it on the airwaves. This familiar voice during midday doesn’t fail to catch the attention of listeners as she always tries to inject her uniqueness in her program “Chikahan Na”. She knows that forever is not such a thing in the radio industry so she wants to be remembered as someone who started young and made it big in the industry.




78 CHRISTOPHER LAWRENCE TRASMAÑO DANCER, BRAND AMBASSADOR A professional hip-hop dancer and choreographer, Christopher is one of the most sought after talents in the UAE. He is a trainer and choreographer to the stars like Aseel Omran and Abed el Fetah Grini and an ambassador to major brands like McQ by Alexander McQueen. But the huge breaks weren’t an instant playlist; he had to go through many bumps and offbeat tracks before he became who he is right now.

Passion and dedication to his work is noticeable in every move and step he creates and it is only fair to say that he is at par, or maybe even better than most talents from other countries who are here in UAE. Christopher says his Filipino values really helped him shape his craft. He says, “Pour your heart out on it. Always try to learn new ways to dance and be versatile and always be humble.”

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More than just an ambassador of brands, he is an ambassador if his Filipino heritage. Christopher explains: “I’ve always had the need to mention that I’m a pure blooded Filipino dance artist whenever I introduce myself and I can’t wait to go back to the Philippines and share the hip-hop culture.” He believes that achieving your dreams is helping others achieve theirs. He also wants to leave a legacy and let others know that he lived his life as meaningfully and as hiphop as possible.


79 TWISTED MARTINEZ HIP HOP ARTIST, ADVERTISING PROFESSIONAL Vinn Albert, more commonly known as Twisted, is a multi-award winning advertising professional who also happens to be an authority in the Middle East’s emerging Filipino hip hop community. An artist by heart with a 20-year track record of success in the advertising industry, Twisted uses his creativity, ingenuity, and good ol’ fashioned Pinoy “tiyaga” in nurturing the hip hop movement in the UAE, putting Filipino talents in the spotlight at every possible opportunity. In 2016, Twisted starred in and penned the jingle for a Du TV commercial, which was shortlisted at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for Music. Together with his contemporaries, he celebrated the 1st year anniversary of Bar4Battle – a Filipino hip hop collective that he helped establish. His advice to his fellow kabayans: “Don’t underestimate your capabilities. Never take small things for granted. And most importantly don’t do drugs!” And of the legacy that he wishes to impart, he says, “I want to be recognized as a family man, an artist, hip hop by heart and soul, and a proud Pinoy. I want to be remembered as a pioneer, a mentor and a legendary MC that helped guide the Filipino hip hop community into have common spot where they could showcase their talents.” ILLUSTRADO 89



CROMWELL OJEDA ARTIST & MUSICIAN “A regular kabayan who is passionate on promoting original Filipino music, a struggling artist, and a fan and forever student of music.” This is how musician Cromwell Ojeda wants to be known and remembered for. But with his relentless dedication and long list of achievements, one would be hard-pressed to put Cromwell anywhere near the word “regular.” In addition to having a day job as a design specialist and being a working musician, Cromwell is the founder of Blacksheep Production – a non-profit production group and artists’ collective that provides platform for progressive Filipino musicians and artists in the UAE who want to take their craft to the highest level. This year, Cromwell led the launch of Blacksheep Production’s newest department, Blacksheep Records, which recently released two amazing records from Dubai-based Filipino bands, Verdad and We Left As Humans. As part of the indie electro and synth-pop group Muhaisnah Four, Cromwell was amongst the few artists in the Middle East who were chosen to participate in the Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp in Dubai. His words of wisdom for his fellow kabayan musicians: “If youre going to do it, put your 100% heart, mind, and soul into it. Practice even though you’re not playing any gig. Keep on creating new music. Write your own song. It doesn’t have to be great – strive for at the very least, something you can call your own. Don’t’ focus on playing the same cover song again and again. Madaling mag banda pero mahirap maging musikero.”



