With 10 years of honoring the Filipino spirit, MEGA finds new meaning in pride, shining light to its implications in a world defined by a new circumstance and these catalysts for change.
Every year we study the word pride closely and carefully, dissecting it to the best of our abilities in the hopes of finding new meaning to something that has been peddled too much and haphazardly over the years. In these linguistic undertakings, the facet we manage to sculpt and shine a light on often surprises us. If anything, these are typically bookended by celebration and festivities, trumpeting what it means to be proud today as a Filipino. But this year in particular marks a significant shift in the merriment as we are marred by a sharp turn in the history that is unfolding before our very eyes.
How does one celebrate pride when the country and the rest of the world is in a state of crisis, besieged by a vile and vicious villain that has no face or form? In this apparent hopelessness, there lies that sliver of light we are fixing our gaze towards. Hope is not all lost. In fact, there is a lot of it to draw from: the little wins within our own social circles, the milestone-making victories we incur in solidarity, and all the breaths we are able to take—these are enough to merit the thought that all will be well at some point.
And then is that pride that meets purpose, heralded by indefatigable and indomitable spirits that manage to not only raise our flag, but our collective worn out spirits as well. Following the great tradition of MEGA over 10 years, we are marking this year with a coming together of ten talented and tenacious individuals that truly makes us proud to be a Filipino, especially in this day on independence.
Read on to see who made the list and why they are a worthy source of Pinoy Pride.
Maligayang araw ng kasarinlan, Pilipinas!
Sure, it makes for a dramatic visual: a strip of cloth dancing in the wind as the lone hero stands with hands on their waist, eyeing the scenic expanse before flying out to save the day. But for fictional Filipino heroine, Darna, she didn’t need all that, nor did the actress who donned the iconic red and gold regalia some 15 years ago on television, because even if she retired the gauntlets and passed the stone to someone else, Angel Locsin hasn’t stopped being the hero that people need her to be, especially in the most trying reality we are living in today.
While she would rather not draw attention to herself, typically attempting to go incognito in her many philanthropic efforts over the years with her now signature hair tucked in a cap look, her selfless volunteer work speaks volumes, reaching far and wide in the country for everything from donating blood with Red Cross to relief operations in far-flung besieged Marawi. In fact, she was hailed one of Forbes Asia’s 2019 Heroes Of Philanthropy: Catalysts For Change for her charitable causes such as educational scholarships, economic and political rights of indigenous people, and ending violence against women and children. Putting things into action, that year alone saw her giving the gift of education scholarships to 31 deserving students, skipped the fanfare of the highly-anticipated ABS-CBN Ball and instead, donated the money she would have used for that event directly to the child welfare organization, Bantay Bata 163. When a 6.5 magnitude earthquake ravaged Tulunan, Cotabato, she not only made monetary donations, but she also personally did a relief operation, which she has also done for victims in typhoon hit Northern Samar and Taal following the devastating volcano eruption.
When the COVID-19 pandemic became a full blown healthcare crisis in March, Angel Locsin wasted no time in setting up a fundraiser for #UniTENTweStandPH, an effort with Neil Arce, Dimples Romana, Dr. Marev Matic, and Gines Sarangaya that aimed to help solve overcrowding in hospitals all over the country. What started as providing sleeping tents for front liners ballooned to an undertaking that involved acquiring and distributing medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and most astonishingly, a total collection of P11,359,856.89 that equated to 246 tents (isolation and sanitation) that decongested 135 hospitals nationwide. Now, being the tireless and tenacious spirit that she is, Angel Locsin continues to save lives, this time with the revival of Shop & Share, her 2009 charitable project with Anne Curtis, which is now geared towards procuring funds for mass testing amid the persistence of the coronavirus. She hopes that the testing kits purchased from this effort will reach poorer sectors in society who have little to no access to test, trace, and treat the onset of the virus.
