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Meet The Cosmopolitan Philippines Women Of Influence Awardees Of 2020

They are six fun, fearless, and forward Filipinas who used their influence for the greater good in these challenging times.
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Now on its second year, Cosmopolitan Philippines' Women Of Influence Awards is a celebration of fun, fearless, and forward Filipina personalities who've made a significant mark in Philippine society. In 2019, eight women were awarded for making a difference through the various causes and industries they actively support: humanitarian efforts, animal welfare, Pinay empowerment, LGBTQIA representation, local art appreciation, feminism, mental health awareness, and sports.

As the world continues to face extreme challenges brought about by COVID-19, it was only fitting to pay tribute to women who've organized efforts in helping out their respective communities in their own ways and capacities. This year's six awardees used their influence for humanitarian aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to inspire a new generation of Filipinos to stand up and use their voice, especially when it is needed the most.

Meet Cosmopolitan Philippines' Women Of Influence Awardees of 2020 and read their incredible stories below.

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READ MORE:

Meet The Cosmopolitan Philippines Women Of Influence Awardees Of 2019

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The Women Of Influence awardees for 2020

Bela Padilla

For 29-year-old actress Bela Padilla, it all started when she went to UP Diliman for her weekly jog and noticed that almost no one was buying from the taho and street vendors. "I remember going home and just thinking; it really bothered me a lot. If they didn't sell anything that day, what were they going to eat at night? I'm well aware that most of these people have families that depend on them," Bela shared in an interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines. So, during the first week of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March, Bela set up an account for donations for street vendors called Pagkain Para Sa Pinoy. Within a few days, she was able to raise a total of P3.3 million, and, with the help of local government units and friends from the industry, was able to distribute relief goods to eight cities in Metro Manila. 

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At present, Bela is supporting Cancervants PH, an organization of child cancer awareness advocates. They are currently coming together to provide transportation for kids to get to their chemo treatment sessions. Bela has also continued to be vocal about many social issues in the country. 

Bela Padilla set up an account for donations for street vendors called Pagkain Para Sa Pinoy and was able to distribute relief goods to eight cities in Metro Manila.
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What was the greatest challenge you encountered for Pagkain Para Sa Pinoy

It was to get suppliers who weren't trying to make money off of this. Because I only had good intentions backing up this fundraiser, so I was trying to look for people who had that same goal as I did. Ligo Sardines really stepped up; Mayor Vico Sotto's team was one of the first that reached out to ask if I needed help with logistics. There were so many people that stepped up, it was really a community effort. That was the hardest part for me. The physical activity I can take, like the actual repacking of the goods and handing it out to the people, that was fine. I really enjoyed that. But my biggest fear was that I couldn't get the right suppliers to give me the best prices so that more people could benefit from the money that we put together. 

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"But then this pandemic suddenly wakes you up and says, you know, when the world really comes to a halt, you're nothing." - Bela Padilla

How have your perspective or priorities shifted in the last four to five months? 

A lot has changed. I've started questioning a lot of things in my life, even my job and my profession. I feel like during this pandemic I had a lot of questions about how important my position in society [is]. It really humbles you. I think actors are so used to being pampered and taken care of. But then this pandemic suddenly wakes you up and says, you know, when the world really comes to a halt, you're nothing. You can't do physical work and there are so many physical skills we don't have. We may play doctors and nurses on-screen but in real life you're nothing. It did wake me up in many ways. 

Also, I truly appreciated the Filipino sense of humor. If not for that, I feel like I would've gone insane very early on. I love that the Filipinos, no matter how hard life gets, still find something to enjoy or cherish. I think another big realization is...this is too much. We've been pushed so far. I can't compare [our situation] to what other countries are going through because they are probably significantly richer or more progressive than us, but you would think by now we would have a solid plan already. 

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Amid the pandemic, what kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community? 

I'm happy that in terms of social help, a lot of people in my industry stood up and really made an effort to help out in whatever way they could. It kind of gave us a purpose as well. I think more than anything, these are the times when you have to figure out [how] your influence [comes into] play. There are so many influencers, especially on social media, but when something like this happens, where is your influence now? How do you affect society now? Because the [social media] posts can only go so far. 

Now I see that there are efforts to make unions for actors because there are so many actors who are jobless. I myself am considered jobless—our network closed down. In terms of TV work, I'm technically jobless but I'm still very lucky that I have my Viva Films family, so I can still be working after this. But not a lot of people are in the same boat as I am. I see now that there is an effort to make a union for those actors who don't have movie contracts and are jobless because ABS-CBN shut down. I hope that union really serves the purpose it wants to and I hope this union gets taken seriously. This should've happened a long time ago, not just during this pandemic, but it's never too late. I'm very hopeful for that union.  