81 WYWY BAND The Middle East teems with talented Filipino musicians, but every once in a while, an act rises above the crop and proves to be of a different, more transcendent and audacious sort of mettle. Case in point: WYWY. Manned by the real life couple, Mckie & X, WYWY’s music is a compelling mix of electronica, synthpop, and torch singing, reminiscent of the 90’s stylings of Portishead and Bjork. There is nothing typical about it, especially in this day and age – which makes listening to it feel almost like an act of defiance. Of their triumphs in 2016, the duo says, “This year has been really good to us, as we were given opportunities to share our passion outside of the UAE. In June, we performed at ‘Fete dela Musique,’ which is quite a big annual music event in the Philippines. We performed in Poland, Singapore & US. Playing for audiences we are not familiar with compels us to expand creatively. Getting a lot of positive feedback from people inspires us to always improve and create our own sound.” WYWY has come a long way in pursuit of their sonic identity. Of their learnings, the duo attests: “You cannot impress everyone, so don’t try too hard to change for people to like you. Stay who you are and inspire them. Lesson is, ‘be who you are and don’t be afraid to try new things.’ We try to enjoy every minute of our performances and we keep telling our stories through our songs.”



Carl Jay




In the pulsating, Western culturedominated club scene of the UAE, Soniq stands as a uniquely Filipino voice – a group of young, musically gifted DJ’s on a quest to infuse the Middle East’s audio landscape with Pinoy soul. Having formed only 2 years ago, Soniq has quickly climbed the ranks of Dubai’s EDM intelligentsia, with gigs in renowned clubs such as Warehouse in Le Meridien Garhoud and Mint Leaf London. Of their swift rise to fame, Jay Carpio, one


of Soniq’s founding members, attests: “As a group, we have a learner’s mindset. We strive to get better everyday by sharing new ideas & techniques. We enjoy being mentored by other DJ’s that have been in the industry longer than we have. We believe that a positive and humble character is key to becoming great.” Soniq is Jay, Carl, Erix, Jedd, Mika, and Angela


83 PAULINE MORENOCRAIG DJ It ain’t easy being a female DJ – what’s even harder is being a female DJ who is a non-Western. But despite the odds, Pauline has emerged as a prominent figure in Dubai’s dynamic club scene, with gigs that put her at par with the most successful electronic dance music acts in the region. Hers is a story of sticking to one’s guns in pursuit of passion and recognition. Her list of achievements is certainly one for the books. Spinning since 2009, Pauline has played at the most prestigious venues in Dubai. In 2016, Pauline performed at major music festivals such as the DXBeach Festival, The Grass Festival and Corona Sunsets Festival. On top of her well-received gigs, she also signed a contract for her very own radio show at Dance FM 97.8, the UAE’s first dance music radio station. Of the legacy that she wishes to impart to the Filipino community, Pauline says, “I would love to be known as a person who constantly marches to the beat of her own drum. My advice to aspiring artists out there is to always follow your passion and be your unique self. Work hard and never let ego be the motivation to succeed.”



84 LAKSHMI RAMIREZ MUSICIAN, TEACHER Lakshmi is so into his art, he doesn’t just perform it – he teaches it. Moonlighting as a swing musician, Lakshmi teaches music at the The British School of Al Khubairat, and has been running his own Music Tutorial Programme called Trock & Roll. Lakshmi is a musician of such influence, it can be argued that he is the strongest force ushering in the return of swing music in the UAE – a genre of music that comes with its own fashion, dance, and lifestyle. He professes: “I have been so in love with the era from the 1920’s until the 1950’s that it has become my lifestyle. My passion for it led me to learn how to play the double bass in University of Sto. Tomas. From then on, I joined different groups that nurtured my love for the genre. Then when I moved to the UAE, I brought the same passion and formed The Swing Revue. It has been a pleasure working along with musicians from different countries.” Of his proudest moments, Lakshmi says, “I have quite a lot of proud moments in my life. As a family man, it’s performing on stage with my wife Angela and daughter Lila. As an educator, it’s seeing all of my students perform onstage confidently. As a musician, it’s performing locally and internationally with my bands and seeing audiences let loose and have a great time. I believe that it’s the musician’s role to bring happiness in the world. Tough job, I know – but somebody’s got to do it!”



