Chief Executive Officer, PayMaple LLC
Excellence in Entrepreneurship/Philanthropy
Allen Caviles was born in Iloilo, Philippines, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1973 at the age of nine. He is one of nine children born to the late Dr. Alfredo P. Caviles of Iloilo, an OB/Gyn and Anesthesiologist who practiced in Chicago and Arlington Heights, Illinois, and Mrs. Ediltrudes S. Caviles of Pangasinan, a former Bacteriologist who worked in Oak Park, Illinois, before becoming a homemaker. Allen was a multi-sport athlete in track, basketball, and football. He attended William Fremd HS where he excelled on the varsity football team as a defensive back, running back, and return specialist. He was offered a scholarship to play football for Div III Augustana College but instead chose to attend UW-Madison. While there, he majored in Zoology and pursued a discipline in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science. In 2005, Allen married Rocelyn Bontuyan of Cebu, Philippines, who was a former Registered Nurse at NW Community Healthcare. They have three children: Alexis age 14, Lucas age 8, and Christofer age 7.
As CEO of PayMaple LLC, he brought 32 years of experience in the payment processing industry. His motto is to work harder than your competitor and to always look out for new, emerging, disruptive technology — embracing it, instead of resisting it. He is an entrepreneur, laser-focused on business development and technology innovation. Allen aims to make PayMaple LLC the “Apple” of the Fintech Industry.
In the area of business development, he has extensive experience in financial, operational, and revenue growth with startups, growth, and late stage companies. He managed acquisitions and conversions of bank payment processing systems and the growth of a cutting-edge company that was a world leader in mid-market B2B and B2C eCommerce. While at BluePay, Allen was personally responsible for sourcing and supporting a division, which catered to large enterprise-based companies that generated 25% of company EBITDA. His efforts resulted in a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of over 10%, which facilitated the sale of BluePay to First Data for $750 million in 2017.
In the area of technology innovation, he helped develop a PC-based credit card processing software (PC Charge) and one of the fastest payment gateways in the industry (Bluepay Payment Gateway). He also patented an E-commerce automation tool (Online App™) that quickly became the standard for merchant account approval. As a founder for BluePay, he engineered a world class payment platform that introduced tokenization technology, which became a standard in the payment industry. Throughout his career, he developed cutting edge and innovative technology that supported Fortune 500 companies such as Waste Pro, Waste Management, Maui Jim, Zenni Optical, Ryder Truck, Mizuno, Careerbuilder, EZlinks / PGA, Rogers and Hollands, and many other notable name brands.
Underlying all these endeavors has been a strict emphasis on disruption, perpetual innovation, security, mobile, Cloud, prioritization, and best in class customer service.
Before joining PayMaple LLC in 2019, Allen was: CIO of 4D Healthware; CIO and Strategic Advisor to Digi-Me; CIO and CTO of Bluepay Inc; CTO of AssureBuy Inc; CIO of Online Data Corp, which became Ipayment Inc, one of the largest credit card processors in the country notable for being the first company to go public post 9/11; and VP of Technology at Data Transfer Associates, a company that became a subsidiary of PMT Services and later a division of Nova Payment Services, which later became Elavon.
As a driven entrepreneur, Allen is part of several venture capital groups: West Loop Ventures, Bascom Ventures, Rogue Ventures, Black Dragon Capital, and Rokk3r Fuel Ventures. Additionally, he serves as an advisory member for Black Dragon Capital and Rokk3r Fuel Ventures sourcing new investment opportunities. He is also a very active Angel Investor leading seed rounds for the following companies: BizIntro, Jiobit, Tanvas, Veritech, Tritech Health, Digi-Me, 4D Healthware, Ubid, and Optivolt Labs (a startup small form factor solar power energy company).
Community involvement is extremely important to Allen, so he is very committed to several philanthropic organizations as Executive Board Member of Little Angels Center for Exceptional Care, Turning Point Autism Foundation, and AMITA Health Foundation. He is also an active benefactor to: Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Folds of Honor, Holiday Heroes, and Gigi’s Playhouse. Allen is involved with his local parish, Holy Family of Inverness, where he served as Technical Advisor and Coordinator of fundraising gala events. He is also a Member of the Knights of Columbus. Early in his career, he was a Member of Young Urban Professionals Chicago and a volunteer at IC Stars, an org he is still professionally connected to through their True Mentors Program, a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training for low-income, innercity adults that connects them with career opportunities through social enterprise and partner organizations.
As a member of InfraGard, Allen has a collaborative partnership with the FBI, other govt agencies, academia, and a vast network of technology professionals who share timely exchanges of information to protect critical infrastructure and promote cybersecurity for all U.S. industries. Allen’s future goals include providing accessible capital to entrepreneurs involved in ventures that preserve our environment and promote renewable energy solutions. Nominator: Mabel Turtogo Sacay
Connie Reyes Chanrasmi
Excellence in Music
Connie lives in Pinellas Park, Florida. She was born and raised in Manila. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Masters in Business Administration .
While in the university, she became a member of the world renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers (MADZ). In 1990, she relocated to the United States after a successful 6-month tour with the group in Europe and the United States. At that time, the group won all the top prizes in prestigious choral competitions: Arezzo in Italy, Marktoberdorf in Germany, Spittal in Austria, Neuchatel in Switzerland, and Cantonigros in Spain.
She met her husband Tony during the MADZ tour. Their children, Anthony & Sarah, Andrew, and Carissa graduated from top ten public universities in the United States. They have two grandchildren Janelle and Eliza. Connie currently works as a Senior Specialist at Citi’s Security Lending Operations, and has been with the company for 25 years.
Her experience with the MADZ inspired her to teach choral music to the Filipino community in Florida. She has been the music director of the Philippine Choral Group for over 20 years now. As one of the Philippine Cultural Foundation Inc.’s (PCFI) cultural arms, the group helps to preserve and present Philippine heritage and culture. The choir is a collective of people with various professions that come together to perform and/or participate in almost every Filipino-American event in the Tampa Bay A r e a . These events include Philfest , Sampaguita Ball, Barrio Fiesta, the Feast of Peñafrancia, and the Feast of Santo Niño celebrations as well as local concerts and other private celebrations. The choir repertoire ranges from Philippine ethnic, folk, and popular music to church hymns and Broadway tunes.
Connie started as a member of the PCFI Cultural Affairs Advisory Board in 2000, and in 2017 she received a Distinguished Service Award from the PCFI at the “Gabi ng Parangal”, recognizing the years of service she has given to the foundation.
Connie is also very active in the local community. In 2009, she received the Saint Jude Medal award from the Diocese of St Petersburg for her dedicated service to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pinellas Park, FL where she served as a cantor and assisting choir director for over 15 years. Currently, she is a cantor at Saint Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Clearwater, FL and has been with this parish for 4 years.
In 2005, she also served as the music director of the Little Hometown Soldiers, a non-profit children’s organization of kids 5 – 12 years old that reaches out to support families with members who serve within the armed forces. The kids perform at various events such as churches, nursing homes, hospitals, festivals to show appreciation for both active duty and veterans that have sacrificed their time and efforts to bring comfort and security to the nation’s youth.
