Next time someone tries to discourage you from going for what seems like an impossible dream, remember these five Filipinas who make the country proud with their amazing achievements. Remember too that these women didn’t start from the top; rather, they worked their way up, grabbing opportunities to grow and learning along the way. Indeed, success doesn’t happen overnight, but slowly and surely, through hard work, determination, faith, and by keeping your eyes on the prize.
Who is she: Head of the Advanced Engineering Development Branch of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. “I’m leading very diverse groups of people to bring their whole selves to work while executing NASA’s mission, which ultimately benefits mankind,” she explained in an interview with spot.ph.
How she got there: Through hard work and persistence. Born into a family of doctors, she was convinced by a schoolmate to enroll at the University of the Philippines’ Electronics and Communications Engineering program. Despite struggling with math, she graduated, took her Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at South Dakota State University, then alternated studying with working at the John F. Kennedy Space Center until she took on a full-time job at the center.
Words of inspiration: “Dream many big dreams, and explore challenging opportunities along the way. Push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, and pick tasks that are harder than what you’re used to. Go for growth. Do things that you’re not already good at. Realistically expect that not all your dreams will come true, at least not the first time you try, but give each try your best anyway.”
Who is she: Executive chef of the White House since 2005, the first woman and person of Asian descent assigned to the job.
How she got there: With luck and the trust of her bosses. The chef, who did not finish her degree in food technology at the University of the Philippines, migrated to the United States, where she worked for a number of restaurants, including her own, t. Then White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib III recruited her in 1995 while President Bill Clinton was in office. When Chef Walter retired 10 years later, Cris was appointed executive chef by First Lady Laura Bush after the Filipina handled a major state dinner for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Filipina chef retained her position under the Obama administration, and she remains the White House executive chef under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Words of inspiration: “People always say, ‘The White House is the pinnacle of your career.’ But when you reach a pinnacle, everything goes downhill from there,” she said in an article for Real Simple. “You don’t want to call it your pinnacle. You want to call it a stepping-stone for the next great thing.”
Who is she: This weightlifter is the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal of any color, bagging the silver in the 53-kg weight division of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Among her other accolades are a silver medal from the 2019 Asian Championship, and a gold medal from the 2019 Southeast Asian Games held in Manila.
How she got there: By never saying never. Born to a poor family in Zamboanga City, Hidilyn sold vegetables in the local market and made do with rice and salt or soy sauce when there was nothing to eat. She found her passion for weightlifting and went on from practicing with homemade barbells to lifting real barbells, first locally, then in international arenas. Her win in the Rio Olympics ended a 20-year Olympic medal drought for the country.
Words of inspiration: “Ang challenge, parte lang ‘yan ng buhay. Darating ang panahon, gusto mo nang sumuko, pero kailangan mong lumaban para sa pangarap mo,” she said as a guest on the noontime TV show ASAP. “Ang kailangan mo lang, maniwala sa Diyos, sa sarili mo, sa kakayahin mo, at sa mga taong naniniwala sa ‘yo.”
Who is she: The wushu athlete made waves for taking to Twitter and proudly declaring herself a Filipina after she bagged golds in the women’s taijiquan and taolu taijijian events of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
How she got there: Through steely determination. Agatha, whose original sports were Karatedo and swimming, shifted to the less popular wushu when controversies arose in her earlier athletic endeavors. How she managed to master wushu enough to bring home golds? An article on metro.style reveals that the 21-year-old trains nonstop, sacrificing holidays and free days to perfect her sport.
Words of inspiration: “Kailangan lang talaga ng hard work kasi minsan kahit meron ka namang talent pero hindi ka naman hardworking, wala ka ring mararating,” she said in a story for Manila Bulletin. “I really have to work hard to get to where I am today.”
Who is she: A veteran journalist, she is the co-founder and chief executive officer of online news bureau Rappler.
How she got there: By not being afraid. The US-educated Maria, who has worked with CNN and the news division of ABS-CBN before she launched the news portal Rappler in 2012, is no stranger to being served with libel cases and warrants of arrest. But she is also the recipient of numerous local and international accolades; among them, Time’s Person of the Year (2018), Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World (2019), and a Journalism Award from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (2019).
Words of inspiration: “You cannot succeed at some point you haven’t failed.”