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Filipino Achievers

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Filipino of the Century
There are no more beautiful words in a song than those written by a simple man they called Levi Celerio. His songs cherish life, convey nationalistic sentiments and utter grand philosophies that all sound wonderful. His melodies are even more impressive and proud is the least a Filipino could be upon hearing them.

As a composer and lyricist, Levi wrote more than 4000 songs. Among them are popular pieces, which many would hasten to call "immortal". At one time or another, no Filipino could miss the tune or lyrics of Levi's Christmas songs: Pasko na Naman, Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, and Misa de Gallo. Who would not fall in love upon listening to the following love songs: Saan Ka Man Naroroon, Kahit Konting Pagtingin, Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal, Kapag Puso'y Sinugatan, and Ikaw. Who would not feel like dancing upon hearing the lyrics and melodies of the following folk songs: Ang Pipit, Tinikling, Tunay na Tunay, Itik-Itik, Waray-Waray, Pitong Gatang, Ako ay May Singsing, Alibangbang, Alembong, Galawgaw, Caprichosa, Ang Tapis Ni Inday, Dungawin Mo Hirang, Umaga na Neneng, Ikaw Kasi and Basta't Mahal Kita.

His best songs combine great poetry, philosophy and passion. These are O Maliwanag na Buwan, Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak, Sa Ugoy ng Duyan, Bagong Pagsilang and Sapagkat Kami'y Tao Lamang. Levi also wrote nationalistic songs such as Ang Bagong Lipunan, Lupang Pangarap, and Tinig ng Bayan. Imagine the world without these songs, and the Philippines would have been less known for its happy, romantic and enthusiastic people. 

Known as a poet of Philippine music, Levi wrote songs that set the standards for class and quality. Other Filipino songs, which lack luster and rhetoric, were soon forgotten and rarely heard again. But not Levi's songs. They are classic, if not timeless. The full meaning and emotion of a particular theme is best captured in his lyrics, as in the song, Ang Pipit:

May pumukol sa pipit sa sanga ng isang kahoy
At nahagip ng bato ang pakpak ng munting ibon
Dahil sa sakit, di na nakaya pang lumipad
At ang nangyari ay nahulog
Ngunit parang taong bumigkas,
"Mamang kay lupit, ang puso mo'y di na nahabag,
Pag pumanaw ang buhay ko
May isang pipit na iiyak!"

Ironically, Levi, the master lyricist, became famous around the world for his other distinct talent. For a time, the Guinness Book of World Records has recognized him as the only man who could play beautiful music with a leaf. Because of his rare talent, Levi was invited to the Mel Griffin show where he played "All The Things That You Are" with 39 musicians in front of nine microphones and camera. Using his leaf, Levi wowed the crowd and got the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records. The Book later listed the entry: "The only leaf player in the world is in the Philippines".

Born in Tondo on April 30, 1910, Levi received his scholarship at the Academy of Music in Manila and became the youngest member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. A great number of his songs have been written for the local movies which earned for him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Film Academy of the Philippines. In 1997, he was chosen as the National Artist in Literature and Music. The award is the highest national recognition given to Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and to the cultural heritage of the country. It is aimed at recognizing Filipino artistic accomplishment at its highest level and to promote creative expression as significant to the development of a national cultural identity. 

In his old age, Levi occasionally appeared in public, like when there was a big thing happening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was also playing at a Quezon City bar from time to time. He just could not be stopped from making beautiful music, even when shuttling between home and hospital.  Levi was a poor man, so poor in fact that he could not pay for his hospital bills. A newspaper report said that "This shouldn't be happening to him."

That is Levi. He wrote 4000 songs and remained poor. But that is something every man of his kind takes pride of. As they say, poverty is an honor and privilege bestowed on all great poets. Levi has been a great poet, the most heard Filipino poet of all time. He has been a poor man all these years, but his songs have enriched the Filipino's identity and culture. Particularly, the man I've never met a single time touched me in many ways. He died at the Delgado Clinic in Kamuning Quezon City on April 2, 2002. At 91, a beautiful song ended. Levi!

Grand Old Man of Politics
Jovito Salonga, or Ka Jovy as most people fondly call him, spoke of great dreams for this country. He spoke of economic development, social equality, and moral advancement. Although already retired from the public office, Ka Jovy still speaks of the same dreams today.

