March being the month that celebrates women, we have come up with a list of women in media and entertainment known for their smarts and determination to excel and succeed in their respective pursuits.
Their achievements are formidable, and their stories have inspired the women of their generation and will continue to inspire for all time.
A toast to these women:
VILMA SANTOS, public servant and actress
She is every inch a Star for All Seasons.
A multi-awarded actress and a certified celebrity A-lister in her 55 years in showbiz, she has also carved a niche as a public servant for the past 19 years.
Vilma Santos made history when she became the first woman to be elected consecutively as a mayor of Lipa, then governor, and now representative of the province of Batangas.
Undefeated since she entered politics in 1998, the actress-turned-public servant was a three-term city mayor and a three-term governor of the province.
In YES! magazine’s October 2015 cover story, Vilma said, “Who would think eighteen years na ako as public servant? Na no’ng araw hindi ko naman sinabi na magpupulitika ako, di ba?
“We really can never tell what will happen next.
“What’s important is, kung ano ‘yong meron ngayon, kung ano ‘yong focus mo, and you will excel. ‘Yon ang importante.”
KRIS AQUINO, media icon
She started as an actress, but it was her gift of gab that catapulted Kris Aquino to her status as Queen of All Media.
Instead of cringing from criticism, Kris capitalized on her tactlessness and unfiltered comments to become an effective host with numerous awards to show for it.
Her hosting skill first gained attention when she co-hosted Startalk in the mid-'90s with Boy Abunda and Lolit Solis in GMA-7.
Her hosting career, however, soared to greater heights when she moved to ABS-CBN in 1996.
Her shows included Today With Kris Aquino (1996-2001), followed by Morning Girls with Kris and Korina (2002-2004), and The Buzz in 1999 until 2007.
She also hosted the game shows Pilipinas, Game KNB?; Pilipinas, Deal or No Deal; Kapamilya, Deal or No Deal; and Wheel of Fortune.
Her last talk show on ABS-CBN, Kris TV, ran from 2011 to 2016.
She then left the Kapamilya network after 20 years. She is currently in negotiation with the Kapuso network for her future projects.
CHARO SANTOS-CONCIO, corporate leader
From intern to big boss, former ABS-CBN CEO and president, Charo Santos-Concio, climbed the corporate ladder through sheer hard work and passion for the entertainment industry.
Her tale about how she turned a paperclip into a big idea that gave birth to ABS-CBN’s longest running drama anthology, Maalaala Mo Kaya, is a source of inspiration among the company’s employees.
As the story went, then ABS-CBN President Freddie M. Garcia asked Charo for a new program concept.
Only on her third year in ABS-CBN at the time, she requested for two weeks to come up with a concept, but was refused.
In Tonight With Boy Abunda’s June 10, 2016 episode, Charo recalled, “I saw a paper clip on top of the table.
“Sa nerbIyos ko, napahawak ako sa paper clip.
“‘Ito, paper clip, simpleng bagay sa karamihan sa atin, pero sa isang tao, maaaring mahalaga ito dahil maaaring may kUwento sa likod ng paper clip.’”
“And then, sabi ko, ‘We can ask viewers to send stories behind any ordinary object.’”
She remembered Freddie Garcia getting interested, “Sabi niya, ‘Okey ‘yan, ha. Anong ita-title mo?’
“Sabi ko, ‘Among My Souvenirs.’ Ha-ha-ha!
“Sabi niya, ‘Dapat Tagalog at dapat kundiman,’ and so he was the one who gave the title Maaalaala Mo Kaya.”
Charo is now ABS-CBN’s chief content officer dabbling in movie acting and commercial endorsements.
REGINE VELASQUEZ, singer nonpareil
With a career spanning 31 years in the entertainment industry, Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez has set the bar high for singers.
She remains active not only in staging concerts in between her acting stints, but also in supporting fellow singers by guesting in their concerts.
Having shown that talent and hard work can come a long way in showbiz, Regine is known to be the career peg of many aspiring singers.
In her 2012 interview on PEPtalk, Regine related her humble beginnings as a singer.
“Wala namang kumu-question sa boses ko during that time kasi parang ako lang yata yung ganun yung sound.
“Yung kinukuwestiyon lang nila, ‘Paano sisikat hindi masyadong maganda?
"'Hindi nag-i-English, taga-Bulacan, hindi masyadong refined.’