“If we all work together, we can get through this,” she writes on Instagram, acknowledging that though the challenge that lies ahead is great, it can be eradicated not by her alone, but with the community working towards a singular goal. While clearly a moving force in the work she does outside the realm of entertainment, it never is about her but who and how else she can be of service for others. There lies the beauty of Angel Locsin, the modern-day hero that continues to help at her own behest. Whether she be Darna or the angel that she was named after, this country knows that when push comes to shove, we know she will swoop in to save the day. And no, she still doesn’t need a cape for that. —Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena
Uncharacteristically busy on what would seem to be an otherwise mundane Sunday afternoon in December of last year, the newly refurbished Rizal Memorial Coliseum saw snaking lines and an impressively packed house. This was no rock concert, however the deafening cheers and rapid rounds of applause following every mere mention of his name were befitting a rock star who would naturally bask in the glow of the attention. But for the typically shy and subdued Carlos Yulo, this was a lot to take in, which was a very far cry from his experience competing abroad where he says no one knows who he is. Well, clearly things have changed, because he no longer is just another name on the list of athlete hopefuls, but where the Philippines is concerned, he’s a hero.
Having stumbled into the discovery of gymnastics by accident from an afternoon in the park with his grandfather, Carlos Yulo would then springboard to the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines where he was taken in as an athletic protégé. With a training program from the Philippine Sports Commission at the very same stadium he would compete in for the SEA Games in 2019, he would display the latent makings of a champion, training as hard as he could to clinch victories in the Palarong Pambansa. “Sa susunod na Palaro, sana po maging champion ako,” he wished earnestly in 2012, recounting his road to the national multi-sport event that entailed flat out failures to gold medal wins. Little did he know that this was just the beginning, because it wouldn’t soon be long before his astounding abilities and athleticism would catch the eye of Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who would eventually prove instrumental to his success as a gymnast.
Just like the stories of many greats before him, the journey to victory is not one that is easy or taken lightly. Truth be told, he was on the verge of quitting altogether shortly after settling in Japan in 2016 to further hone his skills in the sport. “Kinausap ko Mama ko, gusto ko na pong tumigil mag-gymnastics,” he recounts, citing homesickness, language barrier, and difficult trainings that stacked up to his self-prescribed frustration. “Pero habang nandoon po ako, na-realize ko na bakit ‘di ko na lang gawin.” And so he stuck it out, just as he would stick his landings on a little wiggle before standing up straight.
With his growing confidence compounded by the buffing out of his abilities, Carlos Yulo would claim significant wins in gymnastic tournaments all over the world, including his record-making performance at the World Artistic Gymnastics in Doha, Qatar in 2018 where he claimed the bronze medal in the floor exercise category, a victory he would surpass the next year in Stuttgartt, Germany with jaw-dropping and breathtaking routine that earned him a historic gold medal—a first for a Southeast Asian and most importantly, a Filipino. “Basta tumaas lahat ng balahibo ko at nagpe-pray ako kay God, nagte-thank you po ako sa kanya,” he said to Dyan Castillejo after his win, which qualified him a coveted spot at the now-challenged 2020 Tokyo Olympics where he hopes to clinch another first for the country, the elusive gold.
At the Southeast Asian Games, the 4-foot-11 Filipino dynamo conquered all seven categories he competed in with much aplomb, amassing 5 silver medals and 2 gold medals, which drove the crowd wild, chanting his name. Flustered and flushed with the devotion of the fans, he sheepishly and almost apologetically accepted the adoration, which was definitely a new thing for him. It may still be a lot for him to take in, but it is something worthy of the honor he has brought to the country, and will without a doubt bring more of in the future.
Once only dreaming of playing at the Palarong Pambansa and SEA Games, the goals of Carlos Yulo has since levelled up. Little did he know that this seed of hope would one day grow to be a most abundant tree branching out further into the sky that he ever thought possible. “Nung 12 years old lang po ako nag start mangarap mag-Olympics,” he reveals. And it couldn’t have come sooner, because he could very well somersault his way to history, just as he did that fateful afternoon in the park.
But oh, we are getting way ahead of this story. —Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena
Who else isn’t familiar with the iconic characters of Ivy Aguas and Lily Cruz, both portrayed by Maja Salvador? In every episode of the ABS-CBN teleserye Wildflower, Maja Salvador showed her brilliance and brave acting, making most of her scenes go viral after airing. Filipino viewers were quick to mimic the role, feeling empowered and fierce as Ivy Aguas. Always known to really inhabit the characters she play, she delivers a nuanced breathing to life, honoring their truth above anything else. No wonder her acting prowess was noticed internationally. Last October 6, 2019, Maja Salvador won Best Actress at the 1st Asian Content Awards held in Busan, South Korea.