Ka Jovy was born a winner. In his political career, he lost only once, and that was in the 1992 presidential election. He could have been a president, had the Filipino electorate ignored rumors that his health was failing because of old age. Now at 81, Ka Jovy still exudes the vigor and wisdom of a young patriot. His soft voice commands respect; his judgment remains firm as ever. With the insights of a philosopher, he utters propositions that are of highest importance. At a time the country is plagued by corruption and ethical issues, Ka Jovy raises a moral voice, which reminds us to change our ways. 

The people call Ka Jovy as the "grand old man of Philippine politics". He is a survivor of the same generation, which produced the most illustrious names like Raul Manglapus, Arturo Tolentino, Jose Diokno, Soc Rodgrigo, and Wigberto Tañada. Known for his lofty ideals and eloquent speech, Ka Jovy is of the same rank as Jose Rizal and Carlos Romulo, who were arguably the brightest men this country has ever known.  Ka Jovy's outstanding career included almost five decades of unblemished record in public service. He was a three-time senator, having been elected in 1965, 1971 and 1987. A son of a Presbyterian minister, he was born on June 22, 1920. He was an honor student in elementary and high school and took up Law in college. 

He passed the bar with a rating of 95.3 percent, a record, which remains unsurpassed to this day. He practiced law in 1944 until he joined the Far Eastern University as Dean of the Institute of Law in 1961. He topped the senatorial election in 1965, the beginning of his colorful political career. He became a tough critic of the Marcos rule and was a victim of the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971. (He later blamed the communists for the bombing.) After the 1986 People Power Revolution, newly elected President Corazon Aquino appointed him as the first Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), whose role was to recover the ill-gotten wealth of President Marcos and his cronies. 

In 1987, Ka Jovy topped the senatorial elections and eventually became the Senate President. On September 16, 1991, the Philippine senate, under his presidency, rejected the ten-year extension of the U.S. bases in the Philippines, thereby formally ending the presence of foreign armed forces in the Philippine territory after four centuries. He ran for the highest position in the land in 1992 with a political platform completely different from other candidates. Under the banner of the progressive Liberal Party, Ka Jovy was campaigning for social equality, a term which caused fear among the eighty one families who control most of the country's wealth. 

Ka Jovy lost in the election, but this did not stop him from serving the cause of the nation. Since 1992, he initiated the founding of four organizations: Bantayog ng mga Bayani, which put up a memorial for more than a hundred contemporary heroes and martyrs of the nation; Kilosbayan, a forum for raising political consciousness and citizens' participation in governance; Bantay Katarungan, an NGO dedicated to the pursuit of justice and protection of human rights; and the Salonga Foundation for Human Development, a group which promotes social and moral awareness.

He remains an active speaker, denouncing the social ills in Philippine society. He is the most vocal critic of cronyism in the Estrada administration and the government's continuing promotion of gambling in the form of online lottery. He is also a religious figure, delivering sermons in the gatherings of the Philippine Presbyterian Church. It is difficult to find words to describe Ka Jovy with all his fine qualities, but perhaps, no one will disagree with Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, an Inquirer columnist, when she referred to him as a "national treasure". 

Pulitzer Prize Awardee 
Alex Tizon is a victor in what America does best - exercising press freedom. As a journalist in the "Land of the Free", Tizon has decided to follow the lead of Ernest Hemingway whose task was "to write hard and clear about what hurts." 

The 43-year-old journalist was born in Manila but grew up in the United States. He assimilated well into the American culture, learned to write, and became the model of all aspiring Filipino-American journalists. When asked how he made it big in the very competitive field of American Journalism, he had this to say: "Most big achievements happen when great effort intersects with good luck. I've worked hard, and I've been lucky, which is another way of saying that I've been blessed."

"It pays to be prepared, to be as good as you can be in your field, because you never know when luck or opportunity or grace or whatever you want to call it may come knocking. It pays to be up to the task of answering the call in full riot gear -- that is, fully prepared," he said. In 1997, Tizon received the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting, a plum that symbolizes professional excellence in the field of Journalism. This plaudit came half a century after Carlos P. Romulo won the Pulitzer Prize in International Journalism in 1941. That award must have helped Romulo become the President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1949.

