TOWNS 2016: What makes these women outstanding?

Khristine Montenegro
TOWNS 2016: What makes these women outstanding?
Named The Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service for 2016 are 8 achievers in the fields of social development, sports, media, arts, government service, social enterprise, education, and ICT

MANILA, Philippines – Eight achievers have been named The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) for 2016 for their commitment to making positive impact on the country’s development through their work.



The TOWNS Foundation presented the recipients of the prestigious award on Thursday, November 10, at Dusit Thani Manila, Makati City. Since the foundation was formed in 1974, it has recognized 158 exceptional women. 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, also a TOWNS awardee for law in 1998, served as the chair of this year’s board of judges.

Coming from different fields, the 8 awardees are:

Cherrie De Erit Atilano

Cherrie Atilano has been working to help Filipino farmers through agricultural development initiatives in the past 18 years. Her main goal is to help the country achieve food security and food sovereignity while uplifting fishermen and farmers from poverty.

“I am a culprit of making farming glamorous,” she said. “When people are seeing dirt in soil, I see gold.”

One of Atilano’s recent works is the AGREA Agricultural System International Incorpoted. It is an agri-social enterprise in Marinduque province that builds sustainable farming communities through organic agriculture and fair trade practices. She is also responsbile for promoting agricultural development and education among the youth, including the children of farmers.

Hidilyn Francisco Diaz

Hidilyn Diaz was well-known for winning a silver medal in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting division of the 2016 Rio Olympics. She became the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal after a 20-year drought for the country.

“‘Pag sinasabi kasi nilang ‘babae,’ ‘pag sa sports, parang minamaliit nila. So ‘pinakita ko na kaya nating mga babae,” she said. (Women are underestimated in spots. So, I showed them that we can do it.)

Diaz eyes promoting sports in her community in Zamboanga City. She intends to help develop young Filipino athletes by building a proper training gym.

Patricia Chanco Evangelista

Patricia Evangelista is a multimedia journalist with Rappler. She has received various awards for her works in print, video, and photography that are described to be fearless and indignant.

“I think of journalism as a form of protest. It is keeping the records straight. It is giving names and faces to statistics. I hope to deserve this honor, and I will continue to tell stories the best way I can in the hope that by their telling, they do not happen again,” she said.

Evangelista currently works as a multimedia manager and trauma reporter at Rappler. She has been with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Storyline Company Productions, and ABS-CBN News Channel.

Luisa Mercedes Paez Lorenzo

Isa Lorenzo pursued her passion for the arts despite being a licensed doctor. She pioneered new local art experiences for Filipino audiences, and bring Philippine art experiences outside abroad. In 2014, she established Silverlens, the first photography gallery in Southeast Asia.

Lorenzo encourages the Filipino people to go to museums and galleries as a form of appreciation for local artists and art heritage.

“Art is a cultural marker of history, of identity, of pride. We need art now more than ever – not the art that we can’t afford, but the art that makes us better people,” she said.

Marissa Arlene Andres-Martinez

Marissa Martinez is a commissioned officer in the Philippine Navy, which is dominated by men. She is recognized for her work in training, development, and capacity enhancement of officers and sailors to become more proficient and responsive to the needs of the country.

“If you speak of the military, it is not only guns or being strong. It is having the heart to serve, and taking the path where you could do more and give more,” she said.

As a former director of the Fleet Warfare School of the Navy, she is also credited for the first Filipino-made warfare simulator and the Commmand-at-Sea Fleet-Up Classroom that facilitate the training of sailors.

Aisa Alvarez Mijeno

Aisa Mijeno’s biggest achievement is the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) Corporation, a local startup that provides alternative energy using salt water. This brought her to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in November 2015, where she shared the stage with United States President Barack Obama and Alibaba chairman Jack Ma.

“I can say that Filipinos are very creative, and we are naturally innovative. We just need a platform and a support system to enable these people,” she said.

Miljeno continues to enhance the SALt lamp to become a more sustainable and cost-effective human-centered technology as it heads toward mass production. It aims to provide for 16 million Filipinos who have no access to electricity.

Lou Sabrina Saavedra Ongkiko

Sabrina Ongkiko is a public school teacher who has dedicated her work to giving Filipino children the education they deserve. Outside her classroom, she also contributed to policy making  at the the Deparmtent of Education (DepEd), like the School Improvement Plan adn Continuous Improvement Program.

She said, “Para sa akin, ang pinakaambag ko bilang guro ay ang paghubog sa isip at puso ng kabataang Pilipino.” (For me, the biggest contribution I have as a teacher is my ability to shape the mind and heart of the Filipino youth.) 

Ongkiko also advocates teacher empowerment by telling their experiences in public schools. She wants society to know that public school teachers do not only have stories of difficulties but also of hard work, hope, and love. She is sometimes tapped by DepEd to provide trainings for other teachers.

Jocelle Batapa Sigue

Jocelle Sigue has generated jobs and investments through her pioneering work in information and commmunications technology. One of her notable works is the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NCIP), where she led projects and campaigns to help local government develop their ICT ecosystems for job and investment generation.

She continues to train and build ICT councils nationwide.

“This award is for everyone who believes that inclusive growth can only happen when we look beyond Metro Manila and urban cities, and believe in the potential of the countryside,” said Sigue.


TOWNS SISTERS. Generations of The Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service awardees come together for the TOWNS 2016 press conference at Dusit Thani Manila, Makati City on November 10, 2016. Photo by Khristine Montenegro/Rappler

This year’s awardees will lend their expertise to TOWNS Foundation projects intended to influence national issues and nurture young women leaders.

The awards night is scheduled for Thursday, November 17, at Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City. Special guests will be Vice President Leni Robredo and Chief Justice Sereno. – 

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