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Angel Locsin

Often dubbed by the internet as a "real-life" Darna, Angel Locsin's philanthropic efforts have endeared her to Filipinos for years. For the 2019 Women Of Influence Awards, Angel was given recognition as The Pioneer because of her contributions to humanitarian aid in the Philippines. When the lockdown in Manila was imposed, Angel spearheaded #UniTentWeStandPH, an initiative that aims to provide hospital tents for health workers and patients. The idea came to Angel after hearing that non-COVID patients were having trouble looking for hospitals and were even being "rejected." "Bilang taong taping ako, alam ko na isa yung tents sa mga easiest na standby area, na mas mura," Angel shared in an interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines. By May, they had raised almost P11 million through donations and were able to provide tents for 135 hospitals. Angel even helped set up most of the tents herself.

In the same month, Angel, together with Dimples Romana and Anne Curtisstarted working on Shop&Share, a fundraising initiative that aims to help with free mass testing in the Philippines. Together with their fellow celebrities, they've auctioned off their pre-loved items and have managed to raise more than P6 million and help 600 individuals. The ultimate goal? To buy machines and build a testing laboratory. 

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She has also been very vocal about defending her home network and continued to speak up for her fellow employees after the ABS-CBN's franchise renewal was denied.

Angel Locsin spearheaded #UniTentWeStandPH, an initiative that aims to provide hospital tents for health workers and patients.

While working on #UniTentWeStandPH, what was the greatest challenge you encountered? 

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Siyempre, kailangan mo i-account lahat, kasi hindi lang naman siya yung sariling pera mo. Donation ito. Alam mo at nirerespeto mo na pinaghirapan ito ng mga taong nag-donate. Hindi madali ang magbigay ng pera sa ngayon. You have to make sure na wala ka masasayang ni sentimo, at kung paano mo mapoprotektahan ang sarili mo at ang mga kasamahan mo sa pandemya. Nandoon kayo mismo sa Ground Zero, sa mga lugar ng ospital kung saan may mga COVID-19 cases talaga. And, at the same time, yung hindi mo iparamdam sa mga health workers na may takot ka. Kung ano man yung kinakatakot mo, sayo lang, kasi kung sila nga nandoon mismo hindi nila masyado pinapalahata. So sino ba naman kami para magpakita ng nervousness doon? 

"…kung mayroon kayong nasa isip, 'wag kayong matakot, magsalita kayo kasi karapatan niyo 'yan." - Angel Locsin

Amid the pandemic, what gives you hope? How do you focus on better things when you have bad days? 

I'm sure lahat tayo may bad days ngayon. Pero 'pag nakakakita ka ng isang post, o makakabalita ka ng isang tao na gumawa ng mabuti sa kapwa, parang kahit papaano mare-restore yung faith mo sa humanity. So 'pag nakakakita ka ng mga ganoon, mga inspiring stories, perseverance, yung way kung paano nakaka-cope yung mga Pilipino, makakahugot ka e...Lahat tayo hindi masama. Lahat tayo gustong gumawa ng mabuti, lahat tayo gustong tumulong. Kailangan lang natin makita yung paraan kung papaano. Pinanghahawakan ko 'yon. 

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What kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community? What kind of attitudes do you want to see in your fellow Filipinos? 

Hindi ibig sabihin na may opinyon ka at nagsasabi ka ng opinyon ay pala-away ka o may kinokontra kang isang bagay. Hindi ibig sabihin noon na nagiging negative ka. Para sa akin ang ibig sabihin noon, may pakialam ka, may malasakit ka, may gusto kang gawing bagay para makatulong sa lahat. So, kung mayroon kayong nasa isip, 'wag kayong matakot, magsalita kayo kasi karapatan niyo 'yan. Hangga't wala kayong inaapakan, hanggat alam niyong nasa tama kayo, hangga't alam niyo na totoo ang sinasabi niyo, karapatan niyo 'yon. Magsalita kayo. Dahil ito yung panahon, sa tingin ko, na nakikinig ang mga tao. Ito yung panahon na kailangan ng mga tao na ma-realize, 'hindi lang pala ako nag-iisa sa nararamdaman ko.' Magsalita tayo, and at the same time, intindihin natin kung ano yung pinagdadaanan ng ibang tao. Pwede tayong magbigay ng opinyon, pero wala tayong karapatang manghusga sa kapwa natin

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Frankie Pangilinan

Being the daughter of two prominent figures in Philippine showbiz and politics, Frankie Pangilinan is hyper-aware of the privilege she was born into. In a country that has a complex fascination with famous families, the now 19-year-old grew up before the public eye. But in recent years, a new interest with Frankie emerged because, as a true Gen Z, she used her social platformsspecifically her Twitter accountto voice out her concerns and opinions over the country's and the world's most pressing issues.

