Trailblazing Pinoys share their journey at ‘PH Time is Now’

PHTimeIsNow was launched in 2018 to create a platform for global Filipino trailblazers, mentors, and changemakers to share their personal stories of learning, growth, and success through connecting and inspiring activities in hopes of helping the next generation tp reach greater heights in their personal and professional lives. Last month, the organization gathered Filipino trailblazers around the globe in New York City to celebrate Filipino excellence. Photos courtesy of PH Time is Now

Bobby Lopez stands on the threshold of a groundbreaking achievement, a feat untouched in the annals of entertainment history – a triple EGOT. With multiple Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards already adorning his illustrious career, he is an Oscar award away from an unparalleled milestone.

Honored at the recent ‘PH Time is Now’ event at the Harvard Club, Lopez, despite his towering presence in the industry, remains remarkably unassuming. When asked about the significance of his double EGOT status, he humbly remarked, “I’m not sure that it means anything.” Yet, this understated artist’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary.

Born in Manhattan to a Filipino-American family, Lopez’s trajectory led him from Yale University to crafting songs for small theaters and ultimately birthing the acclaimed Avenue Q. In 2013, at the age of 39, he secured his first EGOT, becoming the youngest and the first Asian to attain this revered quartet of awards, accomplishing it within a mere nine years.

Fast forward four years, and Lopez etches his name in history once again. In March 2018, he clinched his second Oscar for co-writing “Remember Me” from Pixar’s “Coco,” cementing his status as the sole individual on the planet to boast a double EGOT.

With four Emmys, three Grammys, two Oscars, and three Tonys, Lopez has ascended to legendary stature, spanning the realms of television, music, film, and theater. This unassuming trailblazer now stands at the cusp of a triple EGOT, a testament to his unparalleled talent and impact on the entertainment landscape.

Lopez is best known for his work on musicals such as “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q,” as well as for composing the songs featured in the Disney animated film “Frozen” with his wife Kristen.

At the event, Lopez shared the story of his father Frank who was born on a ship on the way to the United States from Manila. It is believed that the ship was the last GI boat to leave Manila after World War II and Bobby’s grandmother was aboard on a personal mission to find her father.

Lopez also shared his excitement about having more time now to be with fellow Filipinos at events and see Filipinos making it big.

“I’m so excited about it. I’m always so happy to see a Filipino succeed because I feel like your team is winning, it’s really great,” Lopez told the Asian Journal.

One source of Filipino pride on Broadway these days is Here Lies Love, the first all-Filipino musical in the Great White Way’s history.

The multiple Tony Award winner was in awe about what the musical was able to achieve.

“I love Here Lies Love, it was so exciting and I just want to see it again,” Lopez said. “I never would have imagined seeing a musical with an all-Filipino cast!”

Cultural and artistic revival

While the event did not explicitly center on a Filipino renaissance, various speakers echoed the theme, recognizing a cultural and artistic revival within the Filipino community.

This resurgence is evident in various creative and cultural expressions, as well as in the exploration of indigenous traditions and historical influences, reflecting a renewed appreciation for Filipino identity, arts, cuisine, and cultural heritage.

Care.com founder Sheila Lirio Marcelo and Rechie Valdez, the Member of Parliament for Mississauga–Streetsville and the first Filipino woman elected as a Member of Parliament in Canada in a fireside chat at the PH Time is Now event.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, founder of Care.com is happy that there is such a thing.

“Absolutely, there is a Filipino renaissance,” she said. “I am just so thrilled to be supporting amazing Filipinos, Filipino Americans, rise as much as they can to lift all boats and inspire all Filipinos.”

Marcelo mentioned a couple of Filipino-founded companies where she is an adviser. The first is Enroot founded by Christina Patwa (she partnered with Brad Pitt) and the other is Mostra Coffee.

