What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I am a first-generation immigrant, born in the Philippines, and have lived in Cleveland since I was 14.  I was quite young when my parents emigrated from their native land to Canada for a couple of years and then to the Cleveland area. 

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

There were certainly many challenges we faced as a new arrival. While I know this essay is supposed to be about my journey, I admire my mother so much that maybe you can indulge me in writing briefly about her challenging journey that so clearly shaped my immigrant story. 

I suppose my mother and I are very much alike, though I wouldn’t dare think that I could compare the path to my profession to the hardship that she had to undergo managing being a young physician, mother and wife. Frankly, she has never had anyone tell her to this day how awe-inspiring she is. 

I asked her recently if she had experienced any hardships when she first arrived as a practicing physician. Her answer was an unequivocal “No!” While her response was not surprising, I would beg to differ with her as I know the road to her professional success in the US was full of obstacles that needed to be overcome. Arriving in a foreign land, she and my father, himself a civil engineer, had to raise seven young children all the while attempting to restart their careers in a new homeland. Her reply to me, dismissing any thought of the difficult challenges, is so typical of how she led her life. She just did what she had to do with no complaints or excuses.  

But truth to be told, it was not at all easy for her. Prior to arriving to the Americas, she was a registered, licensed, practicing physician in the Philippines for many years. But upon entering to the states, she had to start over and re-take her internship, residency, fellowship, pass board certification, and more medical education. Can you imagine going through this once again while you’re raising a large family? She did not complain. But rather, she embraced the challenge. She loved what she did. She chose to follow the rules and charge forward.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

I suppose this is where I can start talking about myself. I think this sense of yearning to do what I love is what drives me. While I may not have had to demonstrate that same level of courage she did, I certainly have inherited her drive to succeed. I tend to ignore the hurdles. Oh, believe me at times, I would rather have avoided roadblocks placed in front of me. But having my mother as my role model, I pushed ahead. I was a late bloomer, professionally speaking. I didn’t really get serious about my career until I was 23 years old. That was when I decided it was time to take college seriously. Enrolled in the School of Architecture at OSU, I was one of maybe a handful or so of women in a class of 100 or so fledgling architects. In the field of architecture, racial and ethnic diversity and gender equity were not part of the social conversation when I first started my career. Rather, I hoped to lead by example, working closely with women architecture and design students and interns now for years. I can only hope that the women I mentored over the years have had some impact and they are also forging ahead.  

I want to say that even during the early days of my career when there wasn’t a conscious effort in the industry to elevate women, I always felt the need to lead by example. I chose early to share my insight and experience and, importantly, offer an opportunity to a young woman as they began their design careers, hoping that they, like me, would try to make a difference, to Choose to Challenge!