85 ROLAN RODRIGUEZ VISUAL ARTIST & INSTIGATOR To paraphrase a certain pop star, “Art makes the people come together.” That’s exactly what Rollan’s art has been doing. His talent is so immense that it has become contagious – infecting those around him with an irrepressible spirit of creativity that compels them to do bigger, better things with their talent. He has built communities around his media, and has inspired movements towards a higher appreciation of Pinoy aesthetics. His career has certainly been exemplary: 10 years of experience in graphic design and advertising; instigator of The Brownmonkeys – a design collective that has taken Dubai’s art scene by storm; founder of Ape Collective – a graphic design studio that specializes in brand identity, illustration, art direction and event curation. Recently, Ape Collective held an exhibit at AlSerkal. Entitled “Byahe,” the exhibit drew inspiration from the hand-painted signage found mostly in the side streets and on public transportation in the Philippines, such as the iconic Jeepney. Through the elements of typography and design on signage, the artists of Ape Creative dared to examine how people connect through their stories, their travels and experiences. Of the highly successful, distinctly Pinoy exhibit, Rollan professes: ““The core inspiration for Byahe arose out of our interest in hand-painted signage and the traditional art of lettering. We wanted to explore this dying art and its connection to our own personal histories - a lot of us here in Dubai came from somewhere, and a lot of us are also moving about from place to place. We wanted to take out these unique elements from our own backyard and see how these signs would speak to people from different parts of the world, from different backgrounds and point of view.” ILLUSTRADO 95


86 CHOLO JUAN VISUAL ARTIST, ART CURATOR An individual who virtually lives and breathes art, Graphic Designer and curator Cholo has always been surrounded by creative minds. Starting off in his career as an Illustrator, including his collaboration with the famous Brownmonkeys, he has accomplished many noteworthy tasks since his venture into the realms of both commercial and fine art. In 2016, Cholo contributed his artwork to food writer Rosan Reodica’s “The Practicing Misis” cookbook, as well as participated in several commissioned events such as Live Art for Breast Cancer Awareness in Al Qasba, Sharjah, and during the celebration of the U.A.E.’s 45th National Day. He also conceptualized and co-curated a group art exhibition called “Our Minds, Our Playground.” As prolific as he is creative, Cholo continues to develop new, imaginative projects and installations, but in addition to his contributions to the local art scene, he strives to be recognized for his contributions to the Filipino community. A patriot at heart, Cholo attests: “I am always willing to contribute more to promoting Pinoy pride and represent the Filipinos abroad, voicing the fact that no limits should dissuade us from achieving our dreams.”



87 NATHANIEL ALAPIDE ARTIST We live in an age of digitized aesthetics, where art can be churned out quickly, and online platforms can ensure that it lives forever. Hence, it’s rare to find artists like Nathaniel Alapide who are still willing to utilize a medium as difficult and fleeting as sand. Working for the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Nathaniel uses his unique talent and resourcefulness to create breathtaking sand-drawn art and large scale murals on the beaches of Dubai. In addition to creating artworks upon request of VIP hotel guests, he hosts specialized classes on how individuals can tap into their inner creativity. Nathaniel credits his late grandmother Federica Alapide as his main source of inspiration. He recalls how his love affair with sand art began on the day he wanted to do something special for his grandma: “What I do now on sand started out as a tribute to my late ‘Lola.’ I created a massive tree for her on the beach as my way of letting her know how much she meant to me and my other siblings.” Since then, Nathaniel has evolved into one of the most recognized artists in the genre, until his work was recognized by Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Now, he resides in an artistic sweet spot where he gets paid to do what he loves. His advice to his fellow Filipinos: “Do more of the things that give you life, because our time here won’t last forever.”