Nominator: Joey Omila
Fritz is a lifestyle entrepreneur based in Chicago. He has learned early on to pivot when his intuition calls for a drastic life change. During his junior year of college, he switched majors from Computer Engineering to Kinesiology Exercise Science. His passion for fitness combined with a newfound platform in Instagram has resulted in opportunities to facilitate social media brand affiliations, fitness modeling and online coaching while still in school. After college, Fritz headed to Silicon Valley to work for a top health and wellness brand and would since become the Chief Marketing Officer.
It wouldn’t be long until Fritz misses the entrepreneurial grind that will send him back to Chicago and start businesses such as the beloved restaurants Simply Thalia and Thalia Spice, as well as co- owning the Iridium clothing brand with stores in the Windy City and Atlanta.
These days, Fritz divides his time between the rest of his business ventures, consulting with clients on how to start their own successful companies and imparting his knowledge through daily @fritzlifestyle updates , guestpod casts , speaking engagements and being featured on prominent publications, such as Forbes. Another facet of his life is fitness. Fritz competes as a professional Men’s Physique athlete in the IPE league. He earned his pro card & took the title of Mr. Illinois 2016. He is a Fitness professional, fashion enthusiast, world traveler, opportunity seeker, business developer, influencer, investor, motivator, food lover & lifestyle blogger. Connect with him at (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube) @fritzlifestyle and watch his daily blog of my entrepreneur/fitness lifestyle. Watch his documentary series on youtube: www.youtube.com/c/fritzcolcol.
Nominator: Joe Mauricio
DINO DOLIENTE III, MBA, BSN, RN
Excellence in Nursing Leadership National
“Success is not just about what you accomplish in life; it is about what you inspire others to do, to learn, and to become” is a quote that Dino lives by every day. Federico Mendoza Doliente III, MBA, BSN, RN, fondly called “Dino” by close relatives and friends, hails from Umingan, Pangasinan, Philippines. After graduating Valedictorian at Immaculate Conception High School (ICHS), with the prodding of close relatives, he enrolled at Saint Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City, Philippines and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 1992. He migrated to the United States shortly after college where he started his professional journey as a nursing assistant while working as a crew member at a local McDonalds restaurant in Whiting, New Jersey. Moving to Maryland in 1996, he rose in the ranks, first as a staff nurse, a charge nurse, and finally as a Director of Nursing. However, Dino decided to explore the finance and business side of the healthcare industry and furthered his study with a degree in Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix Maryland Campus in 2005. He eventually landed as the Vice President of Nursing and Patient Care Services at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. All these experiences contributed to his expertise and helped catapult him to his current position as the Divisional Director, Finance and Reimbursement Services Group of Genesis Healthcare Inc. in Orange County, California with a total annual Medicare/Medicaid budget revenue of $700+ Million. Never to rest on his laurels, Dino is currently pursuing a degree in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Leadership and Management Track at Aspen University with an expected date of graduation in September 2020.
Dino’s unique combination of clinical, financial, and organizational leadership background made him a highly respected leader both professionally and personally. He became the 19th President (2016-2018) of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) and his accomplishments in this office was simply par excellence. As President of PNAA, his accomplishments included advocating for labor justice and fairness through the Human Rights Committee by assisting and guiding registered nurses towards agreed fair employment practices. Under his leadership, PNAA provided financial and moral support to a registered nurse who was falsely accused and imprisoned but eventually exonerated. His term’s mantra, “Innovate and Inspire,” reverberated throughout the 50 chapters and was genuinely received and revered by all. He introduced various technological advancements to the association including online membership, online election, and the introduction of the iPNAA Mobile app among others to give members ease and accessibility to the organization and its many services. His passion for community outreach has never been more evident raising funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and for the survivors of the Marawi crisis in the Philippines. He supported and participated in educational seminars and conferences in the United States and in the Philippines with 4 regional conferences, 2 national conventions, and 1 international nursing conference and global summit with unprecedented financial success. In addition, he supported and participated in the “Balik-Turo” Program, wherein subject matter experts from PNAA share knowledge and skills with nurses and nursing students through various colleges, universities, and organizations in the Philippines. Dino’s dynamic ease as a speaker and his genuine inherent ability to inspire has earned him quite a following and makes him one of the most sought-after speakers.
For all these achievements and contributions, Dino received numerous awards and recognition of all kinds from various prestigious groups. To name a few, they are: The 2018 President Leadership Award and The 2017 Most Valuable President (MVP) Award by PNAA; The 2017 Ambassador’s Cup by the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition (PHC), Washington, DC; The 2011 Most Outstanding Citizen of Umingan, Pangasinan by the Umingan Association of North America (UANA), Las Vegas, Nevada; and The 2010 Twenty Most Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (TOFA) by Filipino Image Magazine, Washington, DC among others. Dino’s newest recognition as an awardee of the 2019 Chicago Hall of Fame (CHOF) will indeed add another feather to his already crowded cap. He hopes that this award, like all his other achievements and recognition, will continue to inspire people to become a better version of themselves. After all, success is not just about what you have accomplished but what you have inspired people to become.
Nominator: Elena de Jesus
Phoebe Zerrudo Doruelo RN, BSN, MPH, CRRN
Excellence in Community Leadership
She attended grade school and high school from Sta. Isabel College, Manila. She received her bachelor of science degree from San Juan De Dios College and completed Master in Public Health Community Health Administration and Managed Care from Benedictine University. Her career started at Philippine International Medical Statistics as a medical researcher, Veterans Medical Center in the Pulmonary ICU, sponsored by VA to Critical care training at Philippine Heart Center of Asia together with other nurses all around Asia.
She arrived in USA and worked as a staff nurse at Passaic General Hospital in New Jersey, later relocated to Illinois in 1981, worked at Oak Park Hospital in ICU/CCU as a staff nurse and later Director of ICU telemetry.
With a growing family she moved to Bloomingdale, worked at Central DuPage Hospital as a CCU nurse, took a role of Cardiovascular educator of CCU, Cardiac Catheterization lab and Cardiology outpatient clinic. Her greatest contribution is developing protocol for a new Ultrafiltration procedure for Congestive Heart Failure patients and Hypothermia in Acute heart attack when she headed the development of policy and procedure, training nurses and maintaining competency and QI data that demonstrated efficiency and efficacy.
She transferred to Edward Hines, Jr. Medical Center and worked at Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder as a staff nurse and Clinical Nurse Manager where she was able to get the safe staffing ratio to care for this highly specialized patients. She received a Golden Hand award and Going GREEN for recycables for SCI . Represented the medical team during the National wheelchair games in Anchorage, Alaska. Currently, she is with Geriatric consult team as the Community Living Center Admission Coordinator.
She received awards from PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) for service excellence to Veterans care, Nursing Management award for excellence for Sub acute rehabilitation from Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois and participated in a research study of MRSA (Methacillin Resistance Staph Aureus) Education in Spinal Cord, and was nationally published.