Like Romulo, Tizon, a Seattle Times journalist, is proud to say that he has full Filipino blood running in his veins. As a part of the minority group in the United States, the four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee has written articles, which advanced the cause of the marginal sectors of the American society. For his more than 17 years of stint with the Seattle Times, he has earned distinction for his coverage of youth gangs, immigrant groups and Native American tribes. He has written extensively about race and ethnicity, crime and law enforcement. 

Along with two colleagues, he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories exposing widespread fraud in the federal Indian Housing Program. He has also received the Phoenix Award, a Penney Missouri Lifestyle Award and the Clarion Award for his numerous articles in the Seattle Times, Pacific, The Times' Sunday magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek magazine and CBS News. Tizon immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four. His father, Francisco Tizon Jr., a Kapampangan, served as a commercial attaché for the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu. His mother, the late Leticia Asuncion Tizon of Tarlac, was a UP-educated doctor who worked at the Swedish Medical Center, now the largest hospital in Washington.

The family became most rooted in Seattle, which Alex considers his home. "I've lived in Seattle on and off for more than 20 years, and it is, despite my aversion to the cold, wet, gray climate, my home," he said. This is also where he met his wife, Melissa, whom he describes as a "first-generation Pinay". She is a Seattle-based writer and editor. The couple is blessed with two daughters - the nine-year-old Dylan and the 11-month-old Maya.

Tizon originally considered going to law school, but a Sociology professor convinced him to take up Journalism. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon and his master's degree from Stanford University. In June 2000, the University of Oregon honored him as its 2000 Outstanding Young Alumnus.

Asked of his advice to young journalists, Tizon said: "Read, read, read. Think, think, think. Write, write, write. Go into the dark places and write about them."

UN President
Carlos P. Romulo, the first Asian president of the United Nations General Assembly, was also the first Filipino to have received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize (Correspondence). He was awarded the coveted Journalism prize for a series of articles about World War II that appeared on the pages of Philippine Herald in 1941. Romulo wrote and published 18 books that included "I Walked with Heroes" (autobiography) and "Mother America". 

Fifty-six years later, Romulo's feat was repeated by two Filipino-Americans. In 1997, Seattle Times' Alex Tizon and Byron Acohido were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their outstanding contributions to American journalism.  Tizon was cited for his series of articles about American subcultures for the Seattle Times, where he has been a staff reporter for nearly 14 years. He was born in Manila and immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four. He studied political science at the University of Oregon before earning an M.A. in journalism from Stanford University in 1986. 

Acohido received the Pulitzer prize for his reporting on the conditions of aerospace industry. He was also writing for the Seattle Times.

Filipina Tycoon 
Loida Nicolas-Lewis is probably the richest Filipino living outside her home country. She is the chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., a two-billion-dollar corporation of 64 companies based in 31 countries. TLC is a marketer of ice cream in Spain and the Canary Islands, the leading manufacturer of potato chips in Ireland, and a prime distributor of beverage in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Thailand. 

A lawyer by profession, Loida is also an author, a philanthropist, and an active leader of the Filipino community in the United States. She owns the distinction of having been the first Asian woman to pass the New York State bar exam without having studied law in the U.S. As a businesswoman, she was ranked number 1 among the "Top 50 Women Business Owners in America" by the Working Woman magazine in 1994. 

In the United States, she is known as the remarkable woman behind the success of Reginald Lewis, the first Afro-American to hit the US$1B-in-assets mark. In January 1993, Reginald died of brain cancer. So revered was Loida's love for her late husband and "tutor" that she later wrote a book, entitled "Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? How Reginald F. Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business Empire." It sold several hundred thousand copies. 

Reginald's untimely death left Loida with the responsibility of raising their two daughters alone and taking care of the family business. She finished her AB course at the Saint Theresa's College and her law degree at the University of the Philippines. 

Miss America
Angela Perez Baraquio, the 25-year-old Physical Education teacher who was crowned Miss America in October 2000, is a daughter of Philippine-born parents living in Hawaii. Her father, Claudio Fernandez Baraquio was born in Pangasinan, while her mother, Rigolette Perez grew up in Manila. Angela has three brothers and six sisters, the three eldest of whom were also born in the Philippines. The beauty queen, on the other hand, was born in Hawaii and has yet to make her first visit to Manila.