It took about ten years of courage and practice for Rosan Reodica to finally realize that she was great at writing, and that she wanted to pursue it in some way. With an exciting career in the design and events industry, Rosan is grateful to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who espouse creativity with the same level of gusto as she does. She attests: “I have been put in a position to experience great opportunities to work and collaborate with the cream of the crop, along with being able to push for the inclusion of Filipino talents in events we organize, as we want to be a multicultural platform for artists.” Rosan is the author of a cookbook entitled “The Practicing Misis: Skills Muna Bago Feels.” It is a collection of recipes written in the font of self-love, her fondness for her family’s passion for cooking, and her wanting to be able to cook for her fiancée. Going beyond the usual cookbook format, Rosan injected her heart and soul into each recipe, writing it in the style of prose, poetry, and narrative. In the process of creating the book, Rosan realized that one’s development of knowledge is neverending. She expounds: “Aptly, as how I call myself ‘practicing,’ I realized that learning is continuous and circular, that one cannot be a master without being inspired by others and in turn work towards yourself.”


Still on a journey where she hopes to find more things to love and do in life, Rosan shares: “I would want to be known not as an author, or a food blogger, but THAT woman you can’t put your finger on to confirm what she is. I want to keep myself guessing what I am and what I can create next.”




89 DANABELLE GUTIERREZ POET Danabelle Gutierrez is the author of two critically acclaimed books of poetry: “I Long to Be The River,” published in June 2014, and “& Until The Dreams Come,” published in September 2015. Her readership extends from South East Asia all the way to the Middle East, with her books selling consistently with little to no active representation or marketing, proving that in the world of literature, one’s work truly speaks for itself. In 2016, Danabelle had the opportunity of performing her poetry in the Emirates Literature Festival, making her the only Filipino in the festival’s long and impressive lineup of wordsmiths. She considers the launch and exhibit of ‘& Until The Dreams Come’ at FN Designs Gallery in November of 2015 as her proudest moment. Danabelle says, “I’m proud of how the show and the book was received, but moreover, I am proud of how we were even able to do it at all.” A consummate writer, Danabelle puts her work above her own self-interests. She elaborates: “I hope the work is remembered more than me. I would love for people to recognize the work first of all and most of all. Then they can recognize, Danabelle, the writer, the persona, as a mere afterthought.



90 KRISTINE ABANTE WRI TER, SOCIAL ADVOCATE Backed with over 10 years of entertainment industry know-how, Kristine Abante heads the Sales and Marketing Department of Rhythm Records, a major distributor of music in the Middle East. And when she’s not busy marketing records, she works as a Freelance PR and contributing writer to various publications, including Illustrado and Illustrado Go. Kristine elaborates: “Steve Jobs once said that you can only connect the dots looking backwards. Although I’ve loved music all my life I’ve never really set out to pursue a career in Music or PR, it all just sort of fell into place because I followed my interests, one thing led to another and here I am.” Kristine is regarded as major force in promoting Filipino talents in the local music scene. This is despite the industry being predominantly male-driven. Of this challenge, she says: “I think coming to work every day being the only lady in a den of men or going into meetings where the decision makers would most often be men and still manage to get my voice heard and put forward solutions is always a proud moment.”

As someone who is a believer of social justice and helps with causes that genuinely matter to her, Kristine wants to be recognized as someone who dared to use her voice in making a difference, no matter the cause - but she still encourages levity. In her own words: “Learn to listen more and try to understand where others are coming from instead of just insisting on your own point of view. Know your worth and never compromise yourself. Take it easy and have fun. Life is so short!”