She is married to Sonny, a Mechanical Engineer, and blessed with a son, Lawrence, who’s working at Neurology of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Her yearning for volunteer service came into reality when Chicago Nightingales NFP was established in February 22, 2013 and served as a co-founder for this volunteer organization, where she served as Past President and currently the Advisor. She felt the endeavors are genuine when civic duties are not only done with sincerity but with humble spirit of joy. Intentions were converted to meaningful projects with many warm hearts of volunteers and members working together to help at Feed My Starving Children, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Veterans Stand down for Homeless Veterans in Chicago and Du Page County, Korean Veterans, Greater Chicago Food Depository, PADS (Public Action to Provide Shelter) and Phil’s Friends for Cancer Patients. Her fund raising efforts continue as far as the Philippines, such as the Medical Mission in Nueva Viscaya, Samar, and Don Bosco Boys Town.
She believes in the adage, “To be successful, you must be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Nominator: Gemma Esmalla
ARVIN FLORESCA, CPA, CIA, CISA, CRMA, CGMA
Excellence in Finance and Accounting
Arvin Floresca is the Director of SOX Compliance and Accounting Policies of Anixter, a Fortune 500 company and a leading global distributor of Network and Security solutions, Electrical and Electronic solutions and Utility Power solutions. Arvin is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Internal Auditor, a Certified Information Systems Auditor, and a Certified Global Management Accountant. He also received his Certification in Risk Management Assurance. His areas of expertise are in Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance, Accounting Policies and Procedures, Enterprise Risk Assesment and Management, Business Process Audits and Improvements, and Internal Audits.
Arvin previously held similar global leadership positions in Internal Controls in AbbVie, a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry, and CNH, a world leader in farm machinery and construction equipment. He was also a Manager of Enterprise Risk Services at Deloitte where he worked with clients in the Consumer Business and Manufacturing industries. He was involved in various knowledge management and training course development activities for the firm’s internal audit services. He was also a national instructor for Deloitte US courses.
Arvin started his career as an external auditor at SGV & Co. (then Arthur Andersen Philippines). He has broad experience outside of public accounting, specifically in the Oil and Gas, Retail and Energy industries. He has been an Assistant Treasurer and Accounting & Controls Manager at Shell Philippines Exploration and a project manager for Sarbanes-Oxley 404 compliance at Party City. He has also managed numerous compliance and operational audits of various government and non-profit organizations as an Audit Supervisor in a minority auditing firm in Chicago.
Arvin received his Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from De La Salle University in the Philippines. He is also a Certified Public Accountant in the Philippines.
He is currently involved in various finance and accounting professional not-for profit organizations and the academe. He recently accepted a position as part-time faculty at the Northern Illinois University as an Instructor for the Certified Internal Auditor Review courses. He is also a National Facilitator for the Institute of Internal Auditors in the US.
He was a founding officer and former President of the International Society of Filipinos in Finance and Accounting (ISFFA) – Chicago Chapter. In 2017, he set-up the ISFFA Chicago Floresca CPA Review Scholarship. This scholarship provides funding for deserving accounting students to attend a review school paving their way to become CPAs in the Philippines. The scholarship has funding pledges for 16 students just at its initial launching. There are two recipients currently enrolled at CPAR School in the Philippines, and Arvin is actively involved in fully rolling out the scholarship to provide impact to more students.
Nominator: Maria Fides Balita
Liza is the eldest daughter of Hercules T. Gino and Marietta C. Gino. She grew up in Angono, Rizal, a small town in the Philippines, while going to school at Institution Teresiana with children of many affluent families and vacationed in Lipa, Batangas at her mother’s family home. As a trained equestrienne, she loves jumping horses and dressage. She then graduated from the University of the Philippines and completed her MBA in the US.
She won two titles at the 1982 Bb. Pilipinas; Second Runner-Up and Miss Close Up Smile. As the spokesperson for Close Up Toothpaste, she had her segment in the nationally-televised noontime show, “Eat Bulaga” every week. She then would make guest appearances in shows, namely; Seeing Stars with Joe Quirino, Evening with Elvira Manahan, Student Canteen, to name a few. She also co-hosted Disco Rama with the Apo Hiking Society and Bobby Ledesma. She was conferred the title of Mutya ng Lipa in 1985.
Liza moved to Chicago where she worked as the Public Relations Officer for the Philippine Department of Tourism. For her, the job was more worthwhile because she now was working with the Filipino community. Together with a local community leader, she helped bring the Filipino culture during Sunday schools while in Chicago. As a single parent, Liza embarked on raising her three children by herself in San Francisco. Cognizant that her family’s success was dependent on the kindness and support of her community, she started baking cookies and giving them away as presents every Thanksgiving as a form of expressing gratitude. This led her to open her home business, My Favorite Bite, in 2012. Seven years later, her business is now transitioning into a commercial establishment.
Among Liza’s many talents, she also loves to write. Published in 1975, her first poem appeared in a magazine circulated in the Philippines. She had a column, Children’s Corner, in the magazine named Hoy Magazine, circulated in San Francisco, California in 1996. She recently completed her novel on the Filipina Comfort Women entitled “Imelda’s Secret.”
It was Liza’s wish to write a novel that had a purpose and evoke change. She did not want to write another victim story but one of empowerment. She chose this subject matter and timeline to bring light to women’s plight and elicit a response of support, kindness, and unity. Liza’s purpose was to bring change to make life better and to stand proudly with all women to have strength and courage.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
Excellence in Community Service – National
Born in Malita, Davao del Sur to a schoolteacher and a bank employee, Janette grew up in the countryside until she was six years old when the family moved to Davao City. Even in her younger days, she has shown leadership in the community services. Janette is the first and full scholar of Allied Bank for four years at the Ateneo de Davao University where she earned her Accounting degree. She also earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) and law degree in the Philippines. She was a legal researcher for the Supreme Court of the Philippines before moving to America.
Janette moved to America in 2001 and started a job in the insurance industry while teaching college for fourth-year business students at the Buenavista University of Iowa. In 2007, Janette moved from Iowa to Wisconsin because of a job offer that later turned into a managerial position. It is in Wisconsin that Janette further spread her wings. She has been the President for the Philippine-American Association of Madison and Neighboring Areas (PAMANA) for two terms— in 2012 and in 2018. It was during her term that they did the first Philippine cultural fashion show that earned an excellent review. It was also during her first term that the club’s scholarship program had started. It was in her 2018 term that all the club’s projects earned most dollar-wise.
Janette was also the President of Summit Seekers Toastmasters that earned the club the first Distinguished Club Award. She earned her Competent Communicator designation with Toastmasters and continues working to earn more designations. Janette is very active in community services especially her advocacy to protect women’s rights and to protect victims in any form of harassment. She is invited by other organizations in the community to speak in public to promote this advocacy.
She currently is a member of the Zonta International of Madison that protects women’s right and has been the club’s secretary. She is an Ambassador and Community Response Advocate of DAIS or Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. She is also an active member of Wisconsin Women of Color (WWOC).
