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Woman-made Wonders

Article by: Pia Alyssa R. Bonagua, Alyanna Ysabelle A. Faustino, Frances Qarl M. Tolosa, Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo, and Crismhil S. Anselmo

Graphics by: Cassius Klai C. Francisco

Mapúa University (MU) is recognized for its excellence in engineering, technology, and architecture — fields typically dominated by men. In the dawn of the new age, women are continuously taking up space in these industries, proving that they are just as skilled and capable. Before March ends, The New Builder commemorates Women’s Month by putting a spotlight on some of the remarkable women in the Mapúan community who continue to strive not only for fame and glory but also for female empowerment and equality.

Mrs. Helen Yuchengco-Dee: Preserving Legacies, Innovating Industries

Serving as the Chairperson of the Yuchengco Group of Companies (YGC), more than a century of history and success lies in the hands of Mrs. Helen Yuchengco-Dee, one of the most renowned Filipina businesswomen in the world. Preserving the legacy of her company and her family name, Mrs. Yuchengco-Dee is driven to pursue innovation for YGC, much like her father and grandfather, “staying true to our core as pioneers of services and products beneficial to our countrymen.”

Under her leadership, YGC was able to further cement its place as one of the prominent game-changers in various industries. The conglomerate’s history speaks of its rich role in nation-building, especially in terms of financial services. However, YGC has also taken part in addressing issues such as harnessing renewable sources of energy, infrastructure development, and uplifting communities.

Putting emphasis on the value of education and the youth, Mrs. Yuchengco-Dee proudly shared that YGC was among the first business conglomerates to invest in educational and technological advancements through Mapúa schools. Her status as one of the most successful businesswomen in the Philippines was not a walk in the park. According to the renowned entrepreneur, success is a product of perseverance and dedication, and oftentimes, would require giving up family and leisure time.

As one of the distinct women in the business world, Mrs. Yuchengco-Dee said that it is proper vision coupled with hard work that brings success — gender plays a small role, if there is any. “As we live in a modern age, gender should not define and limit what you can do and what you can contribute,” she elaborated. The influential leader also intends to empower women in the corporate world through opportunities and career advancements, evident in the spaces of leadership women occupy in companies under the conglomerate.

For her parting message, the Chairperson of Mapúa University’s Board of Trustees affirms to her fellow women that it is their values, attitude, and discipline that poses them with a status of excellence. “As a woman leader, I have seen and witnessed fellow women take up leadership space. Thus, with hard work, we can be all leaders and break whatever barriers [there are] due to our gender status or preference,” she elaborated.

Ms. Maria Mercedes “Mercy” Corrales: Taking the Road Less Traveled

Known as the first non-Japanese woman to be the President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Levi’s and Starbucks in Japan, Ms. Mercy Corrales built her legacy on breaking barriers and taking the road less traveled. A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Business Management at the institution that was known to be an engineering school back then, Ms. Corrales climbed her way up to be among the most influential women in the corporate world today.

Her journey to success started when she landed a job at the Human Resource Department of Levi Strauss (LS) Philippines where she spent 29 years of her career. In 1991, she became the General Manager of LS Malaysia and contributed to its fastest and most dramatic turnaround. Two years later, she returned to LS Philippines to make history as its first Filipino and first female General Manager. The entrepreneur then headed to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina in the United States of America to earn a master’s degree in Business Administration, which helped her learn more about the industry.

Holding an impeccable record of reviving businesses in several countries, Ms. Corrales continued the road less traveled by facing the challenge to boost the Japanese subsidiary despite its country facing economic struggles. Disregarding the discrimination and criticisms that she had to deal with as Filipino women were only known to work at bars or stay at home, the empowered Filipina took the risk and carried on with the mission. “I wanted their employers to see them in a new light, treat them with more respect if they hear that a Filipino woman revived one of Japan’s well-loved brands,”she stated.