Kenneth has gone for every traveler’s dream scenario - that is, to quit one’s day job and make a living out of seeing the world. Of this transition, he attests: “Some people might not think of it that way, but being a nomadic traveler is challenging. Not knowing if I will be able to afford my next accommodation or if I’ll get some money to survive for the next month can be bitter sweet. But it’s still mostly sweet because you might be thinking about this while you are in an island staring at a majestic sunset.”

Before pursuing a career as a fulltime travel blogger, Kenneth worked as a senior interior designer and events production manager for 10 years in Dubai. He also handmakes and markets artisan leather journals called Surat Journals, which are available in the UAE, the Philippines and other parts of the world. This year, Kenneth was able to work with different tourism offices from around the world and, and was recognized by Huffington Post as one of the Top South


East Asian Influencers to Follow. He says, “I would like to see myself as someone who inspires young Filipinos to see the world out there. Sometimes we feel inferior as a race, and even if we have big dreams, we keep them only as dreams. I know many Filipinos dream of traveling, but are hindered by poverty mentality (and also the strength of our passport), but I hope that I can show them that one doesn’t need to be rich to feel rich in experience. ”


92 ION GONZAGA BLOGGER Ion is amongst the most prolific and truly relevant Filipino bloggers in UAE. As Boy Dubai, he is able to write about his experiences, share his most powerful life principles, and be the voice of many overseas Filipinos. In the OFW community, Ion covers the untapped areas he believes will inspire and empower his fellow expats to look at life abroad a little lighter. Most of the subjects he covers reflects happiness and fun in mostly simple ways. 2016 has been a transformative year for Ion. He was able to evolve his platform from a mere lifestyle blog into a true bastion of Filipino empowerment, covering topics that both inspire and challenge in an approachable, relatable manner. He believes that Filipinos can do far more than just eat out or go places to cope up homesickness. Ion convinces his readers to live and enjoy the present while still planning for the future. Understanding the full scale of his responsibility as a mass communicator, Ion operates under the principle that if something is to go viral, it should be positively influential. He ensures that his material is proactive and has a positive social impact to the readers and their circles. Changing lives, changing mindsets through the spiritual perspective, one blog post at a time.



93 PAUL RAMOS BLOGGER Paul Ramos’ sartorial style and sensibilities can be summed up in one word: Commitment. In the searing blaze of a Dubai summer afternoon, Paul can be seen walking the cosmopolitan concrete in full dapper suit and tie, his hair slicked to perfection, his shoes spic and shiny. This uncompromising devotion to fashion is at the core of Paul’s success as a blogger and has made him one of the UAE’s most sought-after brand ambassadors. This year, he was chosen to represent Huawei and Bachelor Shoes, and even led and hosted a flatlay photography workshop in the Mall of the Emirates, in collaboration with Harvey Nichols. Of his not-so secret to success, Paul attests: “Be yourself and put your heart in everything that you do. Be consistent and focus on things that you care and enjoy the most. Do what you love and love what you do.”



RYLE TUVIERA @thefiercewalker

BETTINA MICU www.bettina-micu.com Young, beautiful, and armed with a cleverness that belies her tender age, Bettina represents the future of fashion blogs in the Middle East. Her style mindset is decidedly practical and inclusive. She says, “Never judge! Even if I see an outfit that I know isn’t my style, or something I don’t immediately identify with, I always remind myself that we all have different tastes and ways of expressing ourselves, and I think that’s really cool!” She is the antithesis to the elite affectations of most fashion bloggers, speaking and writing with a calm and friendliness that keeps her relatable and relevant. Her advice to up and coming bloggers: “Find your own unique voice and create quality content- make everything you write mean something!” ILLUSTRADO 104

No one can represent the inimitable, totally captivating Ryle, The Fierce Walker, better than he can represent himself. Case in point: “What I do is slay the fashion scene of the UAE with my fierce attitude, which begins with me being authentic and real.” And slay them all, Ryle does. This year, he was able to work with well-known brands such as Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany & Co., and made campaigns for Birkenstock Aspinal of London, and Canon Middle East. Of his legacy, Ryle attests: “I would love it if people would remember me for being fabulous yet humble. My advice to my fellow Filipinos – stay grounded and always follow your dreams. Make sure that you’re not just trying to achieve a dream for the sake of having a purpose, but also for your family and those who are important to you.”




