15 Influential Filipinos Who Will Inspire You to Keep Pursuing Your Passions

These past few years have been full of struggles and hardships, so we’re incredibly blessed to have met and surrounded ourselves with people along the way who continuously inspire us to keep going and strive to reach our goals and pursue our passions. If you’re in need of some motivation today (or any day, really), here are 15 Filipinos who have shared their amazing stories with us. We hope they inspire you, as well.

15 Influential Filipinos Who Will Inspire You to Keep Pursuing Your Passions

Karen Bordador (@karen_bordador)

Karen Bordador scaled e1664201228371

Photo from Karen Bordador

We still remember when the news of Karen Bordador’s unjust imprisonment circulated in 2016. Imagine having to spend almost five years in prison for something you didn’t do, getting ridiculed and judged by people, and being considered a criminal when you are actually a good citizen. Karen lost her livelihood and was taken away from her home, literally put in jail with all of the hardships attached to it.

Despite being in the dark for years, though, Karen shares that she thrived and freed her mind. “I was determined to grow in all aspects while waiting to get a miracle home,” she shares. “I read more than 300 books, became a leader inside, and created a library and many entertaining events. I learned about the harsh reality of life in the Philippines and I wanted to go home to let everyone know about my experiences inside.”

Five years is no joke and could easily break anyone’s spirit, but Karen’s dreams kept her going. She also knew that God wouldn’t give her a strong desire to achieve things if He was just going to keep her locked up. “I was determined to believe I had a strong purpose to weather the long storm and overcome it,” she states. “My fantasies of being successful and fulfilling my seemingly ridiculous dreams were glaring at me daily. It kept me motivated. I even worked out every day to get myself physically ready for when it was time to go home.”

Karen strongly believes that hardships happen because great things simply do not come easily. “We’re meant to go through intense fires to become pure enough to be golden,” she says. “If you’re exhausted now and are wondering if God is even listening, know that He’s always there and He wants you to keep pushing. Everything you are imagining can happen! Even if your circumstances now are destroying your vision, move forward blindly. Keep telling yourself it’s possible because it is. You have to push yourself to the limits until you are worthy of all your dreams to come true. Trust the pain, the hardships, and the process. All of it happens so you can become strong enough to handle the success. Stay faithful. You will get there!”

After those five years in jail, Karen has regained her rightful freedom and has returned to the entertainment industry. She entered PBB Celebrity Edition, had her own special tw0-part episode on MMK, got her first billboard on EDSA, got two magazine covers, and now has her own TV TALK show on PIE Channel called PIE NIGHT LONG. She is also a vlogger on YouTube with a Silver Button – all in just one year. She reiterates, “It is all possible when you believe and trust in God.”

Jaro Cab, 31 (@jarocab)

Jaro Cab scaled e1664201725381

Photo from Jaro Cab

Jaro Cab has been active in the nightlife business since 2014, taking on the marketing side, competing at local and international beer pong tournaments, and opening his own bars. Once the pandemic happened, though, the bar scene changed and life took an unexpected turn. Despite these changes in the nightlife scene; Jaro kept going, constantly re-aligning his vision and learning new skills in preparation for the new normal. During this time, he also became a father to Zaffy with his partner Emcy Grey, who is also a DJ. “She’s been my inspiration in everything that I do ever since I laid eyes on her,” he gushes.

Come 2021, Jaro opened The CAB in BF Homes together with Emcy Grey, a bar that now has a branch in Salem and will soon have another branch in Alabang. That aside, he also learned to DJ and is now a resident DJ at The CAB, Dynasty Real, and Cisos Gastropub. Apart from finding the right inspiration, Jaro shares more vital tips for success: “Find time and give time when it comes to pursuing what you want to do in your life, and be really passionate about it. Another one of the most important things in life is that you enjoy what you do for a living. Also, find a circle that will build you up – a circle that has the same goals and philosophies as you. Friends and acquaintances are there in good times, but you should have your main people close to you – those who will be there for you at all times – good or bad.” Amen!