Expressing the true Filipino synergy in her speech—Maja thanked her fellow actors who helped her up her game. As the first Asian Content Awards recognized the top-notch TV Dramas across Asia, even a nomination is an achievement itself. And, she does not keep the award to herself, she shares it to all her Filipino supporters and treats it as an honor of her own country. On her Instagram account, Maja posted, “Thank You #AsiaContentsAwards and #BIFF201 Congratulations Team Wildflower. Wala ako dito sa Busan ngayon kung hindi dahil sa inyong lahat. This award is ours. Masaya ako na nakapagbigay tayo ng karangalan para sa Industriya natin sa Pilipinas.”—Alinea Hernandez
While the world is in high demand of protective gears, especially those who are in the forefront of the pandemic, Filipino fashion designer Mich Dulce and her team saw the immediate need to step in and produce these essential gear suits at the very early onset of this global healthcare crisis. When fashion meets function, hers was the first “medically reviewed open-source suit design.” Mich Dulce, Kendi Maristela, Lea Empalmado, and AJ Dimarucot based their PPEs they received from the Office of the Vice President. Through this initiative, she was able to posit a movement within the design community to shift perspectives in production at the height of the pandemic and with consideration for a new normal in the realm of fashion.
Head of the Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies in Berkeley, California, Gui Cavalcanti says that Dulce and her team reverse-engineered an existing isolation suit design, which they turned into a pattern before providing an instructional PDF to guide everyone into making one. However, with the lack of materials, it wasn’t easily produced. Dulce had to reach out to Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club for donors of Tyvek, a highly-preferable fabric to make the PPE, and sourcing other materials like zippers and garters. As a pioneer of this idea, the fashion designer encourages other designers to build PPE according to what to the instructional PDF. Thereafter, fashion designer Rajo Laurel followed the lead and has begun producing the same PPE in his factory.
Through the efforts of Mich Dulce, a community of artisans and designers came together with one goal: to help protect and save the physical welfare of the healthcare and front line workers, as well as those who go through high-risk conditions with the looming threat of the coronavirus. As the movement grew exponentially to the fashion community, she was also quick to remind people how these are a level of protection, but isn’t necessarily medical-grade as PPEs in the field should be. A bridging of form and function, this ultimately was that gust of wind the Filipino fashion industry needed, as well as that one more rung of assurance for those setting out into this uncertain world of ours.—Alinea Hernandez
The latter part of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 have become a remarkable stage for Asian filmmakers when a Korean black comedy thriller film, Parasite directed by Bong Joon-Ho won four Oscars including Best Picture. When we speak of talented Filipino filmmakers, we automatically have the names in our mind and one of them indeed deserves to be applauded after he proved to be a major standout in bringing a local film to the leading streaming giant, Netflix.
The genius behind films Neomanila, Eerie, and Birdshot which won Best Film in the Asian Future category of 29th Tokyo International Film Fest (TIFF) was also the director of Dead Kids, the first original movie from the Philippines to stream on Netflix. Dead Kids stars rising young actors of their generation such as Kelvin Miranda, Vance Larena, Khalil Ramos, and Jan Silverio. With Mikhail Red’s riveting take on telling stories, it’s never the typical horror or coming-of-age films. Tapping historical occurrence like World War and eye-opening matters like mental health and police brutality, he would always capture and stir the mind of his audience with intriguing factual events. Thus, considering the major market of Netflix, Dead Kids is indeed fitting to be the first local film to enter Netflix. Witnessing a local masterpiece on the global scene is not only an award-winning moment for the independent filmmaker, but also to every Filipino.
But the film doesn’t stop rolling after the director has yelled cut on this milestone, because also in the works for Mikhail Red is a directing spot on the much-awaited season 3 of HBO Asia’s Halfworlds, where the series is set to take over Manila, unleashing distinctly Filipino creatures and folklore that have sent both marvel and chills down our spine as kids, and well, even up to this day. —Alinea Hernandez
Office of the Vice President
“We didn’t do this alone. Working with the private sector was crucial. Volunteers from everywhere formed the cornerstone of our success and constant daily feedback paved the way for improvement,” says Vice President Leni Robredo in a webinar orchestrated by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) aptly called, COVID-19: An opportunity to advance women’s rights and gender equality, deferring the success of her administrative agency to the larger network that has made it possible. And, like many women who take care of domestic work in their own homes, our work remains unfinished.”
