The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Awardees for 2019

Twelve remarkable Filipino women are hailed as The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) by TOWNS Foundation, Inc. on October 29, 2019. TOWNS is a national awards program given to outstanding Filipino women ages 21 to 50 years old who have contributed positively to strengthening national capability and shaping the nation’s future and served as catalysts for economic, social and cultural development, national security and national unity. The award is given every three years during the last week of October and the search for these women is held nationwide for a period of one year. Since its inception in 1974, TOWNS has cited 166 women. TOWNS awardees are true role models for Filipino women and girls who wish to dedicate themselves to nation-building.

This year’s awardees are Xyza Bacani (Humanities), Carmina Bayombong (Entrepreneurship), Clarissa Isabelle Delgado (Education), Maria Regina Justina Estuar (Science and Technology), Karla Patricia Gutierez (Performing Arts), Samira Gutoc (Peace Advocacy), Gay Jane Perez (Science and Technology), Patricia Ann Prodigalidad (Law), Stephanie Sy (Technology Entrepreneurship), Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman (Education), Chiara Zambrano (Journalism) and Geraldine Zamora (Health and Medicine).

Xyxa Bacani

Xyza Bacani is street and documentary photographer working for various international publications and global companies through her photography. Xyza started with photography as a hobby while she worked as a domestic worker based in Hongkong. Today, she uses her art to inspire others to think and create change in the society especially for the migrant workers.

She is an Asia 21 Young Leaders Fellow in 2018), the WMA Commission grantee in 2017, and a Pulitzer Center and an Open Society Moving Walls 2017 grantee. She is one of the BBC’s 100 Women of the World 2015, 30 Under 30 Women Photographers 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016, Fuji Film ambassador and author of the book “We Are Like Air”.

Carmina Bayombong

Carmina Bayombong is the founder of InvestEd, an award-winning financial technology (FinTech) startup. Founded in 2016, InvestEd ( gives education loans to college students declared who are commonly considered as non-eligible for loans in the financial system.

Using her engineering background, Carmina developed InvestEd’s proprietary credit scoring algorithm that can predict if an unbanked student will be able to repay the loan even in the absence of credit history and collateral. The success of her algorithm has enabled institutions and individuals to invest their money in InvestEd’s student loan program. On top of education loans, InvestEd also provides digital career and financial literacy coaching to its student borrowers.

Due to Carmina’s outstanding leadership, InvestEd has become the Philippines’ leading student loan company which currently provides a total of Php 13M ($250K) of loans to more than 400 students across 136 schools and 75 degree courses. InvestEd has graduated 150 students and the repayment rate of their graduates is 100% without defaults.

Clarissa Isabelle Delgado

Clarissa Isabelle Delgado is the founder of Teach for the Philippines in 2012 which focuses its efforts on improving teacher quality and addressing education challenges at the system-level. Through its three core programs, the organization concentrates its resources on recruiting, training, and individually coaching new and existing public school teachers, as well as giving Teach for the Philippines-trained teachers an opportunity to engage in public policy.

Today, Teach for the Philippines has grown into a nationwide movement that has engaged over 300 young Filipino leaders who are committed to work towards meaningful and positive change.

Selected out of over 21,000 applications from 191 countries, Clarissa is a member of the inaugural 2018 class of twenty Obama Foundation Fellows, the 2016 recipient of the national Ten Outstanding Young Men & Women Award (TOYM) presented by the President of the Republic of the Philippines and the regional Asia Society Asia 21 Young Leaders Award.

Maria Regina Justina Estuar

Maria Regina Justina Estuar is involved in design and implementation of health, disaster, agriculture ICT-based platforms for Filipino communities She is a professor at the Department of Information Systems and Computer Science, Ateneo de Manila University and the Executive Director of the Ateneo Java Wireless Competency Center where mobile-web and cloud RnD and solutions are designed for transport, health, environment and disaster. She heads the Ateneo Social Computing Science Laboratory, where eBayanihan was founded. The laboratory works on social, behavioral and organizational predictive analytics, modeling and social network development and analysis. Her life’s work is dedicated to creating a multidisciplinary field combining social science and computer science for understanding and improving lives of ordinary citizens.

