ILLUSTRADO Magazine Special 100 Issue 2015

Page 1



AN HOMAGE TO THE BEST OF THE BEST Illustrado salutes the Filipino trailblazers, tastemakers and thought leaders of the Gulf

For over four decades, the Filipino has made his presence felt in the Gulf Region. Early on as contract workers – petroleum industry employees, nurses and hospital personnel, service crew and hoteliers, retails staff, as well as domestic helpers. Humble cogs that have worked to help propel the great machinery of change and prosperity in the region. But as the Gulf has grown, not only in economic and socio-cultural importance, but also global significance, so too has the contribution and stature of the Filipino. Now, over two million expatriates from our fair archipelago, are spread out across the region - from the mountains of Abha to the boulevards of Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia; from Doha, Qatar’s Sports City to the financial district of Manama, Bahrain; from the petrochemical companies of Kuwait, to the hospitals and universities of Oman; and from Dubai’s glittering skyscrapers, its glamorous malls, and creative think-tanks at the Dubai Media City and D3, to the cultural centers, investment houses and the spectacular Yas Island of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. They are gaining ground in various fields – oil and gas, manufacturing and other industrial endeavors, architecture, construction, interior design, fashion, advertising and media, retail and other consumer industries, among others, stamping their own palpable presence. And this presence has gone beyond the workplace, spilling over to occupy an integral part in the region’s rich mosaic of multi-cultures.

Illustrado’s landmark 100th issue pays homage to the many men, women and groups who have not only made us proud as Filipinos, but who have also made an indelible mark in the region. These are the men and women who are pioneers, who have broken through glass ceilings, excelled in their fields opening doors of opportunities for our compatriots and have also risen to privileged positions of influence in their various niches. They are also the ones who have exceptionally contributed to our community, changing the lives of others for the better. With this issue, we also thank all those who have helped and supported us through the years, giving us the privilege to be active contributor towards empowerment in our community. To Team Illustrado and our family of contributors – writers, photographers, fashion crew members, bloggers, to Eros Goze for his amazing portraits featured in this issue, and to outgoing Ambassador Grace Relucio-Princesa who has always reminded us about the importance of chronicling the impact of our compatriots here in this country Maraming salamat po. Always and ever - Taas Noo, Filipino! Lalaine Chu-Benitez Editor-in-Chief

The Filipino has become an essentials co-contributor to this exciting melting pot that is the Gulf – participating in its color, diversity, eclecticism, as well as its ambitious drive for success. ILLUSTRADO 3





























































































CHAMPIONING THE WORLD CLASS FILIPINO PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Lalaine Chu-Benitez CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mon Benitez ASSOCIATE EDITOR Rav De Castro COLUMNISTS Aby Yap Alfred “Krip” Yuson Barney Almazar Bo Sanchez Francisco Colayco CONTRIBUTING WRITERS – UAE, PHILIPPINES, CANADA Mary Ann “Maps” Santos SWITZERLAND Nephele Kirong Angela Mapa Nikka Sarthou Anna Oposa Nina Terol-Zialcita Barbara Marchadesch P.A. Escalante Candice Lopez Quimpo Princes Nedamo Dante Gagelonia Quay Evano Didi Paterno Rache Hernandez Excel Dyquianco Regina Layug-Lucero Kara Santos Sherry Tenorio Mary Ann Marchadesch CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS – UAE, PHILIPPINES & USA Alex Calueng Eros Goze Cristina Linaza Raen Badua Rozen Antonio Irvin Rivera Herson Nebaya Jef Anog CONTRIBUTING FASHION CREW UAE, HONGKONG, PHILIPPINES Ginno Alducente Jessie Tabla Jojo Padua Valentino Montuerto Jasmin PUBLISHER – UAE Illustrado Communications FZ-LLC 2nd Floor, Building 2, Dubai Media City United Arab Emirates P.O. Box 72280 Office 20C Tel: +971 4 365 4543, 365 4547 Fax: +971 4 360 4771 E-mail: Web:, Facebook: Illustrado Magazine Twitter: Illustrado Magazine PRINTERS Printwell Printing LLC P.O. Box 18828 Dubai, UAE STOCK IMAGES (Unless otherwise specified) Copyright Illustrado Communications FZ-LLC 2006 – 2015 All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of Illustrado Communications FZ-LLC.



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Oman and Kuwait.




The Manifold PINOY By Krip Yuson

The state and stats of our modern-day diaspora stare us, and many other people in the world, very much in the face. Roughly a tenth of our population reside abroad. That’s about ten million Filipinos. We seem to be everywhere.

And abroad, while the Filipino is still often mistaken to be but a domestic if female and a seaman if male, many other roles have been filled as to help us escape such narrow profiling.

At sorry news of any catastrophe occurring in our planet, the question is whether any Pinoy is in the casualty list. We breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing of the irregular fortune that we’re not represented in the tragedy.

Long after mass migration early in the previous century filled Hawaii with our sugarcane field workers, California with farmhands and Alaska with salmon factory labor, many young Filipinos joined the US Navy as the predecessors of the modern-day seamen the world’s shippers trust so much today.

We have been called names, or spawned insulting terms — given our color and presumed characteristics, even to a brand of chocolates in a country that had colonized us. We expect no apologies. Not for that — “Filipinos” as a brand of sweets, brown on the outside, white inside. But when the Greeks use “Filipineza” as a synonym for domestic helpers, we do raise semi-official objection, albeit not to much avail. Yes, we have been stereotyped in Europe and the Midde East, mostly, even in parts of our own larger region of Asia. The taglines have turned into epithets that we then do our best to discard. From “Pearl of the Orient” thence “Showcase of democracy in Asia,” it became “the basket case of Asia.” That last has been turned around, to a certain degree, largely with thanks to the level of diaspora that translates into foreign currency remittances. Back home, middle-class villages sprout in former farmlands with such community gate tags or slogans as “Katas ng Saudi.” The OFW has for at least a decade provided the highest revenue for national coffers.


When we first went out to the rest of Asia, from the 1950s onwards, our musicians became the so-called “soul brothers” of the region. Eventually it became advertising and media professionals that sought employ in neighboring foreign cities, as writers, editors and creatives, from cartoonists to graphic designers, architects to landscape designers. It wasn’t until we neared the end of the millennium that the outbound traffic was dominated by domestic helpers, plus what were eventually also typecast as Japayuki. Then the exodus to the Middle East and Europe began, all the while that the continuing pursuit of the green card was conducted in Estados Unidos. Now we have many nurses in the U.K., au pairs all over Europe, all kinds of service personnel, office managers, engineers and construction workers in Dubai and the rest of the MidEast, doctors, educators and students in the USA, Canada and Australia, reputed economic migrants everywhere, from New Zealand to Greenland. We are least


Some of us who take local lore seriously might tend to agree: that the Pinoy usually has a mole in the sole that suggests a travel itch. We point out that Enrique, Magellan’s slave, was actually the first circumnavigator of the globe, since his wanderlust first took him from the Visayas to Malacca, from where he went on to complete the epic voyage by ship around the world. represented in Latin America, Russia, Mongolia, North Korea, and war-torn regions. Our yayas and caregivers are sought after, so that a fantasy future drives the imagination of our perceptive writers, the way Jessica Zafra often injects humor in the prospects of our eventual world domination. Indeed, it’s often been reported how kids growing up in Arabian royal families have been taught to eat adobo and other Pinoy cultural practices by their beloved Filipina yayas. In the rest of the world, especially the Western part, those who are more enlightened do go beyond the profiling and stereotyping by becoming aware that Filipinos aren’t only seamen, boxers or domestics, but that we have world champions in other sports other than Manny Pacquiao — today the best-known Filipino. They’ve heard of how Paeng Nepomuceno used to rule the bowling lanes, and how Efren “Bata” Reyes was “The Magician” over the pool table, and now, how our Filforeigners such as Jason Day and Jordan Clarkson have excelled in golf and NBA basketball, respectively. The culturally inclined and hip are familiar with the rest of our growing pantheon of world beaters, e.g. Cecile Licad and Lea Salonga, the techies about chip-maker Dado Banatao in Silicon Valley, the fashionistas of our lingerie and bag designers, and up-to-date Netizens of our outstanding heart surgeons, furniture artists, champion choir groups and Dragon Boat teams, and of how a Filipina is presently the master chef at the White House.


There is actually no end to excellence with competitive Filipinos. But of course the overwhelming perception is that we’re still a struggling Third-World country that has to send a tenth of our population abroad just to keep their families afloat. Only recently, our President verbalized the opinion that not all OFWs are driven desperately to work abroad. That for many, the prospects of doing so are simply an option for a different lifestyle. Some of us who take local lore seriously might tend to agree: that the Pinoy usually has a mole in the sole that suggests a travel itch. We point out that Enrique, Magellan’s slave, was actually the first circumnavigator of the globe, since his wanderlust first took him from the Visayas to Malacca, from where he went on to complete the epic voyage by ship around the world. In 2003, an 18-year-old Filipina student, Patricia Evangelista, emerged as the champion speaker from among over 60 competitors in the International Public Speaking Contest in London. Her five-minute speech championed the hopes, wishes, fantasies and vagaries of the Filipino. She also advanced the fanciful proposition that Filipinos may be said to be the modern-day Hobbits — adventurous and eager to leave the shire for experiences well beyond home, but also inclined to come back to share all the wealth of discovered learning. Indeed, this could be so. And the world, for all its slimy parts, may well be said to be our oyster.













LAZERS 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.




AMBASSADOR GRACE RELUCIOPRINCESA She would refer to herself as the ‘Nanay’ of the Filipino community in the UAE, most importantly a servant leader - an Ambassador for God and country. She would coax audiences to sing-a-long with her ‘Ako Ay Pilipino’ and ‘Sino Ako’ every chance she would get at community gatherings. In her six year tour of duty here in the UAE, she has always tried to hammer the six F’s that Filipinos bring with them anywhere they are in the world, how Filipinos are like the abaca (strong, resilient and exceptional), and how we should always be ‘Taas Noo, Filipino’ and PinoyWise – lessons that have been imprinted on our heads through her many repetitions. For all her surprisingly unorthodox ways, and over and above whatever she has accomplished in the emirates to advance the welfare of Filipinos, the Ambassador who gives warm hugs and who sheds tears when she shares her own experiences at women’s empowerment meetings may have taught us some valuable lessons that go beyond typical diplomatic duty. Outgoing Ambassador Grace RelucioPrincesa the first female Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Head of Post since 2010 shares, “My dream before I came to the emirates is a spiritual one - to glorify God by helping Filipinos to realize their natural human and cultural wealth.” She continues, “How did we make a difference? Through reaching out and establishing relationships of hope and love. Making connections through relationships and communicating the issues. ‘Washing the feet of the poor’ teaching financial literacy through the PinoyWise campaign – for which we are the only model, the biggest champion of this project in the whole world. We are now also proudly one of the Top 5 countries for Overseas Absentee Voting registrations. These are all part of the bayanihan way.” ILLUSTRADO 24

Among the work she has done in the UAE, one achievement the Ambassador is fiercely proud of is being able to ‘rekindle the bayanihan spirit’ within the community, “Collective heroism for a common cause is important for us. It is an essential part of good governance.” Looking back at her UAE-stint she reflects, “A model of servant leadership touches the hearts and souls of the Filipinos. Love and friendship works. Love begets love. It

works. And if it works in our community, perhaps it can also work in an even bigger scale.” Indeed, the Ambassador who has felt more like a mother and teacher to our community of kababayans has always been onto something special. The ‘Nanay’ of the Filipinos in the UAE will certainly be missed.



PHILIPPINE EMBASSY UAE It would be an understatement of epic proportions to say that the the Philippine Embassy in the UAE is one of the busiest sattelite offices of the Philippine government. There is close to a million Filipinos in all of the UAE, and the Philippine Embassy is there to address the entire length and breadth of their concerns, from consular services to labor issues, social welfare to cultural upliftment. The Embassy collaborates with over 51 professional and non-professional groups in pushing for government

initiatives that serve the interests of UAE-based OFW’s, as well cater to the needs of OFW families and communities back home. “I remember when Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013, I was in-charge of monitoring the situation and coordinated with the FilCom here in Abu Dhabi by providing them advisories,” says Vice Consul Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil. “I coordinated with groups who wanted to extend assistance. I also had to constantly communicate with the Department for those Filipinos in Abu Dhabi who were trying to reach out to their families in the affected areas.” The Philippine Embassy also works on assisting Filipinas who are undocumented and are temporarily staying in the Embassy’s MWOFRC (Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos Resource Center). “It is always very rewarding whenever we are able to arrange their repatriation back to the Philippines and be with their

families,” Vice Consul Daquipil adds. “I sometimes receive a letter from some we have assisted and this touches my heart. I sometimes get messages on Facebook from those we have repatriated saying that they are very thankful for all our assistance.” The Philippine Embassy in the UAE led by outgoing Ambassador Grace Relucio Princesa, Consul Maria Roseny Fangco and Vice Consul Rowena Daquipil, with incoming Ambassador Constancio Vingno Jr. joining soon as the new Head of Post, maintains strong and active relations with key Filipino community groups, often calling upon their support to promote and energize various activities and causes designed to foster the spirit of unity and camaraderie amongst the Filipinos in the UAE. Media relations also figure highly in the Embassy’s list of priorities, as it is a powerful tool in reaching out to Filipinos scattered all across the seven emirates. ILLUSTRADO 25



CONSUL GENERAL PAUL RAYMUND CORTES It isn’t easy being the Philippine ConsulGeneral – and it sure is doubly more difficult when you are assigned to one of the busiest, most demanding OFW epicenters in the world. Filipinos in the UAE number at close to 1 million, and an estimated 450,000 of them are concentrated in Dubai and the Northern Emirates; the area of responsibility of Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes. Of the gravitas of his responsibility, he says, “Dubai’s reputation as a challenging post among us in the Philippine foreign service has been reinforced by several of my colleagues who have been fortunate to have Dubai as a posting. The large community and the volume of work does make others wince and look the other way when it comes to the prospect of being assigned here. Add to that the comparatively bigger personnel complement we have here. Personnel Management becomes a daily learning exercise.” Administrative duties aside, the Consul General also considers community building as part of his priorities, seeing the need to reinforce the government’s involvement with OFWs in the region. “I would like to be engaged with community affairs and be a part of the Filipinos’ lives in the UAE,” he says. “I also believe that when Filipinos feel good about themselves, when they become more confident of who they are, and what they are able to contribute to the global community, we gain the respect of the international community and other peoples and we are able to instill a deeper sense of pride among ourselves.” ILLUSTRADO 26

Filipinos are sometimes notorious for

beyond their sphere of influence – their

being clannish and working in silos, moved

family, their immediate neighborhood,

by the tendency of “kanya-kanya”or “tayo-

their small community, and at most

tayo lang.” Philippine Consul General

their region. We’ve been told by many

Paul Raymund Cortes emphasizes on the

political analysts and many sociologists

need to bring the many OFW community

that perhaps what is still to be nurtured

groups in the UAE together under the

is our capability of thinking as a country,

banner of advancing national interest.

as a united people, defined by over 100

He says, “Many Filipinos tend to perceive

languages and dialects. That we will think

their interests as only within the confines

of Philippine interests in terms of a nation

of their most immediate concentric circle

should be forthcoming and something I eagerly look forward to.”




truly monumental task, as there are more

easy fix and there is still and will always be

than 450,000 Filipinos living in Dubai,

room for improvement.”

each with their own catalog of legal and Consular concerns. “Being placed

PCG Dubai has always maintained a culture

in charge of the Consular section was

of transparency and responsiveness to the

indeed a challenge as there were – and

concerns of its clients, hence they place

there still are - constraints in the number

great emphasis on keeping the lines of

of personnel as well as equipment to

communication open for feedback. The

adequately service the number of clients

Deputy Consul General says, “I’ve always

coming to the Consulate,” says Deputy

maintained the view that one does not

Consul General Giovanni Endencia Palec

have a monopoly of good ideas so one

who is supported by Consul Ferdinand

ought to welcome other perspectives on

Flores and Consul Ryan Pondoc. “The

how to improve the process or system.”

matter and mode of providing efficient and

The Consulate General of the Republic

friendly services to our clientele remains

The Consulate General is currently

of the Philippines in Dubai and Northern

a top priotrity for us as it constantly

reviewing plans for the improvement of its

Emirates was established in 2004 to

entails reviewing procedures and making

operational infrastracture, in line with its

provide Consular services to the Filipino

changes to ensure that we are serving our

relentless focus on catering to the needs

Community residing in Dubai and the

kababayans in the smoothest and timeliest

of its stakeholders in a timely and efficient

Northern Emirates of the UAE. This is a

way possible. It is not and will not be an

manner. ILLUSTRADO 27



POLO OWWA DUBAI One of the 36 overseas operating units of the Department of Labor And Employment, POLO Dubai functions as

an employment facilitation and welfare protection entity. “We evaluate and verify employment documents to protect job seekers from unscrupulous recruiters and bad employers,” says Labor Attaché Delmer Cruz, Head of POLO supported


by Assistant Labor Attaché Venus Abad.

