Beyond Brushstrokes

“The Eight Bravo Awards recognize incredible women who have excelled in their different professions yet share a common thread of going beyond their comfort zones and reaching out to the less fortunate — the least, lost, and last. It is their generosity of spirit that is inspiring. They are beacons of light amidst the darkness,” remarked Ada Ledesma Mabilangan, chair of the Bravo Awards Committee.

The Bravo Award was inspired by Remedios Palanca Bantug of Victorias, Negros. The dynamic, low-key woman of substance was “the epitome of someone who did whatever is good for the community without thinking of being recognized,” recalled Armita Bantug Rufino, Zonta Club of Makati and Environs (ZCME), past Area 5 Director and two-time past president.

“My Mom helped the Church, the marginalized, the nuns, the women, and, most especially, the elderly. Reaching towards her twilight years, she was recognized by the Soroptimists. In 2015, this was the concept when I approached Security Bank and discussed it with Belen C. Lim, then EVP for Communications …. She liked the idea about recognizing the ‘Unsung Heroes.’ No other organization has done it for women.”

At the first virtual presentation, Security Bank President and CEO Sanjiv Vohra gave the welcome remarks.

Vivian Uy, ZCME president, said, “In 2015, Security Bank partnered Zonta Makati and Environs to create the Eight Bravo Awards in support of their shared advocacy to empower women who help build a better society through their individual achievements and personal advocacies. The award honors change makers, achievers and advocates of social change nationwide.”

Bravo Awards Committee Chair Ms. Mabilangan cited our new hero who won the first Olympic gold medal for our country.

“Hidilyn Diaz, you exemplify the best in a Filipino woman and epitomize what a Bravo awardee stands for. Thank you for making all of us proud to be Filipinos.” She was the special Bravo Awardee for 2021.

Past Bravo special awardees are:

Dr. Lourdes Reyes-Montinola, Far Eastern University (FEU) chair emeritus who received the Lifetime Achievement Award (2017). She reestablished FEU as a prominent educational institution with beautiful architecture and an extensive art collection. She was the author of the award-winning book Piña which gave global attention to the cultural significance to the pineapple plant and helped revive the piña fabric industry.

Jessie C. Lichauco, Special Bravo Woman Awardee (2019), was an inspiring 107-year-old Cuban-born Filipino American recognized for her charitable works and service to the Filipino community. During World War II, she opened her home to internally displaced persons and war refugees. She transformed it into a makeshift hospital that served 2,000 people.

The distinguished Board of Judges for this year are: Victoria Chingtoco-Yu, president of Samahang Babaepreneur, Inc. and Chairperson of Farm to Market Agriculture Cooperative; Tanya Ansaldo-Deaken, Security Bank VP and Head of Corporate Communications; Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, past president of Miriam College and past Chair of the Commission on Higher Education; Mary Jane Ortega, Special Advisor to CityNet, an association of cities and Stakeholders in Asia Pacific based in Seoul where she served as Secretary General 2009-2013, and former Mayor of San Fernando, La Union; and retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Consuelo Yñares-Santiago, Gawad Parangal sa Larangan ng Serbisyo Publiko awardee, and Trustee of National Sandigan Foundation of the Philippines. The Chair of the Board of Judges was Ambassador Delia Albert, the first woman Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and former Philippine ambassador to Switzerland, Germany, Romania, and Australia. She was conferred the Order of Sikatuna rank of Datu, Knights Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany among others.

Here is an excerpt from her speech: “A wise 99-year-old woman once remarked that ‘Butterflies are like women. We may look pretty and delicate, but wow, we can fly through a storm.’ We award women who have flown through many storms to get here as winners of the BRAVO awards…. It is their dedication and passion in their advocacies in serving the community as well as their resilience and strength of spirit that the BRAVO award considered most in its serious and extensive search nationwide. They are truly selfless, hard-working … catalysts for change.”

The awardees for 2021 are:

Arts, Culture and Heritage. Carol Rodriguez —humanitarian, a cultural worker who specializes in communication for development. A pioneer of contemporary indigenous chanting, setting the standards for vocals and chants for world music in the Philippines. She has worked in disaster-stricken communities in Bangsamoro Autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and Eastern Samar. She formed the Marig-On Theater Group (2014) in Eastern Samar for young people most affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

Business. Yvette Punzalan — a social entrepreneur, owner of Yvette’s Bags and Beads Collection. He has been designing and producing washable, recyclable bags using crochet since 2007. She has worked with women prisoners from Davao and has provided livelihood to women in her community. She partners with indigenous people from the Bagobo Tagabawa, Tagakaulo, Matigsalog, and Kiblawan tribes.

Culinary. Regina Aspiras — a chef who helps the less fortunate. She spearheaded the Magic Kaldero, a feeding program for children and families affected by flash floods and typhoons. During Typhoon Yolanda, she formed a food emergency response team “Kusination” to feed the evacuees brought to Manila. With the World Wildlife Fund, she has raised funds for environmental warriors whose livelihood was affected by the pandemic.

Education. Dr. Emily Arangote — the first woman president of Aklan State University, former chair of the Teacher Education Department. She supports the Commission on Higher Education in boosting global competency of Filipino graduates.

Media and Public Affairs. Michelle Ong — veteran business anchor for ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), she organized fundraising for personal protective equipment for frontliners and joined a COVID-19 testing facility that employs part-time medical workers who lost their jobs or had pay cuts during the pandemic.

Science and Technology. Dr. Pauline Convocar —emergency medicine clinician whose expertise includes community healthcare, administration and management, health promotion and education, and inter-facility critical care transports.

Social Service. Dr. Angelita Sievert Fernandez —psychologist, child life program manager at Kythe Foundation, specialist in Counseling and Developmental Psychology who serves children from the low-income sector. Her advocacy is empowered parenting.

Sports. Meri Ann Geli Bulaong — professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, first female champion of the URCC, the first and only professional MMA competition in the Philippines. She has broken the stereotype by excelling in a sport dominated by men. She is a crusader for transforming the lives of women who were victims of abuse.

The Bravo awardees receive a trophy and a grant (P50,000) from Security Bank for their special advocacies.

During the intermission, She is Water, a dance film choreographed, directed, and edited by Tiffany Mangulabnan and performed by Tessa R. Tordesillas was shown.

The hosts for the program were Joanne Zapanta Andrada and Maritoni Rufino Tordesillas.

Warm congratulations to all!


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.