Judge Rohanee Zapanta, DEI VP Bianca Nicole Nepales inspire and empower at FWN event

Judge Rohanee Zapanta, Edith Winterhalter, Janet Nepales, Bianca Nepales, Benel Se-Liban

JUDGE Rohanee Zapanta, the second Filipina to be appointed to the San Diego Superior Court, and Bianca Nicole Nepales, the vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at Lionsgate, were the featured speakers at Filipina Women’s Network’s (FWN) “Homage to the Filipina Voices: Igniting Transformative Change in Celebration of Women’s History Month,” held recently at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in downtown Los Angeles.

FWN honors the indomitable spirit and the remarkable dynamism of Filipina leaders like Zapanta and Nepales who navigate uncharted territories and advocate for a world where various perspectives are embraced and cherished. These vanguards, from diverse realms such as politics, entertainment, business, governance, and education, unveil their journeys, laden with groundbreaking insights, challenges, and narratives that redefine the essence of diversity and inclusivity.

“Pinay Power” is not just an event; as espoused by FWN, is a movement towards weaving a fabric of society that recognizes and amplifies every woman’s narrative.

Judge Rohanee Zapanta and Bianca Nepales

Nepales, 34, a graduate of UC Berkeley (BA) and Loyola Marymount University (MA), emphasized, “I am not trying to bring you into a racist system or asking you to assimilate. I am trying to co-create new models of freedom for us all.”

She pointed out that if the event happened during the years of our manongs and manangs, the women would be seated at the back of the room while the men would be in front. “We should be aware of who is getting invited, who is doing the invite, who can afford to come, who cannot come and what do we do about that?”

She continued, “DEI are the feelings that we create. What does freedom feel to you or to me? DEI did not just come about in 2020 but the history that we were born into in this country. History tells us we are empowered.

“Equity is recognizing the pattern of who is allowed to succeed and who doesn’t. And inclusion is how we enable ourselves to succeed in our most authentic ways. How do you navigate not just being included but also opening the door for other generations to come?”

Bianca Nicole Nepales

Nepales summed it up by stressing that it all boils down to our core values. “I love learning with our values, our terms, our kapwa, our advice. My parents did the work and it is my job to continue their work. As you arrive, I arrive, we all arrive. Who am I here for? I am here for the storytellers so I know the impostor syndrome goes away. What is your mantra, what is your core? We center on kapwa which is our shared inner self and we tie that all together with diwa or consciousness. So we have to learn how to move from hiya to diwa on our terms.”

Rohanee, for her part, pointed out, “The biggest challenge on my journey to the bench was really all in my head. Am I good enough? Should I really be here? Why am I here, when I can be over there? Being able to overcome that to understand that I will be oftentimes the only one but if I am not there, who will be? But then you also ask yourself, what am I bringing to the table? And once you get a seat at the table, be aware that closed mouths never get fed. I am never going to get fed if I don’t ask for it.”

She added, “We should find the connection and how to relate. We are here not to impress someone but how I can be memorable because you can relate. I am because you are. That is kapwa. We share our truth with others and how I have seen it.”

Edith Winterhalter

The event was organized by Edith Winterhalter and Benel Se-Liban. Winterhalter said, “The FWN event, ‘Homage to Filipina Voices’ in celebration of Women’s History Month, brought together Filipinas to engage in the conversation of the need to tell our narrative, in our own authentic voice, to help normalize inclusion and belonging of all people in our society.

“Thank you so much to Judge Rohanee Zapanta and VP Bianca Nicole Nepales for sharing their thoughts and wisdom. Now that we have filled our cups and nourished our souls from being together, we are ready once again to go out there to be included and to include. Because if we don’t, who will?

“Thank you to everyone who attended the event, for sharing their voices, for their eagerness to kapwa. Our cups runneth over.


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