POLO was also among the first to

He furthers, “Once on-site, workers are

implement the Balik Manggagawa online

extended direct services like welfare and

appointment system which eliminated

repatriation assistance, OEC and OWWA

the long queues of OEC applicants. In

membership issuance, among others.

recognition of its pioneering efforts, POLO

Then we help the OFW’s prepare for their

Dubai was cited by the Secretary of Labor

eventual return and reintegration into the

as the best POLO contingent in December

Philippine society through the various

of 2014. “We are always mindful of the

skills and livelihood training activities that

welfare of overseas Filipinos, and we do

we conduct.”

all that is required to protect, uphold, and promote their interests, such as assisting

POLO Dubai is keenly focused on service

distressed workers, helping employers

improvement, and expanding and

with their manpower requirements,

enhancing their training programs. The

empowering workers through upskilling

organization started the on-site awarding

and financial literacy courses, providing

of livelihood starter kits for distressed

livelihood and other capacity-building

workers and piloted the on-site skills

programs, and developing friendships

assessment and certification program.

in the community.,” says Labor Attache

Soon they will be the first TESDA-

Delmer Cruz. “The experience is indeed

accredited assessment center abroad.

challenging but if you love your job, it is fulfilling at the same time.”




When His Excellency Ambassador Narciso

in those fields in Oman are taken care

Castaneda took the position as Head of

of. The Philippine Overseas Labor Office

Post at the Philippine Embassy in Oman,

(POLO) which is part of the Embassy and

his objectives included enhancing the

handles labor contracts, OEC’s, labor

cordial relations between the Philippines

disputes, provides skills training for

and Oman based on the three pillars of

distressed Filipinos, operates a Filipino

Philippine Foreign Policy: preservation

Workers Resource Center (FWRC) and

and enhancement of national security,

other functional departments.”

promotion and attainment of economic security and the protection of the rights

He desires to expand the economic

and promotion of the welfare and interest

relations between both countries and

of Filipinos overseas. “We have a very

ensure that the needs and concerns of

good team which specifically addresses

the Filipinos in Oman are attended to. He

the various concerns of the Embassy,” he

describes his leadership skills as leading

says. “The consular section which handles

and setting by example.

passports, visa and other documents, the ATN section which handles OFW’s

His message to the Filipinos in Oman:

in distress, the economic and cultural

“Work hard, respect the laws of our host

sections which see to it that our relations

country and be proud of being a Filipino,” he says. ILLUSTRADO 29




To Ambassador Villa, President Benigno

what it feels like to be an Overseas Filipino

Aquino III’s mandate is clear as day:

worker. He held a post in Saudi Arabia as

advance the national interest of the

technical writer before moving on to work

Philippines, and reinforce the country’s

with the Department of Foreign Affairs. He

bilateral relations with Kuwait. But upon

was an OFW before he had to represent

assuming his post in June of 2015, he

the OFW’s as an ambassador. This gives

discovered the need to brace the OFW

him valuable insights on the true plight of

community itself by building stronger

Filipinos abroad, and informs his decisions

ties between the many organizations

on how to better serve their interests.

and social factions that dilute the unity of Filipino population in Kuwait. He also

His tour of duty took him to countries that

saw the need for an enhanced focus on

were predominantly Islamic – UAE, Jordan,

attending to Filipino welfare, so he is

Malaysia. And now as the Philippine

adopting an “open-door” policy for the

Ambassador to Kuwait, he is able to use

Embassy, which will give the kababayans

his on-ground experience of OFW concerns

in Kuwait a bigger platform from which

and formidable wealth of knowledge of

they could express their needs and

the Islamic culture to implement crucial

concerns to the Government.

reforms in the Embassy.





beneficial ties between the Philippines

legal and operational constraints, but

personally with the Filipino community,

and Bahrain,” he says. “This includes

Ambassador Ver believes that these propel

oftentimes mingling directly with the

new initiatives in expanding Philippine-

them to work even harder. “I am glad that

clients at the Embassy and helping out any

Bahrain economic relations, fostering

in the face of these challenges, I have a

way he can to get a first-hand assessment

greater exchange and cooperation in trade

team composed of members ready and

of what they think and feel. Early in his

investments, tourism, as well as cultural

willing to help each other out towards our

post in Bahrain, he sensed a renewed

and educational exchanges. At the same

shared vision and commitment to serve

vigour and enthusiasm from both the

time we shall continuously strive to do

the Filipinos in Bahrain.”

Embassy team and the Filipino community,

our best to respond to the needs of the

brought about by the exciting new level

Filipino community in Bahrain – from

His message to the Filipino community:

of collaboration between Bahrain and the

rendering efficient consular services to the

“We in the Embassy stand as your

Philippines. This included the amnesty

promotion of their welfare and protection

partners and will remain committed to the

program implemented by the Bahrain

of their rights.”

protection of your interests and rights as you try to do your best day-in-and-day out

government and a campaign designed to showcase Philippine culture. “I look

These programs, of course, are not without

to achieve all the hopes and dreams for

forward to expanding and strengthening

its share of challenges. The Embassy often

yourselves and your families back home.”

all aspects of relations and mutually-

has to contend with limited budgets and



their work. However, I intend to conduct additional training seminars as well as team-building activities for their continued professional growth.” During his tenure, he has implemented some reforms in the Embassy that have turned out to be operational gamechangers- rotating the personnel to man our service counters from 12 noon to 1pm and thus allowing them to provide “continuous” services to the public, ordering the placement of truncheons and sign posts indicating the different kind of consular services provided for the guidance of the public, instructing his staff to convert one office room into a receiving




room which they named Sentro Rizal, organizing the establishment of Kulinarya As the new Philippine Ambassador to

Qatar which is a movement composed of

the State of Qatar, the objectives of

Filipino restaurant owners, key community

Ambassador Wilfredo Santos are threefold:

leaders, and Embassy representatives,

to strengthen bilateral relations with

and reaching the target of 16,000 new

the host country; to promote economic

registrants for the May 2016 national

diplomacy through the enhancement of

elections. “While I may be ‘hands on’ when

the image of the Philippines as a leading

I need to get things done quickly, I also

tourist, business and trade destination in

delegate my tasks to allow my personnel,

Asia and in the world, and to improve the

particularly my officers and senior staff,

efficiency in the delivery of the consular

to decide on their own and thus become

services to the public, including the

good leaders themselves,” he says.

handling of assistance to nationals cases. “Right now, the challenge for me is to

His future plans include the strengthening

bring this large group together under

of bilateral relations through the signing

the One-Country Team approach and to

of agreements that would enhance the

be on the same page with what I intend

ties, increasing exchanges and high level

to accomplish during my tour of duty

visits between the two countries in various

in Qatar,” he says. “So far, I am pleased

areas, and bringing more trade and

with their performance and dedication to

investment to the Philippines.



CHARGE D’ AFFAIRES, EN PIED PHILIPPINE EMBASSY LIBYA It takes a rare breed of man to actually go willingly into a warzone to facilitate the rescue of others. Ambassador Adelio Cruz is one of those exceptional few. He has dodged bullets, been held at gunpoint, lived in challenging conditions, while providing leadership to a Filipino community located in one of the most politically-tense environs in the region. The Philippine Ambassador to wartorn Libya – based in Tripoli, he arrived in the country in 2014 as Head of the Philippines’ Rapid Response Team (RRT) composed of different government branches including the Department of Interior and Local GovernmentPhilippine National Police (DILG-PNP), the Department of Labor and Employment

Ambassador Cruz, a well-loved figure who

furthers, “The continued success of our

served for four years in the emirates as

repatriation is due mainly to the team

former Consul General at the Philippine

effort from my colleagues at the Embassy.

Embassy in Abu Dhabi reflects on

We also have the full support of the DFA,

his experiences and shares, “Retired

DOLE, OWWA and the POEA.”

Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, my former boss in Abu Dhabi once said, ‘In

Asked how he was able to take such a post

any organization, you are only as strong

that puts his personal safety at risk, he

as your weakest link.’ As soon as I arrived

says, “I am sure the rest of my colleagues

in Libya, I hit the ground running. My

share the same sentiment when I say

learning curve about the country’s history

our families constantly worry about our

and ongoing internal conflict went vertical.

safety.” He adds, “But in life, there are

I was blessed because my RRT colleagues,

few occasions when civil servants are

who remained in the country until the

given the rare honor and privilege to serve

end of 2014 were instrumental in helping

their country and their fellowmen under

Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

the Embassy plan, organize and mobilize

‘very challenging’ conditions. Ensuring

multiple repatriations throughout Libya,

the safety and welfare of our kababayans

To date, the Embassy has repatriated

often in the line of fire or possible harm

abroad, after all, is one of the three pillars

while rescuing Filipinos in distress.” He

of the Philippine Foreign Service

(DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). His main responsibility is to lead the safe and efficient repatriation of Filipinos from the country. As Head of Post, he is also tasked to continue to enhance bilateral relations with Libya and seven other countries namely, Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania,

5,498 Filipinos. Approximately 3,119 still remain in the country.





Nowhere is the special role and capacity of women in facilitating cross-cultural understanding more apparent than in the case of the group FLAG (Filipino Ladies Association for Growth). Composed of the Diplomatic Ladies of the Philippine Consulate General of Dubai & the Northern Emirates, and supported by a select group of prominent Filipina leaders, FLAG was founded by Mme Lu Cimafranca – wife of former Phil Consul General Head Hon. Frank Cimafranca in 2014, and is now lead by Mme Yasmin Balajadia-Cortes wife of current PCG Consul General Hon. Paul Raymund Cortes. Mme. Cortes explains, “FLAG’s main objective is to enhance the role of Filipino ladies in the UAE through active participation in community events. It focuses on women empowerment and the advancement and the promotion of Philippine culture. We hope to raise awareness among the various ethnic communities in the UAE about what the Filipina woman can contribute and achieve in this country’s multicultural landscape.”



Speaking on the special role of women

“We will be working on the Filipiniana

in the community, particularly the

Ball which we hope could showcase

contribution that diplomatic spouses

the uniqueness of Filipino fashion and

bring to the table, Mme Cortes elucidates,

highlight the renowned creativity that

“Spouses provide the foundation for

have produced superb talents like Michael

diplomats to keep grounded especially

Cinco, Furne One, and Ezra Santos. We

when the world of diplomacy and consular

also hope to plan more activities in the

issues gets rough. In addition, we

next couple of months.” She also adds

complement their work plans most often

that FLAG will also pursue worthwhile

in socials and cultural events. There are

advocacies back home especially those

many instances where the informal and

related to disaster relief and support for

back channels work more effectively than

less-privileged children.

the formal and official route and this is where the spouses play a decisive and

“We are excited to work with everyone

crucial role.”

here most especially in projects that would uplift the image of the Filipino in

Last year, FLAG spearheaded the Terno

the emirates. Rest assured, I will continue

Ball in the UAE which brought Filipino

playing an active role in ensuring that our

trailblazers and the diplomatic community

women are empowered and confident of

together. The group has also provided

what they could contribute in this part of

support to some charity organizations.

the world,” she concludes.


Continuing on, Mme Cortes shares,




ARCHITECT MEDARDO CADIZ ARCHITECT PAR EXCELLENCE A lover of architecture since childhood, Medardo is the founder and CEO of Cadiz International Architects – an award-winning design firm with over 100 employees stationed in headquarters in Dubai, Seattle, and Manila, and a running portfolio of


projects and master community develop-

projects with them as business partners

ments spread across 16 countries includ-

rather than just a one-time vendor archi-

ing the Bur Juman Centre, award winning


Al Hamra Mall, Manar Mall and Old Town District in Ras Al Khaimah, Lakeside Resi-

Through competing with other interna-

dence in Jumeirah Lakes, among others.

tional design firms, Medardo has learned that that clients appreciate and respect

Of the firm’s success, Medardo exclaims,

good work based on one’s ability, and not

“With imagination, purpose and courage,

nationality. He takes great pride in Cadiz

we connect well with people we serve

International’s pool of talents, who con-

and work with, especially the clients and

tinue to impress and nurture the loyalty of

the end-users of the places we create. It

clients with their outstanding design and

brings us great pride and joy to see our

service. Medardo adds, “By virtue of rep-

creations well-used, visited and success-

resenting the creative nature of Filipinos

ful. To that end, the best rewards come

through our company, we feel proud that

from the community acknowledging our

in our own small way, we help uplift the

work. But best of all, we most feel fulfilled

reputation of the Filipino professionals in

and rewarded when we are able to es-

the UAE.”

tablish a long-term relationship with our clients, enabling us to create many more



NICK NADAL THE MASTER STRATEGIST Nick Nadal is quite possibly the single most important voice in the subject of Corporate Governance in the UAE, but you will never hear this from him. Ask him about his achievements and all you will likely get is a coy smile and a suave invitation to a change of topic. Perhaps this is the most prudent course of action on his part, as his achievements can certainly speak for themselves: seven years as the Director of the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance, two years as Head of the Mudara Institute of Directors, and as of press time, Advisor for the Executive Council of the Government of Dubai. His work in the private and public sector has helped immensely in the formation of regional corporate governance policies that effectively consolidate the perspectives of internal and external stakeholders whilst keeping abreast of global best practices.





Over 30 years in the emirates and a string

Hayan victims, as well as the landmark

of prestigious employment taking her

premier performance of the Bayanihan

from hotel, to fashion business, then her

Dance Troup in the UAE under the

own entrepreneurial ventures has given

auspices of the Ministry of Culture.

Lucille the kind of enviable experience and leverage that anybody operating locally

Fierce and fabulous, Lucille Ong is a

could only wish for. Through her extensive

woman who symbolizes just what a Filipina

connections with the local government

can accomplish if given the freedom and

authorities, and as the former Chairman

the opportunity to spread her wings.

of the Philippine Business Council in Dubai

She has been a figurehead of the local

and the Northern Emirates, Lucille has

community and an entrepreneur who

been instrumental in facilitating various

continues to make her mark. Her latest

Filipino community projects in the past

venture is an indoor and outdoor plant

- spearheading the organization of the

and maintenance provider for corporate

Philippine Pavillion since 2001, Hakbang

clients. Now, her very own Design

Buhay fundraising events for Ondoy and

Unlimited serves an impressive list of the clients in the country including five star hotels and banks.




JOVY TUANO CONSUMMATE BUSINESS MAN “Discover your own talent and enterprise. Discern your God-given mission in life by connecting the dots of your life from childhood until today. “ Founder and Former Chairman of the Philippine Business Council in Abu Dhabi Jovy Tuaňo is a true leader making an indelible mark in the community and the industry. He set up Asia Gulf Trading in early 2004 as a LLC importing Philippine contract furniture for the hospitality industry in Kuwait, Bahrain and UAE. As a CPA and licensed real estate practitioner, Jovy has also recently assumed leadership of Megaworld International for the Middle East, India and Africa as AVP for Sales. Add to that, is the launch of La Comida Express Gourmet Restaurant and a line of gourmet Filipino food which he has created with his wife, Janet, that is set to hit retail stores across the emirates this year. More than being a businessman, he is also a community leader whose formidable leadership has allowed the PBC Abu Dhabi to go from strength to strength. So what else is there to do for Jovy? “We are now entering the advent of the Filipino Age. Coming soon in the Middle East as my major project in 2016,” he shares. “The Filipino Age is going to be the 1st Summit of Filipino Businessmen, Entrepreneurs and Professionals with the objective of building a Filipino business ecosystem and value chain to sustain the Filipino Age and Influence in the international community.”




PHILIPPINE BUSINESS COUNCIL DUBAI & NORTHERN EMIRATES With the mantra “Connecting People, Bridging Businesses” the Philippine Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates plays an integral role in bolstering the presence of Filipino businesses and assisting entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners in the UAE. The group is the only Filipino organization officially recognized by the Dubai government and licensed by the Dubai ILLUSTRADO 40

Chamber of Commerce and Industries. According to Chairman Bobbie Carella, “PBC is a platform, an avenue to promote and create an environment of active cooperation and goodwill amongst its members and the business community in Dubai, the Northern Emirates and the Philippines. Since we re-launched the group this year, we have come to define our role in the Filipino community as a repository of information – a knowledge distribution node. Another critical function of PBC is to act as ‘connector’ between Filipinos and other business communities in the UAE and beyond.” The PBC has spearheaded a number of projects in the past both educational, as well as in support to various Philippine-causes, the most prominent of which is the very successful Ateneo de Manila University Leadership and Entrepreneurship Programme (LSE) which is now in its third year. This year, the PBC has also started running seminars and workshops on management topics for the continued development of both entrepreneurs and professionals.

Set to celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2016, Bobbie shares that the group is gearing to facilitate a Regional Trade Show that will showcase industries from around the Philippines. She also adds, “Moving forward we would like to see PBC with a very healthy membership of committed and engaged individuals who will deliver. There is strength in numbers – we are now the 3rd biggest ethnic group in the emirates. Once we increase our membership size, with PBC acting as a collective overseeing body, this council will have the clout and be the vox populi of our community. Finally, we would also like to see more presence of big Philippine brands in the country.” The PBC Executive Committee consists of – Bobbie Carella (Chairman), Red Vargas (Vice Chairman), Eden Borja (Treasurer), Caloy Serrano and Marty Plumley (Membership), Lalaine Chu-Benitez (Marketing), Andy Minodin (Projects), Christine Gonzales and Leo Barrameda (Secretariat).