Frankie's influence was magnified in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, 21 residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City were arrested because they staged a protest demanding aid from the government. Frankie tweeted against their arrest and offered to sponsor one of the residents to post their bail, which amounted to P15,000. Frankie's parents, Sharon Cuneta and Senator Francis Pangilinan, were also said to sponsor the bail for the other residents. In June, Frankie made headlines again when she sparked the online movement, #HijaAko, that condemns victim-blaming and rape culture.

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Frankie continues to tweet about a variety of topicsfrom women empowerment to her latest K-pop discovery. She credits her outspokenness to her parents and how they encouraged her to use privilege to help those who weren't born into it.

Frankie Pangilinan used her social platforms—specifically her Twitter account—to voice out her concerns and opinions over the country's and the world's most pressing issues.
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Describe the first time you organized or made arrangements to help those who've been greatly affected by COVID-19.

I made a handful of quiet donations first that I'd prefer not to disclose. It definitely wasn't much. I donate out of my own pocket and I feel as if there are several misconceptions regarding my privilege as opposed to any access I actually have to my parents' resources. The first time I think any of my personal efforts were public knowledge was when we helped residents of Sitio San Roque to make bail. Thanks to social media we were able to help, and while much of those efforts ended up making much more noise than I ever intended, I hope that it was able to inspire others with more privileged backgrounds to seek out opportunities to help and assist locally. My work there isn't done and I hope to likewise encourage others to follow through and persist with these efforts. I hope to do more for the San Roque community as soon as I am able (when I get my ducks in a row).

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"It's never about individuals but about groups—to touch and encourage others in their heart of hearts to aspire towards positive change in every way we all can." - Frankie Pangilinan

What's been the greatest challenge in terms of providing help or assistance where it's needed the most?

There's a certain degree of helplessness I can feel sometimes which comes with my youth, my lack of experience, and the pandemic in particular. I feel as if the expectations I set for myself are very different from the expectations people may suddenly have of me, but I'm committed to ensuring good intentions take precedence no matter the situation. I don't think accolades and praise are apt indicators of true goodness (there's a certain air of singular idolization which I dislike), but I hope to be able to inspire and unify others behind ideals. I would very much prefer not to be recognized as an individual, but rather, for the efforts of like-minded individuals who have allowed me to learn so much and grow further as a person. The ideas I try to shed light upon are those which motivate me.

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As we navigate the new normal, what gives you hope? On a particularly bad day, how do you focus on the good?

The best way to focus on the good comes hand in hand with focusing on the bad—no amount of momentary pain I may feel at any given moment can ever compare to the sheer injustice which dictates the lives of the masses and irreversibly harms lives every single day. The primary focus must always be the causes, the people, and the millions of those affected by the very things I seek to fight for. It's never about individuals but about groups—to touch and encourage others in their heart of hearts to aspire towards positive change in every way we all can. Simple things like reading books and staying hydrated can affect a lot of how I think. Resetting is sometimes essential. Caring for the heart is still a priority when so much of us are fueled by it.

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Amid the pandemic, what kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community?

Anything inherently well-intentioned will always shine through. With plenty of performative efforts that can flood the digital landscape, it's important to seek precisely what is important amidst the noise, and to cling onto the realization that at the end of the day, the best resource on which to build any efforts is basic human decency. We all function within individual means, and it's also good to recognize one's limits even while challenging them and pushing them further. We all have specific roles to play, and it starts with the difficult conversations—it begins with curiosity and empathy, always.

Catriona Gray

Having reigned as Miss Universe in 2018, Catriona Gray is no stranger to using her voice to help vulnerable communities. When the pandemic hit and lockdown was implemented in March, Catriona acted fast: She reached out to Young Focus, a non-profit organization she’s been working with, to see how they can serve the families in Tondo, where basic necessities are scarce. Together, they launched the #NoWorkNoRice campaign, a fundraiser to supply families with 15 kilograms of rice along with other food—every 10 days until the lockdown ended.

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But the work doesn't stop there.

As a National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) ambassador, Catriona will be launching Kultura 101 with Cat as a way of educating the public—especially the youth—about Filipino heritage, arts, and culture. Further concentrating her efforts on supporting local, the 26-year-old will also be partnering up with the Department of Trade and Industry's One Town, One Product (OTOP) in a travel show that'll take her to different provinces where she can learn more about locally made products.

