Forward, Filipina!

Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Jane Elago. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB.COM/SARAH ELAGO

Some of the things women encounter in their daily life, mostly in their respective fields and workplaces, are discrimination and inequality — from the pay, treatment, expectations, representation — which are barriers in the path to success.

Still, women continue to fight for their rights, make themselves known as equals to men and generally move forward in life.

This was emphasized during the Filipina Forward launch led by Wunderman Thompson on 7 April, where Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Jane Elago, film director Samantha Lee and actor Candy Pangilinan, along with Hershey Neri, Shawn Yao and Margot Torres, brought to the table their advocacies, beliefs and perspectives on empowerment.

“I have faced crude harassment, sexist vilifications and misogynistic attacks which posed additional challenges to the performance of my job in the system of checks and balances,” said Rep. Elago about the stumbling blocks she had to experience as a woman in politics, a field dominated by men.

Elago also emphasized the importance of encouraging more women to serve the public, believing that “women can and should run” for public office.


She added, “There’s no gender requirement, but women must be empowered and supported. There’s a difference between running and winning. That’s why we need to help each other and support not only women candidates but the women and people’s agenda.”

In media, queer Filipino filmmaker Samantha Lee has firsthand experience of the struggles of pushing for better female and LGBTQIA+ representation, as well as recognizing the people who are behind the powerful images people see everywhere.

“It’s a two-fold thing. While studies have said people want to see more empowered characters in media, I think we should also be asking who is making these films, these advertisements. Yes, there’s a strong, powerful character on screen but was it made by a room filled with men who were all saying ‘Oh, eto yung mabenta, let’s make this film?’ And I see this in action in my work life all the time,” Lee said.

“I would get called for meetings in big production houses and I would pitch my next film, which is a queer female film — and then they’d say, ‘Oh, this is a really good concept, gawin mo na lang straight (just make it straight).’ So money still talks and there’s a misconception where if you make this kind of film it’s probably not going to make money, so we’re not going to give you money to make that film,” she added.

Lee directed the 2016 film, Baka Bukas, which is about a closet lesbian hiding feelings for her best friend. It won the Emerging Talent Award at the Los Angeles Outfest in 2017. She is also the mind behind the coming-of-age film Billie and Emma.


Meanwhile, actor and single mom of Quentin and advocate of Autism Spectrum Disorder Candy Pangilinan said, “At first I was kind of scared to go out and share my story, what was I going through and my journey because I didn’t want people to start bashing my child, bashing me for saying such things and being very open about it.”

Her teenage son, Quentin, has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She currently runs a YouTube channel, “Our Special Love,” chronicling their daily life.

“But at the end of the day, I realized if I tell my story, it’s not really just for me but for other people who are going through the same journey. And that gave me the strength and courage to do what I’m doing right now,” said Pangilinan, who found strength and support to push for her advocacy from fellow women.

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