And so, she did. With hard work and determination as her strong suit, the Filipina entrepreneur made Levi’s the top brand in the premium jeans segment after two years. A few years later, Ms. Corrales was promoted to Regional Vice President for North Asia and then ventured into the coffee business to become the CEO/COO/Representative Director of Starbucks Coffee Japan. As these were two separate markets, she learned about the coffee business by working as a barista in different locations. Similarly, the subsidiary was suffering from business issues, but that did not stop her from turning things around for another company. With these feats, she received the Business Stateswoman Award from the Harvard Business School Club of Japan in 2008.

Recalling the criticisms that Filipino women received back then became among her inspirations to let the world know that Filipinos are much more than they think. “It was not important that people remembered my name. What mattered was for them to remember that there was a Filipino woman who made a real difference in their lives, in the business, and in their communities,” she imparted.

Ms. Corrales, who is now a member of the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

Dr. Lilibeth Sabino: The Brilliance of a Familial Woman

Currently MU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Lilibeth D. Sabino has been in the education sector since 1981. Since entering the academe, never did she imagine that she would be handling the position she is currently in as all she ever wanted was to teach mathematics — even garnering the title of favorite teacher back in 2010.

With a career that is surely not for the faint-hearted, the well-known professor has faced multiple challenges that only strengthened her to come back stronger. Owed to the inspiration that stems from her family, she was not overshadowed by the bricks that life threw at her. “Because if I will stop, walang mangyayari sa buhay namin,” she narrated. The work-life balance was not an easy feat to attain, but Dr. Sabino adapted and became the backbone of her family as she juggled the time that continuously ticked her life’s clock.

At first, Dr. Sabino narrated that being a teacher was not the initial plan. After shifting from BS Chemistry to BS Mathematics, it was as if the red string of fate tied her and teaching. She fell in love with the craft of sharing knowledge with the students. From then on, imparting her expertise in mathematics has brought her much enthusiasm. It was her first job, and she made it clear that it would be her last. 

When asked what she believes to be the essence of a woman, the VPAA believes that one cannot simply emphasize what a woman is. “Women are patient, understanding, loyal, kindhearted, and so many good qualities,” she expounded, highlighting that being a woman means a lot of things.

Along with the richness of her career and life experiences, Dr. Sabino is indeed a true supermom who has a mantra for women to put into practice: “For as long as you have your ambition, you have your vision, be strong.

Dr. Ria Liza Centeno-Canlas: Thinking Outside the Box

Translating dreams into reality, Dr. Ria Liza Centeno-Canlas is the founder and CEO of Po Lite Technology, Inc., a company known for producing innovative construction materials. As a civil engineering graduate who was committed to contributing to the construction industry through research, she began to look for alternatives for concrete and mason works in 2008. Coming up with the formula to be used for the materials then gave way to her company to be established in 2017.

Through the years, Dr. Canlas received several awards for her innovation “An Eco-Couture Panel System and a Method of Manufacture of Prefabricated Building Material,” but her first awards remained close to her heart, namely the Gold Award and Gran Prix “Malasakit” Award from the Good Design Award of the Design Center Philippines and Department of Trade and Industry in 2019, as she was also the first recipient of these accolades for fulfilling the sustainable development goals through innovation. The recognition turned out to be an eye-opener for her as she became inclined to manufacture products that are also aesthetically pleasing. As an awardee, she was granted a scholarship to finish the Innovation and Creative Entrepreneurship Management Diploma at Thames International. The following year, she was the Grand Winner of the Alfredo M. Yao Intellectual Property Award, a most-sought award by innovators.

With many local and international recognitions as well as successful research projects and publications on her belt, the alumna acknowledged how her college experiences contributed to her success, especially how Mapúans were trained to be resilient and adaptable in solving complex problems. “All of those gave me the confidence in everything. Para sa akin, my Mapúa education makes me ready for any type of business,” she shared. Dr. Canlas, who was a former member and officer of the Mapúa Institute of Technology Student Catholic Action, also recalled their management approaches, which were helpful in convincing clients and investors in the future as they had to earn the votes of all the members to make a wise decision.

