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Pinays MB Trailblazer Awardees 2018

Now in its third year, Pinays MB Inc. chose to honour three outstanding Pinay Trailblazers who have excelled in their respective fields. Surrounded by loving family and friends, the three Pinay Trailblazer awardees: Mrs. Nena Joy Lazo, MLA Flor Marcelino and Ms. Emmie Joaquin were honored at Pinay MB’s Recognition Luncheon on March 10.

Let us get to know each of them.

Nena Joy Lazo

Nena Joy Lazo is a 2018 Pinay Trailblazer Awardee for her achievements in the field of performing arts. Born and raised in the Philippines, Joy’s advocacy has been volunteerism and mentorship throughout her life.

Joy is a proud mother to three adult children and a doting grandmother to three grandchildren.

Early in her life, Joy knew she wanted to be a professional singer but her parents did not approve of it. So, like a true good Filipino daughter, she opted to get a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Santo Tomas.

It was at this university she would meet her future husband, Ramon, when she became a member of the UST Goldies Sing Out and Sons and Daughters. After graduation, Ramon and Joy got married and she became a stay at home mom, until one day in 1978 she got a call inviting her to sing professionally. Ramon gave Joy his full support and encouraged her to pursue a singing career at a time when bands were making it big in the Manila night life scenes.

Joy became the lead singer for the Prelude Band together with Zion Zuniga, Nonoy’s brother. They performed at the Holiday Inn, Inter-Continental and private functions. She then formed the Limelight Band and moved to the Regent of Manila and later to the Philippine Plaza, also performing in between in Japan. She was a front act for the Supremes in a special New Year’s event at the Regent of Kuwait. Soon Joy became a solo performer and her new group was called Joy Lazo and Friends. They became regular performers at the Manila Garden.

Deciding to come to Canada was accidental. Her husband was passing by the Canadian Embassy and saw that applications for immigrants were being accepted. Destiny would bring the Lazo family to Canada, becoming landed immigrants on November 15, 1988. Upon arrival they were welcomed by blowing snow.

In 1991, Joy became a member of the Mabuhay Serenaders, a singing group that aspires to preserve Philippine culture. She currently serves as the training director for the group.

In 1994 Joy decided to become a voice coach to help with family finances while allowing her to stay at home to care for her three children. She then formed a group called the Highlights Performing Group, which served as a vehicle for her voice students to showcase and further hone their talents outside of the classroom while exposing them to volunteerism and mainstream audiences.

Joy Lazo is considered a highly respected voice coach in Winnipeg. Students she mentored have gone on to pursue careers in the performing arts. There are a number of them who have earned scholarships from the Canadian College of Performing Arts in British Columbia, with one receiving a $40,000 scholarship from Boston Performing Arts. Others are now professional performers on stage and in film.

It was also around 1994 that Joy auditioned and became a performer with the Rainbow Stage Theater. Her first musical there was Damn Yankees. In 1997, Joy landed the plum role of Bloody Mary, for the musical South Pacific.

After her Bloody Mary role, Joy was offered a role for High Life, a movie produced for the Sundance Film Festival. This was followed by roles in two other movies directed by Garry Yates. Later she got the role of Lady Thiang for the Rainbow Stage 2004 summer production of The King and I.

Joy’s two daughters are as naturally gifted as she is. Marides played the role of Kim in Miss Saigon in 1998 in Stuttgart and she is still based in Berlin as a performing artist in various shows in Germany, London, Vienna and Switzerland. Nena has also played the role of Kim in the production of Miss Saigon in Vancouver. Nena is currently a voice coach herself. Both daughters are also members of Canadian Actor’s Equity.

No doubt about it, Joy Lazo has conquered Manitoba!

Persistence, courage, respect, gratitude and staying grounded have carried her toward her dreams. Valuable advice from Joy: “If you really want something, you have to be brave, strong, and persevering. You have to at least try. If you don’t try you will always be wondering. Know that there are no losers; just quitters – so never quit. Always stand up to the challenges that come your way. Dream big. Even if 90 per cent is ‘no’, focus on the 10 per cent ‘yes.’”

