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Celebrating Pinay Trailblazers

pinays trailblazers 2023

Now in its seventh year, Pinays Manitoba Inc. continues to celebrate the achievements of women who lead, inspire and motivate. The 2023 the Pinays Manitoba Trailblazer awardees (l-r) The Honourable Senator Flordeliz Gigi Osler, Atty. Alona C. Mercado, Azel Navarro and Jacqueline Monique Drapeau. Pinays Manitoba Trailblazer Awards, May 27, 2023, Viscount Gort Hotel, Winnipeg. More photos to come.

The Pinays Manitoba Trailblazers Recognition Awards held May 27, 2023, at the Viscount Gort Hotel put a spotlight on the journeys of four amazing Filipino women for their outstanding accomplishments that have made a positive difference to the community, not only in Manitoba but also in the mainstream society at large.

Now in its seventh year, Pinays Manitoba Inc. continues to celebrate the achievements of women who lead, inspire, and motivate – the Pinays Manitoba Trailblazers.

“Today, we proudly showcase and celebrate our 2023 Pinays Trailblazer awardees. Four exceptional Filipino women in Manitoba, who have made impactful contributions to our community and beyond. Committed to serving others, opening doors of opportunities for others, breaking glass ceilings, humility, and kindness, are common traits among these four empowered Filipino women,” said Winnie Navarro, Pinays Manitoba president.

Since inception in 2016, Pinays Manitoba has given well-deserved Trailblazer awards to 20 inspirational Filipino women. “These are women, who have made positive impacts to the community and to the lives of the people around them. This allows us to develop role models for all women, most specially for the next generation of Filipino women in Manitoba. It’s people like our Trailblazers, and events like these that help make our world a better place to live in,” added Navarro.

The 2023 Pinays Trailblazer awardees

(in alphabetical order)

  • Jacqueline Monique Drapeau– The Executive Director of The Broadway Neighbourhood Centre. This trailblazer champions for at-risk youth, leading her team to develop social, recreational, cultural and arts programs targeted at improving the quality of life for the marginalized population and filling gaps in community services; advocating to ensure that beneficial programs are accessible to young people.

She said, “Far too often as women in society today and historically, we have to fight twice as hard to be recognized as leaders in our professions, but here we are building each other up! Pinays Manitoba is giving Pinay women a platform to shine the light on how incredible Pinay women really are!”

  • Azel Navarro– The first Filipino in Manitoba to work in the field of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, with the designation of Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatry. She pursued a career choice in Occupational Therapy-Mental Health, a path not a well-traveled especially for Filipinos in the 1980s.

She said, “I would like to acknowledge and highlight significant individuals who were my trailblazers, individuals who walked alongside me and at other times pushed me from behind, to get to this point in my life. I was never alone, nor did I walk by myself. I praise and thank God for everyone He sent my way to mould, guide and light the path I travelled on and the lives He had allowed me to touch as I ran and continue to run this race called life.”

  • Atty. Alona C. Mercado– Co-founder and co-owner of the first all-Asian female law firm in Manitoba, the Mercado-Trinh Law LLP. This first-of-a-kind law firm broke boundaries and has reset the rules for hiring foreign-trained professionals. Through mentorship and encouragement, she has supported the career aspirations of many highly qualified, hard-working law specialists to succeed and practice their profession in Manitoba.

She said, “I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the five women in my life who have been my role models, my Pinay Trailblazers, as I grew up. The first is my Nanay, Minda Mercado. The other four women are my aunts, Luzonica Mercado, Marina Senaris, Mely Monton, and Ester Hembrador, who I consider to be my second mothers. I can honestly say that I would not be here today as a Pinays Manitoba Trailblazer Awardee, if not for the Pinay Trailblazers in my own life.”

  • The Honourable Senator Flordeliz Gigi Osler– The first Filipino woman to be appointed to the Senate of Canada on September 26, 2022. She is also an internationally renowned surgeon specializing in ear, nose and throat. In 2017, she became the first woman surgeon and first racialized woman elected as President of the Canadian Medical Association and led the development of the CMA’s first policy on equity and diversity.

“I am filled with gratitude in accepting this Trailblazer Recognition Award. As one of Manitoba’s senators, I am honoured to represent our province and our community. Filipinos are now the third largest, and fastest growing, visible minority group in Canada. Yet we are under-represented in leadership in many sectors, including law, business, and government. I know my fellow honorees and Pinays Manitoba will change that and together, as a community, we will rise,” said Senator Osler.

One of the highpoints of the event was when Pinays Manitoba’s past-president Araceli Ancheta presented to the audience some of the previous years’ Trailblazer awardees who attended the luncheon, namely: Fe Ryder (2016); Emmie Joaquin (2018); Sally Bader, Dr. Irene Mestito-Dao and Marj Soldevilla (2020); Constable Maria Buduhan and Dr. Crystal Paculan (2022).

Luella Sadicon, Vice-President of Pinays Manitoba, gave the closing remarks. “We are very grateful for your presence and for the warm community support we have received for this year’s event. We thank our major sponsors: Larry Vickar of Vickar Automotive Group, Joel Duque of Duque Immigration Services Canada, Wes Mc Callum of The Prolific Group, Pilipino Express, Felly Grieve of A-1 Nutrition, Atty. JB Casares of Casares Law Office, Noel and Freedom Lapuz of Kuya’s Foods, and Aida Montierro of U-MAC Express Winnipeg. We hope to see you all again next year!”

The officers and members of Pinays Manitoba with volunteers collectively worked together, and the result was a very successful event. Close to 300 guests attended the awards luncheon to celebrate women’s achievements.

Lucille Nolasco-Garrido of 92.7 FM CKJS Afternoon Pasada and Pinay director emceed the program. The youngest Pinay member, Mimi Aiello, delivered the Recognition of Treaty Lands. Pinay director Josie Concepcion did the opening prayer. Faith Fundal, host of CBC Manitoba’s Up to Speed, sang the national anthems, Lupang Hinirang and O Canada. Tes Aiello, one of Pinays Manitoba’s founding members, joined Lucille on stage to acknowledge sponsors and guests. Trailblazer awards presentors were Mayah Duque, Regina Ramos-Urbano, Iris Yudai, and Jocelyn Striemer. Guest vocalists Jan Eleno sang Rise while Paul Ong sang This Is The Moment. Pinay directors Connie De Villa, Leah Beltran, Marita Zalazar and Belle De Leon-Lerio with the support of Pinays members tackled the reception and registration. Sally Bader headed the ushering with the help of Pinays members and volunteers, Issi Bartolome, Rodge Lopez and Jojo Lerio. Set design and event photography by Rey-Ar Reyes of Pilipino Express and Disenyo Graphics. Event video coverage by Jake Arida. Sound system by Enrico Ancheta.

Founded in 2016, Pinays Manitoba Inc. is a non-profit, registered community organization dedicated to support and empower Filipino women in Manitoba. Its founding president was Perla Javate, a well-known community leader, an active volunteer, and a Winnipeg School Trustee.

The Pinays Manitoba Board of Directors are Winnie Navarro, President; Luella Sadicon, Vice-President; Leah S. Beltran, CPA, CGA, Treasurer; Connie De Villa, Auditor; Lucille Nolasco-Garrido, Secretary; Emmie Joaquin, Public Relations; Araceli Ancheta, Director/Past-President; Josie Concepcion, Director; Maybelle De Leon-Lerio, Director; Margaret “Meghan” Marquez, Director; and Marita Salazar, Director.