The year 2016 has been quite challenging—but that doesn't mean there were no bright spots. Here's what inspired and had Pinays cheering this year. They range from issues of national and global consequence to personal victories that have the power to inspire other women to make their own mark in the world.
1. PIA WURTZBACH SLAYS AS MISS UNIVERSE
The Fil-German beauty proved to be one of the best goodwill ambassadors of the country during her reign as Miss Universe. She was one of the people who worked hard so that the pageant's next installment would be held in the Philippines. Pia also focused on her advocacy to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.
Pia projected the image of a Pinay who was, indeed, "confidently beautiful with a heart."
2. MARGARITA FORES TAGGED AS ASIA'S BEST FEMALE CHEF FOR 2016
At the start of the year, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards named chef Margarita Fores as Asia's Best Female Chef for 2016.
"Fores is the chef behind popular local restaurants like Cibo, Grace Park, and Lusso. She also prepared the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit welcome dinner for APEC leaders, together with Via Mare founder Glenda Barretto. The APEC was held in Manila in November 2015," noted Vernise L. Tantuco on Rappler.
Though she has no formal training, Fores has had a milestone-filled culinary career spanning more than 18 years (and counting). A CNN Philippines report quoted William Drew, group editor of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, as saying, "[Fores is] a true leader in her country’s restaurant sector, her dedication, culinary skills and pioneering efforts have elevated the dining scene in the Philippines and set a new benchmark for other chefs and restaurateurs to follow."
3. GERALDINE ROMAN IS FIRST TRANGENDER PINAY IN CONGRESS
Geraldine Roman, who was elected as the Representative of the 1st District of Bataan in the May elections, became the first openly transgender woman elected to the Congress of the Philippines. CNN correspondent Robert Sawatzky noted that Roman's victory "is a significant milestone for the LGBT community in the Catholic-dominated Philippines, where gays, lesbians, and transgenders have been publicly ridiculed by some politicians and public figures."
Women's groups immediately accepted Roman into the fold. After all, the sisterhood can only get stronger with more members.
4. LENI ROBREDO IS VP
Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Leni Robredo was the lone female candidate for vice president in the May polls.
In one of the televised debates feature VP candidates, Robredo had noted that there was one forum where only she showed up. She revealed that the moderator of the forum had said, "Itaga niyo sa bato: the last man standing is a woman (Set these words in stone: The last man standing is a woman)." That is, indeed, what happened.
No matter what one's political affiliations may be, surely women everywhere can celebrate the triumph of one of their own. If anything, her presence reminds us that quiet strength is an underrated virtue.
5. JACLYN JOSE GETS BEST ACTRESS AWARD AT CANNES
Jaclyn Jose has become the first Filipino to win the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Ma' Rosa, a film directed by Brillante Mendoza. Jose's daughter Andi Eigenmann is also in the film.
The veteran actress was so shocked by her win that during her acceptance speech, she exclaimed, "I don't know what to say. I am so surprised!"
Jose's win should serve as a reminder to Pinays that one must take pride in one's profession. It always pays off, one way or the other.
6. WOMEN GET KEY CABINET POSITIONS
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed formidable women in key Cabinet positions. They are Department of Education chief Leonor Briones, Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief Gina Lopez, Department of Health chief Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, Department of Social Welfare and Development chief Judy Taguiwalo, and Department of Tourism chief Wanda Corazon Teo.
We would have liked to see more women in the Cabinet, but, hey, the women who are there are sure to make their mark.
7. PBA'S FIRST WOMEN REFEREES MAKE THEIR DEBUT
In July, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) announced that their first ever women referees, Edith Botecario and Janine Nicandro, would make their debut in the PBA Governors' Cup.
PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa made the announcement, saying, "We believe in the ability of women and we want them to play a more active role in the league. I think having women referees in our games will be good for the league long term. Gone are the days when the game of basketball was confined to just the men."
8. LRT INTRODUCES FIRST FEMALE DRIVER
In August, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) introduced Kathleen Dela Paz, their first female train driver.
"Dela Paz, a 26-year-old mother of two, had completed a specialized training course, which included safety communication, incident/accident management, fault reporting, and basic train driving," reports CNN Philippines.
LRMC Operations director Rodrigo Bulario was quoted as saying that hiring Dela Paz demonstrated their belief that "skills and competence are not gender-specific."