Lee Caces, 31 (@leecaces)

Lee Caces rotated

Photo from Lee Caces

Lee Caces is an amazing artist whose work you have most likely seen at locations and events all around the Philippines. His signature strokes and colors have been featured by brands like Johnnie Walker, Dove, and Shake Shack, to name a few. He is also one of the chosen 19 artists for Pinto Art Museum in 2023.

While some people strongly believe that talent for art is something you are born with, Lee has learned a lot through the years to help hone his skills. In college, Lee worked as a part-time freelance photographer, where he learned about the importance of light, exposure, tone, and composition. He then slowly transitioned into graphic design and illustration because he liked the idea of drawing and experimenting with colors, lines, and shapes. This is also when he started focusing on discovering his unique art style. “I also had a lot of experiences in the visual arts industry, which greatly helped me apply everything to my current projects,” he adds. “I am inspired to create more murals, design, and focus even more on my personal art.”

Lee has always been curious about how things actually exist or work, in general, which is what pulled him into abstract art. He then continuously experimented with different mediums, forms, and sizes. “In all of such experimentations, I think I like the combination of both commercial work and art best,” he says. “It’s so interesting that these two are different from one another, but can definitely co-exist.” In whatever he does, though, Lee’s art never fails to strike a chord in the hearts of those who see it.

As for his secret? “If it’s fun for you, then continue to play. Just keep creating and continue to share your work. Do what makes you feel good or whatever makes you feel right. People will resonate with your work and will eventually support you in whatever you pursue. For those who do: remember them and be grateful.”

Janeena Chan, 29 (@janeenachan)

Janeena Chan scaled e1664371118560

Photo from Janeena Chan

Janeena Chan is one woman who is seemingly everywhere. Aside from hosting all sorts of events, she is also a lifestyle content creator, a podcaster, a model, and an online columnist on OneMega – whew! Just listing down the things that she does is enough to tire us out… so how does she do it?

Janeena shares that she has actually always been an active “bibo kid” growing up. “I think it’s really a part of my personality and character, in general, to have many interests,” she shares. Janeena believes that energy begets energy; and even after recovering from Bell’s Palsy a few years back, she still keeps on going – a true queen worth looking up to! “As much as I value real rest, I now know the real meaning of really living life intentionally and unapologetically as you are… celebrating every now that we have, and not being a prisoner of limiting beliefs. Every new day is a gift to be cherished,” she shares with a smile.

She also points out the importance of having a “want to” and “get to” mindset over a “have to” one. “When you think of everything as an opportunity to learn, grow, and enjoy; everything becomes more fun and exciting! And I definitely enjoy playing,” she says.

On top of that, Janeena perfectly points out that success is different for everyone. She reminds us, “Stop being pressured by external notions of what success should look like in the eyes of others. You only have to listen to your inner voice. Set it free, let it play, and you’ll be surprised by how much more direction, growth, and meaning you can invite in your life.” She also adds, “Never discredit your work. Mastery requires mistakes, detours, and learning curves! Enjoy the process, and learn to be happy as you grow, not only when you’ve reached your goals. And life isn’t always about achieving. It’s meant to be lived.”

Jason Cruz, 34 (@jsncruz)

Jason Cruz

Photo from Jason Cruz

Jason Cruz started out as a writer on how brands and businesses “should” be using social media channels to communicate better with customers and as a social media manager for a creative agency. He eventually grew into specialist roles in digital strategy, business and communications strategies, business development, and content strategy. Today, he hosts workshops where he helps others build their skill sets in areas he specializes in.

Learning and self-development are generally very important to Jason. In fact, he assesses his skill set every year to see if he has what his industry needs. “As long as a field of study is interesting for me (within marketing, advertising, branding, strategy, and communications), I try my best to pursue it as deeply as I possibly can,” he shares. “For example, digital marketing was never going away so I did my best to learn as many sub-topics as possible, as well as put learned theory into practice through my work with brands and businesses.”

Jason is also a firm believer in going deep when it comes to professional pursuits (i.e. aiming for expertise) and going wide when it comes to personal pursuits (i.e. experiences). In addition, it’s also important for him to give back, which is why he gives some of his time to organizations, entrepreneurs, and local businesses and shares his experiences with them.