The Baraquio family has found success in the American state which is inhabited mostly by Asians and whose governor, Benjamin Cayetano, grew up in the Philippines. On October 14, 2000, Angela was crowned Miss America 2001 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, replacing former title holder, Heather Renee French of Kentucky. Angela is the first Asian American to win the Miss America title, and the second Miss Hawaii to win Miss America, after Carolyn Sapp won it in 1992.

Angela was born on June 1, 1976. She graduated from the Moanalua High School in 1994 and earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in 1999. She was a consistent honor student in high school and a standout athlete in girls' basketball. She was in the dean's list in college and was a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society.

Beauty Queens
Gloria Diaz won the Miss Universe title for the Philippines in 1969 and Miss Margarita Moran did in again in 1973. The Miss International crown was worn by Gemma Cruz in 1964, by Aurora Pijuan in 1970 and by Melanie Marquez in 1979. Filipino women have also won the Miss Asia Pacific award four times since 1965. They are Ines Zaragoza who brought home the crown in 1982; Gloria Dimayacyac, 1983; Lorna Legaspi, 1989; and Michelle Aldana, 1993.

Dotcom CEO
At the height of the dotcom craze in 1999, a 30-year-old Filipino-American woman set the fashion trend among Internet executives in New York's Silicon Alley, the East Coast version of California's Silicon Valley. Her name is Cecilia Pagkalinawan, the founding president and CEO of Boutique Y3K (www.boutiquey3k. com), an online fashion retail and marketing company. As a computer professional, she drew the admiration not only of the IT people but also of the discriminating fashion editors in New York. One publication described her as an example of the new "cyberstyle".

She appeared in the pages of various international magazines, such as Vogue, A. Magazine, Industry Standard, Internet World, and AsiaWeek. The US-based Filipinas Magazine gave her an Achievement Award. In 1998, she was named as one of the ''10 Hot Asian American Entrepreneurs under 30.'' The following year, she was included in the Silicon Alley Reporter's "Top 100 Internet Executives in New York". In March 2000, she was named "New York City Woman Business Owner of the Year" by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). 

Cecilia was born in the Philippines. Her mother used to own a restaurant near the UST Hospital while his father had a paint store in Bulacan province. She was only eight years old when her middle class family moved to US. 

The President's Doctor
For more than eight years, a Filipino-American has made sure that the world's most powerful person was physically fit to do his work. Her name is Eleanor "Connie" Mariano, a 47-year-old physician and a top-ranking officer of the US Navy. Mariano was the director of the White House medical unit attending to the health of former President Bill Clinton.

After President Clinton's term ended in January 2001, Mariano pursued her duty as rear admiral of the US Navy, the highest military post ever occupied by a Filipino-American woman in the mighty US Armed Forces. First Lady Hillary Clinton, who has just won a seat in the senate in the recent elections, personally thanked Mariano for her service to the American nation. "Our family loves you and we're grateful to you," Mrs. Clinton told Mariano in a ceremony tended for her in June 2000 when she was promoted as rear admiral of the US Navy.

Mariano was born at the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga in 1955. She was only two years old when her parents, Angel and Lu Mariano, immigrated to the United States in 1957. Her father served in the US Navy as a steward and retired as a master chef after serving 29 years. Mariano's four Filipino godfathers were also Navy master chefs. Mariano grew up in Imperial Beach near the Mexican border. She graduated valedictorian from Mar Vista High School in 1973 and cum laude from Revelle College at the University of California where she obtained a degree in Biology in 1977. She earned her medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland in 1981. 

Following an internship in Internal Medicine at San Diego Naval Hospital in 1982, Mariano was assigned as the General Officer on board USS Prairie where she served as the sole physician for a ship's company of 750 men and women. In 1991, she was selected as the hospital's head of internal medicine. In June 1992, she became the first military woman to serve as White House physician under President George Bush. When he got elected, President Clinton asked her to stay and even promoted her as Senior White House Physician in February 1994 and director of the White House Medical Unit.

By attending to two American presidents for more than eight years, Mariano had the longest service as a White House physician in American history. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations honored Mariano for her remarkable achievements. 

