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Alpha Females of Our Community


By: Joe Mauricio


International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th every year is the focal point in the movement for women’s rights. It is a civil awareness day, anti-sexism day, and anti-discrimination day, for women and girls.

This is the day when every woman should celebrate her success, for women who are fighting bravely not only for survival, but also against violence, inequality, and human trafficking.

Here in the Filipino American community of Chicago, we would like to highlight the roles of some of our women of Filipino heritage who have impacted the community and the mainstream society at-large. In the midst of racism and inequality issues, these ethnic women have created opportunities for themselves. They inspire others to overcome obstacles they face in life. They have the strength of an eagle and can soar as high, or higher.

Let me just name a few, as this column space is not enough to accommodate many of them. Meet our community’s ALPHA FEMALES, self-assured, independent, inspirational and strong women. Not included in the list is our publisher, Veronica Leighton, as her feature story can be read on page 5 of this issue.

Attorney Aurora Abella- Austriaco is a Shareholder at Valentine Austriaco and Bueschel P.C., an all women-owned law firm. She served as past President of the Chicago Bar Association, one of the largest and oldest metropolitan bar associations in the country with over 22,000 attorney members and served on the board of the Chicago Bar Foundation. She served as Chair of the 35th annual Lunar celebration of the most-recently concluded Asian American Coalition of Chicago, hosted by the Filipino-American community this year.She was Via Times’cover feature in February 2019 issue.

Lourdes Mon worked as a school principal of Catholic schools for many years before retirement; been a very active community leader in the Filipino American community of Chicago since time immemorial… served as president of Chicago Philippine Lions Club twice, overall chair of the Philippine Independence Week Committee 2018, executive producer of Asian Chronicle, board president of the Asian American Coalition of Chicago. She was awarded the Excellence in Community Service award in the 1990’s from the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame.

Consul General Gina Jamoralin – the current new Philippine Consul General in Chicago is a doctor of economics, a graduate of the University of the Philippines. She served as the immediate past President of the Consular Dean of Hawaii (her diplomatic post before her Chicago assignment). She is proving herself to be an effective Consul General to serve Chicago, with some innovative projects for the Filipino American community of Chicago.

Edith Mijares Ardiente, ME, PE, QEP, is a retired Vice President, Environmental and Energy Affairs at Navistar International Corporation, the top environmental officer of the company. She was founding president of the University of San Agustin Alumni Association Midwest Chapter (1984). She was the first woman president of the Philippine Engineers & Scientists Organization and was selected to be the Woman of the Year 2015 of the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame (also a recipient of Excellence in Engineering award as a Hall of Famer in the 1990’s). In 2006, she received the prestigious PAMANA NG PILIPINO professional excellence award from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines.

Salina Vest – is CEO/ Owner at Product Productions, Inc., Space Stage Studios & Events, dealing in motion pictures and film. She was inducted into the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame award in 2018 for Excellence in Entrepreneurship in film industry. As owner of Product Productions and Space Stage Studios, Salina is one of the few, if not the only female- minority owned, film production business in Chicago.

Rowena Salas, Woman of the Year 2018 (Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame award), is the co-owner of the historic Hotel Baker located on the banks of the Fox River which she and her husband, Joe Salas, acquired in 2003. Since then, it has grown into a thriving family business between her husband and two sons, and it shines as a popular downtown spot for the community of St. Charles. She is on the Board of Directors of the Greater St. Charles Conventions Visitors Bureau that helps promote the long-term development and marketing of St. Charles, Illinois.

Winnalyn Kantaris – Winnie is currently President of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago (“FALA”), and a founding member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association (“NFALA”) and served as the organization’s first Central Regional Governor. She is a banking and finance attorney who has worked in banks, law firms and financial companies for over 15 years. Currently, she is Director and Associate General Counsel for Cortland Capital Market Services LLC. She received the most coveted Hall of Fame award for Excellence in Law from Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame in 2018.

Marie Cunning – President of FPACC, Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce (national organization), owner of Arizona Discount Flooring, LLC, President and CEO, Artista Development, Inc., premier residential and commercial builder in Arizona since 2000, among other businesses she is running. She was inducted into the 2017 Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame as Woman of the Year.

Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith, Award-winning Author and Poet; L.L.M., University of Michigan College of Law; L.L.B., University of the Philippines College of Law (Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence); A.B. Political Science, University of the Philippines (Magna Cum Laude); Via Times columnist/house poet of “Notes From The Sound,”. Recipient of the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame in 2015 as Woman of the Year.

Stella Marie B. Santos, CPA, is the Managing Director and Founding Member of Adelfia LLC., a public accounting firm owned by Filipino women. Adelfia LLC provides assurance, advisory, accounting, tax, information technology review/audit services. Under Stella’s leadership, the firm has grown from 3 founders to a 5 partner firm with 24 full time employees in just 4 years. She received the 2014 Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame Award for Excellence in Finance/Accounting.

Maria Girlie Pascual, multi-talented Via Times columnist, CPRTV anchorperson, MC extraordinaire. She is a multi-awarded realtor (great closer) and is in the forefront and a name to reckon with in the field of golf. A graduate of the Holy Spirit and University of the Philippines in Mass Communication, she was a recipient of the Hall of Fame award in the field of Media in the 90’s.

Mayor Rita Gomez Sanders is currently the Mayor for the City of Bellevue, Nebraska since 2010 – home of Offutt Air Force Base, of mixed parentage of Filipino (father) and German-American (mother). She and her husband are successful in real estate handling commercial properties in Bellevue. Among her dozens of projects and activities, she served as former Nebraska Commissioner on the Status of Women. She was chosen by the U.S. government to accompany the return of the historical Balangiga Bells to the Philippines last year 2018. Mayor Sanders was an inductee into the Hall of Fame 2017 for Excellence in Public Service award.

Dr. Elenita Rubio, MD, before her retirement, was an Internal Medicine specialist in Chicago, having over 50 years of diverse experience in her specialized field, together with her husband, the late Dr. Nunilo Rubio and later with her son, Dr. Noel Rubio, connected with Presence Healthcare Services. She, with her husband, both devoted their time and gave back to the community and to the mother country, by serving and joining the medical missions for many years. She was honored with a “Distinguished Physician Award” by the Philippine Medical Association of Chicago (PMAC) and served as president of the PMAC Auxiliary in the 1980’s. She was crowned Mrs. Philippines for the celebration of Philippine Independence by the PIWC. The outstanding medical Rubio family (2 doctors and 1 physical therapist sons) was honored, recognized and given the Model Family award by the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame in 2011.

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