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 is on a roll, landing a coveted role in the West End production of Hamilton, right after starring as the lead in In the Heights, another acclaimed musical by Manuel Lin Miranda. And not too long ago, she shared the stage with pop opera singer Andrea Bocelli at his concert in Manila. Hard to believe it now, but Allado didn’t get very far when she joined “Are You the Next Big Star,” back in 2008.

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 Batalon’s parents are Filipino and his heritage is something the actor is quite proud of. He’ll portray one of literature’s most famous sidekicks in his next role, as Sancho Panza in The True Don Quixote.

3. Mike Curato

Born in New York to a Filipino father and an Irish mother, Curato recently visited his dad’s homeland to meet fans of his successful Big Elliot children’s book series. The first, Little Elliot, Big City, was published in 2014 and won for Curato the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator honor the following year. A new book featuring the adorable baby elephant has followed almost every year, with the latest, Little Elliot, Fall Friends, being released in late August.

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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

Posted by Nathan Go on Sunday, June 5, 2016

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 2011, when she debuted as Ariel in The Little Mermaid; within three years she was cast as Gigi Van Tranh in the West End revival of Miss Saigon, and shortly after, as Fantine in the 30th-anniversary staging of Les Misérables.

10. Ramon Ibanga Jr.

Cash Money.

Posted by Ramon Illmind Ibanga Jr. on Thursday, May 12, 2016

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

Ricky Lee Ricky Lee "Pag-aralan natin ang lahat ng rules then iviolate natin pero kailangang maconvince mo kami na...

Posted by Grasya Orbon on Friday, July 28, 2017


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 1998, when the ages of the brothers ranged from 6 to 14. It recently reunited after a 17-year break, during which time, each of the brothers engaged in other pursuits. John Raymond, who plays the flute, started playing at 7 and has won prestigious competitions, including the National Music Competitions for Young Artists, several times over his career. Joseph Gideon, a.k.a Guido, plays the trumpet when he’s not busy being the managing partner for hiking tour provider Trail Adventours and co-founder of Kawil Tours. Roberto Gonzalo, a.k.a. Panggo, is a multi-instrumentalist, playing clarinet, saxophone, and flute. A music educator and arranger, Panggo has degrees in both Political Science and Music. Jacob Gabriel, a.k.a Coby, plays the soprano saxophone, which he took up when he was six. Like brother Guido, he enjoys climbing mountains, and is striving to become the second Filipino to scale the Seven Summits of the world, climbing the highest peaks on every continent, including Mount Everest.


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.

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