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At 12, TOFA Awards Brim With Historic Firsts

GMA Pinoy TV, Alex Eala, and Michael Cinco were TOFA's first Global Awardees.

At 12, TOFA Awards Brim With Historic Firsts New York City Mayor Eric Adams received a lifetime achievement award, endorsed by President Joe Biden, from The Outstanding Filipino Americans Awards (TOFA Awards) and Farah Delance Foundation at the Town Hall last September 16. (L-R) Farah Delance Linot, Farah Delance Foundation president; Mayor Adams; Elton Lugay, TOFA Awards founder, and Vicente Gesmundo, TOFA Awards board member

"I have no doubt their stories will touch your hearts and make you proud and humbled at the same time." - Elton Lugay, TOFA Awards founder

New York City--In its 12th year, The Outstanding Filipino American Awards (TOFA Awards), founded by journalist Elton Lugay, were still brimming with historic firsts. From the Carnegie Hall on 56th Street, TOFA's venue has moved down 13 streets to the Town Hall. TOFA has also launched its newest sets of excellence in leadership awards: the Lifetime Achievement Awards, endorsed by President Joe Biden, and the Global Awards. Remarkably, it was also the first time an incumbent mayor of the city has physically graced a Fil-Am event.

Mayor Eric Adams, the 110th NYC mayor, opened the program by lauding the city's inherent diversity and the Asian American's contribution to its robust dynamics. Before over 1,500 attendees, Mayor Adams reminded everyone, "We're here to help you. It doesn't matter who we are; we all came from somewhere. No one is original here in America."

"I'm proud to be a city where we embrace our diversity, lift each other, reach out to each other. With this organization and your commitment and dedication, we believe in the Filipino and Asian communities. We know together we can make a difference," he said.

In presenting the Lifetime Achievement Awards, Hazel Sanchez, PIX11 morning news anchor, was joined by Dr. Boy Abunda, TOFA's eight-time emcee, and Dr. Farah Delance Linot, Farah Delance Foundation president, whose roster of awardees was led by Mayor Adams, who served as a police officer in the city for more than 20 years and the Brooklyn borough's president before his current post.

The Fil-Am leaders who were cited for their lifetime achievements were Rely Manacay, Senator Construction Group president; Juliet Payabyab, an advocate of the elderly and distressed women and children; Alexis Monsanto, a noted Hollywood fashion designer; Rod Mercado, Financial Rescue LLC founder; Ruben and Janet Nepales, multi-award winning entertainment journalists and Hollywood Foreign Press Association pioneers; Honorable Steven Raga, an advocate of immigration reform, veteran's equity, and good governance; Brendan Flores, the youngest leader of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, and Ambassador Mario de Leon, Jr., who capped three decades of diplomatic service in 2016, following a six-year tour duty in N.Y.

At 12, TOFA Awards Brim With Historic Firsts

12th TOFA Award winners gather on stage for a photo-op.

On the other hand, three proud bearers of the Philippine flag on global stages were announced as TOFA's first set of recipients of its Global Awards: GMA Pinoy TV, an all-Filipino TV network; Alex Eala, the highest-ranked Filipino female singles player in the World Tennis Association history and the champion of the junior singles match at the 2022 U.S. Open, and Michael Cinco, a world-renowned couture designer.

"TOFA honors some of our best and brightest who elevate the stature of Filipinos in the global arena. Our honorees for this evening have shown the world what makes Filipinos exceptional. They were chosen for demonstrating the qualities of an ideal Filipino: their excellent work ethic, integrity, and ingenuity," said Consul General Elmer Cato, Consul General of the Republic of the Philippines in N.Y.

The other Fil-Ams feted during an evening of cultural dances, with a spotlight on Filipino showmanship, were Anne Del Castillo, Edwin Santiago, Deekee Gaerlan, Eddie Chavez, Robert and Melissa Mendoza, Garth Garcia, Eric Bustamante, Dr. Georgio Dano, Dr. Mara Ruth Lopez, Dr. Maria Clarissa Morcilla Ramos, Dr. Alicia Almendral, Dr. George Homer Mendoza, Dr. Winston Umali, Richard and Imee Maghanoy, Miguel Braganza II, Gerald Tabios, Chief Valerie Archer, Vilma and Elizabeth Kari, Bretman Rock, Rhiza Pascua, Regie Lee, Lisa Lew, Kelly Ilagan Coldiron, Jessica Caloza, Mayor Arvin Amatorio, Mayor TY Penserga, Colonel Odelia Tablit, and Dr. Emilio Quines.

Previous notable TOFA Award winners were Tony winner and Disney Legend Lea Salonga, youngest EGOT achiever Bobby Lopez, Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas, fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, and McLuhan Prize winner Sheila Coronel.

Photos: Troi Santos

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