One of Janette’s most memorable experience is flying back to the Philippines to show support of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims. She went back to the Philippines for two months. She has been to more than three islands of Iloilo to be with the homeless victims distributing disaster goods and boats for their livelihood. The experience was very overwhelming.
Currently, Janette is doing well careerwise, having been a manager and a senior business analyst in the insurance industry. She is currently the Subrogation Director for Rural Mutual. She earned four insurance designations.
Janette is supported by her loving husband, Tim, and only child, a son, Jai, who is now a senior student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
KENNETH A. MAYUGA, M.D.
Excellence in Medicine
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Dr Mayuga attended college at Northwestern University in Evanston as a National Merit Scholar and graduated in 3 years, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, where he was a James Scholar in the Honors program for research and independent study. He completed his 3-year Residency training in Internal Medicine at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a 3-year Cardiology Fellowship at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California. He then returned to Cleveland Clinic to complete a 2-year Advanced Fellowship in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology where he received the Excellence in Medical Education Award as well as the Syncope Award for research.
He was named to the Cleveland Clinic medical staff in 2014.
Dr. Mayuga also holds an academic appointment in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Mayuga is actively involved in medical research and is the Associate Director of the Syncope Center.
Dr. Mayuga has published numerous articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has authored several chapters in medical textbooks. He has presented original scientific research at numerous national and international medical conferences and is frequently an invited guest speaker. He is a reviewer for several top-tier Cardiology journals and in 2019 received the Gold Reviewer Award from the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. Dr. Mayuga has been designated a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society.
* U.S. News and World Report Best Hospital rankings 2019
Nominator: Joe Mauricio
Excellence in Political Empowerment
Rey Nonato was born in Bacolod City, Philippines. It was the fall of 1982 that he arrived in Chicago, the city that he really loves for its different ethnic cultures, multidiversity, and its four seasons.
The start of his political involvement in the city of Chicago was in 2009,when he met the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Dorothy Brown, who wanted to enter the race for Cook County Board President. Ms. Brown offered him a position in her campaign as her Asian Community Outreach person. Though his rookie year in the campaign trail was not easy, he learned fast in navigating the rough landscape of Chicago county politics. A fast learner in the campaign trails, he found exciting his campaign activities doing fundraising, setting up meeting events, and even driving Dorothy Brown to her meetings, acting as her personal assistant.
The sad result of losing this election did not dampen Nonato’s spirits to pursue further his political involvement. Soon after, he received a call from the Republican candidate for Attorney General who hired him as his statewide outreach coordinator, where he met all the big names in the GOP ticket. In 2012, he set up his political consultancy business handling eight judicial clients, serving as a campaign manager to one. Seven out of the eight candidates were declared winners, all serving currently as judges and two in Appellate Court.
His biggest break as a political player happened on June 7, 2017, after undergoing a pacemaker procedure. While in the hospital, he received a surprise visitor in the person of Claude Porter, Interfaith Illinois Chairman. Bishop Porter briefly told him to get well soon as he was going to be introduced to J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, who was running for governor seat in Illinois. He was given the tasks of organizing meet-and-greet events and meetings for many diverse ethnic groups, a great and exhilarating experience for him for working for someone who was declared the new Governor of Illinois.
For his great work, Bishop Porter rewarded him by appointing him as his Director of Diversity Affairs, the first appointment to a non-African and non-pastor in their organization that comes with involvement in decisionmaking in politics and business.
He is currently the Political Director of Justice Jesse Reyes who is running for Illinois Supreme Court Judge for the upcoming March 2020 election, concurrently serving in Justice Reyes’ steering committee.
Rey Nonato states regarding his political involvement in the local, county and state politics, “I am proud to be a Filipino,leading our community to political empowerment. By the grace of God, with the support of my loving wife, Cristina, children Mark & Don,friends and the Filipino community, I will always carry myself with respect, dignity and honesty, and I will do my best to inspire our young generations of Filipino Americans to be more active and participate in the political arena. I have proven to you that if I can do it, yes, you can do it, too!”
His awards include: Asian American Heritage Award from Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown (May 26, 2011); Congressman Danny Davis (7th District) Appreciation Award (Dec 29, 2011); Asian American Coalition of Chicago Appreciation Award (May 20, 2012). Rey Nonato finished his Bachelor of Science in Management and Marketing from De La Salle College, Bacolod City, now St. La Salle University, in 1977. He is blessed with a devoted partner in life, the former Cristina Pineda,and two wonderful sons, Marc Anthony, a project manager for Sellen Construction in Seattle, Washington, and Don Ferrari,who works for Las Vegas Mountainview Hospital, specializing in cardiac and pulmonary rehab. He graduated summa cum laude from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and later earned a master’s degree in Health and Sciences in Cardiac And Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
DOUG M. NGUYEN
Outstanding Asian American
Doug M. Nguyen is the Regional Communications Director for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) six-state Chicago Region. Doug began his SSA career in 1994 as a Bilingual Claims Representative and served as a Public Affairs Specialist for the Chicago Metro area.
Doug was born in Vietnam and escaped from Saigon with his mother and sister in the last days of the war. His father, a South Vietnamese army officer, had been a casualty of the war. Mr. Nguyen grew up in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and graduated from college in Oklahoma. Doug holds M.A. Degrees in Communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Missiology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a Mentor with the C.S. Lewis Institute in Chicago.
Doug is an alumnus of SSA’s Advanced and Operations Leadership Programs in which he held assignments in multiple crosscomponents, including the Office of the Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge, the Great Lakes Processing Center, the Office of Systems, and the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs.
Since 2013 Doug has served as the Lead for the Regional Network of the White House Initiative for Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). From 1994-2015, Doug served as a board member and volunteer mentor for Exodus World Service, an agency which mobilizes volunteers to help refugees resettle in the U.S.
He was a Cultural Competency Trainer for the Asian Health Coalition of Illinois, a health advocacy organization, from 2002 through 2005. From 1999 through 2005 Doug also served on the board of the former Asian American Institute, a non-profit organization which empowers the AAPI community through advocacy and education.
Doug is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Asian American Coalition of Chicago (AACC) and served as the AACC’s 2013 Chairperson. He was a previous recipient of the Coalition’s community service award in 1999. He also served on the Asian American Advisory Councils for the Illinois Secretary of State and the Social Security Administration.
Doug has received numerous federal awards, including the Social Security Administration’s 2017 Acting Commissioner’s Citation for Diversity and Inclusion, and he was the recipient of the Chicago Federal Executive Board’s 2010 Employee of the Year Award for Outstanding Community Service.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
HON. MARIA PAPPAS
Cook County Treasurer Friend of the Filipino
Maria Pappas has been Treasurer of Cook County, Illinois, since 1998. Elected after serving eight years as a Cook County commissioner, Pappas found an antiquated office with $30 million in uncashed checks in trays piled on the floor. She deposited the checks and immediately began remaking the office. She hasn’t stopped.