Fundamentally a great leader who in the face of being relegated to the margins of function in the government has risen above such adversities to propel significant and necessary work for the Filipino people, Leni Robredo and the Office of the Vice President has displayed far more in the past few months than what should have constitutionally and dutifully expected of the administration. But ever the humble captain of her ship, she simply takes everything in stride and says that, “These, for me, are more than just numbers. They offer a glimpse of the goodness of the Filipino, proving that we respond to the worst of times with the best of ourselves,” adding, “Sama-sama nating inaakay ang ating kapwa sa gitna ng takot at pangamba, at araw-araw tayong nagsisikap magbahagi ng pag-asa sa isa’t isa.”
Three days before the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine was mandated, which ultimately severed the functions of society including transport and employment, the Office of the Vice President along with Kaya Natin! Movement kickstarted a fundraising effort that initially focused on the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front liners and healthcare workers. With a donation of P5.9 million from her office, the undertaking would soon mobilize at an optimal rate, raising an impressive amount of almost P60 million by the end of April. Compounded by in-kind donations coursed through the Office of the Vice President, this meant a more economical reallocation of funds. In the end, they were able to deliver 321,488 PPE daily sets for 21,432 front liners, as well as food and care packages. On top of that, they were also able to address the call and need for mass testing by donating P5.3 million worth of extraction kits to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which approximately conducts around 12,750 COVID-19 testing.
Taking other needs in the crisis that has now ballooned into a debacle of epic of proportions, the Office of the Vice President has not only offered free shuttle service for healthcare workers opened its first dorm for health workers stranded, displaced, and isolated from their homes in key points of Quezon City, Manila, Pasig, Baguio, Albay, Bataan, and Leyte. It has also since procured and turned over aerosol boxes to hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients. Not one to rest or take it easy, this being a pandemic of unprecedented measures, Leni Robredo and her office has also gone on to launch a city app-based online marketplace called Community Mart, which benefits tricycle drivers and market vendors. Inspired by Naga city’s effort, the mobile application has since partnered with the Quezon city local government, as well as with Pasig city. “The concept is you will download an app on your phones and order online, then someone will receive it in the market. Then it will be delivered to you on the same day, but the tricycle drivers will deliver your purchase
The latest solution finding initiative of the second highest-ranking official in the government through the Office of the Vice President is focused on education, especially since distance learning is quickly becoming a solution for academic institutions whose calendars have been halted and skewed by the pandemic. “Ang inyong magiging ambag, ipaparating natin sa mga estudyante na walang pambili o access sa ganitong mga kagamitan, at sa mga guro na gagamit ng bagong medium upang magbahagi ng kaalaman,” she said in a social media post.
Eagle-eyed on real problems that the Filipino people are facing everyday as this pandemic continues to leech through the foundations that we have built and protected for so long, Leni Robredo is putting in the work as she was sworn to do by the electorate. Bolstered by empathy and ethics that are undeterred and unshaken, the response to pressing concerns is addressed, especially to those who are affected the most. “As we have always done throughout our struggle for equality, we have made much out of little, and more than made do when we were given less,” she says, proving that hope is not at all lost in these times. “Women provide leadership where it is absent, hope to those who have given in to despair, and a plan in a time where a clear view of the horizon is as important to the human spirit as food is for our bodies.” —Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena
There is not one Filipino who doesn’t know his name or has not listened to his music. It is an honor and privilege to be alive at a time where National Artist, Ryan Cayabyab thrives in the industry and lives to tell his tales. He has made a mark in the country through his excellent compositions, arrangements, and music directorial, but aside from a legacy that surpasses time, many Filipinos have been inspired by him to make their own music too.
It seems that in a world full of differences and adversities, music is the powerful art that brings us all together. That is why it is important to recognize the man that has paved the way for great music in the country. Additionally, as part of his efforts to help the most vulnerable sectors in the coronavirus pandemic in Luzon, Ryan Cayabyab led a fundraising concert called, Bayanihan Musikahan via Facebook Live last March. The initiative featured a number of Filipino singers performing live in their respective Facebook pages, such as Lea Salonga, Christian Bautista, Ebe Dancel, Martin Nievera, and many more award-winning OPM artists. After a week of the concert, it has reportedly raised at least P13.8 million.
