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By: Cristina DC Pastor

Awardees hoist the rainbow flag that symbolizes LGBTQ Pride. Photos by Ness Bantog

A jewelry designer, a TV journalist, and a makeup artist for Norah O’Donnell were among the nine Filipinos who were honored November 26 in PAFCOM’S 1st Gawad Pinoy Pride.

Reagan John Rada who owns RJP Gem, the only Filipino-owned jewelry and gem store in Manhattan’s Diamond District; The Filipino Channel’s multi-awarded correspondent Don Tagala; and Ally Castle, a trans Pinay who is a makeup artist for CBS’ O’Donnell were recognized for their “outstanding achievements.”

Also receiving the awards were Math teacher Johjoh Demol-Jenae, aesthetician and salon owner Apple Miranda, nurse manager Jackie Baras, primary care provider Mario Sanchez, entrepreneur and CEO/owner of Popsie’s LLC Marisse Panlilio, and compliance officer Alex Esteban.

“I am the person I am today because of my roots in the Philippines, and the woman I’ve become in the land that embraced and validated me for everything I am,” said Ally Castle (Castillo) in a tearful speech.

She said it is “touching” that her first award came from her fellow Filipinos who have made a mark here in the U.S. “In the end,” she said, “we may all have decided to pursue our paths outside our native homeland, but our hearts remain as proud Filipinos forever.”

Ally Castle receives her plaque and trophy from guest of honor Dr. Dely Go (left) and PAFCOM board chair Dr. Connie Uy.

The winners from left: Ally Castle, Apple Miranda, Jackie Baras, Mario Sanchez, Reagan John Rada, Johjoh Demol-Jenae, Alex Esteban, and Marisse Panlilio. Not in photo is ninth awardee Don Tagala.

Reagan John Rada who carved a name for himself in the jewelry industry, recalled how he was bullied as a queer kid growing up in the Philippines.

“I’ve always felt that I was inferior and inadequate; and often bullied and mocked for living my truth. This event proves that we can overcome adversity and exceed in any field we choose regardless of our sexual preferences,” he said to enthusiastic applause.

Rada, who started out as a cleaning boy in a jewelry store in Los Angeles learned the ropes and started designing gems. His artistic skills caught the attention of actress Elizabeth Taylor who invited him to work for her The House of Taylor Jewelry Company.

Alex Esteban, who is a compliance officer for a nonprofit children’s services, said the Gawad Pinoy Pride reflects the importance of acknowledging the invaluable contributions and experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.

He said his wish is that “together, we will continue to break down barriers, shatter stereotypes, and build a more inclusive world where love unites us all.”

Gawad Pinoy Pride organizer and former PAFCOM President Roxanne Cajigas said the award is given to individuals of diverse gender identities. Hopefully, she said, it will inspire other FilAms and somehow “lessen the stigma and hate” against the LGBTQ community in America.

(C) The FilAm 2023

November 26, 2023, marks a historic day for the Philippine-American Friendship Community as they proudly introduce the inaugural Gawad Pinoy Pride Awards. Designed to honor exceptional individuals within the LGBTQ+ community, this groundbreaking initiative recognizes the accomplishments of those who have excelled in their respective fields and made meaningful contributions to their communities.

Cosmetology: Apple Miranda

In the vibrant world of cosmetology, Apple Miranda stands out as a beacon of creativity and excellence. Her innovative approach to beauty has earned her the Gawad Pinoy Pride in the Cosmetology category, setting a high standard for others to follow.

Make-up Artistry: Ally Castle

A true artist in the realm of make-up, Ally Castle's skillful hands and creative vision have earned her the Gawad Pinoy Pride in the Make-up Artistry category. Her achievements are not just in transforming faces but in transforming perceptions and breaking barriers within the LGBTQ+ community.

Health Care: Jackie Baras, DNP, and Mario Sanchez, DNP

In the Health Care category, Dr. Jacky Baras and Dr. Mario Sanchez, both Doctor of Nursing Practice awardees, exemplify dedication and excellence. Their contributions to healthcare services are pillars of strength and inspiration for the LGBTQ+ community.

Entrepreneurship/Sales and Marketing: Marisse Panlilio and John Rada

Marisse Panlilio and John Rada, recognized for their outstanding contributions to entrepreneurship, sales, and marketing, represent the epitome of success. Their achievements not only showcase business prowess but also demonstrate the potential within the LGBTQ+ community to thrive in diverse fields.

Public/Community Service: Alex Esteban

A shining example of selflessness and community commitment, Alex Esteban receives the Gawad Pinoy Pride for Public/Community Service. His dedication to uplifting the community serves as a guiding light for others within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Mass Media: Don Tagala

Don Tagala's impactful storytelling in Mass Media has earned him the Gawad Pinoy Pride. Through his work, he informs, inspires, and breaks down barriers and stereotypes, making significant strides for the LGBTQ+ community.

Sports: Johjoh Demol-Jenae, Ph.D.

Dr. Johjoh Demol-jenae's achievements in sports, coupled with academic excellence, make him a standout in the LGBTQ+ community. As the recipient of the Gawad Pinoy Pride in the Sports category, he embodies determination and success.

Congratulations to the first batch of Pinoy Pride awardees! Each of them, in their unique way, contributes to the rich tapestry of diversity and excellence within the LGBTQ+ community. As their stories continue to inspire, may the Gawad Pinoy Pride serve as a platform for recognizing and celebrating the remarkable achievements of LGBTQ+ individuals in North East America. Here's to a future filled with more inclusivity, acceptance, and pride.

By: Ness Liwanag

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