Jason also believes in the importance of creating a distinction between what you love and what makes you money. “Too many people pursue their passions, goals, and dreams with no real plans on how to fund or finance these,” he explains. “For a lucky few, their passions check both boxes but for many (or even most) of us – we’ll be happier if we draw that line. For example, I’m passionate about teaching, but my day job is with a multinational that gives me enough bandwidth (i.e. time and financial security). That means I can teach without worrying about supporting my family and my lifestyle and it would never feel like work or an obligation.”

Prince De Guzman, 26 (@theprincedeguzman)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Prince De Guzman (@theprincedeguzman)

If you’re big on pop culture and geekery, there is no doubt you’ve seen Prince De Guzman somewhere before. He has been the highlight of many pop culture events thanks to his mindblowing cosplays. Constantly wowing people with his creations and portrayals, and even scaring people to death now and then (myself included lol), Prince is a Filipino cosplayer who truly stands out and puts his heart and soul into his portrayals.

Prince actually started cosplaying because of his love for acting, practical effects makeup, and horror. Because of this love, he started cosplaying horror movie characters like Pennywise, Michael Myers, and Valak until it opened new doors for him as a content creator for pop culture, games, and movies. “Right now, I incorporate my cosplays while playing my favorite games or reacting to my favorite movies in my vlogs,” he shares. “I love it when people say that they check my cosplays and content for the latest pop culture updates.

What you might not know is that Prince was actually a host and a part-time model before he started creating content. However, he had always hoped to turn his passion into a career and now, he finally has a job that he genuinely enjoys doing. “I am inspired to create my content because I am basically doing what I want and what I love.”

If you’re hoping to do the same, Prince points out that you shouldn’t be harsh on yourself, especially when it comes to getting views or followers on social media. He reminds us, “It is not the definition of success all the time. You already have what you need: a dream. Now, rely on your talent to get you to the top and be very disciplined to improve what your talent can offer every day.”

Lyka De Luna, 25 (@lykaalykees)

Lyka De Luna e1664371209855

Photo from Lyka De Luna

Lyka De Luna has been an inspiration from the get-go. Even when she was just a student, Lyka was already hosting, modeling, and acting in short films. During the summer, she would also work as a Student Assistant at her University to earn extra money. “I always push myself to make my own money and save,” she shares.

A mere week after her college graduation, Lyka started working as a Project Manager in a marketing consultancy company, where she got exposed to production shoots and events. (Keep in mind that she was a fresh grad!) Not long after that, she took on a Copywriting position at a different organization and eventually found herself leaning toward Account Management in an ad agency where she stayed for almost two years.

In September 2020, Lyka took things up a notch and started her own 360 marketing agency, CleverCatch Inc., along with co-founder Neil Tacderas. They basically do everything related to advertising and marketing – video production, events, PR campaigns, social media, digital, etc. So far, they have already worked with big brands like SM, Fujifilm, BPI, TikTok, Pfizer, Medicard, and BonChon.

However, when they were starting during the height of the pandemic; they did small projects acquisitions, and actual work like super lowball product shoots, key visual development, and campaign ideation. Without a steady source of income at the time, Lyka found herself wondering whether she was just wasting her time. “Sometimes when I enter our office in the morning or when I leave at night, I get flashbacks of when I got our first signed deal,” she admits. “I was literally crying, jumping, and screaming all at the same time, inside the mall… with lots of people staring at me, clueless that another soul’s dreams and prayers are finally coming true.”

This year, CleverCatch was able to get their own office space with a conference room big enough to set up a mini studio, a cute pantry area, a storage room, a production area, and two separate offices for her and Neil. “We try our best to make it a happy place not only for work but most especially for friendships,” Lyka adds. As for any tips, she has three: “Number one, your struggles are indicators that you’ve already started your journey. So congratulations! Number two, follow your own timeline. Don’t get pressured by what other people are saying and always remember that results happen over time, not overnight. Number three: Stay persistent and always give your 120 percent.”

Anne Janelle Ngo Francisco, 27 (@helloajfran)

AJ Francisco scaled e1664202142470

Photo from AJ Francisco

For AJ Francisco of Twenty Four Bakeshop, baking was just a hobby back in college. With a love for baking TV shows and with any equipment that they had, she would share her baked goods with her friends at school who encouraged her to make a business out of it – and so she did. AJ borrowed 2,000 pesos from her mom and started an online business called Tiny Bakeshop, catering to DLSU students who would do meet-ups on campus. After a few years, AJ had enough funds to rent out a bazaar space at school for four days. While she admits she didn’t really expect much, her products sold out every single day.