PHILIPPINE BUSINESS COUNCIL ABU DHABI Flying the flag of Filipino entrepreneurs in the capital is the Philippine Business Council of Abu Dhabi (PBC-AD), an organization composed of businessmen, entrepreneurs and professionals connected with local companies who share a common interest in developing local business, trade and investment between the Philippines and United Arab Emirates. Formed in 2003, the council’s objectives include – to provide a forum for exchange of knowledge and resources beneficial to the common business interest of its members, to establish a strong relationship with government agencies – the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, trade


associations and the international business community with the purpose of developing bilateral trade, investment and tourism, to encourage Philippine companies and entrepreneurs to establish operations in the UAE, and to promote entrepreneurship amongst Filipinos in Abu Dhabi With the favorable endorsement of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, PBC-AD was granted full membership by the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) in March 2004. The Council has also received its commercial license to operate from the Abu Dhabi Municipality in order to implement its program and activities. In furthering the council’s aspirations, the group holds events for Filipino entrepreneurs and professionals in the capital. Chairman Agnes Aquino-Briggs explains, “We have a monthly ‘Kapihan,’ a casual gathering where we exchange knowledge on issues related to the council’s objectives. During this event, we also invite resource speakers to give talks on relevant topics such as - setting up business in the UAE, labor and business law, etc. We also give an opportunity to individual and corporate members to share their success stories so everybody can learn from their

experiences.” She added, “We also hold a lively cocktail event called ‘BizzTalk’ where we invite members as well as officers of the Philippine Embassy and the DTI, as well as friends and potential members with the goal of promoting newly set-up businesses to the Filipino community. Other social and business events are organized with the participation of corporate members to help promote, and connect them to local companies and the general market.” The PBC-AD hopes to espouse even more meaningful projects in the future and to reach out to all the professional Filipino organizations in order to collaborate on projects for the continued empowerment of Filipinos in UAE. The PBC AD’s Executive Committee members include - Agnes Aquino-Briggs (Chairman), Vicky Mikkelsen (Vice Chairman), Atty. Barney Almazar (Corp. Secretary), H.E. Hussain Al Nowais (Honorary Chairman), Gay Marie Jumuad (Exec. Dir.), Richard Haddad (Events), Agie Marelid (Membership), Angela Muir (Special Events(, Jan Barlow (Communications), Fredrick Garcia (Finance), Edwin D’Souza (sponsorships), and Jose Jovy Tuano (Trade & Industry).





With her grace, warm attitude and cheerful

Woman of Substance, Emirates Woman of

smile, it is sometimes hard to imagine

the Year, recipient of the Blas F Ople award

creating and fostering a culture of Excel-

that a consummate lady like Mary Jane

for exemplary OFW’s, recipient of the

lence. She expounds, “I strongly believe

Alvero could figure so highly in a company

Presidential “Pamana ng Pilipino” award.

that achievement and value creation in the

that deals with corrosives, construction

She is widely recognized for opening doors

organization will not be sustained if one is

material and nuclear testing, and yet she

and breaking racial barriers for Filipinas in

without the other,” she says. “It is my duty

does. Not only is she a card-carrying

the Gulf.

to build a culture. Work gets done through

member of the well-renowned Geoscience

style is characterized by a keen focus on

people, and people are profoundly affected

Testing Laboratory, she leads the compa-

One of her most admired initiatives was

by culture. A lousy work environment can

ny. As CEO, she oversees the operation of

the Filipino Digerati Association, which she

drive away high performers.”

4 branches and 54 laboratories, and looks

established with the help of her friends

after over 700 employees.

in 2008 with the purpose of uplifting the

She says that as a leader, she creates a

standards of the Filipino work force in the

compelling purpose, tells a story about

Mary Jane is renowned not just as an

United Arab Emirates. Their knowledge

aspirations and vision for the company,

inspirational personality in the Filipino

and skill-building programs produced

and articulates clear values and behav-

community, but also as a key figure in

some of the most valued Filipino em-

iours for the organization. “Helping people

the Middle East business community and

ployees in the region, with many gain-

is my main advocacy,” she says. “It is my

a global force for women empowerment.

ing higher positions in their respective

way of celebrating the greatness of God

Her list of accolades is as lengthy as it

companies or moving onto more important

and thanking Him for all the blessings He

is diverse and far-reaching: Illustrado

and lucrative employers. Her leadership

continues to bestow upon me.”





entrepreneurship, and immigration and

says. “It is a sad reality that the majority

family laws. And just recently, he has au-

of the OFW’s do not understand the real

thored the first and only legal guidebook

cost of credit card financing. To get the

dedicated to the Filipino community.

people aware and reexamine their spending behaviour, I use catchphrases they can

“I believe that information is the key to

easily relate with: Kahit walang ipon, basta

keep Filipinos away from trouble. I au-

may iPhone; Kahit walang pera sa wallet,

thored The Essential OFW Guide to UAE to

basta may tablet at gadget.”

give the OFW’s what they need to know to reach their dreams and make it big in the

Barney represented the Middle East

Emirates,” Barney says. “I have also writ-

Network of three million Filipinos in the

ten similar guidebooks for KSA and Qatar.

3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in Diaspora

Within the year, we are launching my 4th

– a feat that he considers as his greatest

Above and beyond his capacity as a law

book, Paano Yayaman ang OFW sa Middle

achievement. He is a director at the Com-

practitioner, Barney has become a bit of a

East. This is for distribution in KSA, UAE,

mercial Department of Gulf Law in the Mid-

superhero figure in the UAE Filipino com-

Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait

dle East, Philippines and United Kingdom.

munity – and rightfully so. He collaborates

and Oman.”

A lifetime member of the Philippine Bar, he


holds a UAE legal consultancy license, as

with the Philippine Consulate to provide free legal advice to kabayans regarding

One of Barney’s most memorable and

well as Juris Doctor and MBA dual degrees

debt management. He regularly conducts

well-received projects was his financial

on International Business and European

seminars that cover hotbed issues such

literacy awareness campaign. “60% of the

Union Law from the University of London.

as labour policies, financial management,

cases I oversaw were debt-related,” he ILLUSTRADO 43
















THE FILIPINO MAD MEN If Filipino talents are a big thing in the multinational, regional and local advertising agencies in the UAE right now, it’s because they were given a great head start by several creative geniuses who were the pioneers of the virtual “Filipino ad mafia” – a group exerting a huge influence on the industry, albeit not a sinister one, paving the way for the recognition of Filipino leadership on this front. The first of those creative geniuses is Edipolo ‘Edan’ Aggarao, the Pinoy who first broke through the glass ceiling, whose three decades worth of corporate credentials include posts as the Creative Director at Intermarkets, Young and Rubicam, and the Regional Creative Director at AGA-ADK Communication Network. Edan is a pioneering visionary, who has won awards for the agencies and clients he worked for, and initiated the use of ‘special operations’ that is now a common jargon in the local communications industry. This “Godfather” of Pinoy advertising talents is also the founder of the first all-Filipino advertising agency in the UAE which he now leads as Creative Partner, together with his wife. He is also a volunteer at the Kabayan Institute where he shares his knowledge and experience with fellow Filipinos by teaching drawing weekly. The art of paying forward seems to be a common aspiration for successful Filipinos. Ramon Benitez who headed

Ramon is a 10 time gold winner and 5

- American University of Sharjah, Zayed

and mentored a team of 11 art directors,

time silver winner (IAA awards) former

University and the American University

copywriters the biggest group at his

Creative Director at Leo Burnett where he

of Dubai. His work has been honored at

former agency, Leo Burnett, believes

served for 20 years driving some of the

Andy, Cannes Lions, D&AD, One Show,

that among the milestones he achieved,

ad giant’s biggest brands including Philip

Clio, London International Advertising

the privilege to be able to help and

Morris, Diageo, Procter & Gamble, among

Awards, New York Festivals, Adfest, Epica,

enable others realize success is the most

others. He now runs his own marketing

Effie, Dubai Lynx, Cresta, Webby, Graphis

satisfying. “Another persons’ success

and advertising services agency under

and Wolda and he was also part of the

is also actually my success if I had the


team responsible for Y&R Dubai winning the Agency of the Year three times in a row

opportunity to enable, encourage, and

at Dubai Lynx.

promote them. By helping and mentoring

Another multi-awarded ad man is Y&R

a good number of talented young Filipino

top creative Joseph ‘Jobi’ Bihag. He has

artists in the agency, I can say that I have

worked on a number of multinational

Of winning industry awards, Jobi shares,

also succeeded in helping young talents

clients and is currently tasked to head Y&R

“Being able to win nods and respect

realize their full potential. Then hopefully,

Labstore as Executive Creative Director.

amongst industry peers year after year

they can also start paying it forward and

In his free time, Jobi also serves as an

makes one relevant and pushes you to

begin another cycle.”

Advisory Board Member of the Department

always craft your work to be amongst the

of Visual Communication at the American

very best. It’s very hard to achieve it and

University of Dubai and also lectures at the

a lot of sacrifices are made, but in the end



it’s what keeps you in the game. I couldn’t

male-dominated field, Dawn is the Creative

Miclat is a Filipino artist who specializes in

have done it though without the support

Director at Proximity, former Associate

illustrations. He is the creator of Modhesh

and love from my dearest wife and two

Creative Director at DraftFCB, who also

– Dubai’s wildly popular figure symbolizing

boys through all these years.”

worked for Grey Worldwide and Impact

the Dubai Summer Surprises. Romy

BBDO as well as McCann Erickson and DDB

created the character as commissioned

Clio and New York Ad Festival awardee

in the Philippines. Looking back at her 20

by Bates Pan Gulf, as an ode to the Dubai

Dawn Almario looks at her achievements

year stint in the business and to what she

summer sun – with his bright yellow color

in a different light. She shares, “Every

thinks is important in life, she remarks,

and tufts of hair that stand for the seven

creative might say, it’s the high you get

“The 38,400 hours of my advertising

emirates in the UAE. A veteran illustrator

every time your idea sees the light of

journey could be shortened with a

who has worked on significant campaigns

day. Imagine selling nothing, just ideas

headline and body copy for the next-

for regional and local brands best known

— just thoughts, a new perspective, a

generation of creatives – ‘Just have fun.

for this child-friendly figure, Romy says he

different opinion, a new trend – intangible

You can’t build a career out of boredom.

gets fulfillment from seeing how children

and yet valuable. One might call it ‘just

Terms and conditions apply’.”

are so enchanted with his humble creation. “Maybe the lives of children change a

ideas’, but those ideas built brands, changed behaviors, shifted minds. This is

Our round-up of influential Filipino ad

little every time Modhesh comes around

every creative’s challenge. My everyday

men will not be complete without this

to spread summer fun. If that’s the case,

challenge, my everyday achievement.” One

one man whose creation has become one

then that is enough for me.”

of the few women at the top of this highly

of Dubai’s most well-loved icons. Romy ILLUSTRADO 47



MICHAEL FILLON THE RENAISSANCE MAN Michael Fillon, currently Creative Director at Leo Burnett ARC, is one Filipino ad man with amazingly enviable credentials. Joining the industry even before he graduated from university, he rose to the position of most senior copywriter at Leo Burnett creating campaigns for GM, Philip Morris and P&G barely after college. There, his first TV commercial written for GMC Yukon was voted as one of the most memorable TV spots by Saudi Arabian viewers. At BBDO, his work for the Pepsi group, particularly for Mirinda was adopted for global platform. Then at JWT, he won 20 international awards, among them the agency’s first Cannes Lion in over four years. But Michael Fillon is not just an ad man. He is also the song-writing, vocalbelting, guitar-strumming frontman of local band Sandwash - a pioneer in the country’s indie/underground rock scene. Since its formation in 2002, the band has appeared on the cover of Time Out Dubai, received numerous airplays on UAE radio stations, been nominated in regional music award shows, and opened for various international acts, including Thirty Seconds to Mars, Maximo Park, and Simple Plan, with Mike writing, singing and playing songs that have made local audiences shriek in wild abandon.



These days, apart from his day job, and the music, Michael is also cooking up two interesting projects. One is a retailoriented app for the iPhone that makes use of the new iWatch. He says “Wearable tech is going to gain ground in the coming years and I want to be part of that.” The second project, he shares, is “a multiplatform sci-fi franchise about life on Mars, where robots help settle human disputes. It’s an action figure line, a graphic novel, a movie and a video game, which is almost as hard as making the perfect roast beef sandwhich.” Award-winning ads, music with a cultfollowing, wearable tech, robots on Mars, action figures and roast beef sandwiches? Is there anything else this Pinoy Renaissance Man can’t do? We think not. Watch out world, here comes more of Michael Fillon.





ARTIST & HUMANITARIAN Artist Tini Meyer who specializes in contemporary abstracts, has exhibited and received accolades for her works on canvas and public art not only in the UAE, but also in Canada, Spain, the UK and even China. This citizen of the world who is of German, Filipino and Spanish heritage, was originally based in Vancouver and Madrid, but currently splits her time between Abu Dhabi and Manila. In the emirates, Tini’s paintings, sculptures and installations have been exhibited at The Green Art Show, Al Bateen Heritage Center, under the patronage of HE Sheikh Nahyan Al Nahayan; Women in Art, Biennale Exhibition at the Sharjah Art Museum, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi; Philippine National Day at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi under the patronage of the Embassy of the Philippines to the UAE. The artist, who is also a passionate humanitarian says her ultimate satisfaction comes from inspiring other people, and so she uses her creative talent in producing remarkable art that gives back to the community. Getting constant inspiration from the love, laughter, travel, happiness and success, great friends and books, Tini Meyer admits that for her, creating art is the most profound expression. She says, “I simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I love what I do.”




FLORDELIZA PESIGAN THE NEW AGE BABAYLAN “I breathe art” is a philosophy that fuels Flordeliza Pesigan, the passionate multidisciplinary Filipina artist, who grew up in the Philippines’ National Museum, whose works have been exhibited in events and prestigious spaces around the emirates too many to mention, and who could not think of doing anything else other than painting, sculpting and dancing. She is indeed a great example of one who has successfully turned her back at the corporate world to follow her bliss. Going beyond her canvas, the artist shares that lately, she has also felt a calling to share her art, dance and music in a much deeper way leading her to her new venture called ‘Creative Alchemy’. She explains, “Alchemy means a power or process of transforming something common into something special. So, apart from creating art, I now also give workshops and retreats for therapeutic arts, dance meditations, voice activations and sound healing. This time, I feel passionate about inspiring people, especially the ones in the big cities to re-connect with themselves and the earth... to access their authenticity, truth, joy and self-healing capacities by unleashing and activating their creative energy.”

has guided me to - and it is reminding me about who I really am and what I am born

Splitting her time between Dubai, Bali and

to do. So I’ll just let my present self keep

India living the life of a virtual nomadic

walking this path, and let my future self

shaman of sorts, she furthers, “When

surprise me.”

you realize that you touch other people’s lives by doing what you do, there is no

She adds, “Our soul and the universe

other way but to keep moving forward. It

already know what needs to transpire. Just

hasn’t been an easy road getting here and

learn how to listen to the voice within, let

it still isn’t, but I found myself having no

go of things that don’t serve you. Dance

choice but to listen to what the universe

with life and surrender to the ‘divine flow’.” ILLUSTRADO 51




THE MUSIC MAVEN Marian Nelson made her stage debut in Dubai as the Dew Fairy in an international production of Hansel and Gretel alongside principals from the UK, USA, and Canadian opera companies. For this same production Marian was also the chorus director. Dubbed “Renata Tebaldi of the Philippines” she has achieved significant milestones in her chosen areas of performance and education. ILLUSTRADO 52

In performance she has appeared

with children in mind she crafted her own

in recitals, concert and operatic

music and movement program to create a

engagements across the Philippines,

progressive curriculum to develop young

UAE and Australia. Highlights include

musicians. Starting with just a handful of

solo appearances with the Dubai Singers,

teachers and students, JMC now has 20

Art Song Perth, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with

teachers and over 400 students, and a

the Dubai Chamber Orchestra and Choir.

subsidiary in Perth, Australia where Marian

Marian has sung with the Madrigal Singers

currently spends most of her time. Now

and the UP Concert Chorus. Other concert

in its 11th year, JMC remains one of the

performances include Mimi/Musetta (La

most prominent music teaching-service

Bohème), Micaela (Carmen), and Pamina

providers in Dubai.

(The Magic Flute). As a busy teacher, performer and an Having won the National Music

entrepreneur, Marian is thankful that

Competition for Young Artists award

she has not lost sight of what most

for solo voice category inspired her to

important in life. “With so many years in

concentrate her tertiary studies in the field

the business, I have learned that a great

of music.

career and a great family must balance,” she says. “It feels more triumphant to

Here in the UAE, she also founded the

have a successful career if there is a family

Jumeirah Music Centre (JMC) in 2004

to celebrate it with.”

Photo by: Alex Calueng




Darwin “Japat” Guevarra had tough times

the City of Gold, including commissions

in breaking through Dubai’s competitive

for the Dubai Arts and Culture Authority,

arts circle. However, his creative mind,

Japat’s contribution as the community’s

talented hands and passion for the arts

very own “Art Hero” demonstrates that

strengthened him to pursue his great love

one talented Filipino, no matter the odds,

beyond challenges. Now, a recognized

can earn respect through awe-inspiring

artist in the emirates, Japat’s masterpieces

works and open the doors of opportunity

has opened a space not only for himself,

for others.

but where Filipino artists would be accepted, respected and honored.