Filipino Generals in the US
Three Filipino-Americans had the distinction of becoming U.S. Army generals. They are Maj. Gen. Edward Soriano, Brig. Gen. Archine Laano, and Brig. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Soriano is the only Filipino to have attained the rank of major general in the U.S. Armed Forces. He was born in Pangasinan and migrated to the U.S. with his family at an early age. In 2001, he was the director of operations, readiness and mobilization at the office of America's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. Laano, on the other hand, is a physician by profession and a 1963 graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. President Ronald Reagan appointed him brigadier general in 1988. He also served as the president of the Philippine Medical Association of America and as such, represented the group in several medical missions in the Philippines.

Taguba is the third Filipino American general in the U.S. Armed Forces. He was born in Sampaloc, Manila and moved to Hawaii at age 11. He holds three master's degrees: Public Administration from Webster University, International Relations from Salve Regina College, and National Security and Strategic Studies from the US Naval War College.

Top Student at Wharton
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, considered as the world's top business school by the Businessweek magazine, recognized a Filipino as its best graduating MBA student in May 2001. On May 21, 2001, Victor Franco Calanog received the Thomas Gerrity Leadership Award, the highest honor given to a graduating MBA student by the Wharton School. Calanog, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, was singled out as the best candidate for the award for his excellence in both academic achievement and extracurricular involvement.

Calanog was the chair of student affairs for the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly, the student government for the graduate and professional students of the 12 schools of the University of Pennsylvania. He also received various scholarship grants from AT&T, Ford Foundation and other companies in the United States. He completed his MBA with a triple major in finance, entrepreneurial management and multinational management at the top of his class. (Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer)

First at Harvard School of Medicine
The first Asian to have entered the prestigious Harvard University's School of Medicine is Dr. Fe del Mundo, a world-famous pediatrician. Del Mundo, an International Pediatric Association (IPA) awardee, is an alumna of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine. She was chosen by former President Manuel Quezon to receive a fellowship program at the world's premiere medical school in 1936. She was also the first woman to become a part of the traditionally all-male student body of the medical school. So strong were her academic records that the head of the Pediatrics Department saw no reason not to accept her.

She also studied and trained at Columbia University, University of Chicago, Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 1941, del Mundo has contributed more than 100 articles to medical journals in the U.S., Philippines and India. In 1966, she received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, for her "outstanding service to mankind". In 1977, she was bestowed the Ramon Magsaysay Award for outstanding public service.

First Filipino-American Governor
Benjamin J. Cayetano is the first and only American of Filipino ancestry who became a state governor in the United States. He was first elected as governor of Hawaii in 1994 and was reelected in 1998.  A Democrat and a lawyer by profession, Cayetano had served as a congressman of Hawaii from 1975 to 1978 and as a senator from 1979 to 1986 before becoming a lieutenant governor in 1990. 

First Filipino New Jersey Mayor
Robert Rivas, 51, is the first Filipino-American mayor in the New Jersey area. A lawyer by profession, Rivas was elected mayor of Bergenfield in November 1999, with the large support coming from his fellow Filipino-Americans. Bergenfield, a working-class town of 25,000 residents, most of whom are white, is only 15 miles from New York City. Prior to his election, Rivas had served as a Bergenfield councilman (1996-98). While on the City Council, he chaired its Finance, Administration and Personnel Committee and was a member of its Police, Buildings and Grounds; Capital Improvements; and Community Affairs Committees.

He has practiced law for 24 years. He graduated from the Seton Hall University School of Law. He was the president of the Filipino-American Association of Bergenfield from 1997 to 1999. He immigrated to the United States in 1968. The first Filipino-American in US Congress was Virginia Rep. Robert Cortez-Scott, a Harvard alumnus.

Fashion Designer in New York
A Filipino-American fashion designer has been making waves in the New York fashion industry. Josie Natorie, who was born in Manila in 1947, owns and manages Natorie Lingerie. In 2001, she was one of the Asian-American awardees of the nonprofit Asians United to Raise Awareness (AURA) Fund.
Natorie was already a successful stockbroker and investment banker even before she established her lingerie business. She had served as the head of the Manila branch of Bache Securities and as an executive of the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch.