Cook County has one of the world’s largest economies, 5.2 million people and the nation’s third-largest city, Chicago. The Treasurer’s Office handles $18 billion a year, almost $13 billion in property taxes on almost 1.8 million parcels of property (homes, businesses, land). The revenues then go to 2,200 local government agencies such as municipalities and school districts that tax properties. It has to be done right and it has to be done fast. The Treasurer’s Office today does it righter and faster than ever.
Pappas took an office that had four working computers in 1998 and brought it to the forefront of efficiency and service by embracing technology. Networked computers integrate collections, deposits, earnings, distributions, refunds and other major functions . Her website , cookcountytreasurer.com, can get a million visits a month. Her Debt Disclosure Ordinance (DDO), an unprecedented step for transparency in government, lets taxpayers to see how much their local governments are taxing them and how much they owe.
A lawyer and psychologist, this granddaughter of Cretan immigrants was born June 7, 1949, in Warwood, West Virginia, a town of 2,000 near Wheeling. As a child, she studied the Greek language and music. She played the electronic pipe organ, directed the choir and traveled around the country with the all-state band as bass clarinetist. As a drum majorette, she won nine gold medals in batontwirling competitions.
She earned a degree in Sociology from West Liberty State College (now University), in West Liberty, West Virginia; a degree in Guidance and Counseling at West Virginia University in Morgantown; a doctorate in Counseling and Psychology at Loyola University of Chicago; and a law degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Pappas has taught psychology and family relations across the United States and in eight European countries and Israel.
In Chicago, she worked in Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens, where she managed a program to keep young people free of drugs. This led to visits to prisons, then to law school and then to public service. As Treasurer, she has greeted foreign delegations who want to see how she does what she does, including cutting staff from 250 to 86.5. She has shown China how to develop a property tax system and to network hospitals, and discussed criminal justice, property taxes and automation with Greece.
Among her goals is to make her office completely paperless. Maria Pappas is working on it.
Nominator: Elsie Sy-Niebar
DRS. FERDINAND & EVELYN RAMOS and FAMILY
Dr. Ferdie Ramos was born in San Fernando, La Union, Philippines from hardworking parents Benjamin Tuvera Ramos and Adelina Marzan Ramos who instilled the value of education to their twelve children who all turned out successful professionals..”Dr. Ferdie” graduated Valedictorian from elementary and high school, and Cum Laude in Bachelor of Science in Medical technology and Bene Meritus in Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. He met his future wife, Dr. Evelyn Santos, in their 4th year of medical school during their community service rotation and internship at the Santo Tomas University Hospital. After graduation, Dr. Evelyn went to New York while he decided to go to Toronto, Canada.They were reunited at the City Hospital Center in Elmhurst, New York where they got married in Flushing, NY in early 1985.
They practiced in three hospitals in Illinois and moved to St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point, Indiana in 1993, where Dr. Evelyn became the Co Director in Anesthesia until both of them joined a national anesthesia group, Northstar Anesthesia. Dr. Ferdie started the pain Clinic at St. Anthony Hospital – the Regional Pain Center in 1997-1998 and in 2002, he joined the Unity Healthcare, LLC, and worked in four hospitals and in two surgical centers in Indiana.. Dr. Ferdie became an Interventional Pain Specialist, who manages pain with non-opioid and opioid medications, and had given lectures on how to manage pain safely and responsibly. He gave lecture on July 2-6, 2019 in Washington DC at the USTMAAA Annual Convention, and was inducted as President Elect of the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association in America.
In spite of their busy anesthesia and pain practice, they find time to be active in social and community activities. They joined Couples for Christ and started a Gawad Kalinga Village in Acao Bauang, La Union. In 2002, they co founded the Northwest Indiana Medical Mission Group. They had eight Medical Missions accomplished in the Philippines with the Philippine Medical Association of Chicago/ USTMAAA, ABS-CBN Compound, Quezon City, with Hospital On Wheels with Dr. Jim Sanchez.In 2018, the Northwest Medical Mission Group joined the Inauguration of the Hospital On Wheels new modern environmental friendly surgical Bus. Dr. Jim Sanchez, Founder of Hospital on Wheels, have joined the Northwest Indiana Mission Group since their initial mission and joined all their subsequent missions since he is a friend and classmate of Dr. Ferdie and Dr. Evelyn at University of Santo Tomas School of Medicine. Dr. Ferdie has been president of various medical associations: 2002- 2003 Philippine Professionals Association, 2003-2004 Indiana Philippine Medical Association, 2010-2014 Titans USA, 2015-2016 Asian American Medical Association, 2018-2019 Friends Who Care – Hospital On Wheels – Board Director, 2018-2019 Titans USA Scholarship Committee – Adviser, 2019-2020 University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association in America – President-Elect. Dr. Evelyn was also President of Asian American Medical Association in the past.
Dr. Ferdie has received numerous awards. From Philippine Professionals Association: 2002 Meritorious Service Award, 2003 Leadership Award, 2011 Achievement Award, 2014 Distinguished Service Award, 2018 Humanitarian Award. From Indiana Philippine Medical Association: 2004 Exemplary Service Award, 2007 Physician of the Year Award, from Titans Philippines: 2007 Titan Order of Merit Award, 2018 Titan 50th Anniversary Awardee, Titans USA: 2013 Leadership Award, Community service Award, From Consumer Research Group: 2008 Top Anesthesiologist – Pain Physician; From Governor Joseph Kernan, Indiana, USA: 2003 Sagamore Wabash Award, the highest award given to a citizen in Indiana; From Governor Victor Ortega La Union Philippines: Saranay Award, the highest award given to a citizen in La Union. From University of Santo Tomas: 2012 Plaque of Recognition Award from University of Santo Tomas.From Asian American Medical Association: 2015 Leadership award, From Santo Tomas University Alumni association in America: 2010 Most Outstanding Silver Jubilarian, 2015 Most Outstanding Coral Jubilarian,
They are blessed with three sons and a daughter. Their eldest son, Dr. Jonathan is a caring and compassionate Family Medicine physician practicing in St. John, Indiana. He is married to Dr. Joanne Niere Ramos a very loving and caring Family Medicine and Geriatric Medicine physician practicing in Scherrerville, Indiana. Dr. Jon and Dr. Joanne are also blessed a with a 2- year-old son who is expecting a brother in 4 months. Paul is their second son who is a tech enthusiast who got a degree Bachelor of Science in Informatics at Indiana University. He is currently a Telehealth Senior Consultant with Booz- Allen Hamilton. Andrew, the third son, is a nature lover who got a degree Bachelor Of Social Work at Indiana University and accepted to pursue Masters Program at Indiana University. Rachel, the only daughter, is very kind with a pleasant personality, got a degree Bachelor of Business Administration, Major in Marketing , Minor in Biology at St Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. She is currently Student Affairs Coordinator at Notre Dame University. She was recently got accepted to an accelerated program in Nursing in Valparaiso University next school year.