JOY CAASI www.thethrifttrip.com Joy Caasi is a digital marketing executive, and a rising star in the blogosphere. Joy compiles travel, lifestyle, food and even DIY ideas via bold, bright and punchy images. Many of her shots are fly-on-the-wall style. These photos give an honest insight into her unique style sensibilities, which are mostly centered around being fashionable whilst being cost-conscious. Her content is so fresh and fabulous that it won her an award for the Best Use Of Photography from a popular women’s magazine in the UAE. Oh, and she is hilarious too!

The new players in the region’s Filipino fashion intelligentsia.

KIER PASCUAL www.locloset.blogspot.com Kier Pascual is a social media specialist for a luxury 5-star hotel. He creates engaging visual content and takes charge of all the social media channels of the company. Having the skill-set to battle it out in the blogosphere, he started his own blog featuring his personal style. He has worked with local brands in the UAE and have extended his presence in the international community. A young chap with a good vision of the things he wants to do in life, his advice to others is: “If you think you are good at something, build a future out of it. Don’t be afraid to commit mistakes and definitely do not compare yourself to other people’s success. Find something that you love doing and always believe in yourself.” ILLUSTRADO 105


NINA PEÑALOSACARPIO www.smilelikenina.com Amidst Dubai’s ocean of social media personalities, Nina shines like a dazzling pearl – a truly chic and clever lady with an inimitable talent and passion for creating beautiful content, be it through her blog posts or Youtube videos. In her own words: “As a lifestyle blogger and vlogger I try to create content that highlights my daily life but is also significant to others. I do my best to share my travel adventures in my blog and youtube channel “SmilelikeNina” in hopes that it will encourage others to go and experience different countries and cultures. Additionally, I aim to motivate people to try healthy living by imparting neat tips on how to do it. Moreover, as a lover of fashion and beauty, I dish out the latest on new fashion trends and makeup as well.”


LOUISE MONIQUE SORIANO www.thelouisemonique.com Make-up artist. Beauty blogger. Brand ambassador. Triple-threat Louise Monique is a well-rounded beauty specialist who has the cleverness and marketing savvy to match her incredible talent. Propelled by her innate charm, plus her background as an advertising creative, Louise Monique has become one of the UAE’s go-to makeup artist, and a brand ambassador to popular international brands. Asked about the legacy she wishes to impart to community, Louise Monique’s message is that of sisterhood. She says, “I would love to be known as a woman who lifted up other women. I just want to help women actualize the power that they possess, which is their own beauty.”




TRACY LEY ORENCIO www.misstracyley12.blogspot.ae

Sassy and empowered makeup and style experts who redefine the standards of beauty in the region.

Starting from a humble obsession for all things make-up and skincare, Tracy Ley has become a true social media force of nature over the years. She has always emphasized how one can make a career out of what they love, if they have the willpower and the perseverance to do so. With her powerful online presence, Tracy continues to give pride to the Filipino community by presenting herself as a strong, empowered Pinay who is in control not only of her style, but of her destiny. She advices, “Dream big and work hard towards your goals, Support the people who support you and love the people who love you.�



96 JUNIE FRANCISCO SORSANO BLOGGER, SOCIAL MEDIA PERSONALITY Buoyed by the massive technological advancements of the recent decades, a lot of what happens in life today is accessible online. As the most predominant Filipino Vlogger in Dubai, YouTube personality Junie Francisco Sorsano is one step ahead of current trends with his videos sharing useful content and advice about his “Buhay sa Dubai” with fellow OFW’s. Junie is an inspiration to the community, representing the typical Juan Dela Cruz with great gusto and style. His vlog post, “Hindi Bobo Ang Mga OFW,” reached almost a million views on Facebook. With a formidable background in Social Media, Junie received several recognitions for his positive, infectious presence in the Internet. This year, he was featured in some of the most prominent Filipino publications in the UAE, and was awarded the Best Media Personality by the DDS Humanitarian Group, U.A.E. He even appeared in a TVC for a popular, UAE-based retail brand. Beyond Junie’s accomplishments, it is the genuine influence he has over the society through his online platforms that makes him such an important force in the community.

