Important talk point: a woman’s worth
Started in 2017 as a passion project, She Talks Asia is a product of 4 passionate and driven female founders: Metro Magazine editor-in-chief and host Sarah Meier, creative director and life coach Victoria Herrera, educator and Mano Amiga Pilipinas founder Lynn Pinugu and award-winning actress and wellness advocate Iza Calzado-Wintle. Officially the latest tribe member is TV host, model and author Bianca Gonzalez-Intal.
From honest conversations among friends, it transitioned into a series of successful yearly conferences empowering women everywhere. In 2017, they launched “Every Girl Can” followed by “The Body Love Revolution” in 2018. This year’s third women leadership conference explored the theme of worthiness with over 25 speakers at The Globe Tower on March 16.
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The Journey To Saying I Am Enough
The first key note speaker for the #WeAreEnough Summit was Happy Skin Chief Brand Officer, professional model and entrepreneur Rissa Mananquil-Trillo. In her talk, she detailed how she accepted labels and transcended them. One of her earliest childhood memories includes being called negra by a neighbor. “I grew up knowing I looked different from my siblings; they had milkier skin. [But] brown was never an ugly color because I had the same color as my Dad,” she said. “I grew up seeing someone of his color try hard, work hard and succeed.”
After university, she pursued a career in modeling and landed a dream campaign for Pond’s—the first morena signed—and international retail giant United Colors of Benetton. At 23, she was appointed the youngest president of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines (PMAP), a non-profit organization that dramatically improved the living standards of the country’s modeling industry.
She further put her management degree to use by creating homegrown beauty brand Happy Skin, which champions skin-loving products that are at par with international brands and made for the Filipino skin tone and the Philippine weather.
Among the many titles she holds—Ernst & Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year included—being a mother is her greatest achievement, having bore a son as a freshman in college. She said, “I would be cheating myself if I didn’t share this. Becoming a mom at a young age, I never allowed the experience to defeat me or dictate my future. The most powerful weapon is a human soul on fire.”
With persistence and passion, anything is possible.
Balancing A Woman’s Many Roles
Dr. Ging Zamora, Arriane Serafico and Winning Wong
The first panel discussion of the afternoon featured The Purposeful Creative founder and teacher Arriane Serafico, Doctor of Internal Medicine Dr. Ging Zamora and graphic designer and Future Faces Manila co-founder Winnie Wong (AKA Penelope Pop Art).
To overcome that looming guilt when being pressured to perfection with our many roles as women—whether it be wife, mother or daughter—Dr. Zamora advised, “Give quality time to whatever you're doing and whoever you're with. Be fully present. If there are [a lot of] demands in your life, learn how to say no.”
For overwhelming days when it’s difficult to move and compartmentalize roles and tasks, Arriane shared, “Honor where you are. Most of the time, you can't control your thoughts but you have control over what you do. If I feel anxious, what I do is move—go for a walk, [go to] the gym, to shift my attention. Ang hirap i-change what you feel about something but you can always change what you do. Be very self-aware when you fall in a pattern of numbing distractions—like Instagram or online shopping.”
Winnie chimed in that adding pressure to one’s self can be an advantage to motivate one’s self. “Reflection is key. You can always look at what you did wrong and good. I like to list things down—what's urgent and what's not urgent. Break down these big projects; take it up one at a time. A big goal is intimidating.” She also gave a bit on embracing one’s privilege, saying “What's important to remember is that everyone has privileges. Equal doesn't mean getting the same thing. Stop comparing yourself with other people. Don't discredit someone because of an advantage.”
Negotiating Your Worth
Rosario Herrera, Nicole Villarogo, Jane Dee and Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan
For every P100 that a man earns, a woman earns P75 for the same job; the income wage gap is real. How do we change the narrative? When you're faced with an offer—whether it's a salary raise, a promotion, or a collaboration—how do you evaluate whether it's fair or not? The roster of awe-inspiring women included Status Media CEO Rosario Herrera, Procter & Gamble brand manager for Asia Pacific Nicole Villarojo, Hong Kong-based Crate & Barrel brand and marketing strategist Jane Dee and actress and “mommyger” Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan.
For Nicole, the negotiation process is not just about money. “Money is part of it but it’s a pragmatic decision. Does it make sense [in order] for you to maintain your standard of living? The bigger part that I look at are the opportunities around [it]. Does this provide me the right platform for growth—not just a short-term project? Can I thrive?”
Jane shared how valuable grit is. It’s simple: You have to start somewhere. “Before you negotiate work, have experience. To start, work to add value to a company. Have an idea where you want to be. Get that first job then do the work, eventually the next job you want will come along since you know your strength.”
Opportunities can also be considered a type of currency. Cultivating relationships with brands is an integral part of collaborations, according to Maricel. It’s not just a transactional endeavor. “Some passion projects, [Team Pangilinan is] so passionate about that we don't regard budget. These are relationships we've established through the years. It's not about getting paid but reaching people.”
Women need to understand what they bring to the table. Rosario imparted, “Women are always trying to keep the peace. Pause is important. Don’t react right away, evaluate.” They all agreed that we need to take our emotions out of the equation or, at the very least, control it when making big life decisions such as accepting a job.