Nominator: Elena de Jesus
H.E. AMBASSADOR JOSE MANUEL ROMUALDEZ
Excellence in Public Service – International
Jose Manuel “Babe” del Gallego Romualdez was appointed Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United States of America in July 2017 by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. On 29 November 2017, he presented his credentials to US President Donald J. Trump and formally assumed office as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Additionally, as the head of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Romualdez is concurrently the Philippines’ emissary to the Commonwealth of Jamaica, Republic of Haiti; Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Dominica; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and Saint Lucia.
Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Romualdez was designated as a special envoy of the Philippine President to the United States. He also served as a member of several Philippine business delegations visiting the United States, China, Japan and New Zealand from 1989 to 2012.
Ambassador Romualdez has extensive experience as a media practitioner and business executive. He used to be the Chief Executive Officer of Stargate Media Corporation and Publisher of People Asia Magazine (The Philippine Star affiliate). He was president of the Manila Overseas Press Club and vice-president of Rotary Club of Manila.
Ambassador Romualdez writes columns for The Philippine Star. All his columns have a wide following of readers both in the Philippines and abroad.
Born and raised in Manila, Ambassador Romualdez received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from De La Salle College in 1970. An avid golfer, he is affiliated with Manila Golf and Country Club and the Manila Polo Club.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
ALMAN HECTOR E. RUIZ, JR.
Excellence in Technology
Al Ruiz has been one of the longtime ViaTimes staff members since its start in 1984 as VT’s computer tech and consultant. Through the years, he has worked as a public servant, technology visionary, organization strategist, corporate capitalist, computer geek, and a motorcycle enthusiast, showing his passion for life’s adventures. He is a product of Ateneo De Manila, University of Santo Tomas, and DeVry Institute (now a University with branches around the U.S.). With twenty five years in Public Sector Technology, he served the Cook County, City of Chicago, US Department of Energy, and State of Illinois, working on several positions.
As Systems Analyst with Cook County IT, he developed the jury selection process and the automation of the law library, and Sheriff’s Child Death investigation.
As Principal Systems Engineer with the Chicago Police Department, he developed the design of the Chicago 911’s Data Center, and created the Network Management Center which supports all technologies at the 911 center
As Chief Network Architect with the City of Chicago’s IT Department, he led the transformation of the City’s infrastructure, including the migration mainframe to client server, creation of the City’s Fiber Optic Ring, the adaption of mobile computing, the tracking of municipal vehicles, creation of municipal WiFi, and the video streaming of City Council meetings.
As Managing Deputy Director with the Office of Emergency Management and Communication, he reorganized the technical department to be able to absorb and expand the integration of incoming volume of public safety video feed, implemented OEMC’s public alert system, upgraded the original network fabric and cybersecurity network, and initiated the upgrade of OEMC Public Safety Radio from analog to digital P25
As Deputy Director Strategic Initiative with the Illinois Tollway Authority, he led the migration and design of a new Enterprise Resource Planning software and led the research of tollway traffic mobile application.
Currently working as Deputy Director of IT with The Chicago Park District, he maintains, supports, improves, and innovates the largest municipal park of the nation with 591 Parks, 28 indoor pools, 50 outdoor pools, and 26 miles of lakefront including 23 swimming beaches plus one inland beach, 10 boat harbors, 6000 boat slips, 8 golf courses, offers thousands of sports and physical activities as well as cultural and environmental programs for youth, adults, and seniors. He is a member of the Ateneo de Manila Alumni in Chicago, Chicago Region BMW club, International Children’s Variety Club, Chicago Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Aerestate Group of Companies, and Lorenzo Ruiz Society. He is a proud parent of Loyola University Chicago alumnus. He lives in St. Ignatius’s life in honor, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”.
For his relaxing pastime, he is proud of his practicing skills in culinary art specializing in grilled barbeque ribs, blackened salmon, paella valenciana, home-made lasagna, spagheti, and fresh shrimp and crab salad.
Al and his family are residents of Wrigleyville. Proud of his roots and his family, he is the son of philanthropist surgeon, Dr. Hector S Ruiz, M.D. and Lourdes Eviota Ruiz, brother of Dr Jo-Ann Ruiz, MD, Illinois Masonic Director, husband of Rosanna Lonoza Ruiz (Salon Professional/Entrepreneur), father of Alexander Ruiz, MBA, Aaron Ruiz, IBEW, and Adam Hector Ruiz, III – a Medical Student.
Nominator: Joe Mauricio
ATTY. CAROLINA Y. SALES
Excellence in Law
Carolina Y. Sales is a partner at Lakelaw, where she concentrates her practice on commercial litigation, business workouts, and reorganizations. She was recognized by the Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers’ Division as an Emerging Lawyer for 2019. Ms. Sales has been a board member and a general member of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago since 2012, when the group actively revived its membership. She is treasurer of the Diversity Scholarship Foundation, NFP, a not-for-profit organization that provides scholarships to diverse and deserving law students and provides free continuing legal education seminars on a wide range of topics. In April 2019, Ms. Sales was elected to serve a four-year term on the Park Ridge-Niles District 64 School Board.
In addition , Ms . Salesis the membership chair of the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC) Chicago Network and a member of the Lawyers’ Auxiliary Committee of the Illinois Judges Foundation. She is a director of the League of Women Voters of Park Ridge and volunteered for the Elder Law and Wellness Initiative (ELWI), a non-profit organization that provides legal assistance to people over 60 years old.
In 2005, Ms. Sales obtained her juris doctor (J.D.) cum laude from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. During law school, Ms. Sales was a lead articles editor for the John Marshall Law Review and received a Distinguished Scholar Award. She worked as an extern in the Circuit Court of Cook County for various judges hearing foreclosure cases and later conducted training sessions for new judicial externs. She received an master of laws (LL.M.) in real estate law, with honors, in 2010.
Prior to law school, Ms. Sales graduated cum laude from the Marquette University Honors Program in 2002, where she majored in English literature and philosophy. She was president of the local chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the honor society in philosophy and a member of various organizations, including the Bayanihan Student Organization (a group that aims to educate the community about Filipino culture), Students for a Politically Active Marquette, and Amnesty International.
Ms. Sales lives in Park Ridge with her husband, six-year-old daughter, and eightyear- old son. She looks forward to continuing to serve her community.
Nominator: Attorney Winnalynn Kantari
VIA Woman of the Year 2019
She is also a graduate of the famous Everlyn Echols School of Travel in Chicago, and worked as a Travel Consultant for five years, before opening her own travel business named Concorde Travel in Chicago. She loves to travel and enjoys fine dining, and her exciting life and lifestyle is full of adventures traveling around the world.
Having been an active member of the Chicago Philippine Lions Club for many years, she is currently serving as the Club President for the third time. Her Spirit of Lionism extends to volunteering in various service activities, and she is currently an active member of the Region Chair of the District 1-A Lions.
Her other community activity and volunteerism are dedicated to the Philippine Independence Week where she served as the Overall Chairperson in 2012. Having been an active member for the past 15 years, she coordinates the annual PIWC Cultural downtown luncheon fashion show in Daley Center Plaza. Other community organizations she has been involved in include: Filipino International Couples Society and Bicol USA.
