Mandy Romero has always known the power of conscious decision-making. Now as a MEGA Woman to Watch, she explains how her choices lead towards societal change
From our bodies to the environment, we find order in collective purpose and action. A single cell, when augmented, makes up tissues that eventually become organs. When they function together, they become a system. An individual’s action, though seemingly insignificant, can influence another until persons form a group, then a civilization. One choice can lead to a habit, until it becomes a lifestyle. This reality of life is something that at, an early age, Mandy Romero has understood and lived by since.
As she welcomes a new season in her life with a degree in one hand and a dream for the country in another, this multihyphenate takes a breather with MEGA for a deep dive on her journey towards social change.
Of privilege and purpose
Mandy started talking about her college education by mentioning the word privilege. Over the years, it is a term loosely used without proper discernment of what it entails. But to Mandy, her perception of privilege is crystal clear. “I sought a degree in Health Care Management and Policy with a Minor in Justice and Peace Studies because of my beginnings in a people-centric and mass-oriented view towards education,” she began explaining. “Working with children in Payatas since I was nine years old gave me a perspective that my education should have a constant purpose. Serving the people has always been at the heart of everything I’ve been doing. I wanted to learn what works in other countries, what innovations they may have, and at the same time, showcase what Filipinos have brought to the table, especially with the marginalized groups I’ve worked with.”
Seeking education outside Mandy’s sphere of familiarity came with its own set of challenges, too. “Entering the room as the only Asian, the only woman of color, the only person not from America—it could be othering. It could make you feel like an outsider and people could just easily accept that,” she pointed out. “But even though I was abroad, I was still very connected to my roots back home by organizing community work. That made me realize that I also have the right to be there. I also have a voice and a perspective that others may not have heard of.”
This right came with a warranted merit—a Magna Cum Laude honor with a nearly perfect GPA at Georgetown University.
Of purpose and passion
With Mandy’s deep sense of community in everything she would do, she always finds a way to not make it just about herself. During the interview, she mentioned that health has always been a human right for her, but not an actualized truth for many.
To call it circumstance would be a disgrace to her passion for helping others; she purposely chose her degree with the consideration of her exposure to how peace and justice are intertwined with health.
She expounded, “Lalo na sa Pilipinas, healthcare is seen as a privilege. People go and seek professional help when they are already in pain, in the late stages, or when there’s the burden of disease present. I feel like, with the pandemic, it really revealed to us the deep cracks within our system of health; one that’s overworked, inaccessible, and disparately affects vulnerable populations.”
The marriage of her social work and college education became more evident in the way she spoke about health equity and social and structural determinants of health. “It makes up around 10 to 20% of a person’s health outcomes. There’s a clinical side to it such as seeing the doctor and drinking medicine, but there’s the other side of it: access to healthy and nutritious food, an environmentally safe community, access to transportation, stable and safe housing, and stability of employment, exposure to childhood trauma, and more.”
Mandy’s way with words transformed the conversation into an educational discussion of sorts, one that a number of Filipinos are in dire need today.
Of passion and progress
As a Gen Z herself, she took to social media to forward her advocacies. But she, too, had her two cents on it. “I think, with social media nowadays, a lot of stories get spun. It’s easier to have an us-versus-them mentality. But with that, we lose the opportunity to come together and figure out how the diversity in our experiences actually doesn’t disconnect us as much. A lot of what everybody seeks is love and a sense of community and safety. When people don’t feel safe in the world, they want to point fingers.”
During the pandemic, Mandy partnered with her friends for mental health workshops and resources with the youth. Together with different organizations and community initiatives, they supported unemployed jeepney drivers and farmers. They also conducted relief operations during Typhoon Ulysses for the victims.
Of progress and personal choice
As home would always be where her heart is, the last thing we talked about was her family. Aside from pursuing a career in healthcare systems research, Mandy is currently supporting her parents’ venture into renewable energy and solar power. According to her, the climate crisis conversation fueled her desire to instigate change.
Mandy’s motivation to succeed comes from being surrounded by accomplished individuals. But at the end of the day, though, she hopes to forge a path of her own. With this, she quoted activist and feminist Audrey Lorde, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me, and be eaten alive.”
In her graduation post on Instagram, Mandy wrote, “This is for my 6-year-old self.” This pursuit for collective change comes from a childhood dream, a life lived with a series of choices made with the country and its citizens in mind. Knowing that there is a woman like Mandy who makes a personal stand for others, watching is not enough. She invites us to join her, and we surely will.
Photography KIERAN PUNAY
Creative Direction NICOLE ALMERO
Art Direction BRIE VENTURA, assisted by MOIRA MANILAO
Fashion Direction RYUJI SHIOMITSU
Styling JOAQUIN RODRIGO, assisted by NAVEENA ABDURAJAK and SOFIE CRISTOBAL
Beauty Direction MARA GO
Makeup VIOLET OCAMPO
Hair CHRISTIAN BOJO
Sittings Editor PEACHES GARCIA
Producers MEGA DIGITAL (CARYLL CABUHAT, JEMIMA CRUZ, CHLARINE GIANAN, MARA GO, and MIKA REYES)
Video Production REGINA ACERON, AUDREY SISON
Videography JR RAMIREZ
Production Design JOSIAH HIPONIA, assisted by JOB CONSTANTINO
Shoot Coordination KZ FRANCISCO
All pieces by CHRIS NICK