And right now, the former beauty queen is collaborating with Bayanihan Musikahan to promote their Mask4AllPH campaign, an initiative focused on community involvement and upcycling to provide free masks to urban poor families. She also has another campaign with Young Focus called Quality Education for All; they are raising money to put up two computer centers with social distancing barriers for students in Smokey Mountain, Tondo.

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Catriona knows that actions speak loudest of all, and through her initiatives, she hopes to be an example for those who might be struggling to figure out how to help amid this global crisis.

Catriona Gray worked with Young Focus and launched the #NoWorkNoRice campaign, a fundraiser meant to supply families with rice.
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On your #NoWorkNoRice initiative with Young Focus: What was the greatest challenge in terms of providing help or assistance where it's needed the most?

I think initially, it was overcoming the helpless feeling, like that it appeared to be such a big problem, how could I and just a few people possibly make a difference? Next was throwing a call for help out there, knowing that so many people were going through challenges and problems of their own, perhaps they wouldn't have anything to give. To be honest, we weren't expecting much to be raised. But the help that poured in was overwhelming—not only from here in the Philippines, but from all over the world.

For the duration of the ECQ period (three months), we were able to raise a total of P5 million and provide over 100,000 kilograms of rice to feed thousands of families. On a side effort, I was also able to band together with a handful of friends to provide relief goods and basic needs to families who fell victim to a fire that destroyed all of their homes and belongings. We provided personal hygiene kits, donated blankets and clothes, noodles, utensils, and shoes to around 500 displaced fire victims. I couldn't imagine that in the face of having no work and a pandemic that these people also lost their homes—so I had to do something to help.

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"Giving back also became a priority because it helped me with the anxiety I felt. It gave me hope." - Catriona Gray

Did your perspective or priorities shift during the pandemic?

I think I had this "condition" on when a good time "to give" was. Like, when I'm doing well or I'm comfortable or secure—that's when I should give to the causes I care about or lend a hand. But, this season, I was challenged to give, even when I (personally) had nothing coming in. I was in no way comfortable, or secure, or provided for—but I knew that compared to some, I had so much, and that I should share what I could. Giving back also became a priority because it helped me with the anxiety I felt. It gave me hope.

Amid the pandemic, what kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community?

I hope to see people taking matters into their own hands and giving in small ways to their countrymen in need. It can be in the form of buying groceries from local farmers, offering services for free, helping out an elderly neighbor, or sponsoring a family. And I hope once this all comes to pass that we will see ourselves in our countrymen and choose to support local.

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Ria Atayde

Another celebrity who acted fast after the lockdown was Ria Atayde. Together with fellow actor Enchong Dee, they first identified which hospitals needed help, eventually deciding that they would go for the ones that were smaller. The next step was trying to find PPEs, face masks, face shields, and protective boxes. Through their social media accounts, they collected donations, and after hitting a certain amount, went into coordinating how to get those necessary items. Distribution was the tricky part because of the strict quarantine rules in place. In an interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines, Ria elaborated, "Enchong is from Bicol and so is our Vice President, so they're connected in that sense. After the first two to three hospitals, we decided to turn our donations over to the Office of the Vice President [so] that way, at least mas malawak yung reach namin, and at least we know that the donations were gonna go to where we would have intended them to go."

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Putting the children front and center, Ria is now an ambassador for Save the Children Philippines. They recently launched Project Aral, a resource for people who don't have access to education. The actress shared, "Right now, I think it's hard for children to understand what's going on. It's a lot for them to grasp—five or six months of not being able to go out. And how do you properly explain that to a child? They weren't even given a choice. So kids have become more of my focus."

Ria Atayde collected donations to provide for hospitals in need of PPEs, face masks, face shields, and protective boxes.
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On fundraising to help hospitals in need: What was the greatest challenge in terms of providing help or assistance where it’s needed the most?

The greatest challenge was getting donations and gathering enough funds, though any contribution is already so good. There was just so much that needed to be done and filled. I think distance was an issue as well because when we did our drive, it was a bit harder to go to provinces, so it was mainly hospitals in the metro that we were able to reach.

"I find myself detaching from social media to focus on the good because sometimes, what we see online can be a bit too heavy." - Ria Atayde

Did your perspective or priorities shift during the pandemic?

I believe that somehow, my priorities have shifted from myself to others. It's become even more apparent to me that we are blessed so we can share with others—especially our kababayans who aren't as privileged as we are.

As we navigate the new normal, what gives you hope? On a particularly bad day, how do you focus on the good?