Knowing how different institutions have taken note of his efforts, and how Filipino students all over Dubai have used his vlogs as a basis of their projects and theses, Junie ensures that his every piece of content he puts out is armed with positive values. He says, “I want to serve as an inspiration for all OFW’s. Just as I took an extreme career shift to do what I love, I would like to encourage everyone to never stop dreaming.”





Reina V. Tejano, managing editor, and Janelle Vales-Yasay, Editor-in-Chief, are the power duo behind the successful multi-awarded blog “The Pink Tarha”, an online lifestyle guide in Saudi Arabia. They started their blog in 2009 and since then have inspired many people through showcasing the fun and interesting side of Riyadh. What started out as a hobby for the girls has gained so much positive

attention and appreciation in the process winning them the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Award. In this day and age where people constantly seek validation through social media, it is sometimes hard to determine the authenticity of a social media influencer; especially now when likes and followers are bought. Reina and Janelle ILLUSTRADO 109

who were featured in MBC in 2016 for their work, share that they were able to stay on track by keeping the quality of their work great. If there is anything substantial that they want their readers to take away from them, it is that: “We can’t always change the situation, but we can always change the way we look at things. And we hope we all see it from the bright, pink side.”


98 RICO “MICMASTER” MONDEJAR CARDONIGA MEDIA PERSONALITY Dubai is not really known as a celebrity city, but if there could only be one Filipino “artista” in town, it would be Rico, the “MicMaster.” Best known as the face of Day-To-Day, Rico is a prominent fixture in Dubai’s most well-attended Filipino community gatherings. His excellent diction, timing, and inimitable, Pinoy na Pinoy charm has made him the one most sought-after brand ambassadors and hosts for events. In 2016, Rico led the creation of the “OFW Dakilang Bayani Award,” which aims to recognize the passion and hardwork of Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East. He also created the Facebook page “Tatak Pinoy UAE,” which serves as an outlet for providing higher learning to OFWs through motivational and informative videos. On how he manages to stay relevant in the fast-paced communications landscape of the UAE, Rico professes: “For me to stay competitive, I programmed my own mind to always think that I’m at a disadvantage, position so that my burning desire to excel and learn more is always on its fever pitch. I’m always powered by my motivation to be at par with the best in the field.




With all the pessimism that lingers in our world at present, what we need are individuals who can lift the atmosphere and lessen the burdens we bear - and that’s precisely what comedian Boyet Sanchez chooses to do: “I never thought of how much income I would get from doing Stand-Up Comedy. It was more of the fact that I enjoy a lot seeing my audience almost crying because of the non-stop laughter I generated.”

Placing this sentiment at the top of his priority list, Boyet brought to life the first ever sing-along/comedy bar in the Middle East in 1996, at Sampaguita Club, Zakher Hotel, Abu Dhabi, and later in 2008, at the Comedy Junction, Al Mamzar, Dubai. More recently though, he has brought his business to the Comedy Junction in Doha with the mission of bringing solidarity, modernity and inter-cultural understanding.


As a Filipino who also suffers emotional distress and understands the sacrifices that OFW’s have to make for their families, he also realized whilst performing that no amount of money in life could parallel happiness; hence he regards bringing joy to the lives of Filipinos a matter of great honor. Boyet contentedly shares: “With or without the spotlight, I can say that I have helped our fellow OFWs in making their lives light and easy through my passion.”