Moving forward, the multi-awarded professional hopes to inspire others, especially the women, to come out of their comfort zones, speak up, and break patriarchal norms. “Whether we like it or not, there will come a time when there will be double standards when it comes to male-dominated industries, but that should not stop you from achieving what you want,” she stated.

No matter how many the men are, as long as you know your rights, go and stand up for your rights,” the renowned civil engineer imparted, adding that women engineers should also improve their skillset to be an expert in their respective fields.

Representing the scientific community and nominated by the Filipino Inventors Federation, Dr. Canlas is currently endorsed to be an Executive Member of the National Innovation Council to the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines this year, another feat to inspire others to think outside the box and pursue innovation as well.

Ms. Charlotte Monteiro: A Dauntless Leader

Working her way up the ranks and taking on leadership roles, the newly-appointedSenior High School (SHS) Principal, Ms. Charlotte N. Monteiro, views challenges like math problems. When life throws her challenges, her approach is to resolve them through critical and creative solutions. Driven by her passion for teaching and becoming part of the students’ growth and success, the SHS Principal’s experiences instilled in her the necessary skills and experience, which prepared her for the new position.

The seasoned educator shared that her journey toward becoming the head of SHS was challenging but fulfilling. Striving to be an inspiration for her fellow women, Ms. Monteiro encouraged them to have a never-give-up attitude, but also pointed out that there is no need to be rushing and pressuring oneself. She highlighted that there is a perfect timing for everything.

When asked about her views on the essence of a woman, Ms. Monteiro believes that it is not limited to a woman’s physicality but her ability to nurture and inspire. For her, “Women are not just caretakers, but also trailblazers who can achieve great things.” Standing with women in fighting gender inequality, the SHS principal also emphasized the importance of raising awareness and educating people to advocate for women’s rights.

Commemorating Women’s Month, Ms. Monteiro calls on her fellow women to acknowledge the rampant issues that are taking place today. “But let us not lose hope. We have come a long way, and we can go even further.” For her parting message, the driven educator calls on other women to “continue to support and uplift each other, to fight for our rights and to break down the barriers that hold us back.”

Engr. Analyn Yumang: Living in the Moment

Climbing steep steps towards being an instructor, Engr. Analyn N. Yumang from the School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering (EECE) is a budding epitome of trusting the process and indulging in the outcomes. As a working student during her college years, the Mapúa alumna-turned-professor faced her academic insecurities head-on, eventually finishing her degree despite the challenges she had to go through.

More than a woman who is changing students’ perspectives every day, the EECE professor is also a familial woman who values her family and securing their future above all. As she shared the life lessons she learned over the years, Engr. Yumang emphasized the importance of having goals whenever thinking ahead.

When asked about her thoughts on the issues women experience today, the professor believes that among the rampant problems are the judgments that aim to bring women down, especially in terms of physical attributes. While it is truly difficult to brush off words that may cut deeper wounds, she relayed that it is “really hard to change other people’s perspective of you,” encouraging others to not mind them.

For her parting message, the well-loved educator encouraged her fellow women to prepare for the future but reminded them not to forget to live in the moment, “As much as you could, enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of your family and friends without overthinking.” Additionally, she highlights the importance of decision-making. “Think about the decisions and share it to others for discussion […] Pero huwag mong gagawin dahil lang sinabi sa’yo because you still have your own individuality as a woman.

Engr. Yumang continues to seize the day, chasing sunsets as life goes on – memorializing the uniqueness that comes with being a woman.

Erika Alfaro: Elegance of a Modern Queen

A woman with the grace and intelligence of Ericka Mae B. Alfaro, Lakambini ng Kardinal 2023 titleholder, can instantly leave everyone in awe. A ravishing presence in red, the second-year civil engineering student bested out ten other candidates in the Mr. and Ms. Cardinals 2023 (Lakan at Lakambini ng Kardinal 2023) coronation held last February 22, where she took home the Ms. Talent and Best in Summer Wear awards.