While her business took a pause once she joined the corporate world, AJ felt it was time for a comeback in 2019. With more knowledge of marketing, branding, and operations; AJ rebranded to Twenty Four Bakeshop with the core concept of providing freshly-baked cookies on the spot. That’s right. They bake their cookies fresh in front of your eyes. Her first testing ground? Her alma mater. The word about these fresh cookies spread like wildfire across campus and in four days, they baked and sold 1,262 cookies.

Seeing how well the concept worked, AJ decided to start a full-on business and in September 2019, Twenty Four Bakeshop opened its first store in One Bonifacio High Street Mall. By March 2020, they opened a second store in Estancia Mall, and by June 2020, their third store opened in the Podium. To date, they have a variety of fresh pastries: cookies, brownies, cheesecakes, and brioche doughnuts. “My hobby came back at the right time,” AJ gushes. “It’s like it chose me, and I’m just really fortunate to have my passion as my profession.”

Other than that, AJ is really happy to help other bakers find their way – from sharing the differences in brands, ingredients, costs, and equipment to where to get them. “I remember my younger self having a hard time with sources like this and I want to fill in the gap for other aspiring bakers,” she explains. AJ also believes in doing what you love. “If you love what you’re doing, just keep on doing it,” she says. “May it be big or small, just keep on going. Don’t think about the revenue too much. The money will just follow if you put your heart into what you’re doing.”

Janine Khazaie, 32 (@misis.khazaie)

Janine Khazaie e1664262588790

Photo from Janine Khazaie

Janine Khazaie is a true hustler and we love her for it! Even when she had a corporate job, she was still hustling on the side (RTW clothing, skincare, etc.). In 2018, she ventured into home service massages through MassageMNL and now, it is the top specialized home service massage in the Philippines. “I really didn’t expect it to grow as big as it is today,” Janine admits. “I’m very happy to always hear so many good comments, especially from moms whom MassageMNL helped during and after their pregnancies and even until when their baby can get our baby massage.”

MassageMNL isn’t just for moms, either. They offer massages for everyone that aim to soothe, relax, and relieve stress. They offer a wide array of techniques suitable for any family member and various medical conditions. Best of all, their high-quality premium wellness treatments are all safe, affordable, and accessible.

Still, Janine admits that being an entrepreneur is hard and comes with many obstacles along the way. She also gives us a reality check: “If you are thinking of giving up your 9 to 5 so you can have more time and freedom, believe me when I say that is not true. If you are really serious and committed to growing a successful business, you need to spend 10000% of your time planning, developing, executing, etc. You need to wear different hats when you are starting but no matter what, if you believe in what you are working on and really see the potential, do it even if it’s just you who sees it because no one believes you yet. Remember: you are doing this for yourself. Eventually, everyone will see your hard work, passion, and the support you deserve will soon follow. Have faith and trust the process.”

Maine Manalansan-Veneracion, 29 (@millimetrs7

Maine Manalansan Veneracion scaled e1664371882625

Photo from Maine Manalansan-Veneracion

Maine Manalansan-Veneracion is one of our inspirations in creativity and advocacies. Her creative journey actually started when she was just 17 years old. As a teenager, she started an online magazine with her Tumblr friends called Stache, which was for and by the creative youth. “Being part of a super creative online environment inspired me to actually pursue my dreams of becoming an editor by making my own magazine,” she shares.

From there, Maine discovered her love for publishing and empowering the youth to speak up and pursue their passions. Immediately after college (and after folding the magazine), Maine joined Young STAR, the youth section of The Philippine STAR, as their editorial assistant. “That was where I developed my voice and visual style more, eventually earning the position of creative director and then becoming the editor,” she says.

Maine was also the editor for youngstar.ph, the online counterpart of the newspaper section. She expounds, “Through the website, I was able to play around with different digital formats like video and animation, plus get a more direct line of communication with our audience. Our goal for Young STAR was really to reflect and amplify what the youth stands for — whether it be about pop culture, politics, or just their lifestyle in general. I think this is where my passion for youth and creative empowerment really solidified. I try to make each project that I do more purposeful by centering it on this one advocacy.”