“I didn’t mind, kasi nung time na yun, I also didn’t think I was pretty.
“Pero hindi din yun naging dahilan para panghinaan ako ng loob. I worked even harder.”
PIA ALONZO WURTZBACH, crowned international beauty queen
One name stands out in the beauty-queen category on this list: Filipino-German actress-turned-beauty-queen Pia Alonzo-Wurtzbach.
Pia, 27, gave the Philippines its third Miss Universe crown after 42 years.
The first was Gloria Diaz in 1969 and the second was Margie Moran in 1973.
This lass from Cagayan de Oro shared with the world the one lesson that changed her life: Never to give up on your dreams.
She was the family breadwinner at a young age.
In her teens, she entered showbiz to support her mom and sister.
She became part of Star Magic, ABS-CBN’s talent arm, and did supporting roles in television shows.
She joined Binibining Pilipinas in 2013 and 2014, but failed to secure a major crown.
Finally, on her third attempt in 2015, she was crowned Miss Universe-Philippines, which automatically made her the country’s representative in Miss Universe that same year.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
For Pia, winning the Miss Universe title was just the beginning of a yearlong journey of hard work and responsibility.
She said in an interview, “Ang nakikita kasi ng mga tao yung crowning moment lang… okay palakpakan na, tapos na yung show.
“Ang hindi nila alam, the next day, ang trabaho niya for one year tuloy-tuloy, walang pahinga.
"I took on the responsibility. I never complained. I never missed a day of work.”
Her responsibilities as Miss Universe included attending fundraising events and making personal appearances to promote the causes of the Miss Universe Organization.
On her own, she interacted with netizens and, as a result, immensely increased the followers of the organization’s social media accounts.
She also used this platform to push her major causes, one of which is to put a stop to cyber-bullying.
Pia’s reign so impressed Paula Shugart, chairperson of Miss Universe Organization, that in her speech during the Miss Universe 2016 Governor’s Ball last January, she warned the candidates, "To all the girls here, you have incredibly big shoes to fill.”
LEA SALONGA, musical stage diva
She won the Tony and the Laurence Olivier awards from two continents in one fell swoop, and over 25 years later, Lea Salonga continues to shine on stage.
Even the 46-year-old singer is amazed by the longevity of her career.
“I guess God’s not done with me yet,” Lea stated in an interview in November 2016.
“By some miracle of God, I’m still relevant.”
To date, Lea has projects and commitments in and out of the country.
Lea garnered recognition and accolades from the time she debuted as Kim, the lead character in Miss Saigon.
The critically-acclaimed and multi-awarded musical play was first staged in West End London (1989) and later in Broadway (1991).
The role made Lea the first-ever Asian, and the first Filipino, to receive the Tony Best Actress Award in Broadway.
Other notable awards that Lea won: West End’s Lawrence Olivier Award for Miss Saigon and the Disney Legend in 2011 for her work with Walt Disney Company as the singing voices of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992) and as Mulan in the eponymous animated film in 1998.
In theatre, among the international musical plays she has partaken included Les Miserables, Cinderella (which Julie Andrews also portrayed in theatre), and Allegiance.
In Hollywood, Lea did the 1995 TV-movie Redwood Curtain opposite Jeff Daniels and John Lithgow. She made an appearance in one episode of the American TV-hit drama ER in 2001. Most recently, she appeared in an episode in the season finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in 2016.
At this writing, Lea is busy with concert schedules in various countries, and will be returning as one of the coaches in ABS-CBN’s upcoming The Voice Teens Edition.
At the 2013 MYX Music Awards, Lea was awarded the MYX Magna Award her for significant contributions to the music industry.
In her speech, she summed up: “Have an effin’ good time doing this!
“You all just have to love this more than air, more than food, more than sex! It has to be something you need to do.
“If your passion is so great that it comes out of your mouth, your mind and fingertips, and reaches audiences the way it should, then you belong here.”
SARAH GERONIMO, pop star
In her 14 years in show business, she is known as a total performer with at least nine sold-out solo concerts and 12 studio albums to her name.
Apart from her vaunted talent in singing and acting, she is beloved by fans for her humility and quiet confidence.
Her fans’ unwavering support so overwhelmed Sarah that she cried on stage during her solo concert at the Kia Theater last year.
