20 Filipinos to Watch

Tyler Magnaye

The goal for me is trying to carve my own path as a known radio personality by getting people in the city to learn and appreciate the Filipino culture because it’s so prevalent here in Winnipeg. Many non-Filipino people know about our food. Now it’s time to show them a whole lot more.”
-Tyler Magnaye aka Tyler Magz, 103.1 Virgin Radio

Tell us about yourself (personal, business, and passions).

I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in the Transcona community during a time where there wasn’t a lot of Filipinos in that area, but it shaped me to become the guy I am today. My parents moved here in the 70’s and have not regretted their decision despite their constant complaints about the cold.

In 2015, I started working for 103.1 Virgin Radio on the weekends where I get to talk to people in and outside of Winnipeg. Eventually, I moved to the weekday drive slot on Virgin Radio from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday where I am currently. A lot of what I talk about are things that people would find entertaining or informative. And sometimes that led to me talking about the Philippine culture on the air or my experiences growing up in a Filipino household (and yes, sometimes I talk in a Filipino accent if I’m telling a story).

I’m passionate about the arts. I love watching movies and sometimes create my own short movies. I love music which is why I got into my field of work. I love dance, I help out with Magdaragat Philippines Inc., a dance troupe in Winnipeg that performs for the Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavilion at Folklorama.

What excites you most about what you do?

The thing that excites me is finding a way to present stories and topics on the air that are funny and/or important to share. On top of that, it’s also exciting to use this outlet to present real stories that all of Winnipeg relate to and you sometimes never realize that cultures aren’t so different from one another. So when I am presenting a story on air about how my Filipino parents do this or that, it’s gratifying to get those interactions from listeners saying “my mom does that too!” or “my dad’s Italian and we do the same thing in our family!”. It really works for Winnipeg as a multicultural city to have and share these similar cultural experiences.

What impact have you witnessed from your work?

I was emceeing a fun run at St. Vital Park. After I was done my duties, I went around just to talk to some of the runners who just finished a 5KM run and were resting and recovering. I met a nice Filipino couple who were participating named Joseph and Connie and they told me that they’re happy that their kids could have someone to look up to on the radio and be an influence to them as a Filipino. That’s when I started to realize that this role as a person on the radio was bigger than I thought because I have this beautiful obligation to be proud of being Filipino so that these youth think the same.

Tell us a story about an obstacle you faced and conquered.

I think the obstacle I faced early on was convincing people that I’m Filipino. Some people that meet me, they tell me that I sound “white” which how does someone sound “white”? I don’t know but that was a comment I got a lot in my career. And it wasn’t just from Caucasian people, there would other Filipinos that would say that jokingly to me. And the only way to overcome it was telling stories about my upbringing and things about Filipino events in Winnipeg that interest me and will interest other people just so people will realize yes, I’m a Filipino on the radio.

And a stereotype that some of us see is that there aren’t a lot of Filipinos in creative or artistic professions and most go into more science/mathematical professions. And I think here in Winnipeg, there’s a lot of us Filipinos that are looking to get rid of that stereotype.

Nikki Mallari

Sugar Blooms and Cake has become a household name for many Filipinos living in Winnipeg. You will find their signature ube macapuno cake at every merienda, birthday, and milestone celebrations. The impact of this iconic bakery could not have been possible without the genius of Nikki Mallari. At 29 years old, she is the head cake artist and co-owner of Sugar Blooms and Cake Inc. Nikki’s artistic skills allowed her to work alongside famed cake artists like Joshua John Russel, Handi Mulyana, and Elissa Strauss. Although cake decorating seems to be a natural talent for Nikki, it was not her first career choice. She graduated with a degree in biology from the University of Winnipeg in the hopes of becoming a doctor of chiropractic. She was catapulted in the world of baking when her mother opened the first Sugar Blooms location on Selkirk Avenue. “My mom threw me in the cake decorating department, and that’s where my love for cake decorating began,” she said. “… I love how you can take something edible, like cake, and turn it into anything!. A bag, a shoe, a 3D koala, a cake hanging from the ceiling, a cake that rotates, or a simple round birthday cake. The possibilities are endless!”.

What excites you most about what you do?

What excites me the most is being able to create a piece of edible art. I love the creative process and the challenge of being able to bring my imagination of what the client wants, and create it for them. In addition, I love being able to connect and build relationships with our customers. Many have been with us right from the beginning.

What impact have you witnessed from your work?

The moment the client sees their cake, and their eyes light up, that’s what it is all about. I am honoured when our cakes get to be part of such significant occasions. It becomes part of their family’s memory. We get to share in that same joy, happiness, and love. There is nothing better than a happy client, and that’s what inspires us to become the best we can be. Many of our clients have been supporting us right from the beginning. We have been able to create this bond where they have become part of our family, and us part of theirs. It has come to a point where they give me a budget, their party theme, and leave the rest up to me in terms of the design of their cake. That to me speaks volumes. I am not only so honoured that we get to be part of their celebration every year, but also, that they trust me enough to be creative with their cake.

Tell us a story about an obstacle you faced and conquered.

When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with Alopecia. Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder, where my body attacks my hair follicles, causing my hair to fall out. It started as bald spots here and there, and eventually left me completely bald. My hair was part of me, my femininity. When I lost it, I felt that I had lost my beauty as a woman.

I had to wear a wig every day, and it was challenging because it wasn’t hair of my own. My self-esteem definitely took a toll. I had become so paranoid and convinced myself that everyone around me knew my “secret” and would ridicule me for it. I did not feel beautiful, and I spent much of my time not wanting to socialize.

I am very lucky to be blessed to have my parents. They taught me how to love myself first. They showed me how beautiful I was, not based on how I looked, but who I was as a person. Strong, independent, respectful, kind, and an overall good person. I learned to accept my illness, and everything else that came with it. Once the acceptance was there, the healing began.

Alopecia will always be part of me, there is no cure. I currently have a full head of my own hair, which is something I have not experienced for more than 10 years. I am grateful to even be given this chance to experience that again. I don’t know how long this will last for, but it’s ok too if it falls out again.
I am proud to be a woman living with Alopecia, and I am not afraid of what anyone thinks of me anymore. I have learned to just be grateful for everything I currently have in life, a happy home, a growing business, and a beautiful daughter. Most importantly, Alopecia has taught me how to love myself first. I find beauty in everything around me.