Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Guests filled up the Francisco Santiago Hall at the BDO Corporate Center to attend CNN Philippines’ first Women’s Month event, “Leading Women to #PressforProgress,” a series of talks and discussions on gender equality and empowerment, and celebrations of the success of powerful and inspirational women.
Among those speaking at the event was Dr. Gia Sison, head of the Philippine chapter of the Livestrong Foundation, co-founder of HealthxPH, and cancer-survivor.
Sison shared her experiences battling cancer, from the moment she suspected she was sick to the physical, mental, and emotional, changes she had to face. “Cancer has taught me to change my perspective in life,” she said. “It taught me to appreciate the simplest things: sunrise, birds chirping, a cup of coffee. The mere fact that I'm stuck in traffic means I'm alive.”
Sison, whose Twitter account has served as a source of daily inspiration and advice for fans, dropped nuggets of wisdom on courage in the face of adversity. “You're not defined by your trials. You're not even defined by the people who expect something from you ... The mere fact that you're doing your best, that's courage for me,” she said.
Following Dr. Gia Sison was award-winning journalist and CNN International anchor Kristie Lu Stout, who spoke about the importance of sisterhood. “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back,” she said, as she shared stories about colleagues, friends, and her own family members who have supported her and inspired her in their own ways.
Stout also brought up the movements for gender equality that have recently gained traction, saying that “2018 and the years after are about getting the job done,” and gave concrete examples on how to achieve equality for women, such as “boosting a female colleague,” “no more all-male panels,” “making your partner lean-in,” “volunteering to be a role model,” and “using your platform.”
At the Q&A with audience members, Stout gave advice on addressing workplace harassment and responding to sexist comments with humor and wit. One audience member asked how to respond to insults like “Para kang babae,” which Stout answered with "Is that the best shade you can throw at me? Yes, I have two X chromosomes."
After Stout’s talk, classical singer Lara Maigue serenaded the crowd with a special performance.
The performance was followed by a panel discussion on women in media moderated by director and CNN Philippines Life multimedia editor Samantha Lee. The panelists included online strategist Coco Quizon, fashion designer and Grrrl Gang founder Mich Dulce, photographer Shaira Luna, and author Mina Esguerra.
At the discussion, the panelists spoke about the importance of representation in the media, citing examples of strong, well-rounded female characters that served as inspirations, and discussed what needs to be addressed in the media industry in order for it to be more gender inclusive. “It's finding a brave soul in that company to say, 'This is what girls need now,’” said Dulce, about fighting for the content you want to see.
Afterwards, Rissa Mananquil-Trillo, beauty columnist and co-founder of Happy Skin Cosmetics, took to the stage after the panel discussion to talk about the meaning of beauty and how her experiences in the fashion and beauty industry, and growing up morena inspired her to start her own line of cosmetics that didn’t focus on whitening, and instead catered to the Filipina skin tone.
Mananquil-Trillo also shared the hurdles of being a mom at such a young age, and the difficulties of being a single parent. “Being a single parent allowed me to pursue everything and I didn't allow my past to defeat me,” she said.
Student-athlete and social media influencer Hannah Pangilinan followed and gave a talk on being a content creator today. She told the audience of how her love for producing content was derailed by her competitiveness. Pangilinan got the crowd on their feet to participate in a thumb-wrestling exercise to point out the value in collaborating with each other.
At the Q&A, Pangilinan spoke about the need to support each other and build up each other’s confidence, and to make use of social media to share the stories of those who don’t typically have access to platforms.
The event concluded with the final speakers of the day, Iza Calzado and Lynn Pinugu, co-founders of She Talks Asia. The founders talked to CNN Philippines anchor Pinky Webb about how the idea came to be, and how they chose what topics to cover in their second conference, themed “She Is: Self-Made.” “The #MeToo movement was quite big in other countries, but it didn't take off here. We tried to understand why ... We had three amazing speakers who talked about their own experiences and healed from that,” said Pinugu.
Pinugu stressed the importance of a good education in pushing female empowerment, saying, “A lot of feminists are trained to be critical thinkers and a lot of male feminists are also trained to be critical thinkers. And that stems from a good education.”
Calzado also talked about her own advocacy, the Body Love Revolution, which focuses on positive self-image and self-acceptance.
As the summit came to a close, the common thread that was apparent throughout the talks was the importance of sisterhood and collaboration, and that gender equality can be achieved if women (and men) come together, support each other, and pave the way for the success of one another.
“Leading Women to #PressforProgress” is co-presented by San Miguel Corporation, BDO, and Organique. Also brought to you by Aboitiz, Discovery Primea, and BMW, the official car partner of the event.