“Sobra po yung paniniwala ng aking manager at ninyo pong lahat kaya napakasuwerte ko,” said the emotional Pop Princess.
She did not expect nor assume she could fill up the venue.
Sarah told PEP in a November 2016 interview: “Kasi dumarating din sa stage ng buhay natin na ano ba yung purpose ko.
“Bakit ko ba ito ginagawa, ano ba yung kulang?
“And then, I realized na you don’t work for other people to please them.
“Yung main goal mo dapat is to share whatever you have.
“Kung ano yung ibinigay sa ‘yo ng Panginoon, regardless kung magbunga siya ng konti or sangkatutak.”
JACLYN JOSE, Cannes Film Festival sensation
Jaclyn Jose, Mary Jane Santa Ana Guck in real life, is famous for subtle acting.
For her no-acting style, she is tagged as the Queen of Under Acting.
Comedians mimic her acting. They recite the actress’s dramatic lines devoid of any emotion and facial expression.
For Jaclyn, it’s no joke, “Pinaghirapan ko yun, ha. Kinarir ko yun,” she was quoted as saying.
“Mahirap hindi umarte, e. Kailangan di mahalata... low key. Kailangan di umaarte.”
For her role and mastery of her acting style in Ma‘ Rosa, the 2016 independent movie directed by Brillante Mendoza, Jaclyn was awarded the Palm d’Or for Best Actress, the highest prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.
She beat Hollywood A-listers Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard, and Kristen Stewart.
The first Filipina and the first-ever Southeast Asian actress to receive the award, she joins the rank of Sophia Loren (1961), Vanessa Redgrave (1966), Helen Mirren (1984, 1995), Meryl Streep (1989), and Julianne Moore (2014).
In the words of Mads Mikkelsen, Hollywood actor, Cannes Film Fest Best Actor and Cannes jury member, "We found her to be a wonderful leading actress, a master of her skills."
Another member of the jury, Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland, called out those who undermined her acting, “The critics were wrong... It's a big-time leading role.”
French director Arnaud Desplechin, who was also a member of the jury, said, “She's the film. Have you seen the performance she gave? She broke my heart."
In one of her social media posts, Jaclyn commented: “Sa mga naniniwala, maraming salamat, sa mga nagduda? Nailagay ko po ang mapa ng Pilipinas sa pinaniniwalaang prestihiyosong parangal. Salamat po.”
JESSICA SOHO, most-awarded Filipina news journalist
She has won 253 local awards and 32 international awards.
In a span of three decades, Jessica, 52, rose from the ranks as reporter to become senior vice president of GMA’s News & Public Affairs.
She currently hosts Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, GMA’s news and lifestyle magazine show every Sunday, which is now on its 13th year.
She is also the anchor of State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, GMA News TV's flagship nightly news program since 2011.
Among the notable awards she has received was the George Forster Peabody Award in 1998 for her documentaries on the illegal trade of kidneys and the harrowing plight of Filipino boxers.
These episodes were aired on I-Witness, GMA’s news documentary program that Jessica conceptualized.
She also bagged the New York Film and Television Festival Bronze Award in 1991 for her coverage of a hostage crisis in Cagayan Valley and the Asian Television Award for Best News and Current Affairs Special "Saksi Sa Kasaysayan."
In 2014, Jessica received another George Foster Peabody Award for her news anchoring and reportorial work on the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda.
Honored by the awards, Jessica was also compelled to say, “I am mindful that the story should always be about the people and events I cover — not the person covering them.”
VICKI BELO, celebrity doctor and entrepreneur
Dubbed as the doctor to the stars, Vicki Belo’s beauty empire was inspired by her long struggles with acne.
Vicki even posted Instagram throwback photos of her “pimply” face.
“It shows you that I had acne from the age of 16 til my late 30s when I learned to cure myself and be an acne expert,” she said in her caption.
With her degree in Medicine and Surgery from University of Sto. Tomas and a diploma in Dermatology from the Institute of Dermatology in Bangkok, Vicki built her first clinic at the Medical Towers in Makati, way back in 1990.
Since then, the Belo Medical Group has expanded to 14 branches in the country.
In a 2010 interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Vicki said, "The thing is, I'm just a tool to some people to gain self-confidence.
“Belo promises that by making you more beautiful and more handsome, you'll have more self-confidence and you'll have a happier life."