Remaining modest through it all, Japat admitted that beyond the awards he won

Despite his notable awards and accolades

and masterpieces he presented, what gave

such as the Sheikha Manal New Signature

him the most satisfaction was the experi-

and Young Artist Grand Prize Award in

ence of being a Filipino gaining recognition

2008 and Sony World Photography Por-

and respect in a foreign arts scene, able to

trait Category (shortlisted), his solo exhi-

closely compete with other nationalities.

bition ‘Time of Humanity” in 2009, curated

Deciding to move back to join his family in

by Sheika Lateefa Bint al Maktoum, owner

the Philippines this year, the artist shares

and director of Tashkeel Gallery, and his

his simple wish, “That when people would

involvement in numerous projects around

list down Filipino artists in Dubai, I hope to be counted as one.” ILLUSTRADO 53













THE BROWNMONKEYS THE LOWBROW ART PURVEYORS From starting out as an underground art group spewing a riot of irreverent images exhibited in obscure alternative spaces, to one that can now boast major billboards in collaboration with Pepsi, a comic book


project with Red Bull, commissioned murals displayed in some of the city’s top advertising agency headquarters, and pride of place at events like the Middle East Film and Comic Con, StreetCon, the Sharjah Biennial, among many others – the Brownmonkeys truly have come a long way. Born in 2007, the Filipino art collective composed of multi-disciplinary artists Rollan Rodriguez (Dogboy), Mark Ganzon (Hello Cloud 88), Rafael Gregor Valencia (Digital Addict), Victoria Viray-Ganzon (Pretty Monkey), Cholo Juan (Depikt One), IS D E ME SA

Joseph Manata (Pinkblot) and Lewis De Mesa (Artlife Flip) have been successful not only in promoting Filipino artistry in the emirates, but in establishing


lowbrow urban art as an integral part of the country’s vibrant art scene. The as distinctively youthful spirit and playful approach have given birth to fascinating artworks, that have provided a fresh alternative to the region’s contemporary art and design. ILLUSTRADO 54


group’s incredible mix of talents, as well





BONG GUERERRO DUBAI’S FASHION CATALYST Bong Guerrero has succeeded in an area where so many have tried and failed in previous years. As Founder and CEO of Brag Events – creators of Fashion Forward, he has successfully facilitated Dubai’s aspiration to build a credible fashion industry event that is not only supported by local and regional businesses, but is also respected by its other stakeholders - from the media


to buyers, to the discerning and voracious

then on, there was no turning back. After

fashion crowd in the country.

15 fashion shows for Splash, numerous commercial events for an enviable roster

Having spent 25 years in the country, his

of international luxury brands, and the

local history will always be connected to

birth of Fashion Forward now on its 6th

the growth of fashion and the fashionable

season back in 2013, Bong’s reputation as

crowd in the emirates. From heading one

Dubai’s veritable fashion catalyst has been

of the first prestigious couture houses


in Dubai – Ghanati – the birthplace of quite a few of the leading haute couture

Indeed, Bong Guerrero’s shift from

designers, to being an event organizer par

legendary party ‘machinator’ to the brains

excellence managing glamorous projects

and brawn behind the definitive fashion

for international brands and practically

platform for Dubai and the entire Middle

starting up the city’s clubbing culture,

East was not only a much needed shot in

Bong has always been surrounded by

the arm to the previously flailing niche, it

movers and shakers, socialites, business

is also a spectacular feat of professional

magnates and royalty.

success. In an earlier interview with Illustrado, this notable Filipino sums up

His engagement with fashion seem to

his simple philosophy, “I enjoy the work

have escalated when he organized the

that I do. I truly love what I do, and I’m

first game-changing runway show of high

very passionate about what I do. I’d like to

street brand Splash in 2007 – something

think that [passion] brings out some kind

totally unheard of back in the day. From

of creativity.”



MICHAEL CINCO THE ‘IMPALPABLE’ CELEBRITY DESIGNER One of the hottest Filipino personalities in the fashion industry, Michael Cinco shines brightly with an amazing array of achievements. From dressing royalties to celebrities, Michael Cinco has made it to THE list as one of the most influential Asians in the global fashion scene. The Dubai-based couturier has risen to fame as a string of Hollywood’s biggest names – Lady Gaga, Paris Hilton, Sofia Vergara, Mila Kunis, Britney Spears, Tyra Banks – chose to wear his stunning creations. Add to that, royals, celebrities and socialites from the Middle East, to the US, even China and Western to Eastern Europe. A celebrity in his own right featured in America’s Next Top Model, he also has received accolades in both regional and international fashion circuits, from winning his People’s Choice Award at the Dubai Fashion Week in 2010, Breakthrough Designer Award at the WGSN Global Fashion Awards in New York in 2011, to earning a seat as a senior member of the esteemed Asian Couture Federation and receiving a Pamana ng Pilipino Award under the most distinguished 2014 Presidential Awards for Filipinos Overseas, Michael wears is one UAE Couture King who has made it, truly, on a global scale. Highly regarded in the fashion industry as a genius creative who designs lavish ethereal gowns that perfectly embrace the feminine form (now, also the masculine), with his display of flamboyance and extravagance in his fashion shows perfectly suited to the haute couture world, the ‘impalpable’ M5 states, “To say that it is a steady, unfettered climb to my goals is an understatement. I simply work hard, keep abreast and strive to be on top of my game. It is very challenging and yet, it certainly is a charmed life.” ILLUSTRADO 57



THE ‘ONE’ AND ONLY The Cebu-born talent, whose career in fashion began in winning MEGA Magazine Young Designer of the Philippines Award in 1994, has certainly gone a long way from being an intern at Josie Natorie’s atelier. Now, Furne One co-sits in the triumvirate royalty of couture designers in the UAE through his very own fashion house: ‘Amato Haute Couture’. Since its establishment in 2002, Amato’s avant-garde designs have continuously pushed the boundaries in the style stakes. Combining the classic, the unconventional, the east and the west, the dramatic and the edgy, the couture brand has sky rocketed up the fashion barometer in Dubai and globally. With well-received shows in LA, Dubai, London and Miami, Amato has morphed from a local fashion

postcards to the vibrancy of new-age,

favorite to a respected global player.

even alien imagery and the dark dramatics of a corpse bride. Furne One’s shows are

Quite famous for his golden locks, Furne

also known to be the hottest of runway

One is further renowned for his creativity

spectacles to which passionate passion

and uses his natural panache to elevate

fans throng to during Dubai’s style season.

everyday trends into works of art. He is well known for his signature flair that uses

With his clothes earning the love of top

an enchanting mix of rich textures and

global performers like Beyonce, Katy

lavish materials with a heavy emphasis

Perry, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole

on luxurious detailing and embellishment

Sherzinger, Kelly Rowland, Rita Ora and

as well as inspirations that range from

Shakira among others, one wonders what

romantic Shakespearean tales, vintage

else is next for the One and Only.




EZRA SANTOS THE DIVINE STYLE CREATEUR From lending his sartorial talent to top fashion houses in Saudi Arabia and Dubai to establishing his very own haute couture brand EZRA that is now considered as one of the most esteemed high fashion labels in the region, Ezra Santos has indeed made an illustrious name for himself. Known for his signature style nestled on a foundation of clean elegant lines, which consistently pushes boundaries with a fresh point-of-view, and blessed with just the right touch of dainty, as well as mindful and measured use of embellishments and detailing, Ezra’s masterpieces are coveted by the region’s gliteratti. Looking back, the designer attributes the start of his ascent to his first gala show, “In the Beginning” which claimed roaring applause during its staging at the Madinat Jumeirah. Then months after, his remarkable ‘Afrique d’Or’ collection made it to New York where he earned a standing ovation from the world’s fashion critics and gurus at his show that at the Couture Fashion Week. Thereafter, a string of successful shows in the UAE and the Philippines, and just recently, Vietnam under the banner of the Asian Couture Federation, and the rest is history. Now, Ezra shares a position of distinction with fellow Filipinos Furne One and Michael Cinco as the UAE’s Kings of Couture. Having dressed beautiful Arab women from the elite and royal families, Ezra’s divine creations have also adorned A-list celebrities such as the Middle Eastern star Haifa Wehbe, international pop superstar Britney Spears and Hollywood actress Michelle Rodriguez among many glamorous others.




ROCKY GATHERCOLE FASHION’S MAD AVANT GARDISTE He has since left the Middle East to replant his roots back into Philippine soil, but it won’t be right to do this list without the eccentric designer – especially since he has left such a controversial and divisive mark on the face of fashion in the UAE. Known for his eye-popping, astonishing and sometimes disturbing creations, Rocky Gathercole has always had the knack to elicit shock and awe on the runway for his signature brand of fashion. From 20 years spent working for various fashion houses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to wildly lauded shows in London, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix and New York, Rocky’s creations have not only wowed audiences, but also stopped traffic in the Big Apple and created a paparazzi commotion in the City of Angels. His clothes which demand bravery have been worn by celebrities like Katy Perry, Paris Hilton, JLO, Britney Spears, as well as other Hollywood celebrities and international beauty queens. Never one to rest on his laurels, the irreverent designer is also cooking up a major collaboration with iconic singer Paula Abdul and a back-to-back fashion show with the renowned Filipino designer and make-up artist Fanny Serrano. Believing that “all things are attainable, with strength and perseverance”, Rocky Gathercole knows in his heart of hearts that he is in fashion to stay, and to achieve even greater heights.





THE COUTURE POLYMATH Name a fashion designer who could talk to you about nuclear medicine, comic books, and haute couture in equal measure and gusto. This designer will likely be Yen. It will not be far-wrong to call him a polymath, because everything that he does, he does astonishingly well. His designs are noted for their originality, timelessness, and attention to detail that is nothing short of nerd-level. Yen credits his success to the loving guidance of his mentors Alfred Osting, Sylver Custorio and Francis “Izhcka� Zeta, who took him under his wing and taught him all that he needed to learn to create his own brand. Et voila, the House of Yen is now a full-fledged couture powerhouse with headquarters in the Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, London, and Los Angeles. His work has been featured in music videos, movies, TV, and red carpet appearances in Hollywood. His collections have been featured at the finale at the House of Ikons - London Fashion Week for 3 years, as well as in glamorous gala exhibits held at the Emirates Palace among other prestigious venues. As much as he is dedicated to being at the cutting edge of style, Yen understands that the right business acumen is required to ensure that the House that he has built stays strong and sturdy, amidst the rapidly changing economic climates. He is an entrepreneur, as he is a fashion visionary.




CHRISTOPHER TRASMAñO THE DANCE CHAMP Break dance, sure he could do. But, breaking records is also something Christopher Lawrence Trasmaño had proven to achieve. Holding the Guinness Book of World Record title for the longest hours of dancing for a dance/rhythm videogame using Xbox 360 Kinect Dance Central 2 is only one among the long list of successes that Christopher, a.k.a. ‘CL Frostyle’, carries throughout the years. As a successful professional dancer, CL Frostyle has performed for many events in the hottest of venues in the emirates. He has also appeared in several commercials, music videos and concerts, managed three different dance studios in the Philippines,



grooved with Gary Valenciano, Lani Misalucha, and had been the front act for Pussycat Dolls for the Manila tour. Also, he was featured in a music video of Philippine All-Stars. Not slowing down to rest from dancing, Christopher would still want to break the world record he had already set. Guinness record aside, he has also set his eyes on pursuing his dream – to be known one day for being the humble CLfrostyle, champion of the masses and underprivileged bboys and hiphop dancers who have huge dreams of making it big, and finally, to own a dance company that sponsors Filipino talents and sends them overseas for competitions.




RONALD MOLIT THE IRONMAN Ronald is the quintessential

He has this advice for aspiring

Champion, and he has the physique,

athletes. “Like what I did when I

the medals, and the leadership

first started, you just have to want

position to prove it. In April 2014,

it. You can be taught all the different

Ronald emerged victorious in the

techniques to improve your swim,

open men section in the sprint

bike and run, but not the desire to

category of the Pearl-Qatar Triathlon

learn and be coached. If you just

– a truly breathtaking achievement

diligently train, improvement will

that involved a 750 meters swim,

follow. You don’t have to be pressured

20km biking and a five kilometer run.

by others whom you think are doing

Also in 2014, Ronald placed 2nd in

better than you or by people who

the Flying Start Triathlon in Kuwait,

tell you that you should be achieving

further cementing his reputation as

more than what you actually have.”

a world-class champion and certified ironman. Together with his fellow Triathletes, Ronald formed the Filipino International Triathletes (FiT) – an organization that aims to promote sports and an active lifestyle amongst OFW’s in the Middle East. When he got appointed as President, the challenge was handling the leadership while still being able to train. His fulfilment, on the other hand, is the adulation he receives when he knows he has done well with the sport. “Especially when I get a podium finish or some recognition like the First Swimmer in the Age Group, I get a natural high even after several weeks,” he says.




CHARLES MARELID THE SPEEDSTER At the tender age of 16, Filipino-Swedish sprinter Charles Marelid has already carved an indelible name as a premier athlete in the UAE. In April of 2015, he won five gold medals at Middle East and South Asia Athletics Conference in Doha, Qatar, breaking three records

for the 100m/200m/400m dash and

arena. He also claims that developing

anchoring two gold medals in the team

mental focus is key to his training. Of his

relays. Just recently, he won at the Dubai

biggest challenges, he says, “Running

Ultimate Racenight in the 100m and 400m

400m is the most difficult thing I have


done because it is the toughest for a short distance sprinter. I have to run a

Originally a soccer player, Charles tried

100m pace 4 times.” Charles aims to

out for his school’s track and field team

get a college scholarship through his

upon the urging of his Physical Education

achievements in track and field.

teacher. That he could outrun everyone else in the team came as a bit of a

His advice to aspiring track and fielders:

shock, as he had always pegged himself

“Keep trying.” He adds, “When I was in

as a football player. With discipline,

8th grade, I only got bronze at the 100m

perseverance, and a regimen that

dash. I tried harder, showed up on all the

consisted of a highly specialized diet and

trainings and never gave up. Today, I have

gruelling training, he eventually developed

improved tremendously, but I still keep

the skills, mindset, and the right physique

trying. You are your own limit. In track and

to represent the UAE on the regional

field, you have to set your own goals and be the best that you can be.”





fit enough to play table tennis, fit enough

was certainly the most difficult and yet

to be in my high school’s dance troupe,

the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my

fit enough to pass my classes in college

career. It was a huge challenge to keep

which were physically demanding - an

up with the diet and workout regimen

hour of gymnastics, volleyball, social

especially on days when I just wanted to

dance and swimming all in one day,” says

chill out and have an ice cream or when I


seemed to have so much work to do with so little time.”

They also happen to be two of the most respected fitness professionals in the UAE.

In the near future Rica, wants to establish a more active career in fitness consultancy

Both Rica and Divine enjoy the title of

and to conduct workshops and courses.

GEL Master Trainer. Simply put, they are

Divine on the other hand wants to compete

the trainers of trainers, and thus have

in a bikini category for bodybuilding

a direct hand in shaping the fitness

in Hong Kong and wants to be an

Rica and Divine have a lot of things in

movement in the UAE. Both women have

international respected fitness consultant.

common. Not only did both graduate from

also participated in various international

UP Diliman, both have always been fit

competitions, such as the 2014 Muscle

and healthy, having engaged in different

Mania in Las Vegas. Rica recounts, “It


kinds of sports since childhood. “I was
















AKERS 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.




CLARITA DE QUIROZ THE CHANTEUSE Clarita de Quiroz is one woman who’s got everything. She’s a gorgeous, absolutely talented, and a charming sweetheart at that. A classically trained pianist, percussionist, vocalist, commercial actress and fashion/ beauty model – this multi-talented artist raised in Scotland by Filipino/Spanish and Dutch/Irish parents is a constant face within the emirates’ entertainment scene. Seen in the locally produced film ‘City of Life’ and Dubai Global Tourism Commercials, she has been touted as one of Dubai’s hot 100 personalities, as an Illustrado Woman of Substance, and has been a brand ambassador to a number of key international brands including Dove. Clarita has also been the face of Craft AC Commercials UAE, Guerlain UAE, Ultimo Lingerie, MAC cosmetic UAE, Men’s Fitness Magazine, and Val Saint Lambert Belgium crystal and Lux. Stepping away from full-time modeling, Clarita has been serenading the UAE with her equally enchanting voice. She has also been on the center stage, providing support as front act for the likes of Sir Elton John, Kelly Rowland, Macy Gray, Gabrielle and Akon. Clarita has more dreams in her wings but her list of amazing and inspiring achievements is surely growing. This year, the accomplished stunner has released her debut solo album ‘Speak. Delete. Repeat’ under Sony.





With Western and Arabic models THE CHANTEUSE

dominating the local world of advertising and fashion, and Southeast Asians a rare sight whether on media or on the runways, it is truly amazing to see a handful of Filipinos make a breakthrough in the local style scene. Paul Kiefer leads this pack with a face that has graced many a billboards, buildings and buses in the UAE. With amazing good looks that include the perfectly chiseled face, Paul has done several campaigns for popular high street brand Iconic and Splash, not to mention runway shows, as well as various fashion editorials in the emirates. These of course, are just a small part of the modelling work he has done around the world. Blessed with an arresting sort of cultural ambiguity which is all the rage in the world of fashion these days, Paul is still able to identify strongly with his Filipino heritage, ILLUSTRADO 75


FILIPINOS ON THE RUNWAY despite having all Slovak, German, French, Polish and Lithuanian blood also running in his veins. He shares, “It seems my Filipino side is the most dominant. I think recently, I have never felt so close to my Filipino nationality than I do now. I spent 4 months in the Philippines after 20 years abroad and I really got the sense of who I really am and where I come from. Filipinos treasure their families and stick together through the hard times. The Filipino spirit is amazing and I can only hope that I have also been blessed with these great characteristics of a Filipino. I love the Filipino people and I’m proud to be a Filipino too!” Illustrado cover girls Nina Naval Niemczyk and Mannette Mercado Mc-Even have been the quintessential examples of Filipina beauty in the local fashion industry in recent years. Both well-respected award winning supermodels back in the Philippines before they moved to Dubai, these two Filipinas have graced many runway shows in the UAE. Nina’s ramp work in many of Furne One’s haute couture galas, as well as at the Dubai Fashion Week and Fashion Forward shows, mostly as the lone Pinay, have given more than ample fierce representation to the Filipino community on the runway. Add to that, both ladies’ catwalk engagements for brands Splash and Iconic. Hot on their tottering heels is a Filipino pro-modelling’s fresh recruit - Ann Llagas. Though a familiar face in the community circuit, Anne’s rise as a commercial model has been marked with her recent runway and modelling assignments for Dubaibrand Finchitua, Blue Marlin Ibiza – UAE, Rohit Ghandi & Rahul Khanna, Esmod and Runway Dubai, among others. Recently Ann has also won campaigns with L’Oreal and Kryolan Middle East. This young Filipino who’s highly motivated to further establish herself in the region’s multicultural modelling scene is also dabbling in fashion photography.














