Obama nominee, NYU dean, autism advocate among this year’s TOFA-NY nominees
The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York has opened the Facebook voting for this year’s search for exemplary Filipinos. Among the notables in the list are Lorna Schofield, President Obama’s nominee for the position of federal district court judge for the Southern District of New York; NYU Dean for Science Michael Purugganan; and Cheryl Ocampo, mother of a special-needs child and founder of the Queens County Parents Autism Coalition.
The winners will be known after October 5, and an awarding ceremony will be held at Carnegie Hall on Oct 27 with Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis as guest speakers.
Pulitzer Award-winning journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas and Philippine TV personality Gel Santos Relos will emcee the event.
The nominees are:
FOR ARTS AND CULTURE
• Kilusan Bautista: activist and artist known for his spoken word performance;
• Miguel Braganza: dancer and artistic director.
• Cynthia Guerrero de Leon: pianist and piano teacher at the
not-for-profit Children’s Orchestra Society;
• Sarah Gambito and Joseph Legaspi: co-founders of Kundiman, which
promotes poetry by Asian American writers;
• Ernie Pena: Lifestyle and documentary photographer;
• Lolita Valderrama Savage: artist who has done solo shows internationally;
• Eduardo Sicangco: stage and costume designer for Broadway and Hollywood
• Roberto Villanueva: classical arts dancer and founder of BalaSole
FOR BUSINESS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
• Gerry Austria of American Pinoy Food Mart: Founder and proprietor of
Asian grocery stores in New Jersey;
• Gloria Cabrera of Gloria Cabrera Salon: Founder and owner of
30-year-old spa salon on Times Square, previously on Fifth Avenue;
• Oscar Fernando of Oscar Printing: founder and proprietor of
long-time printing press serving Jersey City community;
• Lito Gajilan of RTA Travel: Community leader and president of
family-owned travel agency in New Jersey;
• Edwin Josue of Halstead Realty: Real estate broker
• Nicole Ponseca of Maharlika Filipino Moderno: first pop-up Filipino
restaurant in New York, now with three locations.
FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE AND ADVOCACY
• Marilyn Abalos: East Coast coordinator for Phildev’s Tri-State team;
• Dr. Gino Ang: Connecticut anesthesiologist who conducts medical
• Christina Baal: Social worker, immigration advocate and union organizer;
• Handang Tumulong Foundation: nonprofit that organizes fundraisers
for Philippine victims of typhoons and other natural disasters;
• Yves Nibungco of Anakbayan NY/NJ: chairperson of progressive group
serving mostly new immigrant youths;
• Steven Raga: community organizer of multiple young professionals,
student and youth organizations
• Atty. Jesus Martin Reyes: immigration lawyer.
FOR EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY
• Ernabel Demillo: head of the journalism minor at St. Peter’s College;
• Agnes Magtoto: Adjunct Professor teaching Elementary Filipino I &
II, a language and culture course at NYU;
• Joel Natividad: software developer who won apps competition in New
York for the application NYCFacets
• Michael Purugganan: plant biologist and dean for science at NYU.
• Kirby Asunto: young singer, a protégé talent of Manny Pacquiao;
• Gigi Dement, Stephen Dypiangco, Stefanie Walmsley: Filmmakers and
producers of “God of Love” which won the Oscars for best live action
short film in 2011;
• Anna Maria Perez de Tagle: Broadway star of “Godspell;”
• Ali Ewoldt: Broadway actress who has performed in “Les Miserables”
and “West Side Story;”
• Victor Lirio: actor, director and artistic director of the
independent Diverse City Theatre
• Nina Mojares: young actress, singer and dancer.
FOR FASHION AND STYLE
• Danelle Izza Dungca: fashion designer and creative director of ONE
• Erno Hormillosa: beauty pageant director and choreographer.
• Mary and Michelle Mangiliman of Dalaga NYC: Boutique owners with two
shops in New York;
• Victor Palmos: makeup artist and fashion stylist
• Bobby Yalong: Filipiniana and couture designer.
NOMINEES FOR FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
• Mario and Susan Albenio of Tito Rad’s, a restaurant in Queens.
• Elma Santander of Philippine Bread House, a bakery that has endured
in Jersey City for more than three decades.
• Anthony and Lisa Siopongo of Casa Manila.
• Margarette Villanueva: caterer and restaurant owner.
FOR HEALTH CARE
• Dr. Alice Almendral: family physician, geriatrician and cosmetic doctor;
• Drs. Rod and Elma Castillo: pediatrician couple from New Jersey,
supporters of Santacruzan religious tradition;
• Dr. Prospero Lim: Psychiatrist, he set up the psychiatric unit of
Bailey Seton Hospital in Staten Island;
• Dr. Gracelyn Santos-Mroczek: dentist from Staten Island;
• Marcelina Pena: vice president of Eihab Human Services, a nonprofit
that provides services for people with developmental and behavioral
• Jona Jane Tajonera: health care consultant.
FOR LGBT ADVOCACY
• Cecilio Asuncion: Filmmaker behind the documentary “What’s the T”
about the lives of five transgender women;
• Boots Babushka: makeup artist;
• Dia Dipasupil: photojournalist who created the social media site
TransNewsDaily for transgender awareness;
• Rich Kiamco: Comedian at Pacific Punchlines Comedy Tour;
• Manila Luzon: Drag queen and runner-up in Ru Paul Drag Race
• Felix Manuel: Nurse and chronicler of beauty pageants.
FOR MEDIA AND PUBLISHING
• Darren Demeterio: talent producer for ESPN Sports, previously for
David Letterman Show;
• Randy Gener: George Jean Nathan Award-winning editor of the American
Theatre magazine, artist and critic;
• Nina Pineda: WABC-TV reporter and consumer correspondent.
• Ryan Songalia: boxing reporter for RingTV.
FOR PUBLIC SERVICE AND POLITICS
• Mayor Guillermo Udarbe: doctor and Mayor of Ridgway, PA
• Atty. Lorna Schofield: counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton and President
Obama’s nominee for N.Y. district court judge.
FOR YOUTH AND SPORTS
• Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc: nonprofit that raises funds to
improve the health and provide education for school-age children in
• Filipino Adoptees Network: resource and support network for adoptees
-from the Philippines and their American families;
• Queens County Parents Autism Coalition: support group for families
caring for special needs children
• Tim David: skating champion, 2005 and 2007 U.S. Adult National Gold medalist.
“Oh wow! Salamat po so nomination kung saan man siya galing. It
already feels amazing to be part of the list,” writes nominee Yves
Nibungco on his Facebook wall.
Susan Gador offered her “sincere gratitude” that her organization, the
Philippine Nurses Association of New York, is among the Heritage
The Heritage Award goes to individuals and organizations that have brought service and joy to the community over the years through their time, talent and professional commitment. This year’s recipients are: Association of Fil-Am Teachers of America NY-NJ; Ma-Yi Theatre
Company; Philippine American Chamber of Commerce; and the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir.
“They are all winners in their own right,” said TOFA-NY President Elton Lugay. “Facebook makes the search transparent.”
TOFA Producer Grace Hufano-Labaguis said TOFA’s objective is to recognize the outstanding FilAms in the Tri-State area. Anyone may send in nominations after which the TOFA board “diligently” reviews each nominee’s qualification.
“Anyone can check and review the final nominee’s qualification online. Their (nominees) background, achievements, contributions in the community can easily be accessed and the board can always answer inquiries from those who have questions about a particular candidate,” she explained.
“It is about time we recognize achieving Filipino Americans in our Tri-State,” said TOFA Producer Rolan Gutierrez. “It is
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