After Young STAR, Maine dabbled in a lot of online productions during the pandemic. She was the Editor for Globe Poppin’ for a while and was also part of the production team for Jericho Rosales’ four-week late-night show called Gabi Na Naman. She eventually found her way back to the youth platform by joining an ed tech company as their full-time creative lead and now branded content strategist. Now, on the side, Maine continues to inspire through her podcast Saktong Friendship Lang with Marga Buenaventura, where they talk about friendship and navigating the creative industry. She is also working on a side project for the creative youth once again plus some freelance branding and UI/UX work under Studio Millimetrs.

Maine knows how hard it can be to take that first step towards our goals because of pressure and a lack of confidence in ourselves. However, she believes that you should just do it and people will come to help. “We’re all part of a community — school, work, your childhood barkada from way way back, etc. — and chances are, there are people there who might be working towards the same goal or are willing to help you reach yours,” she says. “Share your dreams and trust that the universe (and your community) will conspire to make it work.”

Hershey Neri (@heyhershey)

Hershey Neri scaled e1664774856989

Photo from Hershey Neri

Hershey Neri had always secretly wished to become an actor but that’s all it was once upon a time: a dream. “It was something I only daydreamed about in my shower room before I got ready for work,” she shares. And now, here she is, a full-time actor. Her wish has come true!

Hershey used to work as a writer until she resigned from her corporate job in 2019 to start a coworking space. In 2020, however, she and her business partner had to give up their business because managing a coworking space just wasn’t practical at the time. Things took a turn when Hershey received a random message in mid-2020, asking her to audition for a comedy game show called Fill in the Bank. “I was so surprised because I had no idea how the show’s production company knew about me,” she shares. “I’ve also never been to a legit audition before.” After reading a couple of scripts over Zoom, Hershey booked the job, eventually learning that Ms. Reeza Belo had discovered her through a viral video Hershey did back in 2018.

In 2021, the same producers of the game show created a comedy series called Boyfriend No. 13, and the producer, Ms. Kaye Cadsawan, handpicked Hershey to star in it. “She believed in me, even though I never acted professionally before,” Hershey says. She was then introduced to Yan Yuzon, an acting coach, and did workshops before their lock-in taping. That’s when Hershey truly fell in love with acting and the rest is history.

She shares, “I realized that the more you stay in a certain field, the more you realize that you don’t know everything—and the more you want to learn and do better. That’s what I feel about acting—I’m in love with it, and I’m continuously trying to absorb lessons and pieces of wisdom from mentors, colleagues, and other artistic people.”

While working as a full-time actor, Hershey is also currently taking her master’s in Counseling Psychology because of her passion for making mental health accessible to the masses. This comes after she was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend in broad daylight back in 2015. “Those were the darkest years of my life,” she recalls, “and I thought that the whole experience would taint my life forever.” Through therapy, however, Hershey found healing, and she is now in a much better place.

“My Big Dream is to one day be able to merge the worlds of Healing and Humor, Mental Health and Entertainment—because I truly believe that Art can Heal. This is my Why in life,” Hershey adds, urging everyone to find their own Why. “When things get rough and when everything else gets noisy, your Why will be your North Star.

What’s meant for you will come to you, and everything happens for a reason. As Steve Jobs said, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.’ I really do believe that some things will only make sense in retrospect. So you just gotta trust that what’s meant for you will come.”

Avin Ong, 29 (@ongavin)

Avin Ong e1664201331456

Photo from Avin Ong

You’ve definitely dined or ordered from one of the brands of Fredley Group of Companies (FGC) by now. Macao Imperial Tea, Mitasu Yakiniku, and Nabe are just some of the brands under the company (with around 260 outlets and 3,000 employees nationwide now!) and the man behind it is 29-year-old Avin Ong. FGC was founded eight years ago and was named after his parents, Alfred and Shirley, as a way to honor them. What started as a Japanese restaurant eventually expanded by bidding for franchises. “Thankfully, we have been receiving overwhelming support from our partners and patrons, and this led us to greatly expand in just 5 years—firstly with Macao Imperial Tea’s 234 branches,” Avin shares.