Karla Patricia Gutierrez

Karla Patricia Gutierrez is the founder, artistic and managing director of the Philippine Opera Company (POC) in 1999. She repackaged opera to make it more interesting to audiences and brought it to the provinces, private and public schools. Gutierez conceptualized and produced POC’s cultural arm, “Harana” to re-educate the Pinoys with the beauty of our cultural heritage and Philippine music and to bring back patriotism – to love our own and support our own. POC under her leadership offered free workshops for young classical singers through the Young Artists Series as well  a scholarships to public school students who will pursue music in college. POC was able to build the Opera Haus, an Arts Center that we can call a home for classical artists and is focused on nurturing upcoming classical singers of this country

Samira Gutoc

Samira Gutoc is a former ARMM legislator and former Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and is an active civic and youth leader, resource speaker, journalist, women’s rights and peace advocate. She helped organize the Ranao Rescue Team, a volunteer group set up in response to the humanitarian crisis that ensued after the Marawi siege in 2017,and spoke in Congress about human rights abuses during martial law in Marawi. She is spokesperson of Ranao Rescue Team which is assisting government and survivor families of missing and dead persons from the siege,  and was recently awarded by the UN Development Programme N-Peace Awards 2018 as a community organizer in Marawi City. Towards highlighting the evacuees’ situation, their rights and humanitarian situation, she has been a resource person to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and has also appeared on Al Jazeerah. As a legislator appointed by then President Aquino to introduce reforms in ARMM, she authored the Enhanced Education Act in ARMM and has pushed for regional advocacies on declaring schools as a Zone of Peace, Open Government, Civil Society and stakeholder collaboration among others.

As a journalist, Samira has worked as a correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) featuring Marawi City and Muslim communities all over the country. She also worked with an award-winning group led by Director Marilou Abaya (for GMA-7) and scriptwriter Ricky Lee to conceptualize the trailblazing movie, Bagong Buwan, which has reaped accolades in film festivals abroad in New York, Japan and Asia. She has reported on the situation of Muslims in Culiat, Tandang Sora for an Al-Jazeerah-contracted outfitand spoke on BBC on the issues of minorities facing globalization. She also served as former editor of The Moro Times (by Manila Times) and was Editor in Chief of the MSU Mindanao Varsitarian. She tapped tri-media to advocate for cultural minorities, peace, human rights, and inter-cultural understanding and has been featured in magazines including Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Quality Britain and Esquire Philippines.

Gay Jane Perez

Gay Jane Perez is a professor who won the 2018 ASEAN-US Science Prize for Women and became the first Filipino winner of the prestigious award given out by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, US Agency for International Development and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Perez, an associate professor at the UP Diliman College of Science’s Environmental Science and Meteorology Department, led the DOST Philippines-Microsat program that successfully sent into orbit Diwata-1 in 2016. Perez showed exceptional research on precision agriculture and how it can improve yield by using satellite observations with models and ground data, to better derive and develop prediction tools for agriculture in the Philippines. Perez’s work on remote sensing examines spatial distribution of vegetation, temperature, precipitation and soil moisture that provide the ability to assess drought impacts. Perez received her doctoral degree in Physics from the National Institute of Physics in UP Diliman, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Patricia Ann Prodigalidad

Patricia Ann Prodigalidad is a lawyer and author of legal publications who specializes in commercial litigation, white collar crime, intra-corporate disputes, banking, investments and securities litigation, anti-money laundering, corporate rehabilitation and insolvency, international commercial and construction arbitration, and intellectual property and antitrust litigation. Prodigalidad also acts as an arbitrator in international commercial and domestic arbitration, both institutional and ad hoc, as well as in Philippine construction arbitration. She is an accredited arbitrator of the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC), the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI) where she currently serves as Trustee and Corporate Secretary and the Philippine Office of ADR (OADR). On the international front, she is a part of the arbitrator panels of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association. She has served as a member of the ADR Committee of the Philippine Bar Association and is a continuing Philippine delegate to the ADR Standing Committee of the ASEAN Law Association. She has recently been elected as a trustee of the ASEAN Law Institute.

She is currently a trustee of various institutions such as the UP Women Lawyers’ Circle, the Harvard Law School Alumni Association Inc. and the Philippine Institute of Construction Arbitrators and Mediators. Since 2012 to the present, she has been cited as among the key practitioners and experts in the field of Asset Recovery by Who’s Who Legal 100 and was recognized by Asialaw Profiles as a Distinguished Practitioner in the practice area of dispute resolution in 2019. She topped the 1996 Bar Examinations and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1997.