Dubbed as Dubai’s First Lady of Techno’, Pauline Moreno, also known as Miss P.M. transforms bars, clubs and social events into a full-on happening gig spinning her magic at the turntable. A flight attendant turned full-time underground DJ with a penchant for adventure tripping, this pretty Pinay has wowed party goers and corporate clients alike with her versatility in playing 3am house and techno, and her bass-heavy, deep, groovy, sexy and always melodic selections. A regular in the tech and deep house scene, she has performed alongside international acts such as Laura Jones,

Aside from bringing the party mood ito

Nicole Moudaber, Timo Maas, Fritz

Dubai’s most happening clubs, Miss P.M.

Kalkbrenner, Kollektive Turmstrasse,

has also been handpicked to play at

Ryan Crosson and Eli & Fur. Miss P.M. has

corporate events for the likes of Bulgari,

rocked the hottest dance floors in the

Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s and Level

city, including that of 360, Deck On 8,

Shoe District. She has been appointed

Level 41, Trilogy, Nasimi Beach, and has

brand ambassador to represent and

collaborated with huge promoters such as

promote DJ headphones.

Ohm Events, Infusion, Audio Tonic Agency, Plus Minus by Blitz Production, Warped,

From turning her hobby into a career and

and Glitch. In 2014, Miss P.M. performed

splitting her time between high flying and

at Party in the Park (Hype Arena) at the

spinning in 2010, Miss P.M. looks ahead

Dubai Media City, Creamfields Abu Dhabi

to more party nights in the pipeline,

(Electric Days’ Stage) and at the Formula

international booking and a series of self-

One Abu Dhabi.

produced events.




KAZ PEACHEY THE DIVA OF DUBAI Famous American talk show host and actress Ellen DeGeneres once tweeted that one of the things that she has learned in her career is that the best singers in the world come from the Philippines. Our singers are often thought of as possessing abovehuman prowess – and no other professional singer in the UAE typifies this more than Kaz Peachey. With a career in Dubai that spans 7 years, Kaz has built a reputation as the city’s premier diva – a onewoman tour de force that has captured the hearts of Filipinos and foreign audiences alike. Kaz has made the rounds of some of Dubai’s most popular night hubs and musical epicenters, including the iconic Hard Rock café, which she has been headlining for more than three years – a prodigiously long contract in a venue that is known for regularly rotating its band line up, and certainly the longest contract ever held by a Filipino. She has played with the city’s most acclaimed sets of musicians such as the Smooth Criminals, which plays rock and alternative, and Urban, which is widely lauded as one of the best neosoul and R&B acts in the region. Kaz’s career has been so illustrious that she is often heralded as a benchmark for all Filipino performers in the UAE. “I’ve never thought of myself as being in competition with other singers, whether they’re Filipinos or other nationalities,” says Kaz. “I just love what I do, so I choose to do it well. It also helps that I have a good relationship with the live music community here, because I get so much support from them.” When asked about the secret to having a stable music career in a foreign country, Kaz said that it was all about consistency and work ethics. “A career in music is 50% talent and 50% being easy to work with,” she says. “People would rather work with a person with average talent and a great attitude, than a person with loads of talent but gives everyone a hard time. I come to rehearsals prepared and on time, I give my performances my 100%, and I treat my co-musicians with respect.”






KEVIN MURPHY THE SUPER PERFORMER Kevin has carved a name for himself as one of Dubai’s most electrifying performers. He also happens to be one of the very few Filipinos with songs that ranked in the iTunes top 10, with “Fabric,” a collaboration with UAE-based EDM superstars Hollaphonics peaking at no. 4 in 2014. Additionally, Kevin was nominated for an award in the Best Local Act category of an awards show organized by a popular UAE- based entertainment publication – a truly remarkable feat, as he had only been in the country then for a little over a year. Due to his multi-ethnic background, most people who first meet Kevin do not recognize him as a Filipino. He is always mistaken for an African-American. Instead of finding offense – or riding on – this confusion, Kevin uses it as a way to celebrate his Filipino identity. “It’s always funny when a kabayan approaches me and speaks to me in English because they think that I’m not a Filipino,” he says. “I take this as an opportunity to show to people how proud I am of being a Filipino. I’ve been a performer for a long time, and I’ve travelled to many countries. I say with confidence: angat talaga ang mga Pinoy! [the Filipinos are a cut above the rest]”



Tracy Ley Orencio is renowned for her very popular beauty blog “Ms Tracy Ley.” Hailed in the UAE as Miss Teen Philippines 2004, she is more than just a pretty face. Tracy is also a fierce beauty savant who helps her followers try out the latest beauty trends, a fitness enthusiast who shares her wealth of understanding on cross training and eating healthy, on top of being a hard working corporate woman and a doting mom. According to her, “I just love sharing my ideas with everyone, especially anything to do with beauty products, make-up, skin care, having a healthy lifestyle


and just being a woman. I think it’s important that an individual never stops learning. Be yourself and most of all, be real and be true. I believe that when you love life, it will love you back.”


THE BEAUTY MAVENS Filipinas are inherently beautiful and have a natural interest for grooming and beauty. But here are two Filipinas in the UAE who have taken the category from mere daily ritual to life passion and advocacy. A trained make-up artist, Anna de Leon is a beauty advocate. Since 2009 she has been conducting Faces by Anna de Leon, an annual Make-Up Workshop, which teaches women the fundamentals of skincare, and the art of bringing out your best through make-up. Anna also conducts, Up Close and Personal, her one-to-one make-up classes, while at the same time promoting her Woman by Anna Make-up Brushes that allow women to afford high quality make-up tools. Anna shares, “I’m grateful to all the beautiful women, whose faces I was privileged to touch. They make my passion for bringing out the best in every woman I meet alive!”





category. La Moda has also appeared on the social media feeds of A-list celebs like Jessica Alba and well-known names in global and local fashion, such as ANTM photographer Nigel Barker and Dubai-based couturier Michael Cinco. Five years later, with La Moda now being considered a pioneering platform and one of the most successful homegrown online fashion magazines in the UAE and across the Middle East region, its founders look forward to a future of maintained success while they set out to embark on other endeavors within the fashion media arena. Jim contributes regularly to a men’s magazine in the UAE, blogs about menswear



on Fashion Chameleon ( and acts as brand ambassador for key brands. Sherry meanwhile continues her media career as editor and contributor to a number of luxury lifestyle magazines in the UAE.


LA MODA DUBAI THE FASHION PUNDITS In March 2010, PR pro Jim Paolo Joquico and magazine editor Sherry Tenorio founded La Moda Dubai (, an online magazine that was conceptualized to deliver breaking news and indepth features covering the worlds of fashion, beauty and celebrity. Gaining instant success as a market opener and leader, the title quickly established its reputation as an authoritative source of information for consumers and industry insiders alike. Since its launch, La Moda’s exclusive articles have been credited in stories run by major international fashion and lifestyle publications, including three editions of Vogue, ELLE, and Marie Claire, and the website is consistently included in Huffington Post’s select list of related news providers in the fashion ILLUSTRADO 83













FASHION BLOGGERS THE STYLE ARBITERS It isn’t easy to stand out among the millions of bloggers who are posting daily feeds online and on social media. In the UAE alone, hundreds of fashion and lifestyle bloggers hog for share of virtual voice. So, it is indeed an astounding feat for a few Filipinos to have captured the interest of the international mix of discerning fashion enthusiasts that thrive in the Middle East. One of the most influential Filipino fashion bloggers in the region is the Dubai-raised Mariyah Gaspacho, who is better known as Mahryska. She has been blogging about her personal style since 2009, and has taken serious responsibility in maintaining a quality blog for her massive audience that span the globe. Her wit and her love affair with photography help her create a captivating content and remarkable imagery. She has been chosen as brand ambassador by a number of international brands, but still her contentment boils down to the ability to inspire people through her blog. Another Pinay who has a strong following is Cristina “Tinayums” Linaza. A passionate and dedicated person, she has left her corporate career to pursue her photography as a full time profession, which eventually led her to blogging. Now, as a successful ‘blogpreneur,’ Tina has long list of collaborations with worldclass brands, as well as assignments as contributing fashion photographer to prestigious local and regional publications.

and style, has been key to meeting the

Last but not the least on the list is The

right people in the industry, landing him

Style Choreo, and the dapper man behind

Blogging behind the wildly popular The

jobs with international retail giants, and

the blog - Paul Ramos. He maintains

Shades and Scarf is the half-Japanese,

eventually starting up his own fashion

a widely viewed blog but his reach

half-Filipino Ushi Sato. The well-known

label. Continuing on “living, eating,

extends through social media specifically

blogger hails from a family of tailors.

breathing and sleeping with fashion”, the

on Instagram. With thousands upon

Hence, it is no surprise that he has

fashionista blogger is pushing ahead for

thousands of followers, Paul has been

become a fashion designer by profession.

the growth of his brand - ‘Ushi Sato’ which

chosen as brand ambassador to several

His start in an haute couture atelier in

carries his own quirky, edgy approach to

big American fashion brands, and

Dubai as well as his quirky personality


headhunted for a stylist role for a British


name in apparel.





ION GONZAGA THE EVERYMAN If there is one thing unique about Ion Gonzaga, it’s being able to represent the realities, hopes and thoughts of the ‘typical Juan dela Cruz’ with his aptly named renowned blog – ‘Boy Dubai.’ The blog, which started making waves online in 2011, presents a slice of life in a Filipino expat’s life in the emirates with each post. As a leading digital influencer in the emirates, Ion has represented the UAE in international bloggers’ events, has spoken at blogging conferences, and even writes for dailies and magazines about Filipino issues in the country. He also received Rotary Youth Leadership Award for his activities and has partnered with major brands for commercial collaborations. With its strong following, ‘Boy Dubai’ has become an important virtual venue for raising awareness about OFW-related issues as well as an important platform for spreading information about the latest Filipino community events in the country. Thankful for his achievements, Ion gives back by volunteering to various causeoriented projects aimed to help raise funds for children with cancer, feed laborers with pre-packed meals, clean local beaches, as well as help paint school rooms for special needs children. Indeed, Ion wants to be remembered not as only as a leading blogger, but also as a volunteer who inspires the youth to do action. Ion currently teaches blogging at the Kabayan Institute in Dubai, and is also writing for his daddy blog, ‘Dadedidubai’.




A collaborative effort among media and

the Pinoy Expats/OWFs Blog Awards 2009,

journalism professionals Janelle Vales-

and had gone beyond blogging by working

Yasay (Editor-in-Chief), Reina Vidad Tejano

on releasing a new Riyadhizen Planner and

and Jeruly Pangan-Menor, The Pink Tarha,

hosting The Pink Tarha Mornings.

which started in 2009 has now become the definitive online guide to shopping and

Summing up their main message, The Pink


dining in Riyadh covering a wide array of

Tarha ladies share, “Contrary to popular

topics such as travel, eating out, how-to

belief, Saudi Arabia isn’t totally made up

guides, and features. The blog’s entries

of heaps of sand or camels wandering the

and social media updates are not only

dessert. Riyadh, in particular, is a bustling


followed by Filipinos in the Kingdom, but

metropolis and it is growing, as we speak.

also by expats and locals who appreciate

The Pink Tarha is our way of showing

The Pink Tarha’s positive way of promoting

the world that hey, it’s not bad here at

Riyadh as a happening and thriving

all! In fact, it could be fun, enjoyable and

cosmopolitan city.

certainly livable – especially for expats

Creating positive buzz in Saudi Arabia is a group of Filipinas who won the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards 2014/15 for their work in the very successful blog – The Pink Tarha.

who come here to work. That is, if you only Together with its tourism award, the

knew where to look.”

website has also garnered Second Place at














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.




AGNES AQUINOBRIGGS A WOMAN WHO WEARS MANY HATS Multi-tasking is her middle name and she wears many hats. A loving wife and a doting mother to three, Agnes StottBriggs has a successful business in real estate, is a Certified Image and Style Consultant who helps empower Filipinas through grooming and styling, and is the Chairman of the Philippine Business Council (PBC) - Abu Dhabi. Just recently, she also launched the Philippine Women’s International Network (PWIN) to help connect Filipina professionals. Of her work at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), Agnes shares, “I have a demanding but interesting job being in the Talent Management Department of a government company handling all new joiners from around the world,” she says. “It is multi-cultural and diverse and you get to interact with different cultures but with all of the work, prioritizing is still the key. I learned to value time and that even ten or fifteen minutes are crucial. If you know what you want and you know how to prioritize, you can accomplish things on time.” ILLUSTRADO 96

Her favourite hat to wear, though, is that of taking care of her family. She remembers when her husband was involved in a sports accident and became paralyzed from the waist down and was told that he would never walk again. After six weeks, he moved his feet and wiggled his toes which brought her hope. After doing physiotherapy with so much perseverance, he is now walking in crutches. “I survived it all but looking back, I have no idea how,” she says. “People ask me how I did it. I say you just have to do the right thing each day and believe in yourself you can do it. Each day is a journey.” She says it is important to build relationships and alliances with people – both in business and personal life.


Felt all the way from Bacolod where

your HANDS which requires you to work

three generations of his family were

hard, and your HEAD where you find the

born and bred to his base in Dubai,

common sense and ability to judge what’s

Ishwar Chugani’s unique presence and


simple philosophy is a positive force that




moves his home, his corporation, and his

More than his professional success, what

community. As the CEO and Managing

is fascinating about Ishwar is his distinct

Director of Giordano Middle East, he heads

connection with the Philippines and the

the group’s business in the Middle East,

sense of belongingness he shares with

India, Africa, Central Asia and Europe.

“kababayans” – something that gels with

He is indeed both an influence and an

his cosmopolitan Giordano “World without

inspiration for all his fellow expatriates.

Strangers” philosophy. “For me, the Philippines, India and the UAE are ‘home’.

The 2014 Retail Professional of the Year

I am a person with a more holistic view of

Awardee remains grounded with the

the world. I am definitely dugong Bumbay,

help of his family. He shares his secret,

pusong Pinoy.”

“Always remember to use your three H’s in whatever you do: Your HEART, so you make sure you love what you are doing,




LEA CORDON ROUF WELLNESS CONNOISSEUR Professional. Passionate. Proudly Pinay. Lea Cordon Rouf, founder of the awardwinning Spa Cordon in Dubai, is the type of lady that little girls aspire to become. Over the last 15 years Lea has been an hotelier and spa expert – working as Spa Director for prestigious hotels ShangriLa, Raffles and Le Meridien across the globe. She knows everything that there is to know about looking good and feeling good. In 2012, she launched her own brand in Dubai – Spa Cordon. An upscale ladies day spa, located in Sky Gardens, DIFC, Dubai, Spa Cordon has won the Best Day Spa in 2013, at the Middle East Spa Awards, and was also awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2014 and 2015. Spa Cordon features an interactive beauty spa bar, stocked with an eclectic selection of natural ingredients. In short, Lea created a paradise for the workdriven professionals of Dubai.


This kind of success did not come easy and Lea faces these challenges with her signature grace, “Perseverance and faith. I believe that challenges create the person you are today. If one embraces them and takes a different perspective, it can bring out the best in you.” She adds, “Having a dream is where it all starts and where the passion will come from.”


DESIREE VLEKKEN ALZHEIMER’S ADVOCATE Inspired by his father’s memory-related health problems, Desiree founded 4get-me-not; a non-profit organization committed to raising awareness on Alzheimer’s disease in the UAE. In cooperation with like-minded community groups, corporate and government entities, 4get-me-not conducts various activities designed to promote brain health and provide proper information on how to care for people living with Alzheimer’s. “We host a lot of community events in different Emirates involving pre-med student volunteers, health and medical professionals,” Desiree expounds. “We communicate the message to the community in various channels starting with film documentary screenings on Alzheimer’s. We also promote activities based on Neuroscience that promote brain health such as musical presentations by volunteer performers, photography competitions and table tennis tournaments which were recently held at NOVO Cinema Complex and Dubai Festival City Mall.” Having no previous medical background, Desiree faced many challenges in the initial stages of the 4get-me-not. Leading the organization meant that she had to educate and transform herself into the region’s thought leader in the subject of Alzheimer’s disease. But clearly, her

efforts have paid off. In February of 2015,

is overwhelming for a full-time mom like

she received the Humanitarian Award

myself, but luckily, my family understands

from WOW (World of Women) Middle

and supports what I do.”