One of the World's Finest Poets
Jose Garcia Villa (Doveglion) was one of the world's finest contemporary poets. Villa, who spent most of his life in a New York apartment, was praised by critics for his beautiful poetry. American poet, e.e. cummings even wrote a poem, Doveglion, Adventures in Value, for Villa. Another American poet, Dame Edith had praised Villa's works as being "amongst the most beautiful written in our time." Among Villa's acclaimed works are Many Voices (1939), Poems (1941), Have Come Am Here (1941), Selected Poems and New (1942) and A Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry (1962). Villa was born in Singalong, Manila on August 5, 1908. 

He was expelled from the University of the Philippines (UP) for writing a series of erotic poems, Man Songs in 1929. He migrated to the United States and enrolled at the University of New Mexico where he edited and published a mimeographed literary magazine. In 1973, Villa who used the pen name Doveglion (dove, eagle, lion) received the National Artist Award for Literature from President Ferdinand Marcos. At 88, Villa died on February 7, 1997. He had lived in New York for 67 years.

Broadway Diva
We first knew her as a ten-year-old girl singing "I Am But A Small Voice" in 1981. With her sweet and tender music, the young Lea Salonga charmed a crowd of foreign diplomats who gave her a standing ovation. Two decades passed, and the young girl with a small voice blossomed into a fine lady who gave her nation pride and inspiration. Now at 31, Lea's voice has not only been the most heard, but also the most enjoyed, among Filipino performers. And her country is mighty proud of her because what she has become, as a "citizen of the world" (a phrase in her song), now represents a tale of achievement every Filipino mother tells her children. 

Lea was born in Manila on February 22, 1971 to Feliciano Salonga and Ligaya Imutan. She has two siblings - Gerard and Sheila. As a young performer, she appeared in various television programs and joined several stage plays while studying elementary and high school at the OB Montessori, where she graduated with flying colors.  In 1989, she auditioned and was accepted for the lead role in Miss Saigon, the multi-million-dollar production of Sir Cameron Mackintosh. During the audition, she sang "On My Own", a ballad from the musical play Les Miserables. Lea eventually got the part of Kim and moved to London's West End where she stayed for two years. 

In London, Lea received the most coveted Laurence Olivier Award for playing the role of Kim. It was the start of a series of international awards that were about to come her way. When the musicale moved to New York's Broadway in 1991, Lea won the prestigious Tony Awards, Outer Critics' Circle, and Theater World Awards.  Her stint at Miss Saigon also paved the way for bigger opportunities. The magnificent singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the Walt Disney animated production, Aladdin belongs to her. She became the first Filipino to have performed at the celebrated Oscar Awards, when she rendered the Disney song "A Whole New World" before Hollywood celebrities during the 65th annual event in Los Angeles. 

Lea also had the chance to perform before the most prominent persons in the world. She was invited twice to the White House, first to sing in a social gathering hosted by former First Lady Barbara Bush, then to grace an occasion hosted by President Bill Clinton. While in England, she was invited to the Buckingham Palace to perform before Queen Elizabeth II.  In 1993, she played the role of Eponine in the Broadway production of Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables. She went on to appear in the London and Honolulu productions of the same play whose music and lyrics were composed by the same people behind Miss Saigon: Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. 

In the words of Rosalinda Orosa, a writer on Filipino culture, Lea did something more than making Filipinos proud. "Lea has made theater history for Filipinos," says Orosa. 

Action King
People call him the "King of Action Movies". For more than four decades now, he has ruled the local big screen, even putting in the sideline another actor and friend who became more successful in politics.  Fernando Poe Jr. is an icon admired by millions of Filipinos and by his best friend, no less than former President Joseph Estrada. They have been close friends since their days together in the early '60s as stars of action movies. It was Poe who first used the word "Erap" to refer to former President Estrada. 

As an actor, Poe has mastered the role of a kind-hearted, selfless and invincible super hero who defends the aggrieved people against the forces of evil. The Filipino viewers look up to him because he represents the good and noble in Filipino culture.  He was born Ron Allan but had to change his name to bank on the popularity of his father who was a top actor in his time. Fernando Poe Sr. died from a dog's rabies at 35, leaving the young Poe as the family's breadwinner. At 14, the young Poe began his career with a starring role in "Anak ni Palaris". 

