The Outstanding Filipino Awards names 15 national recipients
New York — The Outstanding Filipino Awards (TOFA) has named 15 accomplished individuals as honorees for its upcoming 13th annual gala. This year’s awardees were nominated by various communities from across the country, contributing to a diverse mix of talents to be showcased this year on the TOFA stage.
Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez and Dr. Tess Mauricio were the first honorees revealed this month.
Tuminez, TOFA’s honoree for Education, is the seventh president of Utah Valley University. She earned her political science PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and masters in Soviet studies from Harvard. A published author, Tuminez has had stints at Microsoft and National University of Singapore. She has also worked in philanthropy and venture capital, and is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Meanwhile, the sought-after dermatologist Dr. Tess is TOFA’s Beauty and Wellness honoree. She is a skin and beauty expert who TV networks turn to for medical advice. She is the head physician at vConfidence and founder of M Beauty by Dr. Tess, which has multiple clinics across San Diego and Beverly Hills in California. Mauricio is the youngest woman to become president of The San Diego Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Ging Reyes, Ted Castro, and Mariel Fletcher are this year’s awardees for Media, Sports and Public Service & Politics.
A familiar face to many Filipinos here and abroad, Reyes is the former head of integrated news and current affairs at ABS-CBN. She retired last year after 36 years of excellent service in broadcast journalism, including 12 years as news chief of the Philippine’s leading media company. Considering her editorial integrity and leadership, the World Association of News Publishers honored Reyes as a 2022 Southeast Asia Laureate for Women in News Editorial Leadership.
“Every year brings new inspiration as The Outstanding Filipino Awards names more awardees,” said Elton Lugay, founder and executive producer of The Outstanding Filipino Awards. “We are grateful to all who participate in this virtuous cycle by helping us discover the unsung heroes of our time”
Castro is one of the most successful chess coaches in America. In 2008, he founded NorCal House of Chess, which has since produced many state, national, and international champions. It was voted top chess club in 2015 by the United States Chess Federation. The TOFA awardee for Sports has been inducted to the ChessDryad Hall of Fame for his contributions to the mind sport in California.
Seattle-based community leader Mariela Fletcher is president of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). She is determined to bridge generations within the Fil-Am community while working to strengthen members’ political engagement and enabling NaFFAA regional chapters to address serious challenges such as anti-Asian hate. A charitable leader who thinks outside the box, Fletcher is a realtor by profession.
Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan, Dr. Homer Tuazon, Jason Lustina, Reynosa Rada Espadero, and Marie Cunning have also been named as TOFA awardees.
Morgan takes the Courage of Conviction award. She is a cellular biologist whose determination to save her son led to the formulation of pure cannabidiol (CBD) oil in 2016. She has since founded Masaya Medical, where she leads a team conducting collaborative studies on cannabis bioavailability and absorption. Morgan is also involved in advancing cannabis legislation that would ensure scientific validation of CBD’s healing potentials.
Tuazon is this year’s honoree for Healthcare. He is a Global Healthcare Leaders Program fellow from Harvard, who is the CEO and owner of Las Vegas-based Apollo Medical Group and The Iliad and Odyssey Behavioral and Mental Health Clinic. He also leads The Crimson Paradigm International Healthcare Consulting Group. A licensed advanced practice and registered nurse in Nevada, California, and Washington, Tuazon is certified in addictionology and clinical research. He is a fourth-degree knight of the Knights of Columbus.
The TOFA honoree for Arts & Culture is Lustina. He started SoCal Filipinos as a Facebook group for networking Filipinos. It now has about 80,000 members and some 120,000 followers on Instagram. The nonprofit organization is on a mission to bridge Filipinos of all ages from different places while raising awareness on the community’s unique culture and experience. Lustina is a board member of Search to Involve Pilipino-Americans.
Espadero is the CEO, chief financial officer, and administrator of Benevolence Hospice, and this year’s TOFA honoree for Senior Welfare. She has demonstrated effective and inspiring leadership that has helped raise the quality of patient care at Benevolence Hospice while keeping it focused on the family. Espadero is responsible for managing the hospice’s day-to-day clinical, quality, compliance, volunteer, bereavement, and marketing operations.
Serial entrepreneur Marie Cunning takes the TOFA for Community Service this year. She is an international director of Lions Clubs International, national president of the Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce, and board member at NaFFAA. Quite the community leader, she is a charter member and two-time president of the Phoenix Barangay Lion’s Club, past director of the Asian American Association of Arizona, and 2020–2023 chair of the Asian American Republican Coalition.
The final five 13th Annual TOFA awardees are Ma. Victoria Mejia, Dr. Gigi Manzanilla, Giovanni Duaqui, Romer Gutierrez Jazo, and Kenneth Mejia.
Ma. Victoria Mejia takes artistry to a new level with her minaudière bag collection – personalized clutches featuring shell craftsmanship by Cebu artisans. The founder, owner, and accessory designer of Victoria’s Craft has won awards for the novelty bags, which have become instant Hollywood chic. Victoria’s Craft aims to export the bags globally while launching handcrafted earrings, necklaces, and bracelets as high-end accessories. Mejia is recognized this year with the TOFA for Fashion & Style.
Experienced as a legislator and community organizer, Manzanilla is passionate about women and development, children and family, and gender equality. She is a consultant at Albay Women Volunteers Association and the Association of Gender and Development Focal Persons of the Philippines, both organizations based in the Philippines which she founded. Manzanilla has extensive experience in accounting and management roles, and this year adds the TOFA for Women Empowerment to her strengths.
After stints as co-membership and diverse segments director, Giovanni Duaqui now sits on the NaFFAA board of trustees, promoting diversity not only within the organization but also in broader society. He is a partner and senior vice president at ITO Solutions, an information technology services firm he helped grow from startup years with his marketing, business development, and management savvy. He is this year’s honoree for Research & Technology.
From humble beginnings in the maritime industry to attaining entrepreneurial success in New York, Jazo has consistently pushed boundaries and reshaped industries. He has demonstrated a strong philanthropic drive since moving to New York City in 2019. With a visionary mindset and unwavering commitment to marine life and community development, Jazo is poised to blaze new trails in social entrepreneurship. He takes the TOFA for Business & Entrepreneurship.
Kenneth Mejia, TOFA’s honoree for Youth, is an American activist, accountant, and politician. He has been the city controller of Los Angeles since 2022, making him the first Filipino American elected official in the city, the first Asian American elected to a citywide office, and the youngest and first person of color to hold the position in over a century.
“Every year brings new inspiration as TOFA names more awardees,” said Elton Lugay, founder and executive producer of TOFA. “We are grateful to all who participate in this virtuous cycle by helping us discover the unsung heroes of our time.”
The 13th annual TOFA gala will be held on Oct. 27 for the first time outside of New York and in the heart of the Filipino community at the Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California. The venue is across the popular Walt Disney Concert Hall. Co-produced by Starlink Promotions, the event is being co-presented by NaFFAA, whose national chairman Brendan Flores serves as TOFA board chair this year.