LA Asks: Who Are The Women You Look Up To And Choose To Honor?


Women’s Month is coming to a close, but it’s never too late to show some love for the best people we know.

The entire month of March is usually spent celebrating the important women in our lives, from historical figures to those with close, personal relationships.

Before Women’s Month ends, we ask Rita Nazareno and Monica Maralit about the women they look up to and how they choose to honor them.

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Rita Nazareno

The designer starts by talking about the pioneering women in her family, and how fortunate she is to know them.

From her grandmother who founded S.C. Vizcarra in 1925 to her mother who was the reason the business continued to thrive, Nazareno comes from a long line of passionate and hardworking women.

She recalls her two sisters, an older one who has sadly passed after a valiant fight with cancer, and a younger one, a working solo parent, who she loves to spend time with.

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Photo by Chris Sumida

She also has 12 nieces (“Zero nephews, imagine that!”) who Nazareno believes each have unique superpowers of their own and sisters-in-law who embody generosity and patience.

“The strength, the vulnerability, the fortitude, and love women show are immense,” the designer says. “That’s why we need to empower women so that we may rise up and make this world better for every single human.”

Nazareno also mentions a dear friend whom she’s known since their college years. She and the friend, who’s in education, have recently begun working together.

Photo by Chris Sumida

“I see how she uplifts people around her, how she lets people she has hired do what they do best, how encouraging she is, how generous, how she holds education to great importance. That’s impressive. I want to be like that when I grow up.”

When asked how she would honor them this Women’s Month, Nazareno believes we need to honor and empower women every single day.

“We honor and celebrate women through education, through the power of being able to choose their own paths, through inclusion and diversity, and through equity so that women are provided with what is needed to succeed and thrive.”

Monica Maralit

The multi-awarded professional lists a number of women who have influenced her throughout her life.

Maralit shares that one of her inspirations growing up was talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Since she began watching the host’s shows in high school, she started to show interest in studying communications and broadcast journalism.

“In her shows, she always tried to help others realize their own potential and strength,” Maralit says. “She would challenge and encourage her audience to act on who they were meant to be.”

Aside from Oprah, Maralit also talks about her close family members. Her mother, Cris Victoria, is “the pillar of strength, patience, compassion, generosity, sacrifice, and love.”

She recalls how much her mother has sacrificed in order to give her and her siblings a better life. While living in the US, Cris Victoria would work multiple jobs so that she could send her children to private school and fund their passions such as soccer, dance, and piano.

Photo by Excel Panlaque of KLIQ, Inc.

When they had to move to Thailand, Maralit’s mother had to forgo her pursuit of a master’s in nursing and a career in healthcare.

“My mother taught us to empathize with and have compassion for those who do not have the same opportunities that we have had, to volunteer, and to give back to those communities.”

Meanwhile, Maralit’s baby sister Cristina Sundusadee-Singson is also an inspiration to her. Cristina has shown her how it’s possible to overcome challenges and build a meaningful life.

Today, her younger sister has a beautiful family and is raising three strong women “who will hopefully, walk in her own footsteps.”

Maralit also mentions her best friends Glory Sicam, April Agregado, and Mariel de Jesus. The women have known each other since their freshman year of college.

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Photo by Excel Panlaque of KLIQ, Inc.

After moving from Bangkok to Manila, Maralit says she immediately felt like she had found her family with these girls.

“We called ourselves the Fab 4 and they have been my ‘ride or die’ girls ever since. I’ve watched them through their own life struggles and come out the other end stronger and more resilient.”

This year, to honor women she loves, Maralit will be starting the Victoria Heartstrong Foundation, dedicated to supporting the education of underprivileged young girls and women.

In addition to that, Maralit hopes that the foundation will be able to “give them lessons in self-confidence, strength, and the pursuit of their dreams.”

“The more in our own lives, we show how we empower other women, the more empowered we become.”

Photos by Excel Panlaque of Kliq, Inc. and Chris Sumida.

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