Aside from Dela Paz, the Metro Rail Transit-3 or MRT also has female train drivers.
9. HIDILYN DIAZ WINS SILVER MEDAL IN RIO OLYMPICS
The Philippines—which had not scored an Olympic medal in 20 years—finally had reason to celebrate this year because of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, a 25-year-old native of Zamboanga City. She lifted a total of 200 kilograms to finish second and bag the silver medal in the women's 53 kg. class. Diaz's silver was the only medal for Team Philippines in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It's also the first ever Olympic medal won by a Filipina weightlifter.
Diaz showed that women can lift the heaviest weights and come out on top.
Congresswoman Vilma Santos-Recto, who represents the lone district of Lipa, Batangas, filed House Bill No. 2952, which seeks the creation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) help and protection desks in police stations.
In the explanatory note for House Bill No. 2952, Santos-Recto pointed out: "There is an absence of government mechanism or intervention directed to monitor, let alone address, the incidents of discrimination, prejudice, and even violence against Filipino LGBT community. Because of this, many victims who are [members of the LGBT community] opt to not report the incident for fear of further harassment, prejudicial treatment, or more violent reprisal."
In this sense, Santos-Recto is truly everyone's "Ate Vi."
11. SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO HANGS TOUGH IN WAKE OF DAVAO CITY BLAST
On September 2, a bomb exploded at the night market along Roxas Avenue in Davao City's central business district. The Abu Sayyaf Group later claimed responsibility for the attack that claimed 15 lives and left more than 60 others injured. Despite the tragedy, Davao City mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who also happened to be in the first trimester of a delicate pregnancy, kept people calm and assured them that those responsible for the blast would be brought to justice. "We will not be terrorized by this heinous crime and I call on all Dabawenyos to unite and let us help each other rise from this senseless incident," she said.
The Davao City mayor proves that women can rise above the worst situations and unite a community in dealing with a tragedy.
Josephine Medina, 46, won the bronze medal in the Women’s Table Tennis class 8 event at the Rio Paralympics, which was held right after the Rio Olympics. Medina's win ended the country’s 16-year medal drought in the Paralympics, powerlifter Adeline Dumapong also snagged a bronze medal in 2000.
Diagnosed with polio when she was only two years old, Medina became a varsity player for the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. That's why it's hard to believe that she was rejected when she applied to be a part of the Philippine national team due to her disability.
Medina champions equal rights to the differently-abled. "Kahit ang isang tao po ay may kapansanan, still ma-a-achieve niya po ‘yung goal niya sa life (Even if a person has a disability, that person can still achieve his or goals in life)," she said.
13. JANELLE MAE FRAYNA IS PH'S FIRST WOMAN GRANDMASTER
In September, Janelle Mae Frayna, the country's first Woman Grandmaster (WGM) defeated International Master (IM) Olga Zimina to lead the Philippines to a 2.5-1.5 victory over Italy in the 10th and penultimate round of the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Frayna also added the men's IM title to her list of achievements. She was awarded the IM title after scoring seven points on five wins and four draws against a lone loss, the day after she she became the very first Filipina to obtain the WGM title.
"In chess, an IM is a more prestigious title than a WGM but Frayna, who has a current rating of 2281, could only assume the former if she reaches the 2400-rating mark," explained SPIN.ph.
14. PINAYS FIGHT SLUT-SHAMING WITH #EVERYWOMAN CAMPAIGN
A group of Filipinas—among them literary luminaries like Ninotchka Rosca, Aida Santos, and Susan Lara, as well as Dr. Raquel del Rosario-Fortun, former beauty queen Aurora Pijuan, and actress Agot Isidro—started a self-incrimination campaign against the slut-shaming tactics being used against Sen. Leila de Lima. The campaign involved posting this message as one's Facebook status: "I would like to testify in Congress. It was me in the sex video. #Everywoman."
Other women also joined the campaign. They didn't necessarily support De Lima's political views; some even said they didn't like her. However, these women made it clear that slut-shaming De Lima is downright foul. After all, they reasoned, if there is genuine evidence against De Lima then she could easily be charged.
15. LAWMAKERS MAKE MOVES TO EXPAND MATERNITY LEAVE
In October, the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality gave the go signal for a bill expanding maternity leave to 100 days.
