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Tales of resilience highlight Women’s Month in NY

/ 11:30 PM March 19, 2018

The Philippine Consulate General in New York honors three distinguished Filipino women: IBM Engineer Virginia Policarpio (from left), CBS News Correspondent Hazel Sanchez, and Elda Rotor, publisher at Penguin Random House on the occasion of International Women’s Month. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

NEW YORK—In observance of International Women’s History Month, the Philippine Consulate General here held on March 12 its annual “Distinguished Filipino Women” awards event.

The three honorees were Elda Rotor, publisher and vice president at Penguin Classics; CBS News Correspondent Hazel Sanchez and IBM engineer Virginia Policarpio.

“This is the Philippine Consulate’s smallest contribution to recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Filipina and Filipino American women,” said Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega in her speech.

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She added: “It is also an opportunity for us to meet them and to engage with them up close personally, and to have a dialogue with them and to hear their narratives, their journeys, their stories, which hopefully will resonate with many of your own narratives, your own stories, particularly being migrant women, or children of migrant parents who’ve found a footing here in the U.S.”

Emotional in her own acceptance speech, Sanchez shared snippets of her childhood and that of her daughter, an unexpected source of a valuable life lesson.

The CBS correspondent recalled rubbing her skin so hard when she was 6 years old, thinking that maybe it could lighten her skin color because she was ashamed to be “brown.”

2018 Distinguished Filipino Women honorees Virginia Policarpio (from left), Hazel Sanchez and Elda Rotor receive their plaques of recognition from Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega, with past honorees Nicole Ponseca and Vanessa Manzano, and Vice Consul Khrystina Corpuz Popov. LAMBERT PARONG

“At church there was a girl who always looks at me funny every Sunday and asked if me and my family slept in tanning beds. I told her, I’m Filipino,” the veteran broadcast reporter said, on the verge of tears. “She had no idea of what or where that was, and I wasn’t really sure how I felt about being different.”

As the years passed, she found comfort in the love of her parents, who assured her that she was perfect in their eyes and in God’s. Both Filipino immigrants, her parents sacrificed and instilled values that have helped shape her own success, Sanchez said.

Becoming more emotional, she then told the audience that it was her 5-year-old daughter who taught her how to be resilient.

She was going to pull the child from a theater program after learning that the latter was being treated differently by peers. “My child is very friendly. But no one would talk to her. ‘They talk among themselves,’ she told me. Just not with me. I was all-ready to take her out of the program, but she begged me to let her stay,” Sanchez narrated.

“Any parent would not understand this kind of situation where their child is isolated or being treated differently. It doesn’t make sense. So I asked her, what is it about this program that you love so much? ‘Mommy, I get to sing and dance.’ And that is all that mattered to her. It doesn’t matter how you are treated as long as you are who you are. And [if] you are true to your soul and you’re dedicated to your passion, you can get through anything. And that was a lesson taught to me by a 5-year-old. To be resilient,” she concluded in her acceptance speech.

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Policarpio also shared details of her Filipino upbringing, attributing her success to parents who instilled the value of education, which she now imparts to her own children. Meanwhile, Rotor cited inclusiveness in the workplace and society as a driving force for minority women, alongside women’s solidarity.

Noting that the Fil-Am community has been a great source of strength for many, De Vega urged community members to continue supporting advocacies that uplift women in various circumstances “because we can only truly rest on our laurels when more women are truly allowed to flourish and be active partners in society.”

‘Great woman by my side’

Over at Gracie Mansion, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gathered women mentors and their mentees on March 8.

De Blasio praised women for “standing up and defending their rights, and fighting for a society that actually honors and respects them” before paying tribute to his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, whom he considers “the most trusted person in my life and in my administration.”

Jacqueline Ebanks, executive director at New York City Commission on Gender Equity, delivers a welcome speech to attendees of Women’s Month celebration at the Gracie Mansion. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

“And yet, when I say Chirlane McCray is my number-one advisor, the person that I make all major decisions with, some people get uneasy. I am so at peace with the notion that the major decisions of this administration are made with Chirlane McCray, because she has always steered me right, and because she understands the lives of people all over this city. She understands the American experience. She understands what people of color have experienced in this country. She understands what women have experienced, and she is their voice every single day. I’m really comfortable with that,” De Blasio added.

Alluding to those who prefer that the first lady remain in the shadows, the NYC mayor said: “Some seem to be harkening back to that phrase we also don’t use anymore. Remember when they used to say, a woman’s place is in the home? We don’t accept that.

McCray, for her part, was proud to call De Blasio a feminist husband and a feminist mayor. Though already 63 years old, NYC’s first lady revealed “I am learning all the time from women of all ages. As my mother used to say, every day is a school day if you’re paying attention. My mom was my mentor.”

McCray’s message to the women in the audience is “no matter where you are in your career, please make this a year where you step out of your comfort zone. Do something positive that is very unlike anything that you’ve done before. Seek out leadership opportunities at work and in your community. Speak up in meetings, and peruse your dreams.”

ConGen Tess de Vega receives a proclamation from the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in celebration of March as International Women’s Month. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

Then she urged the women to run for office. “Whatever your professional or personal calling is, we need more women leaders. We need you to run for office and we need them now. Please join me this year in committing to helping our sisters embrace their power,” McCray said.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump spoke of family-friendly policies to commemorate Women’s History Month.

“The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides new tax credits to businesses that offer paid family and medical leave to their employees. This landmark legislation also gives qualifying American families with children a significantly larger child tax credit and ensures that more families will be eligible to take advantage of this credit. When we support family-friendly policies, women have more freedom to explore opportunities and to thrive at work and at home.”

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TAGS: “Distinguished Filipino Women”, CBS News Correspondent Hazel Sanchez, distinguished women, Elda Rotor, IBM engineer Virginia Policarpio, International Women’s History Month, Penguin Classics, women achievers, women’s rights
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