Lastly, to address the elephant in the room: Yes, women can earn more than their partners. Don't dim your light because a man feels emasculated. Maricel shared, “What’s important with women is to be surrounded by men who are secure with themselves. You have to shine.”
Dealing With The Pressures Of Social Media Culture
Kimi Juan, Nikko Ramos, Iza Calzado and Bianca Gonzalez-Intal
Travel photographer and zero-waste lifestyle advocate Kimi Juan highlighted the importance of finding purpose in your platform. She elaborated, “Find something that is important to you. Every day, I'm so happy to learn something new. Before you go on Instagram, think about what value you could bring in other people's lives.” Through #GiveAShit, her sustainable lifestyle advocacy, she’s focused less on herself and more on her cause.
Men are also very much part of the narrative. SLAM Philippines editor-in-chief and brand content director Nikko Ramos added, “Other people's wins aren't your losses. Just because they're doing well doesn't take away your potential to do better. [Social media] shouldn't be something that you dread. We know the risks and the dread that it sometimes brings us—but we're not going to get off it. Everyone puts their best face forward on Instagram; you’re not any less if you're not doing it. As a last bit, everything you put out on social media is curated. Try to curate who you follow and what goes in. Block, unfollow, hide, mute. Why do you allow it to control your life? Only you can control this.”
With 1.2M followers, even sought-out actress Iza Calzado gets affected by numbers since engagement is considered currency in Philippine show business. She divulged, “During the Body Love Conference, I talked about filtering your online and real life. Before, mas mataas ‘yung insecurities ko when I didn't want to spread a message. There's a bigger purpose to my platform. Through social media, I followed accounts of women who've lost weight. It's about putting that image or that story out there so people will know they're not alone in whatever they're going through. To make people understand that at the end of the day, we're all the same—everybody poops, sabi nga ni Oprah.” Her comedic personality elicited laughter from the crowd the entire day.
Bianca Gonzalez-Intal, who moderated the panel, ended with a sobering statement: “Social media is just an extension of ourselves. We should lead our lives and create the lives that we want.”
Nurturing Healthy Relationships and Establishing Boundaries
Mich Dulce, G3 San Diego and Amanda Scully
Strong-willed and bold, fashion designer and Grrrl Gang Manila creator Mich Dulce advocates physical and mental boundaries so we won’t be taken advantage of. She vents, “At what point is something not friendly? As women, we’ve been socialized to not have boundaries, to adjust. It's been perpetuated in our society—in telenovelas, movies. Ubos na ubos na ako—girl, kasi wala kang boundaries. Tama na ‘yan.”
As a writer of love stories, seasoned writer and entrepreneur G3 San Diego is self-aware as to how this allowed her to have poor boundaries in romantic relationships. She shared, “I gave poor boundaries every time I fall in love, but as you get heartbroken and you progress, you learn to reel yourself back in. Look at the mistakes you made and know that you will decide better next time. Leave more for yourself. You have to recalibrate your worth.”
For Singapore-based Maori healer and brand builder Amanda Scully, it’s not just one-sided. She shared, “Change your internal dialogue. Ask people [about] their boundaries. Listen and engage them. Approach people to speaking their truth and vice versa.” She added, “Boundaries shouldn't be equated with fear. I would worry if I have the right boundaries—not if I have too much.”
Investing In The Wealth Of Mental Health
Marc Soong and Shiela Tan
For more practical ways to invest in the wealth of our mental health, mental health advocates and certified life coaches Marc Soong and Shiela Tan shared exercises for overwhelming moments. You cannot heal what you cannot feel. This induced tears of joy and comfort from the attendees.
Embracing Life’s Different Seasons
Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo
The night ended with box office actress, mother of three, wife and chef Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo as she discussed how to embrace and celebrate life’s different seasons.
Starting in show business at a very young age without a father, she recalled looking forward to taping days because she had mother and father figures. “Isa siyang malaking Disneyland na paiba-ibang location. I got to play characters: mahirap, mayaman.”
Having love teams growing up, she started questioning herself and her worth when she realized that “it’s all for work.” She had to go through heartbreaks in such a public setting. This allowed her to set boundaries and expectations early on. Ironically, she married her leading man—the one who stayed.
Transitioning to a chef in her late 20s, she asserted, “I know for a fact that you can't be an artista your entire life. Isinasantabi ka. I had to understand that and tanggapin ko. That's how show business is. I have to redeem myself. Saan ako pupulitin? Dapat alam ko saan ako pupunta.” Now, she adds author, vlogger and producer to her list of titles.
She ended with life wisdom for women everywhere: “When people are deciding everything for you, you have to take back the power—even if that means just simply getting a haircut. I’m a woman and a mother; that alone empowers me. In whatever season you are in your life, trust the process. ‘Wag mo dramahan ang buhay, ma-drama na siya. Kung nag-move on ka, eh di tapos. Nobody else will define me; I will define me.”
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Once again, She Talks Asia has proven itself an avenue for women to empower, enrich and support each other.
Words and Photos Elisa Aquino
Art Isabella Canlas