He made his first mark in the '60s with "Tatlong Hari". He was an award-winning actor, having accumulated the most number of best actor awards at FAMAS. He won awards for Mga Alabok ng Lupa (1967), Asedillo (1971), Durugin si Totoy Bato (1979), Umpisahan Mo, Tatapusin Ko (1983), and Magnum 357 (1987).  In most of his films, Poe has doubled either as a director or a producer. As a director, he used the name "Ronwaldo Reyes".

Lately, there were rumors that Poe might seek the presidency in the year 2004. It would be easy enough for him, considering that he enjoys the same mass-based popularity that catapulted his friend to Malacañang. Poe, however, had no experience in politics, except for his joining the political campaigns of former President Estrada in 1998.

Comedy King
He shared many moments of great laughs with the Filipino audience. As an actor and prime comedian, Dolphy entertained the nation with his physical humor and classic jokes. At 74, he still does and calls himself a happy man.

His real name is Rodolfo Vera Quizon, but for millions of his followers, he is simply Dolphy or Kosme, the character he portrays in the weekly television sitcom, "Home Along Da Riles". Many people envy him for his wonderful career and interesting lifestyle. For them, Dolphy is the "king of comedy" who views life with joy and excitement.  Born on July 25, 1928, he was raised by his poor parents, Melencio Espinosa Quizon and Salud dela Rosa Vera. He started as a struggling performer onstage during the Japanese Occupation. The late Fernando Poe Sr. gave him his first break as a character actor. His comic talents became well known in the films, "Jack en Jill" and "Facifica Falayfay". Soon, he made many comedy films, alongside fellow comedians, Pugo, Tugo, Babalu, Panchito, Ike Lozada and German Moreno. 

He was paired with Nida Blanca in "John en Marsha", the most-watched prime time television program in the 1980s. He almost retired from the industry in 1989 when he was romantically involved with another actress. In 1979, Dolphy was named as the "king of Philippine movies". A decade later, he was declared as the "all-time favorite actor of Philippine movies". In 1994, he was given the Dangal ng Lipi award by the Bert Amorcelo Memorial Foundation and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by Urian. In 1999, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) named Dolphy as one of the "100 Influential Filipino Artists of the Century. He was also a Parangal ng Bayan and Golden Father Foundation awardee. 

Master Painters
Juan Luna is considered as the finest painter this country has ever produced. He was born in Badoc, Ilocos Norte on October 23, 1857. He became a part of the Philippine Reform Movement, a group seeking social reforms from the colonial government of Spain in the late 19th Century. In 1880, Luna joined the Madrid Exposition where his painting, "The Death of Cleopatra" won the second prize. This masterpiece is now on exhibit at the Museo Nacional de Pinturas in Madrid. In 1884, Luna's huge painting, "Spolarium", won the first Gold Medal at the Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes, also in Spain. Coincidentally, another Filipino, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo won the second prize in the same event for his painting, "Antigone".

Luna's Spolarium depicts fallen gladiators being dragged to an unseen pile of corpses in a chamber beneath the Roman arena. Considered as the largest painting in the country, it has a height of 4.6 meters and a length of 7.72 meters. It is now on display at the National Museum in Manila. Aside from Luna and Hidalgo, other noted Filipino painters include Fernando Amorsolo, Vicente Manansala, Guillermo Tolentino, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, Fabian dela Rosa, Hernando Ocampo, Victor Edades, Martino Abellana, Arturo Rogerio Luz, Jose Joya, Carlos Francisco, Cesar Legaspi, and Mauro "Malang" Santos. 

Living Treasures
Since 1993, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has recognized eight national living treasures - folk or traditional artists who have employed indigenous materials to create valuable artworks depicting their respective communities. Those rewarded were Masino Intaray, a poet, musician and story teller from Makagwa Valley, Palawan; Samaon Sulaiman, a kutyapi player from Maganoy, Maguindanao; Ginaw Bilog, a Mangyan poet from Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro; Lang Dulay, a T'boli artist from South Cotobato; Salinta Monon, a Tagabawa-Bagobo weaver from Bansalan, Davao del Sur; Alonzo Saclag, a dance researcher from Lubuagan, Kalinga; Federico Caballero, a Sulod-Bukidnon epic chanter from Kalinog, Iloilo; and Uwang Ahadas, a Yakan musician from Lamitan, Basilan. (Source: National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