Talent. Commitment. Community. Meet the Gulf’s most sought-after Filipino visual artists on social media.


HERALD HERRERA @heraldherrera Herald is an amazing visualist who has made a mark as community leader amongst the Filipino Instagrammers in the UAE. In addition to working with big brands such as Huwaei and BNP Paribas, he also regularly organizes Instameets in various locations across the emirates. But despite his fame, and the admiration that he gets from his peers, Herald keeps a humble head. He says, “Fame is something that everyone else seem to aim for that I don’t want to personally achieve. I just want people to leave the guy behind the camera alone and remember his work instead — that my photos have inspired other people to start their own journey and who’ve found themselves in photography, how my Instagram gallery became a reference of places in the UAE to visit away from the normal tourist track, and the emotions that my photos evoke in the hearts of the viewer.”

JEROME RAFAEL @jeromerafael Jerome Rafael is the Instagrammer’s Instagrammer – talented and consistent, but powered by a real sense of community leadership that allows him to be a paragon of unity amongst his peers. His background as a travel consultant comes in handy as he regularly organizes wellattended Instameets all over the UAE. His work is so exemplary that it has caught the eye of Dubai’s most prestigious brands and publications. His advice to his fellow Filipinos: “Engage yourself into something worthwhile, something that will define you as a person - it could be fitness and health, community service, music and art or just like what I am engaged to; photography. When you do, do it with pride and humility.”



MILLETTE SUAN @bubblymiles Millette always had a knack for story-telling. Over the years, her medium evolved from crayons, dance choreography, and now social media. With a penchant for writing about lifestyle in general, her Instagram feed revolves around her travels, food experience, and the occasional dabble in fashion. 2016 has been a phenomenal year for Millette, as her Instagram followers quickly grew to 16,000-strong, and with the launch of her blog, bubblymiles. com. Of the impact that she aims to have in her audience, Millete professes: “I hope that through my visual storytelling and writing, people out there would take notice of the various cuisines and travel sights on offer. I reckon it would bring a tear to my eye, if someone tells me that ‘this is the place BubblyMiles recommended and she was spot on.’ ”

DEBBIE FORTES @debbiefortes Everybody has #GridGoals. Everybody’s #GridGoals should be to “be like Debbie.” A photographer who has the innate talent to turn the most mundane of circumstances into arresting visuals, Debbie is one of the most followed Filipino Instagrammers in the UAE. In 2016, she took the leap of faith and decided to become a freelance photographer, full time. She recounts the challenges that she faced during the transition: “I nearly gave up and contemplated on going back to the Philippines. But I kept telling myself, “remember why you started.” This mantra always helps me in getting my mind back to my goal and focus on it until I reach it. After the summer season, the projects came in one after the other.” In August of 2016, she Debbie’s work was nominated in the Berlin-based EyeEm Awards in the Architecture Category. Although she did not win, she counts it as an honor to represent Filipino talent in such an immense, global platform.


PATRICK CALDITO @thatguynamedpatrick No need to beat around the bush when it comes to explaining what Patrick does. He says, ”All I’ve done is embrace what I really love. I chased my dreams, put it in my pocket, and walked with it into reality. You’ll never go wrong when you let your love lead the way. It always points you in the right direction.” And what a direction Patrick’s career has taken this year. Not only has his Instagram page grown leaps and bounds, he has had the pleasure of working with some of the Middle East’s most loved brands, such as Herschel, Toms, Daniel Wellington, and Call it Spring.

Profile for Illustrado Magazine

ILLUSTRADO 100_Dec Issue 2016  

NOTHING ELSE BUT PURE PINOY PRIDE. Very few talk about the Filipino’s pioneering spirit. And yet here we are, 11 million of us scattered al...

ILLUSTRADO 100_Dec Issue 2016  

NOTHING ELSE BUT PURE PINOY PRIDE. Very few talk about the Filipino’s pioneering spirit. And yet here we are, 11 million of us scattered al...