20 Filipinos Making Waves in Entertainment, Literature, and the Media Around the World
From Broadway to filmmaking, these 20 famous Filipinos are taking the entertainment and media industry by storm. If you don't know their names yet, it's high time you do.
1. Christine Allado
The 26-year-old singer and actress
2. Jacob Batalon
Producers took a gamble when they cast Batalon as Ned Leeds, the sidekick of Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) in the recent hit Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it paid off, as the duo’s natural rapport was vital to the film. Though raised in Hawaii, both of
3. Mike Curato
Born in New York to a Filipino father and an Irish mother,
4-5. Sunshine De Leon & Jessie Lichauco
De Leon, a freelance journalist who has written for the Guardian, Forbes Asia, and Time.com as well as this magazine, has found great success as a documentarian. The film Curiosity, Adventure & Love, which she co-produced, wrote, and directed with Suzanne Richiardone, has done exceedingly well on the festival circuit, most recently winning the Best Documentary honor at the Soho International Film Festival in June. The star is no other than her 106-year old grandmother Jessie whose sense of adventure is described as a combination of Scarlett O’Hara and Amelia Earheart.
6-7. Lav Diaz And Brillante Mendoza
The veteran filmmakers are among the newest members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the annual Academy Awards. While based in the United States, the academy is strengthening its global presence and now has members from all over the world. Mendoza shot to international prominence when his film Kinatay earned him Best Director honors at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival; he directed another kind of production last year: the first State of the Nation of President Rodrigo Duterte, and did it again in 2017. Diaz is best known for his art-house films which can run for many hours; in recent years his films have done quite well critically as well as commercially, with 2016’s Ang Babaeng Humayo garnering widespread acclaim.
8. Nathan Go
Born and raised in Davao City, the Filipino-Chinese writer recently won the David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellowship, awarded by the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. The fellowship, which is granted to a fiction writer who wishes to write about the Far East, comes with a GBP26,000 prize. Go is the third Filipino to earn this prestigious grant, following in the footsteps of the eminent Butch Dalisay and award-winning writer Bing Sitoy.
9. Rachelle Ann Go
The 31-year-old singer— who now plays the role of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton in the West End production of Hamilton—has been in the spotlight for 20 years, having won a national singing contest on a noontime television show when she was just 11. She struck gold again when she shifted to musical theatre in
10. Ramon Ibanga Jr.
Better known in the music industry as Illmind, Ibanga is a 13-year production veteran who’s worked with the likes of Drake, 50 Cent, and Manuel Lin Miranda. After the Hamilton star heard Illmind’s work with Joel Ortiz (they collaborated on the 2015 album Human), Miranda became an instant fan and asked Ibanga to produce tracks on The Hamilton Mixtape album (which reached number one on the Billboard chart), and then they collaborated again on the song “You’re Welcome,” featured on the Moana soundtrack.
11. Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
The closing event of the recent Poetry International Festival held in Rotterdam derived its name from the line “No one’s letting go of anyone tonight who hasn’t already left,” from a poem of Katigbak-Lacuesta. It was a proud moment for the Filipina poet who participated in the 48th edition of the festival, as her poem was set to music and sung by a choir, gospel-style. Katigbak Lacuesta has two poetry volumes to her name, The Proxy Eros (2008) and Burning Houses (2013).
12-14. Ricky Lee, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, and Rolando Tolentino
They made the news after a dispute caused by the direction the annual Metro Manila Film Festival was taking. They voiced their support for independent film producers and expressed their belief that independent films could be box-office hits, too, contrary to the rest of the committee’s position. Lee is a screenwriter, journalist, novelist, and playwright, with more than 150 screenplays under his belt; Tolentino is the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication and professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute; Magsanoc-Alikpala is an award-winning broadcast journalist and documentary film-maker, and is also well known for founding ICanServe, a foundation supporting issues related to breast cancer.
15. Eva Noblezada
Born in the United States to a Filipino father and a Mexican-American mother, the 21-year-old theater actress was recently nominated for a Tony award for her role of Kim in the Broadway revival of Miss Saigon. Though she grew up in the U.S., the Filipino influence was always strong. When she was young, “My Filipino grandparents would always put me on the table and say, ‘Sing, sing, sing for everybody,’” she revealed in a recent interview.
16-19. Sarreal Brothers Wind Quartet
The musical group was formed in
20. Jhett Tolentino
The 39-year-old’s rags-to-riches story is worthy of a Broadway musical—perhaps something the five-time Tony Award nominee (with three wins) might consider producing in the future. Born to poor parents, Tolentino earned a scholarship grant from Tokyo’s Sophia University, which enabled him to get a college degree in Iloilo. After doing several odd jobs in the United States, he found a business partner, Joan Raffe, and they mounted their first Broadway play in 2012, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. It won a Tony the year after, and the rest is history.
This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Town&Country.