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President Benigno Aquino III said it himself: The Filipino woman is fierce and strong-willed. History is rife with countless stories of the persistence and perseverance of the Filipina, from Gabriela Silang and Tandang Sora to Corazon Aquino. At the APEC Women and the Economy 2015 Fora, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong women. I sat alongside them, talked with them, laughed with them. It was an invigorating experience, giving me much-needed inspiration to pursue more aggressively my dreams for Philippine education.

Organized by The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in collaboration with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and Women’s Business Council Philippines (WomenBizPH), the APEC Women and the Economy Fora puts the spotlight on such issues as gender equality and women’s economic advancement.

Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado, who chaired this year’s fora, definitely made the country proud as the event went on with nary a wrinkle. I have attended numerous international conferences in Asia and in the United States but I had never experienced anything like this. Every little detail was taken care of, from the registration and ID system to the seating arrangement and the multimedia system.

Of the many speakers during the event, two made the best impression on me: Doris Magsaysay-Ho, who is chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council and CEO of Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, and Maria Ressa, who is CEO of Rappler. Magsaysay-Ho was a panelist on the session on “Unleashing the Economic Power of Women through Better Health” and Ressa, the speaker on the topic, “Harnessing the Power of the Crowd.” It was enlightening to hear their insights and to know of their experiences.

The Filipina has certainly come a long way. According to a survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management, about 63 percent of managers and owners of businesses are women. But there is still more to be done if we are to achieve true gender equality and empowerment, and I am glad to note that there are countless men and women dedicated to just precisely that!

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