It turns out that Avin’s inspiration was first and foremost his love and passion for food. As a certified foodie who always enjoys trying different cuisines and eating, in general, this venture makes complete sense for him. However, Avin also has a strong drive for business. In fact, when he was just seven years old, he would sell fruit shakes in one of Caloocan’s wet markets. While he may not have exactly earned a lot of money doing that, he says that it definitely ignited his interest in the food business. Today, he is proud to say that his business has become more than a love for food and business. He loves that he is able to use his business to help more people become business owners and somehow inspire the betterment of our country.

Avin admits that he initially thought it would be easy to enter the food business but it turned out to be much more challenging than he expected. He points out that it’s okay to be scared, though. He says, “Along the way, you will most definitely encounter challenges, and that is okay. Just keep going, stay focused, and don’t give up on your goals. I think you just really have to go for it. The first step is the most difficult, but as long as you have a vision and take it one step at a time, the next thing you’ll know is that you’ve already made it a long way.”

Rhiza Pascua (@itsarpee)

Rhiza Pascua

Photo from Rhiza Pascua

Live Nation needs no introduction. It’s the biggest promoter in the world, handling the concerts and events of the biggest acts in the world. However, Live Nation Philippines’ journey is less known. Before being acquired by Live Nation, they were MMI Live, and that started with Rhiza Pascua in the smallest way you can imagine. Rhiza started MMI a little more than 26 years ago. Rhiza’s family had migrated to the United States when she was in high school and while working and hustling after college, she started organizing events in LA. Then, she started bringing in Filipino acts, singers, and bands to other states. “That’s what I knew,” she explains. “That was my community, and of course it kept me attached to my original home.”

As the business started to grow as MMI, Rhiza also learned the ropes of producing and promoting. One day, it hit her… why not try it the other way around? Take American acts to Manila. She started with the smallest and older acts. By now, we are all familiar with MMI Live and the big artists that they have brought to the Philippines to put smiles on our faces. We’ve seen Bruno Mars, Madonna, One Direction, U2, Coldplay, Harry Styles, Blackpink, Seventeen, The Chainsmokers, and more all thanks to MMI Live.

Last year, however, things took a different turn when Live Nation acquired 51 percent of MMI Live. Now Live Nation Philippines, we can look forward to even bigger and better acts – and we are just as excited as we imagine Rhiza is. Since November, Live Nation PH has already promoted Louis Tomlinson, Billie Eilish, and JoKoy. Some of the upcoming acts scheduled to perform in Manila courtesy of Live Nation PH are Seventeen, Maroon 5, Keshi, beabadoobee, and Kinn Porsche. Even more acts are scheduled to be announced for next year. It’s simply amazing how the story keeps going!

Rhiza never stopped believing in herself and what she does, and she advises doing the same. She says, “Always believe in what you do, big or small; but at the same time, be open to surprises. You never know where God will lead you, and what opportunities will come. Whatever or wherever you are; if you believe it’s worth your time, strive for perfection, and make sure that you continue to hone your craft. There will always be someone who will notice and admire all your efforts and will want to work with you because of it.”

Cat Triviño (@sinosicat)

Cat Trivino scaled e1664200941448

Photo from Cat Triviño

When it comes to advocacies, Cat Triviño is practically a legend. A mental health advocate and environmentalist, Cat co-founded and leads communications and content for premiere mental health and well-being organization MindNation (a Filipino-founded business that now operates globally). She is also the Branding and Partnerships Director for environmental and human welfare non-profit, CORA Philippines.

Cat’s advocacy journey started seven years ago when she volunteered for CORA, founded by UN Goodwill Ambassador Antoinette Taus. At the time, she was leading Digital Engagement and Brand Love marketing for a fast-food brand and had been in corporate for nearly 10 years. During her free time, she would scuba dive in Batangas where she was exposed to the destruction of our beautiful reefs from marine debris. “I simply wanted to know how I could help,” she shares. “Conservation work seemed like a gargantuan task and something I thought I was highly unqualified to do.”