East – which came as a complete shock to her, as she did not even know that she

Desiree is currently planning and

was nominated. “I chose the road less-

designing a program that would benefit

travelled,” says Desiree. “I recall working

both Alzheimer’s patients and their

dead hours of the night, including weekend

families and caregivers.

and holidays, doing research, planning, and organizing events – all the while managing a household! This is workload





For Sahron “Roy” Tamano, being a Filipino

religious fervor alive, or providing a

the Kabayan Weekly News and recognized

is a privilege and something to be proud

bridge by linking and supporting other

as an Ambassador of Goodwill and Peace

of. This view has helped him achieve so

Filipino community projects and Filipino

by the Southern Philippines Muslim United

many remarkable feats that is not only a

organizations to aid victims of calamities

for Development (SPMUDA-International)

testament to his character but also gives

back home, Roy demonstrates how one

a UN accredited peace advocacy group.

pride to his country.

can provide live a fulfilling life, not only as

As the former President for two

an accomplished professional, but also as

He remarks, “Being raised and growing

an active contributor to the community.

up in the land of promise, Mindanao, where peace is an elusive dream, and

consecutive terms and currently Senior Adviser of the Maranao Community in

So it is no wonder that Roy, who is

having witnessed the suffering of our

UAE, Roy is a much-respected leader in

largely acknowledged as the de facto

own Bangsamoro people during the

his community, serving his kababayans

spokesperson for his community who

dark moments of Martial Law years, has

in many ways. Whether fostering

brings Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims

given me the courage to stand for my

togetherness within the Marcom family

together, has been bestowed various

principle that despite of our hardships and

through social, sports and cultural

commendations for his advocacy including

differences, we can achieve eternal peace.”

activities, helping keep traditions and

the Kabayan of the Year Award 2013 by




WAFA ROSCALES QASIMIEH THE ADVOCATE As Senior Advisor in the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department of the Government of Dubai, Wafa plays a key role in strategizing and executing key educational and humanitarian initiatives. In many ways, she epitomizes the spirit of advocacy: passionate but deliberate, visionary but realistic, committed but

with imbued with a sense of alertness and

she played in speeding up the process of

operational dexterity. “I had no idea about

airlifting OFW’s from war-torn Libya. Her

the total package of advocacy when I was

position in the Government of Dubai and

a child – what it entails and how to get

ability to speak fluent Arabic enables her

involved,” she says. “But as I grew older,

to be a nexus of understanding between

I started to learn. My advocacy involves

the Filipino community and the Arab world.

Social Welfare, Humanitarian, Leadership

“Working in the Government for almost 2

and Educational causes. It is not easy, but

decades is already a test of managing and

because of the full support of my family

linking myself with their requirements and

and the Filipino community here in the

qualifications, not only being an employee

Gulf, I am able to surmount any challenge

but being a friend as well,” she says.

with a positive attitude.” She says that the key to success is posIn December of 2010, the President of the

itivity. She elaborates, “I promise myself

Philippines Benigno Aquino III present-

that I shall work untiringly and relentlessly

ed the highly revered Banaag Award to

because I am very optimistic that my real

Wafa for her tireless efforts in assisting

reward will come from God on the day

distressed Filipino workers in the UAE and

of reckoning. And for all our collective

extending financial assistance to impov-

efforts, I pray that we all be rewarded

erished Filipinos in her hometown of Iloilo


and as well as in other regions. Wafa also received much praise for the valuable role




CHEF ANDREW PADERES THE GOURMET GURU When Chef Andrew was offered the role of Executive Chef by his first employer in Dubai, he had to ask himself if he could truly step up to the plate. From working at Nobu in London, then Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Maze in Qatar, Chef Andrew found his way to Dubai as the Executive Chef at the swanky The Gramercy, located at the DIFC, Dubai’s bustling financial district, alongside international brands. The restaurant had a famously distinguished clientele, and for a while, Chef Andrew doubted if he had the skills to live up to its high profile reputation. But with sheer determination and perseverance, as well as his popular signature dish of seared scallops and jumbo prawns, not only was he able to meet expectations, but surpass them and move on to become a key figure in Dubai’s gastronomic scene. Currently, Chef Andrew, who has been the only Filipino featured in the city’s definitive annual foodie event – The Taste of Dubai, is the Executive Chef for Claw BBQ Crabshack and Grill. “On few occasions when I had to go out of the kitchen and present myself as The Chef, I can’t help but notice the tone of surprise from customers,” he says. “I bet they are gladly surprised to learn I am a Filipino.” In his years of working as the head of one of Dubai’s busiest kitchens, Chef Andrew has learned the value of being assertive. He has discovered that there is no room


for being submissive – especially in the

His advice to those who want to become

restaurant business. In fact he had to train

chefs in Dubai: “Be assertive in the

himself to let go of the “Yes sir” and “Yes

workplace but remain respectful of others

ma’am” culture that is deeply ingrained

and their culture. Always remember that

in the Filipino mindset. “We Filipinos

you gain respect if you give respect.

are at par with different nationalities, if

Always keep your feet on the ground. It’s

not better,” he says. “I have learned to

so easy to become overconfident and

present my accomplishments and abilities

conceited as you climb the professional

in a way that showcases my worth as a

ladder. You have to be careful about that

professional. It really pays off, and you


gain trust and respect.”



SUSAN VILLANUEVADE GUZMAN TEACHER WITH A CAUSE Award-winning teacher Susan Villanueva could have had a lucrative career in Advertising. A highly respected visual artist with several critically-acclaimed exhibitions under belt , she could have also embarked on a more prolific career in the art scene. But when she felt the need to to help uplift the image of the Filipino community in the Middle East, she chose the path where she felt her voice would ring the loudest and farthest – that of an educator. A faculty member in the Graphic Design department at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Sharjah Women’s College, Susan rarely gets to instruct Filipinos directly. However, she believes that she is able to influence Emirati women to treat their Filipino employees or co-workers with respect. Susan elaborates, “While educating the Emirati Community, I

she helps them develop the actual

their project. I make them understand

learned that it is important to understand

workplace skills they need to compete in

their output and inspire them to work

their culture, religion and traditions first. I

a challenging global market. She says that

with excellence! I also represent the

learned different learning styles from the

the UAE is a diverse country with such a

United Arab Emirates in the World Skills

many years of my teaching experience.

highly competitive business community

Competition as an Expert in Graphic

I am also given a chance to introduce

that it has become rewarding for her to

Design. I train the nationals who are

my students to the Filipino identity -

see her students come out ready for the

selected to compete for the international

our people, country, art, culture and

work force. “I create challenging projects



for students to measure how much they can stretch their critical thinking,” she

Susan plans to enroll at a PhD program

As an educator, Susan goes beyond

says. “I keep them engaged from the

in Curatorial Studies to help curate the

imparting knowledge to her students:

beginning to the final completion of

Philippine art in the next coming years. ILLUSTRADO 103


A self-confessed workaholics who has mastered the art of multi-tasking, this professional with over 2 decades of experience in media and setting up channels in the emirates credits good old hard work for her career achievements. She says, “Every job is a new challenge that once accomplished gives a deep feeling of pride and achievement. I find


MYLENE ESCAÑODE GUZMAN SPORTS MEDIA’S PINAY BOSS If you’re a sports fan glued to Abu Dhabi TV, chances are you’re watching your favorite adrenaline packed show thanks to the work of one formidable Filipina. Meet Mylene Escano-De Guzman Head of Programming, Sports Channel - Abu Dhabi Media (Abu Dhabi TV). Mylene is in-charge of acquisition and sourcing of international and local sports content for FTA and Abu Dhabi TV’s Pay TV Channels, as well as new channel development. Her work involves traveling and maintaining good relationships with international sports suppliers and being part of sports market trade shows in Europe, Asia and America. She also deals with local sports institutions/ federations in the United Arab Emirates and other GCC countries. Such responsibilities mean a hectic life but she handles it all with charm and smarts.


myself, on occasion, being a consultanton-the-job when I share my expertise and knowledge the different aspects of the business and business operations.” The soft-spoken pro also emphasizes, “Honesty is the main foundation of trust at work. Once it is established then you will be on top of everything. Lastly, hard work, work without limits!”



FE GING GING HYDE THE INDIE FILM ACTIVIST Who would have thought that a virtually unknown Dubai-based Overseas Filipino would get the same award that marks the versatility and talents of the likes of Philippine cinema icons Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor? Not in her wildest dreams, Fe Ging Ging Hyde would admit, and she herself was overwhelmed to bag the Best Actress title at the 34th Gawad Urian, the prestigious award-giving body in the Philippines. Well deserving in her portrayal of the title role in the 2010 film “Sheikha”, the talented Fe Ging Ging Hyde had a passion for film and the arts, something that she would share with whoever would listen, even as a young girl who grew up singing in her neighbourhood carinderia in Davao. Now a full-pledged Indie producer and actress, collaborating with her awardwinning fellow Davaoeňo director Arner Mardoquio, Fe has quite a string of respectable films in her portfolio - Riddles of My Homecoming (2013), The Journey of Stars Into the Dark Night (2012), Crossfire (2011), Sheikha (2010), Hospital Boat (2009), with Sheikha, Journey of the Stars and Hospital Boat winning accolades at the Urian and Cinemalaya awards. Despite her achievements as a filmmaker, Fe also professes that her greatest role as yet, is that of a full time mother and wife. She also does not shy away from her humble beginnings, using her modest past to inspire others for a greater future, while utilizing her privilege and talent to make films to bring attention to the harsh political realities of her beloved Minadanao.





A self-confessed movie junkie, Kamil Roxas has been drawn to the world of filmmaking even at a young age. His interest at films like Pulp Fiction has influenced him to pursue the art, and with stars aligning to his fate, he has been offered a scholarship to attend a reputable film school after he won the Best Director award for ‘Celebrate Life’ at the first Middle East International Film Festival. And, that has signaled the beginning of a growing list of achievements that Kamil Roxas gained in the craft he so loves. He has won the Best Documentary from the Commission on Overseas Filipino Media Awards for the film ‘The Filipina on Top’ that was produced in collaboration with Illustrado’s Women of Substance advocacy. He has also bagged awards from the Dubai 48 Film Project and Nikon Film and Video Festival, and last year, his short film ‘Shadows’ won the Best Cinematography category at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. His latest achievement is the grand prize award at The Reel Dubai Short Film Competition organized by the Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai Tourism and Samsung. Mentored by renowned local filmmakers Nayla Al Khaja, Mohammad Saeed Harib and Ali F Mostafa, Kamil Roxas’ entry of ‘Hello World’ has gained the critics’ nods to the poetic narrative of the rise of Dubai shown in his film. This winning short film has been screened at the 68th Cannes Film Festival this year. Now, Kamil Roxas continues to enjoy writing and directing for documentary work, commercial campaigns, TV series and occasional films and music videos. His most recognized commercial project would be the 30 episodes for a television series on Abu Dhabi TV documenting the work of Make-A-Wish Foundation UAE.




PATRICK FORONDA Patrick Fronda is a multi-awarded filmmaker based in the United Arab Emirates. He started his career as a visual artist and later became a film editor and an educator teaching college students about the nuts and bolts of filmmaking at the Murdoch University in Dubai. His notable works in directing include ‘Pump It’ and ‘I am a Star’. In 2013, Patrick dominated at the 48 Hour Film Competition sweeping 5 major awards including Best Film and Best Director for his wacky short – ‘Pump It.’ The film then represented Dubai at the Filmapalooza in the USA in 2014. In the same year, Patrick won 3rd Best Film for his entry at the Nikon Film Festival in Dubai. He was also a finalist at the Samsung Video Competition, where his work ended up being screened in Dubai International Film Festival. Although there is little support to aspiring filmmakers in the country, Patrick remains steadfast in pursuing his passion. “Maybe we are lacking in resources but we have dedicated people who believe in film making. They are my strength, and without them I can’t do it alone. People like my students and some followers help me whenever I need a workforce. As long as there are audiences and people believing in my works, I’ll be doing what I love.” As for the absence of an industry here, he shares enthusiastically, “The UAE might not have an interest or plan to have a real platform here, but I am here to build that. My dream as a filmmaker is to establish a platform for Filipino film makers here – to build a name that we can compete with foreign and local directors.” He adds, “We are natural story tellers marami tayung pwede ikwento. I want to show more of our positive side rather than negative. Sa atin kasi, they mostly show only third world problems dahil patok sa first world countries yung ganung plot. But for me, gusto kong maiangat yung level ng thingking ng ibang lahi about us, and I want to tell that visually on film.”





MARIO CARDENAS Over the last 6 years, the rise of the Filipino photographer has been an unstoppable phenomena in the UAE and the larger Gulf. What with the unprecedented popularity of photography as a hobby and the growth of photography groups, the community has spawned a new breed of lensmen that have promoted Filipino creativity in a new niche. Previously the hallowed ground of a few, these Filipinos have also stamped their claim in this once elusive arena of visual arts. Mario Cardenas has a distinction that’s pretty hard to beat. As one of the most awarded photographers in the Middle East, this Pinoy has amassed no less than 200 wins – a lot of them from prestigious international bodies, in his very short photography career which started in 2010. Mario, who is an architect by profession shares, “I used to just admire and marvel at the amazing works of these international and world class artists. I even thought of their images as ‘unachievable’. Now I am competing with them in the same arena, and winning.” Mario sums up his formula for success, “I

offer my achievements to my country and

Senior Art Director in advertising has also

always strive to innovate and take risks.


facilitated workshops and participated

For me, it does not matter if the image I’m

in prestigious photography exhibitions.

trying to create is beyond the norm. I try

“Dreaming plus positive actions result

He says that he loves taking images

to do something different always. I want

to success.” That is the motto of fellow

of people, places, culture, love, pain,

to be expressive and artistic. Sometimes,

multi-awarded photographer Donell

poverty and human drama. The fact that

some of my peers find my work unusual,

Gumiran who specializes in portrait and

normal objects can be transformed into

even weird. But somehow, the images

documentary photography. A brand

a masterpiece through his eyes is what

capture the imagination of certain people,

ambassador for Fujifilm Middle East,

keeps him driven in his chosen art.

who share the same desire to witness

Donell has won quite a few of awards for

something out of the ordinary.”

his works - 17 in fact. The most notable

Photography competitions aside, one

of which include the Grand Prize at X’MO

Filipino photographer who is very

Citing his very modest upbringing back

Photography Competition - MENA (2014-

prominent in the commercial category

home, Mario hope to inspire Filipinos and

2015), 1st place - Al Dafra Photography

is Chris Calumberan. One of the earliest

show them that “no matter where we come

Competition (2013), 1st place - Emirates

adopters to brave doing it on his own,

from, with utmost passion, dedication and

Heritage - Abu Dhabi , 1st place - Sheikh

Chris was originally involved in web

faith, we can be at par with the rest of the

Zayed Heritage and the 1st place at the

designing. His early exposure to the

world. “I would always like to be known as

Adihex (2013) photography competition.

fashion and the advertising industry,

Mario Cardenas from the Philippines as I

This Filipino photographer who works as a

however, has given him a good foundation






CHRIS ERAN CALUMB for his career today. Chris works with top fashion brands, industrial companies and advertising agencies, as well as major publishing companies as a contributing photographer and writer. He has also played the role of brand ambassador for several leading photography brands, facilitating workshops and giving speeches in prestigious photography events in the country. Though primarily an artist, Chris takes pride in being a seasoned entrepreneurial ILLUSTRADO 109


OUTSTANDING LENSMEN professional and shares, “Adaptability is key when you want to pursue success both in life and in business. Win a person in less than 90 seconds, first impressions are important. You never know who might be your next big client. When the going gets tough, never sweat the small stuff.” From commercial photography to the glamorous niche of fashion, where three other Filipinos have made headway. Their works can be seen, not only on the covers of glossies in the region and beyond, but also in the campaigns of prestigious fashion houses. The Filipino Paolo Roversi who calls Illustrado Magazine his ‘home,’ photographer Eros Goze is known for his distinctively dramatic/edgy style and visual flair which plays up on the beauty



of ‘chiaroscuro’ . His works have graced countless Illustrado covers, Middle Eastern magazines, and have been used for the campaigns of regional homegrown brand Splash, as well as reputed regional and local haute couture and pret-aporter houses. Moreover, Eros who has an uncanny gift for revealing in photos beauty that is typically unseen, has been the much-wanted photographer who has captured some of the country’s most prominent and interesting faces – from models, to fashion savants, socialites and personalities. Drawing from his training as a theater actor, his love for poetry and art, rising fashion photographer Jef Anog says that all that has given him “a deep appreciation for dramatic editorial images.” Amazingly accomplished at such an early stage in his career, Jef has done covers for Eluxe Magazine – Paris, MUSE Arabia, Zara’t Al Khaleej, Arabian Woman, Chance for Traveler-Autumn 2014, TvojeSvatba, Czech Rep; shoots for Forbes Woman, Velvet, Lamasat, Illustrado Magazine and Illustrado Couture. He has also photographed campaigns for Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos, Amato Couture, and Mona Al Mansouri among others. ILLUSTRADO 110

From the runway to being behind the

Emporio Armani and Balenciaga. His

lens, Alex Callueng has moved seamlessly

fashion editorials have also been featured

from dabbling in ramp modelling, to

in prestigious magazines such as Harper’s

leaving the corporate world, to making

Bazaar Arabia, Grazia Middle East, Xander

a full time career out of photography in

Magazine USA, as well as in WKND and

recent years. However recent that may

Physique, among others. The artist

be, his photography skills and winning

shares, “I firmly believe that the greatest

attitude have allowed him to land choice

works come from one’s burning desire to

commissions such as campaigns for


luxury retailer By Symphony where he shot Alexander McQueen, YSL, Gucci,

nog Photo by: Jef A


74 P h o t o b y : A l e x Te n







ABDUL HANNAN TAGO “Our country needs us. We have to play our role.” Wise words to be heeded from a man whose skills and diligence have brought honor and pride to his country. Dr. Abdul Hannan Tago is a veteran journalist who has not only covered the most pressing issues of our times but has also advocated for the rights of his fellow Filipinos in the Middle East. As the lone Arabic-speaking Filipino journalist in KSA, and advocate for SPMUDA International (a NGO for peace, unity and development), he wields his knowledge of the language to foster better understanding between and among his compatriots and their hosts which led to him being recognized as an AUGP (Academy of Universal Global Peace) Ambassador of Goodwill and Peace - Saudi Arabia and at the 2nd G.O.D. (Global Officials of Dignity) Awards for Excellence in Journalism. Currently working for Arab News with his work appearing in leading Arabic publications Al Sharq Al Awsat and Al Egtisadiah, among others, this Filipino journalist has also appeared on Saudi TV, and was also a guest speaker at the 2nd Annual Saudi Broadcasting Forum in 2012. He believes that “As an OFW we could be most effective in resolving our problems abroad with the host country. We have established excellent rapport and know the norms and culture. We speak the language. We could be the best and most effective in helping our kababayans especially domestic helpers.”