As Ryan Cayabyab is recognized as a household name, “his compositions reflect a perspective of music that extols the exuberance of life and human happiness, thus capturing the very essence of our Filipino soul.” His passion for teaching only makes sense as he and his wife Emmy created Music School of Ryan Cayabyab, now on its twenty-second year, that helps shape the next generation of musicians to use their voices and talents for a bigger purpose. —Elyse Ilagan
Ramon Ang may be the president and chief executive of one of the nation’s oldest conglomerates, San Miguel, but his efforts to do more for our country rather than just his business is a great contribution worthy of recognition. He has been steering San Miguel Corp’s successful diversification to other business ventures; from beer manufacturing to infrastructure development, including airport, petrochemical, and transportation, among others. Now, SMC is constructing a modern world-class international airport in Bulacan to enable the country to be competitive in airline travel in the years to come.
And with all of the work done, his message is always to “love our country” and “show compassion.” While words may be powerful, actions speak louder than words. And he walks the talk, as shown in his good leadership during the start of the MECQ in Metro Manila. Ramon Ang announced that the 66,000 employees, consultants, and contract workers of the San Miguel Corp. will receive their salaries, benefits in full despite the work disruption caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from that, it is also worth noting his charity with his daughter Cecile, the launch of the Better World community, comprised of those in Tondo whom they described as “marred by hunger and grinding poverty” but who, with the help of San Miguel Foundation, would now have a better world. This includes families who eat “pagpag.” According to Inquirer, “The San Miguel Foundation, the entity behind this project, has converted a 1,000-square-meter warehouse in Barangay 101, Tondo, Manila, into a soup kitchen and community center that will feed the Better World community.”
Because generosity is not just giving what you can, sometimes, it is going the extra mile and showing that you care. —Elyse Ilagan
Dr. Raul Destura and his team of UP Scientists
One of the country’s breakthrough efforts against the coronavirus pandemic was Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center, Dr. Raul Destura’s invention of the GenAmplify™ COVID-19 rRT-PCR Detection Kit. Together with his team of UP scientists who delivered the country’s first locally-developed test kits for COVID-19 detection, they helped Filipinos afford cheaper test kits, and possibly even saving the lives of countless patients.
The testing kit, which is more than six times cheaper than the imported test kits, was funded by the DOST through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The product—just like the other approved imported test kits—is seen to expedite the process and turnaround period for COVID-19 testing in the Philippines. Along with this, Dr. Destura also offered technical support for medical facilities and laboratories that will conduct the tests. He said that they have developed informational videos and online modules that will help personnel all over the country in the testing procedure.
This further proves the importance of supporting research initiatives of state universities and colleges (SUC). And we hope that with this award, more people will recognize how important it is to pay attention to our scientists. Because they could be the very people who will save us all.—Elyse Ilagan
Aside from Auro Chocolate being a premium bean-to-bar chocolate brand rooted in sustainability and carefully crafted Filipino products, they get their beans at higher value to inspire quality and to give their Mindanao farmers the opportunity to improve their standard of living.
Last October 31, 2019, Auro Chocolate and Jose Saguban made history for the Philippines as they won the first-ever Top 20 Best Cacao Beans Award during the prestigious International Cocoa Awards (ICA) held in Salon du Chocolat Paris by the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (CoEx). And while it is a great honor for your business to be recognized as one of the best cacao beans in the world, what was really moving was the fact that the founders, Jacky and Kelly Go and Mark Ocampo brought to the stage the Filipino farmer who grew the beans to accept the award himself. Jose Saguban of Paquibato, Davao is one of Auro Chocolate’s original farming partners. Mang Jose has been growing cacao since the 1970s and is now exclusively supplying cacao beans to Auro Chocolate.
With that simple gesture alone, it gives great hope to the new generation of farmers that they continue their legacy of making excellent products worth acknowledging. Additionally, since its launch in May 2015, there has been tremendous growth for Auro Chocolate both domestically and internationally. They opened their first retail store in Tokyo and continue to grow in the hopes of continuing to elevate the art of cacao farming and chocolate making while creating greater social impact. —Elyse Ilagan