When Cat went through some personal challenges and struggled with mental health issues, she felt the need to heal quickly and immediately sought help. “I had learned the hard way about the many things that were wrong if not missing about the mental healthcare system in the country – from the accessibility to affordability, and even the openness for it to be discussed over professional environments,” she shares. “I had enough resources – I had thought about how much harder this situation could be or how hopeless others would be in a situation similar to mine. I had lost a dear friend to suicide before and I had started to piece things together on how it could feel so hopeless to have no place to turn.”

Her psychologist suggested focusing on things that helped her rebuild purpose and Cat thought about the peace she finds in the water and how much she wanted to protect it. She opens up, “Together with therapy, being in nature, learning more and more about it, and being in a community that works together to conserve our planet made me feel fulfilled and gave me so much reason to move forward. I had realized that these two advocacies – to bring more mental health access for all and to help save our oceans – are not separate advocacies but interconnected and the mission of protecting them protects and heals me as well.” Cat used her marketing and PR skills to be that voice that this mission needs, and she continues to inspire others to do the same every single day.

Cat knows how hard it is to feel hopeless and how this makes people feel. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, she would like to remind you to “hold space for it, feel its pain and sadness, but don’t sit there too long. It’s up to us to get back up, take what we can from these difficult experiences, and make something beautiful and meaningful out of what we’ve been given.”

Gwen Zamora-Semerad, 32 (@gwenzamora)

Gwen Zamora Semerad scaled e1664201382364

Photo by Nice Print

Gwen Zamora-Semerad is well-known in the Philippines for being an actress but she is now busy with so many things, we keep asking ourselves how she does it. What really contributes to her brainpower, she shares, is her son Cooper. “He is one bright, little, wise child and I have to get super creative in how I speak and raise him. However, his energy actually relaxes me compared to all the brainwork and labor that we put into the farm.” Because yes, one of the things Gwen keeps busy with is their farm, a tiny house and Airbnb, of which she did most of the land planning and designing of the structures herself.

She and her husband, David Semerad, are super hands-on with the place with David doing the physical work from caring for the animals to the landscaping and maintenance of the whole property. On top of that, they are also trying to get the whole place set up for their wedding in December. Fun fact: the happy couple actually already had a civil wedding in France a year and a half ago because their wedding in the Philippines got canceled due to the pandemic. “We always wanted and envisioned getting married at our farm but it just wasn’t ready back then,” Gwen opens up. “It’s amazing how everything just worked out though. Now, we’ll be super ready and more to accommodate our friends and family flying from all over the world. It’s going to be epic!”

Things don’t end there, though. Since Gwen and David love to take care of themselves and get pampered, it was only fitting that they invest in an aesthetic clinic as well. One Stop Aesthetic is actually owned and run by their dear friends, and they are super proud and honored to be part of this business journey.

Nope, we’re not done yet. With Gwen’s dad, renowned Chef Philippe Agnese, moving back to the Philippines; they also decided to start a food manufacturing business together with David and her cousin who moved from France. “I’ve finally reached the age and maturity to start a proper family business,” Gwen gushes. They currently have a few products available like a sweet chili mix, frozen kebabs, ready-to-cook salpicao, filet mignon, and chocolate mousse. Some items are also available for resellers and they are working on producing more products in time for the holidays. Stay tuned to @gwenzcuisinehub on Facebook and Instagram.

That aside, they are also starting to breed Rottweilers with their dear Naïa and they will soon be studding their Yorkie Bamboo as well. As you can see, Gwen and David keep working hard and hustling, though Gwen shares that everything they are going through now happened organically and at the right time. To others with big dreams, she says, “Just go for it! Don’t ever give up and never stop dreaming! You’ll be surprised how far you can go with the right mindset. You may reach some hurdles but just push thru, it’s all part of the journey. Keep busy enjoy the hustle, compete only with yourself and stay humble. Also helps to have a loving and supportive family by your side cheering you on to achieve higher and better.”

Know any other inspiring people you’d like us to feature? Email me at angeline.wheninmanila@gmail.com or send me a direct message at When in Manila Angeline on Facebook. Interact with the team and join the WhenInManila.com Community at WIM SquadJoin our WhenInManila.com community on Viber, as well!