Stephanie Sy (middle)

Stephanie Sy is the founder and CEO of Thinking Machines Data Science, Inc., a startup that builds data platforms and AI tools for improved organizational decisions. Her team’s work combines algorithmic thinking and data storytelling to drive effective action from organizations in all sectors. Their key achievements include opening in Singapore, partnerships with Google Cloud Platform and Waze (as the only Top Contributor in Asia), and working with the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines and Singapore. The company has also published work at the 2019 International Conference on Machine Learning, one of the top machine learning conferences in the world.

At only 30 years old, she has turned the company into a data science powerhouse and shows no signs of stopping. She continues to advocate for STEM and data science in the country by promoting projects geared towards data science education at DOST-PCIEERD. She also remains active in the local python and data science community, giving talks at Python PH, DataBeers, Women in Tech events, and Developers Connect conferences to encourage students to learn. Her passion for using data science to create social good has even led her to speak in local and international conferences such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Keynote and UNICEF Innovation Meeting. Her dream is to use technology to help address climate change while building a world-class Filipino company.

Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman

Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman is the founder Teach Peace Build Peace Movement, Inc. (TPBPI) which underscores the importance of making every Filipino child a peace advocate by promoting culture and peace dialogue among the young generation and a sustainable peaceful society.

TPBPI has partnered with many organizations to address the situation in Marawi through a program called Pathways to Integrated and Inclusive Conflict-Sensitive Protection and Education for Children in Mindanao or (iCOPE) Project, a consortium of different organization and government agencies. TPBPI led the unveiling of art books made by the young conflict survivors, showcasing the artworks made by Marawi children. These are the outcomes from a series of art mentoring workshops done by the TPBPI movement.

Chiara Zambrano

Chiara Zambrano is a multi-awarded correspondent and documentary filmmaker of ABC-CBN. As the most prominent and prolific female war correspondent of her time, Chiara has become a trusted resource in matters concerning terrorism and the West Philippine Sea. Zambrano is one of the Outstanding Young Men and Women (TOYM) Awards for exemplary work in the field of Journalism (2017). She holds a Master of Arts in Documentary by Practice (2018) with Distinction from the Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom and a

Master of Arts in Journalism (2015) from the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. She is a scholar of The Chevening Scholarships, United Kingdom (2017-2018), a Fellow of the Konrad Adenauer Asian Centre for Journalism (2013-2015) for the documentary “’Di Ka Pasisiil” on the entry of ISIS and the Marawi siege. She received the Gold World Medal Award from the New York Awards (2018), the Certificate of Excellence from the US International Film & Video Festival (2018), the Ani ng Dangal from the National Commission on Culture & the Arts (2019), the KBP Golden Dove Award for Best Documentary (2018), and the PMPC Star Awards for Best Documentary (2018).

Geraldine Zamora

Geraldine Zamora is a clinical associate professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine – Philippine General Hospital and consultant at the St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City. She is class valedictorian in the UP College of Medicine; topped licensure exams; and received multiple recognitions. She has numerous publications and research presentations; a co-author of  five books; and editor of IM Platinum, awarded Outstanding Book by NAST Philippines. She is the first Filipino Visiting Postdoctoral Scientist in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Rheumatology); one of only three Filipinos to be awarded International Fellowship Grant by the Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology; and is now one of the 150+ rheumatologists in the country — one serving about a million Filipinos.

She is one of the youngest professors in UPCM to train our next generation of doctors and was the first President of the UP MedRhythmics dance club; founding member of PGH Medicine Alumni Association; and as the first Filipino Rheumatologist invited to participate in the USA Vasculitis Clinical Research, she is now spearheading the Philippine Vasculitis Study Group to ultimately improve patients’ lives.

Her outstanding pioneering works include spearheading concerts of dance/song/art for the benefit of cancer patients; helping generate millions of pesos to help subsidize life-saving diagnostic exams and medications for indigent patients in the medical wards/ICU as Board of the Sagip Buhay Medical Foundation; staging A Work of HeART benefit fashion shows:“Every step down the runway in a native creation is an inch closer to a strengthened community through health.” She created the Rheumatology Bridging Lupus Fund, and co-founded Hope for Lupus Foundation, which partnered with the Department of Health to promote early detection and proper treatment of lupus. Her social media platforms help Filipinos with simplified information, and inspire improved health-seeking behaviors.

TOWNS Foundation president is Olivia Ferry while this year’s chair of the TOWNS search committee is a TOWNS Awardee in the field of medicine and former health secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Congratulations Outstanding Women of 2019!

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