It was probably one of the most fun afternoons I’ve ever spent with Filipinas. Imagine Filipinas – loud, proud, achievers and each one a dynamo in her own way – gathered in the beautiful home (the former estate of screen legend Mary Pickford) of the generous couple, Lani (an accomplished doctor herself) and Edwin Raquel.
On paper, it was going to be the Los Angeles launch and reading of “Dis-rupt,” described as “a groundbreaking book on leadership competencies of Filipina women...in countries around the world,” published by the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN). But with launch organizers led by Mama Rocio Nuyda, it was not going to be a ho-hum book launch affair.
The crowd laughed, reflected, and was motivated and inspired. Some even alternately laughed and cried, moved by some of the readings and remarks, especially my seatmate – the fun, wonderful Norma R. Austin.
I honestly wish that you were all there to listen to the readings of some Filipinas who contributed their stories to the book: Sonia Delen, Mama Rocio (who wrote the piece on Loida Nicolas Lewis), FWN founder and CEO Marily Mondejar (take a bow, Marily, for founding FWN), Maria Beebe, Elena Mangahas, Annalisa Enrile, Kristine Custodio and my own loud, proud roommate, Janet Nepales. (These women and the other authors in the book, available at www.FilipinaWomensNetwork.org, are recipients of FWN’s 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World Award.)
Even I was not prepared for what Janet did, a hilarious visual act as she read about the main theme of her piece titled “Writing for Sainthood” – that she originally dreamt of being a saint by first becoming a nun (can you imagine Janet as a nun or a…saint?!?) but she ended up becoming a Hollywood journalist instead. A friend thought I scripted Janet’s act. No, no, no. She’s wonderfully crazy enough on her own.
But at the end of her reading, Janet acknowledged me with, “Behind every crazy woman is a man who made her that way.” I took that as a compliment. Right, Norma Austin?
Jannelle So-Perkins, herself the epitome of an outstanding Filipina, emceed the event. In between readings and remarks there were beautiful songs by young Filipinas Isabella Ramos and Emily Ferrolino, accompanied by Arlene Tordecilla Ferrolino, president of theFilipinoAmerican SymphonyOrchestra (FASO).
Oh yes, by the way, incidentally (ha ha), there were men who spoke too – Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim and former US Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas. These Pinoys (well, Mr. Thomas is a virtual Filipino at this point) were funny as well. Herrera-Lim kept the audience laughing with his quips that he was the one who owned this majestic mansion. And Ambassador Thomas was equally hilarious – he quipped that among the useful Tagalog words he tells his lovely Filipina wife are: “Walang pera.”
Bravo to all those who came, read and volunteered and the launch hosts, which included Benel Se-Liban, Cora Aragon Soriano, the Raquels – Edwin, Lani and their talented daughters (future Filipina leaders), Charina Vergara and daughters, JP Liban, Josie Castro, Lutzie Francisco, Joy Marino, Elaine Quadra, Erlinda Granada-Sabah, dashing photographersRick GavinoGavino and Marc M. Pijuanand other volunteers. Applause to my Mama Rocio, of course!
Mary Pickford, a pioneering woman in Hollywood (as cited by Marily) who co-founded the studio, United Artists in 1919, must have smiled and laughed along with these influential Filipinas.
As the event ended, since everyone had a great time, there was talk of staging “The Vagina Monologues” (or “Usapang Puki” in Tagalog) in that same room. That may top this book launch. But for now, this book launch holds the record for being a howling success.
(I highly recommend the book, “Dis-rupt,” which was edited by Maria Africa Beebe and Maya Ong Escudero. Marily explained the book’s title: “Filipina women are the ultimate global disrupters. They disrupted their lives, families and careers when they left their home country to immigrate to foreign lands and re-invent their lives…Second generation leaders who were raised in bi-cultural or multi-cultural families are the true disrupters. Growing up confused, they learned to embrace eastern and western values and traditions. They challenged themselves by defining their new identities as they navigated their way in their schools and the workplace.” The book is available at www.FilipinaWomensNetwork.org)