He is doing exactly that with his work as a writer and as a spokesperson. He does not only have the ability to translate for those who are misunderstood. He has the power to speak out.



MARIECAR JARA She is indeed her father’s daughter. But more than that, Mariecar is her very own awesome self. The daughter of Manolo Francisco Briones Jara, former managing editor of The Evening News prior to Martial Law and Executive Editor of the Press Foundation of Asia may have had big shoes to fill. So her nose for news is genetic but after all her triumphs, no one doubts that Mariecar has taken her father’s legacy to the next level. That next level includes expanding her family’s reputation for journalism to the Middle East and beyond. She is a senior reporter of The Gulf Today covering everything and anything about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-countries in the UAE, as well as health and women’s issues. Her philosophy, which she has learned straight from the journalism pillars of the Philippines, is truly inspiring. “That, for one’s news articles and news features or special reports to be worth reading and of value, these must not be limited to the WWWWH (Who, Where, Why, When, How) but journalists have to dig deeper into the news,” she shares. Because of this philosophy and background, she is the paragon of an empowered Filipina. She advocates who she has become. Grit and grace rolled into one.




JAY HILOTIN “To be a Filipino is to be hopeful.” Jay is the current Tablet Editor of Gulf News, the biggest English-language daily in the region. He belongs to that select group of journalists who occupies a special threshold between the old and the new. He is a veteran of print journalism whose biggest challenge today lies in tooling up for new media and being able to engage one’s audience through various forms of interaction. Needless to say, the award-winning writer has nothing more to prove, what with a successful career as a professional in the global city of Dubai. But he chooses to expand his already impressive repertoire with new challenges, including his advocacies. He supports Ancop, which helps build shelter for poor Filipinos. It also sends deserving students from poor families to school and coaches the bottom 30 per cent of slow learners in some public schools. As a writer and as a Filipino who believes in that bright future, Jay is certainly an inspiration. “Doing our part, no matter how small, in helping those who are in the margins – one child, one family at a time – can make a massive impact. I’ll probably try to do this kind of work till I breathe my last.”






Currently, the Consultant and Senior

“It feels great to be a Filipino on this day

and the Filipino community through

and age. Gone are the days that we are simply viewed by some as citizens of a

Correspondent of the ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau, Maxxy Santiago is a seasoned reporter who has seen Kuwait political conflicts and other sensitive issues. It is no wonder that she was

third world country.”

the Recipient of the “Most Outstanding

Maxxy Santiago never planned on working

Embassy in Kuwait for her exemplary role

abroad. As an Iskolar ng Bayan from the University of the Philippines, the duty to give back to the country was urging her to stay and serve, which she did. But opportunities came along and here she is, still serving her nation by giving pride to the Philippines and by fearlessly tackling issues that are close to her kababayans’ heart.

OFW” Award in 2006 from the Philippine in exposing issues on Overseas Filipino Workers and helping alleviate the plight of OFWs in Kuwait in general. As a Pinay reporter in the Middle East, Maxxy is able to elegantly overcome the challenges that come with the job and still able to cover everything from war, to human rights abuses, labor problems to other socio-political issues with an intelligence and grace that only a Filipina can bring.




– Leadership, Financial Literacy and

weren’t any written rules or formal

Social Entrepreneurship - the program

titles or reporting lines, but it worked

trains an individual to become a leader

very well because the group was very

in his own private circle and helps him

cohesive. Year after year, the number

with social entrepreneurship and financial

of volunteers increased as well as the

management. “As a student at the Ateneo,

number of Filipinos interested in applying

part of my formation was to serve - to be a

to the program. “The stories of students’

person for others,” says Jasper Adviento.

transformation, how they overcame

“When I heard about the opportunity to

obstacles is just inspiring,” says Ella

help organize the Leadership and Social

Cordero. “The teachers, like Vince and

Entrepreneurship program, I recalled the

Edwin, are just a laugh trip and they make

days when I was involved in many socially-

the topic of financial literacy easy to

Those who want to start their own

oriented organizations. It brought back

comprehend. The volunteers themselves

business or find out how to lead

memories of how I was a joyful student in

are very accomplished leaders in their

and manage their own families and

serving other people. Thus, I saw LSE as

respective fields and to see them sacrifice

organizations can step up to the plate

a venue for me to continue the service I

their time for others is just humbling.”

through the Leadership and Social

started in college.”


In the past three years, LSE Dubai has

Entrepreneurship Program, more popular known as the Ateneo LSE Program, a

The growth of LSE is very organic. It

had more than a hundred graduates. A

project of the Philippine Business Council

started with a small group of friends

number of business plans of LSE Batch 26

of Dubai and the Northern Emirates in

coming together in behalf of the Ateneo

have also been incorporated in the UAE,

cooperation with the Philippine Consulate

School of Government – Jasper Adviento,

such as Tarakabayan, an online portal for

General, POLO and OWWA. A 12- session

Ella Cordero, Milen Aviles, Armand

OFWs to rent or exchange property in the

certificate course involving three modules

Francisco and Eloi Francisco. There





personal concerns. For twelve years the

and who has a bone TB. We were able to

cases handled involved rape, molestation,

help her and her family to go home but

sexual and physical abuse, overwork,

later she died as well.”

non-payment of wages, and others


followed by labour problems mostly due

Migrante-UAE also initialized the

to contract violations. “Probably the most

investigation of illegal Affidavit of Support

unforgettable case we handled was when

that were sold in the black market and

an OFW jumped from the 4th floor building

the organization campaigned for its


and was confined in Rashid Hospital,”

abolishment since this was not a primary

says Migrante Middle East Coordinator to

requirement for everyone to enter in UAE.

UAE Nhel Morona. “We used to visit her

These days, the group’s most important

Behind the hardliner militant façade of

every day after our office hour for almost

project is to get Filipinos well-informed to

Migrante International UAE is a group

a month because she was paralyzed waist

prepare them to cast their votes wisely for

of passionate volunteers who sacrifice

down and she would not eat until she saw

the 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections.

their time and sometimes, their personal

us. It took almost three months before she

safety, to help compatriots who are stuck

was allowed to go home and unfortunately

Despite the difficult nature of their chosen

in the worst of conditions. OFWs suffering

after more than a year she died at her

advocacy, both Nhel and Susan say that

from domestic, legal and business

hometown in Mindanao due to lack of

they become fulfilled when they see

problems can approach Migrante which

maintenance medicine.” Migrante Sectoral

kababayans fighting for their rights and

is a non-government and pro-migrant

Party Coordinator Susan Francisco adds,

winning the battle. “And when the victims

organizations that assists individuals

“Another one is the case of Mrs Rose, an

become volunteers to help others and pay

in the UAE facing unfair practices and

undocumented OFW for more than 5 years

it forward,” says Nhel.







LITO “BLUEBIRD” ECHEVARIA THE VOICE OF THE MASSES Bubbly and boisterous Lito “Bluebird” Echevaria has the strength that most men do not have… the power to make people laugh. This funnyman provides entertainment over the radio waves to those who need it the most — his kababayans who are far away from home. That’s public service, if ever there is one, because aside from Filipino food, it is the jokes and laughter that expatriates miss the most. Bluebird entertains those who suffer from homesickness with his one of a kind humor. A combination of home and “here”, that is, the unique experiences of the local Filipino community. His advice, which is listened to by many, may be cloaked in humor but it is sound and sincere as only an 11-year radio veteran in Dubai can dish. This Cebuano’s voice (and, yes, even his accent) is comfort and credibility, a true Daddy on the radio! No wonder he has been nominated several times for the Best Male Personality in the Ahlan Awards.




ZEENA ZALAMEA A PINAY WITH A NOSE FOR NEWS Broadcast journalist Zeena Zalamea was one of the first few Filipinos who have been able to make it on mainstream TV in the UAE. This former City 7 News Reporter who covered local breaking news, produced and presented feature programmes, was one of the only two Filipina faces on local TV together with colleague Khadijah Sali. Formerly a correspondent at Dutch broadcaster VPRO and concept developer/ scriptwriter and segment producer at ABS-CBN, Zeena left the world of TV to be a presenter/reporter for the Arabian Radio Network where she reads the news at Dubai Eye 103.8, Dubai 92 and Virgin Radio. She shares, “Sometimes I’m on the reporting shift and I get sent out to do stories, and that can be very exciting. One day I’m on the Metro asking people about their pet peeves on the train, the next day I’m interviewing a high-ranking official about a huge government initiative. Every day is so different and that keeps me on my toes and keeps me from getting bored.” One of her jobs that she enjoys the most is reading the news at Tag Radio’s “Gandang U-maga” breakfast show with Louie Da Costa and Bluebird. She says she loves her job and is proud of being a part of a team that not only entertains but also provides much-needed information and advice to the general public.




LOUIE DA COSTA RADIO’S SUPER COOL PINAY Supermom and wife, and super cool announcer, Louie juggles family life and career with an aplomb that is a testament to her super woman status. Formerly, the other half of the Mak and da Costa on Virgin Radio, she now works alongside fun partner “Daddy Bluebird” in Tag Radio. But having it all also entails responsibilities which are challenging. Louie handles it all though with a bright and bubbly personality that earned her nominations for Best Radio DJ and a win for Best Female Presenter. Having grown up in Dubai, it is obvious to anyone who has listened to her on the airwaves that she is very familiar with the pulse of the locale. This affinity together with her very own Filipino humor is an unbeatable combination on air, exuding charm and providing comfort to all her listeners. Her decade long career in the radio industry is a testament to her awesomeness. She is indeed a perfect model for the modern Filipina. “As OFWs in a country filled with different nationalities, we have to be mindful that everything we do is a reflection of not just ourselves as individuals, but of who we are as Filipinos. We can erase all the negative preconceptions about us. We are much much more than what others see us to be. Let’s show them who we Pinoys really are.”




CESAR & LOU PARROCO PHILANTHROPIC COUPLE One person can make a difference. Two can change the world. This adage perfectly describes Cesar and Lou Olvido Parroco. Both seasoned professionals working for esteemed multinational companies - Cesar, a Web Marketing and Technical Communications Manager and Lou, a Human Resources Director, the couple is well-known in the Filipino community for initiating various charity projects, not only to help ‘kababayans’ in need, but also to inspire others that they can help in their own unique way. Their first project was “Shoot and Shelter,” a series of photography workshops, which intended to raise enough funds to provide a house for one family through the Gawad Kalinga Foundation. The couple embarked on another charity concept, “Color for Her” to realize Lou’s dream of


providing an emotional boost to Filipinas

to look for opportunities to help those in

unable to afford themselves the smallest


measure of vanity: lipstick. This was work that was very close to Lou’s heart

“We do not need to be rich to help. An

since it was inspired by her mother. Other

abundance mentality and a grateful heart

projects followed including Hearty Party,

is something we both share and we are

a health-oriented dance party that raised

both committed to seek every opportunity

funds for the Anawim Foundation, among

to pay forward all the blessings bestowed

others. Ulitmately, Cesar and Lou dream

upon us by helpings others in need.”

of putting up a scholarship program in the Philippines someday. They hope that their endeavors would encourage other Filipinos




This power couple’s weapon of choice:

hosted a fortnightly radio talk show on

words. And they wield it so well that,

103.8FM called FEME (Filipino Excellence

together, they truly are a force to be

in the Middle East) which went on air

reckoned with.

from October 2010 to March 2013 in Dubai. The show discussed the trials,

Art is in Public Relations and Corporate

victories and best practices of a diverse

Communications with an impressive

group of guests from Filipino diplomats,

portfolio which includes the 2008

entrepreneurs, professionals to household

Philippine Independence Day event as

service workers – all in all celebrating

well as the Bayanihan Festival. Rachel

the achievements of “kababayans” in the

is a freelance journalist for The Filipino

country. With a new FEME project soon

Channel, Arab News,,

to be launched, the couple looks forward

and Kabayan News. Recently, Rachel was

to furthering their efforts to contribute to

hailed as Journalist of the Year of The

the local community. “As we continue to

Filipino Times Awards.

promote our advocacy in highlighting the excellence of the Filipinos in the Middle

Separately, they are each a success.

East, we believe that when you make

But together, they are unstoppable.

your life worthy of God’s calling then you

They proved this when Art and Elle co-

give honor to Him who is the source of everything.“ ILLUSTRADO 123



SHERYLL BACAY THE FIRST LADY OF HR Coming from an underprivileged childhood in the province of Batangas, Sheryll Bacay likens her rise in the corporate world to rock climbing - rough, perilous, and scary. But despite the difficulties that she faced along the way, Sheryll’s career is marked with an uncompromising commitment to excellence and a dedication towards public service and community building. Today, Sheryll is widely lauded as an exemplary figure in the field of Human Resources. She is the founder of FIL-HR – an organization rostered by UAE-based HR professionals with the purpose of providing self-development and career enhancement opportunities to OFW’s in the region. “There are some occasions where I had a few slip-ups and falls here and there but in some ways, there were useful edges that I gripped onto until I reached the top,” she says. “Climbing up is not only about dreaming success, thinking big and accelerating accomplishments through personal development. It’s also about fulfilling every task with the right actions coming from the right decisions.” She says that through her community work she is able to make her fellow kababayans feel a


sense of purpose in the work that they do

ball rolling in 2009, FIL-HR has already

and believe that they are making a positive

facilitated some 2,500 successful job

difference. Sheryl adds, “I learned that

placement through the numerous job fairs

when you serve, you promote community

that they have been conducting at Filipino

change. You influence systems and

events around the country since 2011.

practices and you achieve the fulfillment that money cannot buy.”

As part of her long-term plans, she hopes to promote leadership and help increase

And serve together with her group she

the visibility of Filipino entrepreneurs in

did. To date since Sheryll started the

the UAE.




THE SUCCESS STORY Vagelyn Federico, Director of Human Resources in Dusit Thani, Dubai, has had to remind herself many times that events do not shape her life. Her first few months – even years- in the UAE were wrought with challenges and difficulties that almost drew her to the point of giving up. But ever the positive thinker, Vagelyn forged onwards, and eventually, she realized that even negative experiences can have a positive impact on her life. “Such experiences even made me say that Dubai is the best place for me and my family,” she says. “I have so much respect and gratitude toward the leaders

Not only has Vagelyn established a name

With such programs, Vagelyn aims to

of this country who gave opportunities for

for herself in the emirates, she also

help and inspire people and make their

us expats to share our talents and to be

continues to extend her helping hand

lives more meaningful, all for the Glory

recognized here in this large, multicultural

graciously to her kababayans, especially

of God. “Don’t give up when things get


the underprivileged. She is the founder

hard, but work harder when you think of

of “HeavenLyn’s Foundation”, a non-

giving up,” she proclaims. “I didn’t have an

Now, from being a humble farm girl, to

profit group that organizes fundraising

easy start, but I remained steadfast, and

a secretary who had to make 13 exits

activities for the benefit of children in

kept dreaming and moving forward. Have

in Kish, to being the youngest General

need of healthcare assistance. As the

a career that you are passionate about,

Manager (at 28 years of age then) of

current president of FIL-HR, Vagelyn also

enjoy it, and make the most out of it. Once

a 4-star hotel able to participate in

volunteers during her spare time to help

you are on top, always keep your feet on

the prestigious Great GM Debate, this

facilitate job placements for Filipinos in

the ground and remain humble.”

resilient Filipina has come a long way.





THE CYBER AUTHORITY Irene is widely recognized as one of the Gulf region’s leading figures in the field of Information Technology. As Head of Planning and IT Security for the Western Region Municipality, she is responsible for planning and implementing key IT strategies to achieve the government organization’s overall KPI’s. She is also a celebrated authority in various Cyber and Information Security conferences all over the globe, with regular speaking engagements in the world’s premier IT epicenters such as Singapore, Oman, and the UK. Irene regards strategy and technical efficiency in equal measure – a fundamental tenet that has earned her the respect and admiration of her peers. In an IT conference in London, her riveting case study about Cyber Security earned

need to make a presentation or release a

her a place in the panel discussion

communication about Security, it has to

and eventually won her the Award for

be translated to Arabic. It’s a challenge,

Innovation in Cyber Security.

but not an impossible one. After all, I am in IT – if anyone can find a way, it should

Of what challenges her the most in her

be me.”

bustling career, Irene says “All official communications in terms of memos,

She hopes that one day she can speak in

circulars, minutes of the meeting, and

her own country about IT Security. “I want

even the meetings itself are conducted

to share the lessons I learned from this

in Arabic. Everyone is kind enough to

country and see how the Philippines can

speak to me in English, but anytime I

implement it,” she says.




MODERN-DAY FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE A Dubai Excellence awardee and a respected figure in the Filipino Community in Dubai, nurse Juliet Solas is involved in socio-civic work as part of the Legion of Mary, a worldwide organization conducting different apostolate missions such as hospital and prison visits. Of what continues to inspire and inform her strong sense of volunteerism, Juliet says, “The death of my mother many years ago inspired me to extend my hand to those in need and to volunteer - that even if I am working away from home, and I may not be able to help my family physically, there are so many people in front of me that needs help.” To Juliet, volunteer work nurtures both ways. She is able to utilize her knowledge and skills to offer healthcare to the needy, and in turn, their stories and gratitude inspire her to do more. “The warm smiles and appreciation from the people I have shared my time with are priceless,” she says. “This energized me more and I am so eager to do more even with my tight schedule. The endless stories they share make me realize a lot of things, and it inspires and enriches me in different ways.”

