Five Honored as Gintong Pamana Leadership Awardees
Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor
Leadership. There are many definitions but a blog by Emeritus provides a good one. “Taking risks and challenging the status quo. Leaders motivate others to achieve something new and better.”
Since 1995, the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce has presented the Gintong Pamana Leadership Awards to over 250 recipients. What makes a great leader? Perhaps former president Ronald Reagan best defined it: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Leadership is about action. The 2023 awardees are known for their actions as leaders in our community: Conchita “Ching” Agra-Pigao, Rossel Critchlow, Lorelle Peros, Theresa Sotto and Loida Villanueva.
“Leadership is the total servant of all with a common goal,” declares Agra-Pigao, who was born and raised in Claveria in the Province of Cagayan. At Christ The King Church, Agra-Pigao serves as the Choir Master for the Marian Choir. Beyond that weekly offering, she is intensely involved in the church’s special events.
Agra-Pigao recognizes her journey as being a leader was not alone. She thanks the “parish priests who are assigned over the years, giving me the freedom to exercise the Filipino Church traditions to include in the mainstream of the whole Church community.” Traditions such as Simbang Gabi (the nine-day novena) culminating with a Misa de Gallo (a Christmas eve midnight mass celebrating the birth of Christ) and Salubong (celebrating the encounter of the Risen Christ and Holy Mother Mary at Easter’s crack of dawn). Her husband Paul is very supportive of her activities.
“It’s nice to be appreciated and rewarded,” she affirms, “but it should not be the main reason to serve as a leader. Just do it without expecting anything in return.”
“Leadership is the act of not only giving directions and guidance but more so influencing and developing others,” states Critchlow, who traces her roots to San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte and Imus, Cavite. At Bayer Crop Science, she is the Human Resources Business Partner, responsible for the human resources aspects of over three hundred employees on Maui and in Tucson, Arizona.
Many folks have assisted Critchlow in her journey as a leader. “My parents Edilberto and Margarita Dufourt gave me a life-long lesson of always staying grounded and true to the faith and my values. These values serve as my guide in being a great leader–honest, ethical and willing to help others. Mr. Ruddy Bareng, who I met over twenty years ago, gives me advice to this day on being a great leader–a leader people respect and follow not because of the title but because of how I treat others. Mrs. Lynne Woods, who showed me courage as a woman to navigate through the workplace. Mr. Dan Cohen, a great leader at Bayer, my mentor and a friend. Mr. Leo Agcolicol, who patiently helped and showed me the ropes within our Maui Filipino community.”
Critchlow, who earned her Master’s in Human Resource Management from the University of Hawaii concludes “I am honored by this recognition and humbled to be among its past recipients.”
“Leadership means empowering and supporting your team to reach common goals. It means being respectful, patient, consistent, and being that resilient (and motivating!) guide on the side,” opines Peros. The Lahaina girl is a Professor in the Hospitality & Tourism Program and Chair of the Department of Business & Hospitality at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College (“UHMC”).
Peros acknowledges her Mom and others. “My mother, Cion Solanzo, raised three daughters (I am the youngest) after my father passed when I was twelve. In her own way, she had to lead–and through the years, by her sacrifice, resilience, patience, and support, she has inspired and shaped my leadership style. Mike Kirk-Kuwaye taught an internship class at UH Manoa when I was a student. He brought in industry leaders to the class and made sure I had a map during my journey at UH Manoa and beyond. He readily provided guidance and advice on my career journey even after graduating from UH Manoa as I continued to pursue a path in education after working in the hospitality industry. When I started my career at UHMC, Dr. Debbie Nakama was not only my colleague but a mentor. Her office was only a few doors away from mine. She often made me see more than what was directly in front of me, made me see the bigger picture as a leader would, and challenged me to think outside the box. Karen Tanaka was a mentor for me at UHMC as well who taught me invaluable lessons on leadership through her actions and support.”
Peros, who was featured in the June 2017 issue of The Fil-Am Voice as a Sakada Offspring is also supported by her husband “Jay” and two sons Jeremy and Jarred. She earned her Business Administration in Travel Industry Management with a minor in Speech from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and received a Master of Business Administration at the University of the Pacific. She concludes “I am grateful to be surrounded by so many colleagues and leaders at UHMC who have inspired me in my career thus far.”
“Leadership is being able to lead others by encouraging and inspiring them so they can work together to reach full potential,” articulates Sotto. Born in Piao, Roxas, Zamboanga Del Norte, Sotto is the Immediate Past President of the 250+ member Santo Nino Club of Maui, known for its annual presentation of the Sinulog Festival as well as other community events.
Sotto, who has two children and two grandchildren, credits her husband Laurence. “My husband assisted me on this leadership journey, he’s always there for me. To become an effective inspiring leader focus on these three essential leadership qualities; communication, a positive attitude and the ability to delegate.”
A Program Specialist II for the Maui Adult Day Care Center, Sotto imparts “I would like to thank the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce for this recognition and to everyone who made this possible. I am proud to be part of the Filipino community, a community that has always been known for its resilience, hard work and dedication.”
“To me leadership is both ways,” reveals Villanueva. “You have to listen and understand what’s going on and be open to suggestions because working together is the key to success.” The Philippine native is currently an Endoscopy Technician at Maui Memorial Medical Center and last year became a Steward and Secretary for the United Public Workers at Maui Health. During the fifty-six-day strike, Villanueva was a member of the negotiating team and responsible for communicating with her fellow workers.
Villanueva, who has been in the health care industry for twenty-six years, credits the “UPW staff especially the Director and assistant Director of UPW. They are the ones who guided us towards our goal and to fight for our rights.”
This brief synopsis of their background, career and activities exemplifies why the five of them are true leaders in our community.
But their advice to those who want to be leaders is even more important.
“My best advice to those aspiring to be leaders is to stay focused and firm to your objectives but remain humble all the time,” suggests Agra-Pigao.
“I encourage leaders and aspiring leaders to take their responsibility to heart. As leaders, we make decisions on behalf of others and these decisions sometimes can be life changing. If you become a leader, I ask you to take responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and have the courage to develop the potential that you find in others,” conveys Critchlow.
“Stay true to yourself and your values. Even if the path in your career may be a little different, continue to dream and have the courage to follow your heart and intuition–even if it may not be the normal path. Make sure you have a map and know you are surrounded by people who support you. You will be surrounded by many leaders in your career. Every leader has something to teach you; therefore, emulate the qualities you appreciate in others and begin to develop a leadership style of your own. Remember as a leader, ‘If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place,’ which is one of my favorite quotes by Nora Roberts,” reminds Peros.
“Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. This will help you to lead by example,” recommends Sotto.
“My advice to everyone is to follow what your heart desires and fight for it. And always speak up. This experience opened my eyes that even if we are just normal people, we have the right to speak up and fight for our rights. Either they will listen or not but it’s better to be vocal before you regret everything,” advocates Villanueva.
These five outstanding leaders have capsulated the five principles of leadership stated in a 2022 article in the Harvard Business Review:
• Be clear about your purpose;
• Be clear about your role;
• Be clear about whom you serve;
• Be driven by values; and
• Be authentic.
It’s not always easy to be a leader but in the end, our community continues to thrive because of folks like Agra-Pigao, Critchlow, Peros, Sotto and Villanueva who work hard to make Maui no ka oi!
Alfredo G. Evangelista received the Gintong Pamana Leadership Award in 2014. He normally refuses to consent to such awards but decided to submit his name so his then 90-year-old mom, Catalina Gonzales Evangelista, would be able to attend the event.