Marcelo said that despite her stature as CEO, there are still instances where she is underestimated. “No matter what, I think the internal Filipina in me is to be compassionate and understanding and help lift people up and better understand their unconscious bias when it happens and to do it with kindness.”

“It is good to see trailblazing Filipinos inspiring others,” she said. “I am so thrilled to be here to support and it’s such an honor to represent Filipinos and lift their stories.”

Among those inspiring stories belonged to Rechie Valdez, who attended the same event in 2018 as a banker and a baker. This year, she returned as one of the speakers.

Valdez was elected as the Member of Parliament for Mississauga—Streetsville in 2021, representing the Liberal Party of Canada. She is the first Filipino-Canadian woman elected as a Member of Parliament. Last July, Prime Minister Justine Trudeau appointed her to his cabinet as Minister of Small Business.

In her conversation with Marcelo, Valdez talked about her journey in Canada as an entrepreneur who found herself in politics and that she takes immense pride in her Filipino-ness.

Taking her oath was a powerful moment for her and she knew that it was all for her parents, “for all of their hard work and sacrifice being immigrants to Canada.”

Valdez highlighted the dedication, hard work, and grit that Filipinos possess, stating that we are capable of overcoming challenges and excelling in any society. She emphasized the strong sense of family love that characterizes Filipino culture.

“To be back here as a speaker this time is a phenomenal moment for me,” Valdez told us. “I’m mostly here to reconnect with Filipinos from across the American and Canadian diaspora and you know what it’s all about? Hearing and sharing today that you learn something new and let that be a spark that you bring home.”

PH Time is Now founder Carissa Villacorta with double EGOT awardee Bobby Lopez and UN Women’s global ambassador Karen Davila.

That was what she herself did back in 2018 at the first PH Time is Now event, which is why she is thankful to founder Carissa Villacorta for gathering inspiring Filipinos with great stories to share with the world.

In a message to the younger generation, Valdez encouraged them to believe in themselves and their creations. She shared that she did not have the same opportunities earlier in her life, and she wanted the younger individuals to understand that they have the potential to succeed. The key, according to Valdez, is self-belief and confidence in what they can achieve.

UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador

Award-winning broadcast journalist Karen Davila served as the event’s host, conducting insightful fireside dialogues with the guest speakers, among them community leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, Tony Award winner Clint Ramos, entrepreneur Rebecca Kersch, ABC7’s Nina Pineda, author Neeta Bhushan, designer Jef Albea joining Lopez, Valdez, and Marcelo.

Karen Davila shared the stage with Broadway stalwarts, among them (left photo) Bobby Lopez, known for Avenue Q and Book of Mormon and (right photo) Here Lies Love producers – Tony Award winner Clint Ramos and Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated theatrical producer.

Davila, longstanding advocate for women’s and children’s rights, was in New York recently as UN Women’s National Goodwill Ambassador for the Philippines. In this role, she will amplify critical issues and inspire change, drawing attention to the role of women in development and nation-building, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“It is an honor to be UN Women’s first National Goodwill Ambassador for the Philippines. I will be working with many others who speak out in support of UN Women to help bring about positive change in mindsets, behaviors, and hopefully, in the everyday lives of women and girls,” Davila said.

As a new National Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Davila joins a select group of celebrated personalities in the fields of entertainment, sports, and activism, including award-winning actors Anne Hathaway and Nicole Kidman, world-renowned soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva and model and activist Cindy Sirinya Bishop, amongst many other influential figures.

Goodwill Ambassadors bolster the United Nations’ reach and awareness through enhanced visibility, strategic alignment with national objectives, expansive outreach beyond traditional circles, accessible communication on gender equality, and authentic advocacy based on lived experiences.

The PH Time is Now event not only celebrated individual achievements but also highlighted a collective resurgence of Filipino identity, arts, and culture. Through the narratives of trailblazers like Bobby Lopez, Rechie Valdez, and others, the Filipino community is witnessing a renaissance that goes beyond borders, inspiring the next generation to believe in themselves and their potential. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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