Hollywood Celebrities
Among the Hollywood celebrities who have claimed that they have Filipino blood running in their veins are Dean Devlin, writer and producer of several hit films like Independence Day and Godzilla; Rob Schneider, a comedian, writer and actor who appeared in Judge Dredd, Down Periscope, Big Daddy, Deuce Bigolow and The Animal; Lou Diamond Phillips, the lead actor in Bats; Paolo Montalban, the lead actor in the hit TV series Mortal Kombat; Tia Carrere, a pretty actress from Hawaii who starred in True Lies alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Ernie Reyes Jr., a martial arts expert, who appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Famous Singers
Among the Filipino singers who gained recognition in the international scene are Lea Salonga for her starring role in the musical play Miss Saigon and Jocelyn Enriquez who popularized the song Do You Miss Me in 1996. Regine Velasquez was once considered as "Asia's songbird" while Pilita Corales was also tagged as "Asia's Queen of Songs". Among the songs that gained recognition abroad are "Anak" by Freddie Aguilar and "Christmas in Our Hearts" by Jose Marie Chan.

Robert Cortez Scott
US Democratic Congressman Robert Cortez Scott, who represents Hampton Roads, Virginia, has Filipino blood. His mother is a Filipina.Philippine Trivia

Notable Filipino-Americans
In the book The Filipino Americans (1783-Present): Their History, Culture and Traditions, author Veltisezar Bautista has recognized the following for their outstanding contribution to their respective fields:

  • Benjamin Cayetano, Peter Aduja, Pedro dela Cruz, Thelma Buchholdt, Glenn Olea, Irene Natividad, Gene Canque Liddell, David Mercado Valderrama, Velma Veloria, Robert Bunda, Ron Menor, Reynaldo Graulty, Henry Manayan, Maria Luisa Mabilangan Haley, Philip Vera Cruz, Pete Fajardo, Juventino Fajardo, Roberto Rivas, Gene Canque Liddel, G. Monty Manibog, Henry Manayan, Michael Guingona Jr., Edward Soriano, Antonio Taguba and Eleanor Mariano for public service;

  • Loida Nicolas Lewis, Josie Natori, Lilia Calderon Clemente, and Cecilia Pagkalinawan for business;

  • Jose Garcia Villa, N.V.M. Gonzales, Carlos Bulosan, Bienvenido Santos, Jessica Hagedorn, and Ninotchka Rosca for literature;

  • Alex Tizon, Byron Acohido, Tita Dioso Gillespie, Cielo Buenaventura, Howard Chua, Hermenegildo "Hermie" A. Azarcon, Veronica Pedrosa and Lisa Foronda for journalism;
    Pacita Abad, Genara Banzon, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., Venancio Igarta, Jose Romero and for painting and arts; 

  • Lawrence Que Jr., Stella Evangelista, Ernesto Espaldon, Rolando Castro, Neonilo Tejano, Enriquez Ostrea, Domingo Alvear, Ofelia Dirige, Jose Evangelista, Ananias Diokno, Jorge Camara, Eduardo Padlan, Francis Duhaylongsod, and Eleanor Marinao for science and medicine; and

  • Ceferino Garcia, Roman Gabriel, Salvador"Dado" Marino, Speedy Dado, Tai Babilonia, Benny Agbayani, Bobby Balcena, Elizabeth Punsalan and Vicky Manalo Drakes for sports. 
    Source: http://www.philnewscentral.com/filipino_am.html

Government Officials in the US
Among the Filipino-Americans who were elected to office in the US government are Governor Benjamin Cayetano of Hawaii; Hawaii State Senate President Robert Bunda; State Representatives Jeff Coleman of Pennsylvania and Jon Amores of West Virginia; and Mayors Juventino Fajardo of Glendale Heights, Illinois; Antonio "Tony" Cartagena of Walnut, California; Pete Pajardo of Carson, California; Michael Guingona Jr. of Daly City, California; Gene Canque Liddel; Henry Manayan and Jose Estevez of Milpitas, California; Teresita Santiago of Delano City, California; and Robert Rivas or Bergenfield, New Jersey.
Source: http://www.filipinoweb.com/notable.html

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