A native of Legaspi City, province of Bicol, Brenda is happily married to Michael Stevens from England, who owns American Nameplate Company. They are both blessed with eight grandchildren.
Nominator: Veronica Leighton
LEANDRO “LINDY” PAUNLAGUI TAN
Community Service Leadership
Born in Manila, Philippines to Esmeraldo Molina Tan and the late Elenita Paunlagui Tan, he grew up in Calamba, Laguna, until when he and his family immigrated to the United States when he was in first-grade. His mother’s family is related to the national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal. His mother was a film actress under the screen name of Elena Razon of Tagalog Ilang Ilang Productions in the Philippines, appearing with film luminaries, such as Fernando Poe, Jr., Jun Aristorenas, Amalia Fuentes, Jean Lopez, Dolphy and countless others. He has one older sister, Leah Tan Montoya.
He was a consistent honor student during his elementary and high school years, and graduated from DeVry Institute of Technology with a degree in Business Administration (1994). He is currently employed at AMITA St. Alexius Medical Center, in the Health Information Management Department as an Associate Tech and Data Analyst. He has just celebrated 10 years of employment in 2018. He has worked at Holy Family Medical Center, Northwest Community Hospital, and Alexian Brothers Medical Center.
For his community involvement and leadership, Lindy first joined the Manila-Franklin Park Lions Club in 1996, then transferred to the Chicago Fil-USA Lions Club, where he became president from 2011-2012. Under his term, the club has donated a magnifier reading machine to Budlong Library in Chicago and participated in the Medical/Dental Mission in Pampanga, Philippines, distributing and handing old used eyeglasses to various charity organizations. His club was selected to participate in a video promoting the candidacy of Past District 1-A Governor Steve Anton for Director of Lions Clubs International. The theme was GO STEVE GO, using the Cubs instrumental theme song as the background music, shot in downtown Chicago under his direction and choreography.
When Lindy was president of the Laguna Association of the Midwest from 2015-2016, the organization participated for the first time in the PMAC’s Philippine Medical Mission held in his home province of Laguna; in three towns, namely Calamba, Los Banos and Bay. The mission was headed by his relative cousin, Dr. Ramon Lopez. His club also gave monetary donations to the local churches, schools, hospitals, and some of the lessfortunate indigents of Laguna. Both Lindy and his departed mother were inseparable performing community services, for the Filipino community and/or Lions Club. When his mother, the late Ellen Tan, became the chairperson of the Philippine Independence Week 2015 Celebration (PIWC), Lindy served as her righthand man, as well as her corresponding secretary. He has been involved in the PIWC since 2000. He has chaired various committees such as: Kick- OFF, Memorabilia, Rigodon De Honor, Raffles, Appreciation Nite and, this year, the Souvenir Program Book. Lindy is also a member of the Calamba Association of Illinois and the JDC Rainbow Foundation.
The community service awards he has received include: Laguna Association. of the Midwest, Inc. Presidential Award, Chicago Fil-USA Lions Club Presidential Award, Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow Award from the Lions Club International, PIWC Appreciation Awards, VDance Fever “ Ginoo ” ( King of V danc e ) , P M A C Appreciation Award for the Medical Mission, and in 2017, the Asian Chronicle USA “Asian Exemplary Civic Service Award”.
Lindy loves to attend events for worthy causes. His hobby is dancing, and he has a massive collection of Euro Dance CD music. Lindy’s philosophy in life is ”Two things define you, your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything. Be who you are!”
Nominator: Chaz Patron
LUISITA DONA THOMPSON
Community Service Leadership and Public Service – National
Outstanding leadership, passionate volunteer spirit, and a strong sense of community involvement are a few, but important traits of Luisita Dona Thompson. Popularly called by friends as “Dona,” she brings pride to fellow Fil-Ams in Iowa because of her advocacies for diversity and building a strong community.
Born and raised in Pangasinan, Philippines, she grew up exposed to leadership at a very young age. She recalls, “I served as a chairman of a youth program at 15 years old. Without a doubt, there was a joy in my heart, and an unexplainable self-fulfillment by working with numerous Barangay Captains and City Councils in achieving accomplishments of projects that benefit the community.” Dona’s humble beginnings in the leadership arena had surely paved her way to become a passionate and inspiring leader.
Dona founded the Filipino American Society (FAS) in 2013, located in Iowa, and currently serves as the organization’s Executive Chairman of the Board. FAS’s primary goal is to reach other Filipinos in the community and help integrate them into the Iowa communities. In 2015, Dona was also a founding member of the widely known Asian & Latino Coalition located in central Iowa which is a political action committee (PAC) and has hosted over 19 democratic presidential candidates during the 2020 election alone. In addition to hosting presidential candidates, the PAC is heavily involved in endorsing many of the state and local level legislators. Dona’s primarily role with the organization is as its Treasurer.
Her previous affiliations with other community organizations include: member of Board of Directors of Saint Charles Community Foundation (SCCF); Public Relations Officer, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA); Co-Chairman of the Board, Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (MUAWI); and member, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Dona’s life experiences gave her so much strength to endure the many challenges in her journey. Upon completing her high school studies, she took courses in the Midwifery program at the Great Pleabian College in Alaminos, Pangasinan. Realizing that this was not her passion, she decided to leave school and moved to Manila to work for a private transportation company. In 1997, she made a life-changing decision to leave the Philippines and accepted a contracted job in Hong Kong. While living abroad, Dona continued to explore other avenues to acquire skills by taking a computer programming course. When she graduated, she was hired as a Merchandiser for Topet Far East Import/Export Company. Following her career opportunity in Hong Kong, she moved to the United States. She has already lived here in the U.S. for over 15 years with her son, Kenneth.
Building a home and finding a job were two major goals that Dona started working when she first came to the United States. She made a lot of adjustments and built lasting relationships with everyone around her. She volunteered in organizations, while actively looking for a job. From retail to managerial positions, she eventually found her desired employment within the State of Iowa. Dona is a Retirement Compliance Officer at the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). For thirteen years now, she has been helping employers in Iowa’s largest retirement services to implement retirement coverage that is in compliance with the State’s rules and regulations.
She attended Drake University for two years and she is now a Certified Public Manager. Dona is also an experienced hotel restaurant manager and wedding planner. She began her own business, Ideal Elegance LLC, in 2018 to begin branching into the field that she’s most passionate about: weddings and event planning. When she is off from work, she gets involved organizing community events and spending valuable time with her family and loved ones, including her significant other, Lawrence McBurney and Maltese puppy, Sophia. Most of her free time this year has been spent in support of Lawrence’s run for public office as City Councilman for Urbandale, IA.
Dona highlighted her love for philanthropy after being awarded the 2017 Gintong Pamana National Prism Award for Women of Style & Achievements. For right now, Dona feels that there is more to do to help our community. She leaves everyone this message, “We hope to continue to grow, make a difference, and bring people together to better build a much stronger community!