Additional career highlights and community involvement

  • Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for Volunteerism
  • Diamond Jubilee Award for Performing Arts, mentoring young talents to pursue higher dreams
  • Canadians Actors’ Equity Association, Member. This organization is highly selective in their membership screening process and you have to receive recommendations from other industry professionals and qualify through a screening process.
  • Volunteer director and performer for various fund raising events, theater shows, gala dinners etc. for Winnipeg Harvest, Cancer Care Manitoba Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes, Siloam Mission, Seven Oaks Foundation, the PCCM and the Red Cross
  • Organized and handled the youth choir at St John Brebeuf Church for 12 years
  • Building of Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba 2000 to 2004: Fundraising coordinator and volunteer show director in various fundraising events.
  • Commissioned by the Addictions Foundations of Manitoba to direct Gambling Awareness for multicultural Senior’s Group Theater (Filipino/Vietnamese/Mainstream) including production of a resource film for the foundation.

Flor Marcelino

Flor Marcelino is a 2018 Pinays Trailblazer Awardee for her achievements in the field of politics and outstanding community service. Flor was born and raised in the Philippines. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in English (cum laude), from the Luzonian University in Lucena City, Philippines. She is a mother of five adult children and grandmother to five grandsons aged three years to six months.

In 1982, her family moved to Winnipeg. Flor became the publisher and editor of The Philippine Times, a community newspaper from 1996 to 2007. She also worked as a support staff member at Red River College from 1987 to 2006.

Flor decided to venture into politics in 2007 and made political history on various levels:

  • She was the first woman of colour to be elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 2007. In 2011 and 2016 she was re-elected MLA for Logan.
  • The first female of Philippine descent to be elected to a Canadian legislature.
  • The first person from a visible minority group to be given a cabinet position in the history of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. From 2009 to 2016 she served as Minister for Culture, Heritage and Tourism, and the Minister for Multiculturalism and Literacy where she made a mark with her valuable contribution to Manitoba’s multiculturalism, adult learning and literacy.
  • Flor served as Interim Leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition from May 2016 to September 2017 in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.

Flor and husband Orli have long been active in community service and in helping out people in need. Their friends fondly call the Marcelino home, “Hotel Rwanda.” Flor and Orli have kindly opened up their home to kababayans in need of a place to stay, including those that they meet at church or the airport.

This highly recognized Pinay Trailblazer has a few nuggets to share with us:

Together with her husband Orli, Flor has been in Canada for 35 years. “The journey to being a Filipino Canadian has not always been easy but in Canada we can fight for freedoms and values without being persecuted. We are on an even playing field. In Canada we can provide a decent life for our families through hard work.”

“Success means getting up after overcoming hardships and failure. Success means making new friends, maintaining old friends and being a good friend. Success means devoting oneself to the service of others. Success is hollow without seeing our families and our communities uplifted.”

Additional Career Highlights:

  • Active community leader
  • Recipient of the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2017, Vancouver, BC, June 2017
  • Recipient of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada’s Award on Humanities, Public Service and Culture, Toronto, ON, Canada, November 2013
  • One of five awardees for Outstanding Women Activists honoured by Grassroots Manitoba on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Winnipeg, MB Canada, March 2007
  • Guest of Honour and speaker, 6th anniversary celebration of the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), Toronto, ON Canada, April 2011
  • Served on the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council, Project Peacemakers, St. Stephen’s-Broadway Foundation, the Broadway Disciples United Church and it’s international affiliate, the Global Ministries Board.


Emmie Joaquin

Emmie Joaquin is a 2018 Pinays Trailblazer Awardee for her achievements in the field of radio broadcasting and outstanding community service. She was born, raised, and educated in the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines (Diliman). Emmie’s credentials prior to leaving the Philippines were as follows: Operations Director for the Broadcast Media Council (BMC), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), and the Popular Music Foundation of the Philippines, which produced the Metro Pop Song Festival in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She also served as the Public Relations Manager for the multinational advertising agency, McCann Erickson (Philippines).