Her fulfilment comes from being a continuing source of inspiration for others. “I want to at least touch the hearts of many people I have worked with,” she says. “I try to make it a daily task to inspire, and even share a warm smile to people to give them the strength and brighten their day. And I hope, through this, they would also share this to others. Like the saying goes, “A simple act of caring creates an endless ripple.”




CHRIS MIRANDA THE FAMILY MAN In matters that concern the strengthening of family ties, OFW’s in KSA turn to the Foundation for Family Life, an organization whose presence in the country is led by Cris Miranda. Cris is a confidant, friend, and father-figure to OFW’s seeking advise on spirituality, fellowship, and how to improve family relations. As FFL’s Country Representative, Cris often receives distress calls even in the wee hours of the night, but his attitude towards his responsibility is always one of gratitude and service. He says that at this chapter of his life, there is no room for selfishness. “Your love has to be unconditional to be able to understand the needs of others,” he says. “Remain a humble and faithful servant to your family, company, and organization, no matter what you have attained in life.”

Arabia is often a monumental task for Cris, as he is often besieged with hectic schedules, but he says that the rewards are

Started in 1998, the Foundation for Family

“awesome and eternal,” and that in return

Life aims to reach out to different families

for his servitude, God has compensated

worldwide who are going through rela-

him with a strong family. Cris elaborates,

tionship difficulties. The organization also

“I love having a strong family, and my two

has an excellent track record in providing

missions in the world are to share God’s

assistance to impoverished communi-

love and help boost family life through

ties. Juggling his responsibilities as FFL

faith, hope, and love. I have but only one

representative and as Internal Auditor for

vice, and that is to spend all available time

the National Shipping Company Of Saudi

and resources to God and my family.”




MATILYN V. BAGUNU A LEADER’S LEADER Equipped with a strong, bold, and cool management approach, Matilyn enjoys a reputation as a paragon of leadership virtues. As Director for the St. Mary’s Filipino Community Choir, she has elevated the organization’s role from church singers to full-fledged advocacy group, with outreach programs aimed at providing education for several scholars in the Philippines. As Former President of the Filipino Community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates under the auspices of the Philippine Consulate General, she consolidated the strength of over 100 pro and non-pro Filipino groups spread across the UAE. Her time as FilComm president is marked with an unprecedented level of unity, and a steady focus on volunteerism

In addition to her achievements as a

and civic mindedness. She is known for

community leader, Matilyn is also a

her ability to bring people together despite

seasoned financial consultant. She has

their differing interests, and having them

given countless clients the management

operate within a standard of excellence

skills they need to protect their finances

that offers no room for petty politics or

and ensure a stable future for themselves

one-upmanship. She says, “I truly value

and their dependents. Of her future plans,

this life that God has given me so no

Matilyn elaborates, “I want to retire early

amount of criticism nor politicking can

(maximum 10 years), tour the world,

bend me. The love of family and the trust

write inspirational stories and launch an

and care of friends is more than enough

album with my original compositions to

to keep me going and tell myself that I’m

be interpreted by my singer friends,” she

here to stay with a purpose.”

says. ILLUSTRADO 129



ROWENA NIDUAZA THE STORYTELLER Rowena has gained the respect and admiration of the Filipino community in the UAE for her magnificent strides with Toastmasters International – a non-profit organization that conducts communication and leadership training worldwide. After winning the Toastmasters Competition in the UAE in 2005, she won the regional leg of the competition and subsequently became the first Middle East representative to the 2005 Toastmasters International Convention for World Championship in Public Speaking held in Toronto, Canada. She is heralded as a master communicator, debator, and public speaker, and community leader, but there is one other title that gives her immense pride: survivor. Rowena was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005, but in a twist of fate that could only be described as “miraculous,” she was eventually declared cancer-free by her doctors. This event led to a new awakening for Rowena. “It was like a fresh new canvass but this time instead of using my brush right away and paint the colours directly on the canvass, I learned that it’s worthwhile to sketch my thoughts first before the final touch of colours and signatures,” she says. “I learned to look at life at a different angle. If one angle doesn’t satisfy my questions then I will try looking at it at another angle until I find the right answer and purpose in the situations around me. Life after cancer is like living with a better view finder.” She felt a great desire to present her testimony to the world, and Toasmasters International gave her the perfect platform. For her, it wasn’t only about winning anymore, but also letting everyone know that hope can still thrive in the face of such a debilitating disease. “My speech

was all about my life with cancer and I

Despite the accolades that she has

just kept on revising it in every level of the

acquired through the years, Rowena

contest, but the story and the message

considers her family her greatest

were always the same,” she says. “We

achievement. “I am proud of how my

don’t need to wait until we experience the

three kids have grown and how they have

fear of dying before we appreciate living

achieved much,” she says. “It’s not only

because we should fear what is dying

about their success in their field but how

inside us while we are still living.”

they both treat people and animals with great care.”




JOVETTE LOPEZ THE TOAST OF THE COMMUNITY Jovette is the Division-A Governor of the Riyadh operations of Toastmasters International - a global pioneer in communication and leadership development with over 332,000 members worldwide. She is seen as an energetic and effective leader, with a focus on education and youth empowerment. In October of 2015, Jovette collaborated with fellow Filipino Toastmasters in Riyadh to conduct a one-day workshop for high school students from four Filipino international schools in Riyadh. The event was deemed a great success, with a turnout of attendees that surpassed expectations. “I have always thought that learning was just about knowing things but I have realized that it’s really all about how you practice what you have learned and use it to improve the world,” Jovette exclaims. In her work in the organization, she has learned that patience is a virtue and that relationships with people do matter – it takes effort and hard endeavour to maintain that camaraderie, harmony and team work. “These all boil down to having a positive and flexible mind, caring

heart, and sincere character,” she says. “I learned to respect, to have integrity, to serve relentlessly and to strive for excellence.” Jovette also served in the Board of Directors of the Computer Society of Filipinos from 2006 to 2008. She aims for a post-graduate course in the near future, all the better to help her serve and impart greater knowledge to the communities that she is active in.





THE MULTI-TASKING LENSMAN Norman, also known as “Nhorms,” is a photographer, an indie actor, and a community leader. As President and Founder of the Riyadh Creative Artists, Norman is at the head of a vibrant creative movement in Riyadh, rostered by some of the country’s most esteemed Filipino photographers, stylists, make up artists, and models. “As President of the RCA, I am able to help our fellow kababayans in Riyadh and the Philippines by spearheading photo shoots and events for various charitable causes,” he says. “Through these initiatives, talented Filipinos here in Riyadh are able to showcase their talents in high fashion photography, modelling, make up, and design, while helping our kababayans in need back home.” An accomplished and admired photographer, Norman was also the President of the Shutters Guild from 2010 to 2012. He has attended high profile photography workshops in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and in turn imparts what he has learned to his peers and contemporaries and uses his knowledge and skills in service of others. He has done several fundraising and awarenessbuilding photo projects which benefitted worthy causes such as the victims of an earthquake in Bohol, an OFW rape victim in Riyadh, and an OFW amputee. “It feels so good to be able to help the community in my own simple ways,” he says. “It is also a way for us in the RCA to celebrate and bond with each other and with other groups like a real family. This helps a lot in alleviating homesickness and work-related stress.” ILLUSTRADO 132

Norman’s character is marked with a strong sense of responsibility to his community. To him, being a blessing to others is the greatest honor, so he ensures that everything he does serves to inspire, empower, and motivate others.



FRANCIS PEGA THE PRINCE CHARMING With his contagiously upbeat personality, funny antics, charm, and lovable boy-nextdoor looks, Francis has won the hearts of countless OFW’s in the Middle East. As a ‘Kabayan Tambayan’ segment host and correspondent for TFC Connect, he often gets assigned to cover or host community events in various parts of Saudi Arabia, the country where he is currently based in. “My work is rewarding because in a simple way I get to bring fun and laughter to those who are lonely, or maybe suffering from homesickness,” he says. “I also enjoy how I am sort of an instrument for OFW’s to greet their loved ones back home via television.” On a more personal note, Francis’ work on TV has made him more confident and friendly. He considers himself as an introvert, but TFC Connect goaded him out of his shell and made him more personable and outgoing. “I learned so much from this show, such as getting the most out of simple things, being patient and inspiring others,” he says. “I hope that there would be more people I can help and inspire through this show. In the near future, I hope that I can earn much so that I can get back home to the Philippines and spend time with my family.”




FILIPINO DIGERATI CLUB At the Filipino Digerati Club (FDA), an organization filled with people whose expertise or professional involvement comprises of Information Technology, it is all about connecting Filipinos through technologies and skills – and sharing thoughts and minds for personal development. The group has provided personal programs, computer literacy and education classes, high-quality computing and office procedurals to around 17,000


students in the last six years. Team

no volunteers living on such Emirate and

building activities and internal seminars

it took a while before establishing a new

and mentoring were also provided to gain

set of volunteers from the location until

more knowledge. The group encourages

leaving them on their own. “Despite all the

cross-functional responsibilities in order

troubles or struggles FDA meets, being

to prepare and build a mere volunteer

positive contributes to a better outlook

in holding higher positions in the

in life,” she says. “All volunteers provide

organization in the future. “FDA sets up

free services, not just to help others but

different branches in different Emirates

to make themselves happy and fulfilled at

and trainings are conducted regularly

the same time. It is always sweet music to

every Friday,” says President Lillian

the ears whenever a sincere “thank you”

Bautista. “FDA has gone far to, at least,

from Kababayans is received. It is very

five Emirates as part of reaching out to

rewarding whenever a FDA graduate would

co-Filipinos from sub-urban places instead

inform that he or she was promoted at

of them going to the Dubai branch which

work, gained a better job or has put up his

might be considered far for them. FDA

own business.”

is the only group with most branches. FDA has also the most number of offered

As of now, FDA has more than 15,000

courses, including livelihood programmes.”

course graduates - some give updates about what’s going on with them; others

Interestingly that has also become its

send messages whether they are still in

main challenge – putting up different

the UAE or otherwise.

branches. During those times, there were




FCC or the Filipino Computer Club, a non-

necessary skills and flexibility, we strongly

profit organization, provides free computer

believe that we will meet and exceed the

training classes - and even facilities - to

expectations and objectives we have set

the underprivileged society in Dubai and

for ourselves.”

the Northern Emirates in the hopes of their students securing higher-paying jobs in

Of course like any other organizations

the future. The FCC is also the first and

there are challenges – the biggest

only Filipino Club that conducts Speech

of which was the lack of funding and

Craft Workshop in cooperation with

manpower. “But with the magnanimous

Toastmasters International. “The series

dedication, commitment and hard work

of interactive workshops help individuals

of the officers, members and students

build their confidence and sharpen their

along with the support extended by the

communication and leadership skills,” says

Philippine Embassy, POLO/OWWA in Dubai,

FCC President and Head Trainer Cherry

community leaders, volunteers and private

Pye Zablan-Torres. “This is the first step to

companies that help keep our noble

overcoming their fear of Public Speaking.

project, we go from strength to strength,”

FCC delivers quality result-driven training

she says.

solutions in the UAE. We focus on the end-result – the win for our students. With

To date, FCC has trained more than

a proven track record, our main strength

33,000 and the club’s future plans include

is our ability to work in tandem with our

conducting web-related seminars and

students as this is the only way to fully

workshops, putting up their own library

understand the practical and realistic

of books and CD-ROMs and installing a

solutions that aims to create a stimulating

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL).

environment. Poised to provide the






CADD for Kabayan is one of those

other-related sectors. The organization

community organizations in the UAE

was put up simply to give a chance

that has changed the lives of Filipinos

for OFWs to compete in the world of

through skills education. Having trained

Information Technology. “Our group is

over 7,000 individuals until December

a family oriented organization,” says

2014, producing, 20 TESDA NCII Certified

Founder Engineer Orandantes M. Delizo.

passers in Structural Drafting and

“We are only concentrating in the group’s

developing 35 achievers, the group has

technical skills and expertise which we

facilitated a 360 turn in the professions of

share. We make sure our students receive

its trainees – transforming, for example,

proper training and are certified in their

a salesman into a CADD draftsman, a

chosen skills.”

secretary to draftswoman, a welder to a CADD technician, and a laborer into an

CADD which stands for Computer Aided

Assistant Engineer.

Design and Drafting offers a wide range of courses: Basic AutoCAD, 3D Modelling,

Established in 2002, CADD for Kabayan

Studio Max, Sketchup, Photography and

is a non-profit organization that conducts

Video Editing, Drafting Courses, Revit and

technical trainings for OFWs and their

Microstation. These specialized trainings

dependents in Dubai and the Northern

occur every Friday at POLO-OWWA in Al

Emirates, providing ample knowledge

Ghusais from 8 am to 5 pm. “We are so

to people who want to learn more in the

fulfilled when we see our trainees become

fields of Engineering and Architecture and

successful through the skills training we have shared with them,” he says.




OVERSEAS PINOY PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS SOCIETY The Overseas Pinoy Professional Photographers Society (OPPPS) was established to share photography ideas and techniques to both amateurs and professionals in the field. But apart from merely fostering the love for the art of photography, the group has also equipped many a budding artists to venture into the field as freelancers, giving some of them a

veritable alternative career option.

we invited other enthusiasts to attend our mini-workshops until we started the short

Founded in January 2003 with a clear

10-session course in Digital Photography that

vision and purpose of mapping out

we offer for beginners.”

training workshops to photography enthusiasts, the organization provides

When word got out, the group increased in

courses on Digital Photography, Digital

number. “We feel happy when the effort and

Darkroom (Post Processing), Studio

the time we had invested were never wasted

Portrait and Fashion Photography (Indoor

or ill-consumed,” he says. “We feel blessed

and Outdoor), Going Places with Camera

when we were able to pursue the noble path

and OPPPS (Field Trips), Simplified

of community service reaching out to share

Photo Journalism, Photo Essay and other

and be able to offer oneself for the betterment

Photography related topics. Part of the

of our fellow kababayans.”

learning also includes slide shows, photo contests, member critiques, field trips,

The group is both open to members and

among others. “The first few months of

non-members but the former has advantages

the organization is about building up the

such as advanced photography workshops,

camaraderie of the founders, knowing

discussion and meetings facilitated by

each other’s strength and how we can

professionals with unquestionable expertise,

utilize that strength in the organization,”

chance to submit shots for comments and

says Co-Founder Milo Torres. “We have

reviews, being part of competitions, among

had few workshops amongst us then

others. ILLUSTRADO 137









I L L U S T R A D O FA C E S Sponsored by:



I L L U S T R A D O FA C E S Sponsored by:



I L L U S T R A D O FA C E S 8

Aidan Calvin Tasker Lynch by Alvin Dee

Aiza Dela Cruz by Vhinz Garcia

Allen Evangelista by Luis Ganchero

Arriane Nowicki by Carla Nacario

Bridgette Reyes by Michael Colon (KSA)

Camille Joy Rimando by Gabriel John Rimando

Criscel Baylosis Belderol by Cris Tazz

Erica Collantes by Eduardo Lelis

Ellen Marie Hilario Belarma by Bryan Bryx

Gladys Tugna y Eric Perales

Jenny Rose Cortez2 by Joseph Arcangel

Joana Manabat by Nel Ian Melchor Bacerra


Charie Christel Joyce Malit by Ik Lumberio

I L L U S T R A D O FA C E S 8

Joshua Angelo Mercado Pacquiao by Rico Sumadia

Joyce Anne Clarisse Gomez by Rederick Bautista

Karen Joy San Luis by Myla Frewen

April May Short by Sefi Curada

Marielle Lois Ann Garcia by Jef Anog

Resyl Arcinue by Ricky Pao

Reynaldo Ponciano Aguirre Jr. by Wahid Jaafar

Fenella Diaz by Red Bautista

Shaiy Daquiz by Anna Salovino

Sherica Shylla Galang by Rashel Zinampan

Verge Llego by Alvin Dee

Yvonne Arquillano Heruela by Myla Frewen

Kristoff Andrew by Alvin Dee (PHP)

Roda May Mojica by Gerard Mapalad



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PURE GOLD JEWELLERS CELEBRATES DIWALI WITH ‘NAZRAANA’ COLLECTION FROM RIO TINTO Award-winning jewelry retailer Pure Gold Jewellers has collaborated with the Rio Tinto Group - one of the world’s major producers and suppliers of diamonds – to present a new diamond jewelry range in time for this year’s Festival of Lights. The Nazraana collection, which alludes to the royal gift giving rituals of the past, aim to capture a higher share of the wedding gifting market with affordable diamond jewelry. The exquisite Nazraana collection of jewelry is crafted using natural diamonds and hallmarked 18K gold. According to Karim Merchant, CEO & MD of Pure Gold Jewellers, “We are proud to be Rio Tinto’s exclusive partner in bringing the Nazraana collection to the Middle East. Nazraana is a category-defining concept focused on the wedding and festive gifting segment and we are excited to present it in this region.” Beautiful floral designs accentuate Nazraana’s necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. The price of the collection pieces start at AED 1699. According to Karim Merchant, CEO & MD of Pure Gold Jewellers, “Diwali celebrations are not complete without gifts to loved ones; and diamond jewelry is a preferred gifting item as it captures the brilliance of the Festival of Lights.” ILLUSTRADO 146

Ansar Gallery, Karama • Al Ghurair Centre • Shindagha City Centre

Burjuman Centre | Ramada Hotel Deira