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I find myself detaching from social media to focus on the good because sometimes, what we see online can be a bit too heavy. But aside from that, I make it a point to meditate daily and think of the things and people that keep me going—things and people I'm grateful for.

Amid the pandemic, what kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community?

I wish to see more sustainable efforts that will help those in need to survive beyond just one week. Apart from that, I wish to see more efforts on the part of our public servants.

Maine Mendoza

Even before she joined showbiz in 2015, Maine Mendoza would blog about her wide range of interestsmusic, travel, random musings, and more. As she rose to stardom, Maine continued to voice out her opinions on her social platforms about issues that mattered most to her heart. And the most pressing concern for Maine in the COVID-19 pandemic was to offer financial assistance to those who lost their jobs as a result of the ECQ. In March, only a few days after Metro Manila was placed under ECQ, Maine put out a blog post about her DoNation Drive that aimed to help workers were "not allowed to work because of the community lockdown."

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In her post, Maine pledged to give P1,000 per household of those who lost their jobs. "I know how hard it is for these people nowadays to sustain their living so I decided to share as much as I can to them," she wrote. She also revealed that she personally assisted all donations and was transparent in posting updates on the transactions on her DoNation Drive blog.

In May, Maine successfully closed the project and posted her last update, saying that they received over P1 million in donations that would help 1,003 households.

Maine Mendoza launched the DoNation Drive on her blog which aimed to help workers who were "not allowed to work because of the community lockdown," pledging to give P1,000 per household.
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Describe the first time you organized or made arrangements to help those who've been greatly affected by COVID-19.

When the ECQ began, I immediately had this overwhelming urge to help the needybut I didn't know how. At first, I thought of simply just sending my money to an organization that aims to help the vulnerable. Then I realized I had a lot of time to spare, so I might as well work on another "happy project" (as I'd like to call it) to help the ones greatly affected by the pandemic. I wanted to keep everything private but I realized I'd get to help a lot more people if I use my platform—not to make noise, "stay relevant," or anythingI just wanted to help those who were in dire need of financial assistance.

"I still choose to focus on the good despite all the bad. I mean, we can only take so much, right?" - Maine Mendoza

While working on DoNation Drive, what was the greatest challenge you encountered? 

In my case, working on everything by myself was one of the biggest challenges. I read as many emails as I can; I send money to as many people as I can; I record all the daily transactions and blog them for transparency purposes. Also, another difficult thing for me was not being able to accommodate everyone. As much as I want to, I really cannot provide for everyone. I have received 400,000+ emails over the past four months, and picking recipients was a struggle. I admit to focusing more on professions that were greatly affected by the ECQ like PUV drivers, construction workers, vendors, as well as the frontliners and seniors.

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As we navigate the new normal, what gives you hope? On a particularly bad day, how do you focus on the good?

With all the bad events and negativity going on right now, it's still the future that gives me hope. Everything's uncertain [now] but I know that this is just a phase we all have to go through. In time, things will be better. Whenever I get frustrated on certain things, I just think of the things I am thankful forbeing healthy and alive, having my family with me, knowing my loved ones are safe, keeping my job, etc. At the end of the day, I still choose to focus on the good despite all the bad. I mean, we can only take so much, right?

Amid the pandemic, what kind of efforts do you hope to see in our community?

I hope and pray for our leaders to have the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to cope and be of help to peopleespecially to our modern-day heroes who continue to serve and work despite the risk and exhaustion. Let us always remember that we are all part of the solution one way or another so our cooperation is essential.

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Special Awards

Frankie Pangilinan, The SHEro Award, presented by Benefit Cosmetics

This award is given to a strong, fearless headliner who uses her influence and platform to educate, inspire, and benefit others. Frankie consistently walks her talk and is never afraid to speak her mind.

Frankie Pangilinan: "I would very much prefer not to be recognized as an individual, but rather, for the efforts of like-minded individuals who have allowed me to learn so much and grow further as a person."
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Bela Padilla, GynePro Grit & Grace Award, presented by GynePro

This award is given to a strong, resilient woman who leads her life in confidence, courage, grit, and self-compassion. She knows how to get things done despite limitations. Bela uses her voice and platform to inspire others, empower them to bounce back, and to find strength in life's ups and downs.

Bela Padilla: "I feel like during this pandemic I had a lot of questions about how important my position in society [is]. It really humbles you."
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*Answers have been edited for clarity.

Follow Jacinda, Ysa, Lily, and Mixi on Instagram.

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PRODUCERS: Jacinda A. LopezYsa Singson, and Lily Grace Tabanera

INTERVIEWS BY: Ysa Singson and Lily Grace Tabanera

ART DIRECTION: Mixi Ignacio