Nominator: Ryan Tejero
Excellence in Entertainment
The legendary singing star of Manila and Chicago, Marilou Ventura, was born Maria Luisa T. Ventura, in 1951 in Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines. She was born with a natural timbre of a singer by the time she made her first powerful cry as a baby.
At a very young age of seven, she started appearing and singing in the popular shows, “Eskwelahang Munti” in DZBB Television, co-hosted by Tino Lapuz and “La Tondena Production Show, owned by Lou Salvador, Sr. She had also performed in the first and only Manila’s entertainment theatre, the Clover Theatre, from 1959 to 1961. Of course, this is not even counting her countless participation in many fiesta town singing contests where she won all kinds of prizes that she brought home at such a very young age to her parents’ satisfaction.
She started making waves as a topnotch singer of the Philippines when she appeared in “Tayo Maghappy-Happy”, a popular noon show co-hosted by renowned actress Jean Lopez; followed by several singing engagements in Manila Grand Opera House and other popular Manila establishments, such as Luisa and Sons Restaurant, Alex Soda Fountain, Roxan Restaurant, Sariling Atin Restaurant, Gabriel Restaurant and Lounge, Carbungco Restaurant & Lounge in Quezon City, and the Horizon Lounge in Makati, and other popular night spots like Bayside, Niles, Amihan and Sheraton.
She had shared with other foreign Asian countries her sensational singing voice when she visited Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan, Taipei, Hong Kong and South Vietnam, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Toronto, Canada, before she moved to the United States in the1970’s.
Her magical appearances and performances in several Chicago entertainment establishments and as a soloist for famous Philippine band like “Moses and the Highbrows” and “Manila Express” earned her the title of “Chicago’s Filipina Diva”. She also made a great imprint in her singing career singing in Chicago establishments and lounges like the Mabuhay Restaurant, Fountain Blue Restaurant, Moulin Rouge, Noodles Restaurant & Lounge, Wellington Restaurant & Lounge, Nick’s Lounge, Mundelein’s Dover Straits and Calo’s Restaurant.
Nominator: Louella Cabalona
RIZALDY “RIZ” VILLASEÑOR
VIA Man of the Year 2019
A consistent honor student, Riz graduated Valedictorian of his high school class and earned his Economics degree as a full ASF Scholar from the Ateneo De Manila University. While working full time in an investment firm in Makati in his first job after college, he simultaneously pursued his MBA from the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Master of Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. A very active youth and student leader, he was President of his high school student council, editor of their school paper, and was elected as Boy Governor of Marinduque during the Youth Week in his junior year in high school. He was elected as President of the Kabataang Barangay for the province of Marinduque and later as Region IV (Southern Luzon) Kabataang Barangay sectoral youth representative to the Batasang Bayan, the National Legislative Advisory Council which was presided by then President Ferdinand Marcos. As Batasang Bayan’s youngest member at age 17, he earned the title of Benjamin of The House and introduced legislation to institutionalize youth representation in the country’s barangays, municipal and provincial councils. The Philippines has now the youth representation through the Kabataang Barangay’s successor, the SK or Sangguniang Kabataan or Youth Council. As Member of the Batasang Bayan, he also represented the Philippines in several diplomatic missions, notably as member of the 5-man Philippine delegation to the ASEAN Interparliamentary Conference in Tokyo, Japan. His extra-curricular activities as a student leader took him to youth conferences in Prague, Berlin and Moscow and US Cultural Affairs sponsored trips to the United States while still a college student in the Philippines. At the age of 20, he published his first book on Philippine Barangay laws, a guidebook for newly elected officials of the barangays or village councils.
With just one luggage and an iron determination to succeed, Riz migrated and moved to the United States in his early 20’s and started careers in sales, real estate and Information Technology. As destiny would have it, he reunited and married his long-time girlfriend from the Philippines – Marilou Montero from Manila and Albay province. Riz and Marilou now have 2 kids – Rimar, 30 who lives in New York and works as Lead Designer in New York Times and Mariz, 26 a Communications Disorder graduate and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Speech Therapy. With the challenge of starting a new life in a foreign land and adjusting to a new culture and environment, Riz parlayed his experience in youth leadership and politics back home into a successful Real Estate career in Los Angeles area. After several years in Sales and Marketing, he switched careers and got attracted to the IT profession where he also quickly rose from the ranks becoming a Data Center Manager of a large nuclear-pharmaceutical company in Woodland Hills, California. His company later was acquired by Cardinal Health, a 136-billiondollar conglomerate and Riz was offered to relocate to their corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ohio to head the company’s IT PMO (Program Management Office). While working in Ohio, Riz also earned his PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification which he keeps current to date.
In 2009, Riz relocated to Chicagoland and together with his partners Philip Castillo, Anthony Ocampo and Jaye Michael Chan founded MedPro Health Providers, a home health company based in Tinley Park. To this date, Riz and his partners are still a strong and close team working together and running the company’s operations. Riz says that the secret to their phenomenal and lasting partnership lies in the 3 basic principles that bind them together – Trust, Accountability and Transparency. They also believe that any company or organization must be founded on solid values that define who they are as individuals and as a company. Every Monday, in his regular staff meetings, Riz reiterates MedPro’s core EPIC values – Ethical, People-Driven, Innovative and Compassionate. Riz believes that these People-Driven, Innovative and Compassionate. Riz believes that these values should remain constant over time as they form the solid core and the fabric that weaves into the company’s culture. Such strong culture was validated by no less than the illustrious Chicago Tribune, which named MedPro as the number 1 Top Workplace vesting over 800 companies and the only Filipino-owned company to win that distinction. Even with the challenges of a highly regulated industry in home health, Riz and his partners continue their CSR projects for the communities that they serve like MedPro’s “Growing Up Clinic” (a program to educate kids on bullying, peer pressure, procrastination, social media), Summer Day Care, Bring Your Parents to Work Day, 5K Run for Colon Cancer and Feed The Hungry programs. Riz is a sought-after speaker in conferences in the home health industry, sharing MedPro’s experiences, marketing strategies and pioneering efforts to navigate their industry’s challenges. Riz and his partners also founded 2 years ago, another healthcare company AidPro Health Providers which provides custodial care to the senior population in Chicagoland area.
Riz is a practitioner of servant leadership – a leader whose main goal is to serve, shares power and puts needs of employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. A passionate cook, Riz to this day still personally cooks for his staff every week and even personally cooks for over 120 homeless folks for their Feed the Hungry program. He took his passion for cooking to another level by opening Sandok N Palayok, an ethnic Filipino restaurant that introduced to Chicagoland the Boodle Fight or Kamayan as a mainstream dining experience. Patrons from even other states come to feast and eat with their hands kamayan-style on a table-size wooden tray of assorted dishes on banana leaves that is brought with fanfare into the dining area on a Sandok jeepney. The following year they also opened Sandok Bakery next door, offering traditional Filipino baked goodies and cakes. You’ll find Riz, his partners and their spouses during the week in their healthcare companies, and you’ll find them during the weekend in their restaurant Sandok N Palayok, cooking and entertaining customers while singing karaoke songs.
Nominator: Joe Mauricio