In her preparations for the pageant,  Ericka embarked on a journey of growth reminiscent of a butterfly. Despite the certainty of an arduous voyage ahead, she realized that the best way to bloom into her true self is by breaking away from her cocoon of comfort, taking a leap of faith, and believing in herself. True enough, she reigned supreme as Mapúa’s new queen, advocating for sustainability and mental health awareness “within and beyond our campus walls.

As she began her reign, this year’s Lakambini ng Kardinal aspires to be a modern woman who is a symbol of change — one that is “adaptive and resourceful because she values the importance of knowledge and self-care.” Ericka believes that amid the societal stereotypes that limit opportunities for women, the true essence of a woman is in uniquely embodying their true beauty inside and out without allowing fear and doubt to take over.

Indeed, Ericka is an empowered woman of substance that serves as an inspiration for the women of the Mapúan community to be themselves. “To all women, especially those who are in the next generation, remember that the greatest power that you have is your strength […] You carry the weight of the world, but walk like the lightness of a feather,” she shared.

Alexis Banta: Prismatic Illuminance of a Queen

One of the most memorable moments of the Lakan at Lakambini ng Kardinal 2023 pageant is how the crowd goes wild when Lakambini ng Health Sciences 2023 Alexis G. Banta struts her stuff. The first-year psychology student illuminated the stage confidently to represent her community loud and proud. While she may have finished the journey early in the pageant, the mere presence of Alexis in the competition is already deemed a trailblazing victory.

Inspired by fellow Mapúan transgender queen and alumna, Jek Dela Cerna, Alexis joined the pageant to continue her legacy and “to show that we are here, we have a presence in this university.

By simply flaunting her true colors, Alexis has proven herself to be a safe space for people in her community — to remind them to be confident about who they are. She walked the stage with a sash bearing not only the Health Sciences name but also that of the LGBTQIA+ community.  However, while rampant discrimination can prove to be tiresome to address, Alexis believes that it is in educating people about the LGBTQIA+ community that helps people become more welcoming and understanding of their presence. 

This Women’s Month, the Lakambini ng Health Sciences wishes to encourage women to “…fight against oppression, because [it] is always disguised as tradition.” She reinforces that the essence of a woman is someone who can stand on their own two feet — who can love, support, innovate, and illuminate our community.

Chloe Carillo: Courage in the Courtside

As a courtside reporter for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Chloe Hanna B. Carillo defies the barriers as she takes up space in the realm of sports.

The third-year technical communication student’s journey was not all rainbows and butterflies as it was lined with struggles — rejections, criticisms, and judgments —that she used as motivation to improve. Viewing it as a learning process, the NCAA courtside reporter’s love for her craft and desire to prove herself drove her to keep going and inspire her fellow women to pursue their dreams. “We should not succumb to the expectations and limitations set by the patriarchy. Women have a place in society, so show up fearless and without regret,” she remarked.

Regarding issues women currently face, Chloe believes that the fight for equality is still among the most prominent ones to date. The student leader believes that everyone can take part in addressing this struggle by acknowledging, speaking up, and supporting women, especially in cases of violence and/or abuse. She also believes that every woman’s essence is uplifting everyone, most significantly other women as standing up and supporting one another is more powerful than fighting alone.

As Chloe remains to aspire for greatness and inspire others to chase and envision success, she called her fellow women to take up space and inspire others. “Your presence in the fields you thrive in is an inspiration to many young women who are just starting to find their place in the world. Do not let fear and doubt be a stronger force than your determination to go further.

Rightfully empowering, these notable women of MU have a burning fire that cannot be extinguished. As this year’s Women’s Month paints the towns purple, may people never limit one’s capabilities based on gender. Women are adept at conquering different industries, breaking one stereotype at a time.

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