After the February 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, she felt a need to leave the Philippines due to the stressful political climate. Her immigration application to Canada was initiated on an impulse when, one day, Emmie found herself stuck in a three-hour traffic jam on Ayala Avenue right in front of the Canadian Embassy. On a whim, she decided to get information about the Canadian Immigration process. The approval of her immigration application went quickly and smoothly.

Emmie immigrated to Winnipeg on March 5, 1988 and this year marks her 30th year in Canada. Armed with her highly sellable background in Public Relations and Media, this gutsy immigrant got a job offer within two weeks and worked as an Executive Assistant for Business People Magazine.

In the 1980s, the multi-lingual ethnic radio station, CKJS, had a time slot in the evening for the program, Radio Filipino, run by volunteers led by Resty Taruc. Emmie devised ways to improve the program to serve the growing Filipino community in Manitoba. She boldly approached the general manager of CKJS, Tony Carta, to pitch her creative ideas and present him with a radio program demo. In January of 1989, she accepted the offer to be the producer and co-host of the new CKJS morning show. In April of 1989, CKJS launched the first ever-Filipino morning drive-time radio program, Good Morning Philippines. Emmie looked after the weekday three-hour program’s creative elements, music and information content while her co-host, Joe Sulit, looked after advertising sales. Filipino radio soon expanded to the afternoon drive time program, Manila Sound, which Emmie also produced and hosted. With the increase in percentage share of radio listenership, Emmie also launched and hosted the Saturday daytime show, Tunog Pinoy Pang-Sabado, in 1992. Emmie worked at CKJS for 15 years during the glorious broadcasting era, prior to the onset of social media.

In 1990 Emmie spearheaded the launch of CKJS Tuklas Talino (or Talent Search), an amateur pop singing competition, from which some of the winners have moved on to become professional singers. This talent competition ran for many years, until the early 2000s – well received and supported by the community.

A memorable incident of this era for Emmie was the 1993 anti-racism protest rally in front of a popular big-box grocery store on McPhillips St. Approximately 2000 people showed up after the newly launched Saturday Filipino program enjoined the listeners to participate in the rally. Having 2000 people attend the rally was a validation of the strength of Filipino radio in Winnipeg. She became fondly called the “Tita ng Bayan” (loosely translated: “Aunt of the people”). To this day, young adults occasionally approach Emmie, thanking her and telling her they learned to speak Tagalog because of her and her Good Morning Philippines’ co-host, the late Joe Sulit.

This would be Emmie’s legacy; she made her mark on Manitoba’s airwaves as one of the pioneers and founders of Filipino media that has been a part of the community’s everyday lives.

In 2003, Emmie felt it was time to leave when she got a job offer she could not refuse – to serve as a Special Assistant for Communications for the Hon. Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, then-Federal Minister of Western Economic Diversification. In 2005, she also briefly served at Winnipeg City Hall as the Executive Assistant of then-Deputy Mayor and Councillor Mike Pagtakhan.

Pilipino Express Inc. was born in 2005 when Emmie collaborated with friends Rey-ar Reyes and Paul Morrow to publish Pilipino Express News Magazine. From radio broadcasting to print journalism, she is the news magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Emmie also became a licensed life insurance advisor in 2006. She served two consecutive terms on the Life Insurance Council for the Insurance Council of Manitoba (ICM) between 2008 and 2014. She is now affiliated with W.P.G.– The Wealth Planning Group.

Emmie’s family is now mostly in Canada and the U.S.

Emmie’s valuable advice to us based on her journey: “There are no limits to what you can do, as long as you believe in yourself. Believe in yourself, be true to yourself, and treat people with kindness, then the natural order of things will fall into place. One of life’s greatest paradoxes is – the more you give, the more you receive.”

Well-said Tita Emmie!

Additional career highlights:

  • Recipient of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Media & Community Service
  • Recipient of the 2002 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for Media & Community Service
  • 2004 Nominee for YM-YWCA Women of Distinction Award
  • 2003 Board Member of the Citizenship Council of Manitoba and the Community Unemployed Health Centre
  • 2002 – 2003 Member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Judicial Appointments (Manitoba)
  • 1998 & 2008 Ambassador for the Nayong Pilipino Pavilion in Manitoba’s annual Folklorama Festival

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