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100 Biographies of Remarkable Filipinos Who Champion Excellence

An essential book featuring Filipino icons that every Filipino household should have.
ILLUSTRATOR Noel de Guzman
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History might be written by the victors, but history is made by the exceptional—the brave, inspirational, impactful, and unparalleled. Not all historical Filipino icons are heroes, but they all left a mark in one way or another.

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Commemorating the long and illustrious history of exceptional Filipinos, the book 100 Filipinos written, illustrated, and published by Noel de Guzman features 100 biographies of the most remarkable icons among our people. The men and women who overcame adversity, pioneered research, and cemented their names in Philippine history.

A crash course on iconic countrymen, 100 Filipinos puts the spotlight on the most memorable Filipinos in the last 500 years—the ones who inspired, scandalized, and made themselves unforgettable. Each mini-biography is accompanied by a full-page illustration done by de Guzman, who also wrote and published the book.

These remarkable Filipinos include the likes of Francisco Balagtas, Jose Diokno, John Gokongwei, Jr., Carlos P. Romulo, Gabriela Silang, and many more. (View the full list here.)

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De Guzman is an award-winning Filipino art director based in Hong Kong and has worked for a number of prestigious brands and publications, such as South China Morning Post, World Health Organization, HSBC, Citibank, and more.

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Gabriela Silang, the fearless female revolutionary

Photo by Noel de Guzman.

Humbled by History

A visual artist by profession, it was his love for country that urged him to start this project in 2018. With 25 years of experience in the publishing industry under his belt, de Guzman found another calling to let Filipinos know of the impactful people of our history.

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Like many things, it started with Google, which led de Guzman to a biography of Dr. Fe Del Mundo, the pioneer of pediatrics in the Philippines who founded the first pediatric hospital—the Children’s Medical Center. Del Mundo, fed up with the state of government hospitals, started her own and personally financed the project, eventually becoming the first-ever woman to be recognized as the National Scientist of the Philippines.

“I thought I knew most of the important Filipinos I should know and felt a little shame for not knowing her. The next couple of days led me to research more outstanding and remarkable Filipinos. The list grew to 500 remarkable Filipinos,” shared De Guzman.

The list was eventually trimmed down to 100, with the only common denominator being that they were all remarkable Filipino icons.

Gregorio Zara, the Filipino who invented the two-way videophone

Photo by Noel de Guzman.
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“These Filipinos reached the top and the zenith of their profession. They have overcome challenges and defied the odds. They also have contributed to the society and the country as a whole either by leading, by building or just simply providing inspiration,” explained De Guzman. “Each person would probably have their own list. But on my list, these 100 Filipinos are the most interesting.”

With the help of his team, composed of leading historian Dr. Vic Villian, book editor Elle Vilvestre, and proofreader Joienne Pascual, De Guzman was able to come up with the research and write-ups, taking pains to separate fact from fake news until the labor of his passion project bore fruit.

Scattered throughout the book are anecdotes that humanize these famous Filipinos, like the fact that Efren “The Magician” Bata Reyes has to stand on soda crates to play billiards when he was young and that Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno discovered bowling completely by accident.

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Arsenio Lacson, the first Manila mayor to be reelected to three terms

Photo by Noel de Guzman.

Cherishing Heritage

It’s a sad reality that not all Filipinos are aware of their history and the people who made it. We’re more aware of influencers and celebrities than pioneers and inventors. De Guzman experienced this firsthand when he asked eight taxi drivers if they knew who Epifanio de los Santos was, the namesake of EDSA. None knew that EDSA was named after one of the greatest scholars in Philippine history.

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“Sadly, most of our youth are focused on fame. We would follow celebrities on their social media accounts. A million likes for eating a doughnut! I really feel sad about this. There are a lot more Filipinos worthy of our emulation. They're breaking grounds, doing pioneering work yet no one seems to notice,” lamented De Guzman. “The book will also address the third culture Filipino kids who have lost touch of their roots. Some have an identity crisis and are split in finding themselves in the host countries they grew up.”

This is what makes the project hit close to home for De Guzman. Dedicated to his two Hong Kong-born sons, Andrei and Kenzo, 100 Filipinos helped the illustrator and writer feel close to the homeland despite being miles away.

Gina Lopez, the Philippines' fierce earth warrior

Photo by Noel de Guzman.
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“Interestingly, as a Filipino abroad, I feel more Filipino now. Borrowing Dr. Jose Rizal's quote, 'Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan,' this really resonates my sentiment. It's a project that speaks to my soul. My illustrations in the book, and the book itself, granted me the voice to this world. It was an opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself. It offered me to give something to the nation,” said De Guzman. “Although I'm far away from my homeland, it just proved that being Filipino is not defined by geography or blood. It's defined by heart. I feel like a lego man. The more I learn about my roots, the more pieces come to complete me.”

In this turbulent time of a pandemic and global unrest, De Guzman hopes this book on 100 Filipino icons will provide a spark of inspiration and hope despite this climate of uncertainty.

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“We learn history so we won't repeat the mistakes of others. We read biographies so we stand on the shoulder of giants. History is our anchor. It defines us,” said De Guzman. “We are divided due to our political and provincial affiliations. I think it's time that we come together as a nation. Our loyalty is to our being Filipino. 100 stories, 100 biographies. We can be inspired by their stories. We become a better version of ourselves. We become a better family member, a better neighbor, a better colleague. In the end, we progress to become a better race. We must develop a culture of excellence.”

Noel de Guzman, writer, illustrator, and publisher of 100 Filipinos

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100 Filipinos will be available for purchase online from July 15, and for those based in the Philippines, the distribution channel will be made available on August 15. Bookstore Bookazine will carry 100 Filipinos in its stores in Hong Kong, while National Bookstore and FullyBooked are being tapped to carry the book in the Philippines.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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