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Women of Now

By Kynesha Robles, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 23, 2022 5:00 am

If you still haven’t watched I’m Drunk, I Love You, I hope the rock you’ve been staying under is at least somewhat comfortable.

But I’ll give you a minor spoiler on why it’s a (totally biased) must for Young STAR: in one scene, the characters Dio, Carson, Jason Ty, and Pathy (with an H) discuss why a YS feature is a defining career achievement, and how Dio feels left behind as most of his peers already got theirs. 

Pathy With an H then chimes in: “Actually, na-feature na ako sa Young STAR last year.” Thus, a meme for all Young STAR contributors and features was born. “Women of Now section,” Pathy With an H adds further into the scene. 

As we close the year, Young STAR takes a page from our favorite movie reference to recognize the achievements of women who bloomed and thrived in the past year. 

Ayn Bernos

Ayn Bernos rose to fame in 2021 as a Miss Universe candidate, and she considered it to be the peak of her career. “Being a beauty queen was my childhood dream. I honestly thought, ‘This is the peak of my life, what else could be out there? It’s scary to think that there’s nothing left,’” the content creator and entrepreneur said. But it had only been upwards from there for her. 

2021 Miss Universe candidate Ayn Bernos is the co-founder of Kayu Beauty and Morena the Label.

This year, Ayn established her name and space as a content creator, co-hosted 23 Camp Confidence Radio podcast episodes, co-founded the makeup brand Kayu Beauty, and developed her 2018 brand Morena the Label. But she said that her biggest achievement this year was growing into her true self more. 

“2022 has been a year of healing, especially after joining Miss Universe Philippines in 2021. If there’s anything that January 2022 Ayn would not believe, it’s that I had gotten more comfortable with myself and that I had earned back the confidence that I lost.” 

Ayn utilizes her platform and brands to talk about self-development, body image, colorism, and confidence. “My approach to content creation stems from my frustrations growing up,” she said. “As a teenager, I was aware of how little influence I had over what was going on around me, and so, as soon as I started growing my following, I’ve always reminded myself to be what I needed when I was younger. 

“My stories are not unique to me. I just try to tell my story and to let my community know that it’s normal to go through it. If they’re going through it, that makes them as human as I am.”

Katrina Stuart Santiago 

If you’ve been on the right side of the internet, you’ve probably come across People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action. PAGASA especially utilized its platform during the campaign season by disseminating necessary information and (the sometimes ugly) truth, and continues to actively do so. “We might have lost an election, but we’ve got the present to win,” they wrote on an Instagram post last May 22. 

“Writing has always been a form of activism,” says Katrina Santiago of PAGASA.

The brilliant mind behind PAGASA is also the same brilliant mind that wrote Of Love and Other Lemons, Romances: Variations on Love, and Rebellions: Notes on Independence, books that have gained traction on BookTok and other online book communities again in the past year despite being published years ago. 

Katrina Stuart Santiago, an arts and culture writer turned political critic, has always used her writing for movements bigger than herself. “I like to think that writing has always been a form of activism,” she said. 

“It was important to start having better conversations around politics, but people aren’t really interested in that at the onset. PAGASA started as a survival initiative, but we shifted quickly to talking about issues. We don’t want it to just be about doing relief work, we want to use the relief work as a way to talk about issues and governance, what’s wrong with it, and the change that we need.”

She is also the co-founder of Everything’s Fine Books, an independent press that publishes local authors. As a literature graduate and writer herself, Katrina wanted to advocate for a fairer publishing practice. “At the heart of Everything’s Fine is to make publishing more transparent. We wanted to find out kung magkano ba talaga gumawa ng libro. Magkano ba ‘yung kailangan ipresyo sa libro para kumita, without sacrificing the quality of the books, and more importantly, the salaries of our creatives.”

Cleo Loque

Cleo Loque was the first person I interviewed this year for a Young STAR article, in which we talked about her brands Hiraya Pilipina and Hiraya Studios. So much has happened for the self-made founder and CEO since we talked last March, including hosting a podcast and establishing both her name as a content creator and for her brands’ product lines. 

For Hiraya Studios founder Cleo Loque, being sensitive can be a woman's greatest strength when venturing into business.

Cleo is an open book online and talks about a myriad of topics, but one that has resonated with her audience the most is how she takes the time to take herself out on self-dates. Sometimes, Cleo would receive messages from fans saying, “Ate, ito ‘yung best budol mo sa akin.” 

She stepped into her online big sister figure role easily, as she is a real-life eldest sister to two younger brothers. “I try to be as genuine as possible, like tina-try ko kwentuhan (‘yung brothers ko) para eventually mag-open up din sila sa akin. I approach them in an authentic and open way, in order to influence them positively. I feel like ganun din approach ko online.”

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A post shared by CLEO LOQUE (@cleoloque)

She also advocates for her fellow women entrepreneurs. “As women, we are often told that to be soft-hearted and sensitive is to be weak. But honestly, that could be one of our greatest weapons when we venture into business,” she said. “Keep in touch with your emotions, and use that to empower your associates and colleagues.”

Andrea Panaligan

I have reasons to believe that chronically online Filipinos have come across Andrea Panaligan at least once in the past year. You might have watched her viral book recommendations and reviews on TikTok or read her articles about lifestyle, culture, or entertainment.

“Mahilig ako magbasa, mahilig ako manood ng movies,” she said as a way of introducing herself, which slightly downplays her roles as the assistant editor of Young STAR and Sine Liwanag, a contributing writer for multiple publications, and the dazzling mind behind @girlbossinred on BookTok. 

Writer and content creator Andrea Panaligan is the incoming Young STAR editor-in-chief. 

According to Andrea, she never set out to gain traction online. “In the early days of 2021, nagpabudol na ko sa TikTok and dinownload ko na siya. Nagkataon lang din na 2021 was the year na I started getting back into reading on a regular basis.” 

She adds: “Nakita ko rin na merong demand for the kind of books that I was reading, and naisip ko na maybe I can fill in that demand. Pero hindi ko naisip na aabot sa level na ‘pag naglalakad ako sa labas, may lalapit sakin and magtatanong na, ‘hello, ikaw po ba si @girlbossinred?’”

Since the start of her rise in viewers and readers, Andrea has consistently talked about one genre of books: feminist nonfiction. “‘Yung goal ko talaga from talking about these ideas and introducing these books to TikTok is to plant seeds of curiosity about these topics. Hindi ko kailangang maging primary authority nila on feminism, gusto ko lang na ‘pag narinig nila ‘yung mga sinasabi ko, maiisip nila na, ‘I would like to know more about this.’”

@girlbossinred hapi buwan ng wika 🌙 here r some filipino feminist book recs & my tbr!! #booktok #booktokph #philippineliterature #feminism ♬ original sound - andrea 🍰

Andrea was excited to tell me that our interview was a full-circle moment for her. “Nung napanood ko ‘yung I’m Drunk I Love You for the first time and nakita ko ‘yung scene na ‘yun, hindi pa ako part ng Young STAR, tapos pangarap ko lang siya. Parang pipe dream, ‘yung hindi mo aakalain na magkakatotoo in your lifetime. Sabi ko nung 2019, ‘ano kayang pwede kong gawin para masama ako sa Women of Now? Kailangan may gawin akong super exceptional.’” 

Andrea is definitely an exceptional influence on the current generation of critical thinkers and readers. She is not only a part of our “2022 Women of Now” article—she is also the incoming editor of Young STAR starting next year.