Currently, the law grants only a 60-day maternity leave for women who give birth via normal delivery, and a 78-day maternity leave for those who give birth via C-section. The current policy is less than the minimum 98-day leave required by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The bill, which passed initial readings at the Congress and Senate, wants government workers to be given a fully-paid maternity leave while those in the private sector must be given an average of their monthly salary credit.
The bill also allows for 30-day unpaid extensions. The bill applies to contractual workers, following rules from Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and adoptive parents, as per the Domestic Adoption Act.
16. KYLIE VERSOZA IS MISS INTERNATIONAL
Kylie Verzosa won the title of Miss International 2016 pageant held in Japan. Verzosa, who is a pre-school teacher with a bachelor's degree in Business Management from the Ateneo de Manila University, is the sixth Filipina to win the Miss International crown.
She is an advocate of mental health awareness. She also championed single girls when she corrected a TV host who remarked that having no boyfriend seemed sad. "Hindi siya malungkot (It's not sad). No, of course not. A crown is only once in a lifetime," Verzosa quipped.
Verzosa put forth the image of an empowered single woman who doesn't require a man to complete her life.
17. LAWYERS OFFER SERVICES FOR FREE TO WOMEN ATTACKED ONLINE
No woman should be subjected to online violence. It doesn't matter what her political affiliations are, her rights as a woman must be respected. However, this isn't the way misogynists with Internet connections operate.
In November, the surprise burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos' remains sparked street protests and a flood of social media posts. Heated debates were expected in light of the controversial burial. However, a disturbing trend came to light. The comments against the female protesters were sexually graphic and violent.
This prompted lawyers like Atty. John Molo and Atty. Jose Vener Ibarra to take action against the people who were sexually harassing the women online.
In a December 1 Facebook post, Molo announced that he and his fellow lawyers were getting organized. "To those who volunteered, please stay tuned for details of a general meeting. We'll be outlining objectives, assigning tasks and, sharing responsibilities. The collective journey to a nation with safer spaces online begins soon," he wrote.
The lawyers' initiative did a lot to encourage more women to go after their online attackers and hold them accountable for their disturbing behavior.
18. RISA HONTIVEROS FILES "TRES MARIAS" BILLS
Senator Risa Hontiveros filed three bills which seek to give women more protection against sexual harassment and violence, including attacks on social media. Hontiveros collectively referred to the following bills as the "Tres Marias" bills: Senate Bill No. 1250 (Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill), Senate Bill No. 1251 (Anti-Gender-Based Electronic Violence Bill), and Senate Bill No. 1252 (Anti-Rape Act).
Hontiveros was quoted as saying: "It's time to interrupt and end the culture of rape and male sexual violence. We will bring the fight to our very homes, workplaces, and the Internet. We will give no quarter to misogyny and sexism. We will not allow the gross and blatant disrespect, sexual assault, and objectification of our women and children to continue to take safe refuge in our communities."
In December, the Philippines' bet Catriona Gray finished in the Top 5 of the 2016 Miss World pageant held in Maryland. While Gray may not have taken home the crown, everyone was impressed with her answer in the Q&A segment.
When asked about which qualities she things the next Miss World winner should possess, Gray had answered, "I think first of all it takes bravery. To be a Miss World is to carry a burning torch. It is like action carried out by one to illuminate the lives of many. I would dedicate my whole self, my love for the arts, and my voice to try to uplift, empower, and educate people. It would be my greatest honor and duty to hold this torch high enough so that all the world could feel and see its light."
Gray's experience shows that smart answers always make a great impression—whether or not one gets the crown.
20. BLIND PINAY SINGER IS A HIT IN FRANCE
Katchry Jewel Golbin, a blind Filipina singer with the stage name "Alienette Coldfire", finished third place on the talent show La France a un Incroyable Talent (France Got Inceredible Talent), which is the French incarnation of the Got Talent reality show franchise.
On December, Golbin's post-win statement was posted on her Facebook page. She had said, "Third place! That's more than enough for a mere Francophile Who dreamed of nothing but a short vacation in France."
Golbin, who sang in French, had actually joined the GMA reality show Pinoy Idol in 2008. However, she failed to make it in the show's top 12.
In any case, earlier this year, Golbin's mother sought the help of Pinoy Idol judge Ogie Alcasid. Apparently, a talent scout had seen one of Golbin's performances on YouTube and had asked if she could audition for the French talent show. Alcasid revealed that actress Solenn Heussaff's father also helped Golbin get a French visa.