Three outstanding Pinay trailblazers were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Filipino community last March 23 at the Marlborough Hotel by Pinays MB, Inc. This was in conjunction with the celebration of International Women’s Day.
The three outstanding Pinays include Loizza Aquino for her outstanding leadership and advocacy for mental health; Melody Balane for her outstanding achievements and contributions in sports; and Ma-Anne Dionisio, for her outstanding contributions in the field of performing arts.
Loizza Aquino who witnessed the fatal consequences of the problem of mental health at an early age organized “Peace of Mind”, a non-profit organization to tackle mental health issues. Composed of young people working together to eradicate the stigma on mental health, the organization has been adopted by many schools across Manitoba, Ontario and now growing on a national scale. After the success of the organization, Aquino started a new group known as “Leaders of Today, “ for the purpose of creating a positive social changes among the youth in Canada.
In 2017, Aquino received from TD Bank a $70,000 community scholarship and moved to Toronto to pursue her studies. Currently, she is taking up a double major in mental health and international development studies at the University of Toronto with a perceivable future to work at UN.
Aquino has received numerous awards of recognition for her advocacy on mental health from the various awarding bodies.
A triathlete who believes that “every finish line is magic, “ Melody Balane is given a recognition for her outstanding achievement and contributions in sports.
Melody is recognized as the 1st Filipino-Canadian woman triathlete in Manitoba to finish IRONMAN, the world’s renowned race and is considered the world’s toughest one day event.
Together with her husband, Murray Vanderpont, she accomplished the 2014 Challenge Penticton consisting of a 4 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run. And in August 2016, both finished the IRONMAN Race in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
Melody has represented Manitoba in various races and competitions, and her achievements, to mention a few, include the following: holder of 2nd degree black belt Martial arts in both Taekwando and Karate; gold and silver medalist for Sparring and Kata Karate competition in Denver, Colorado and also a yoga practitioner. She has volunteered and participated in various events.
She is giving back to the community by providing triathlon mentoring and providing training support to the beginners and to the novice athletes.
Everyone knows this Winnipegger who was catapulted into a stage stardom in Toronto and took the role of Kim in the most celebrated musical, “Miss Saigon!”
Only Ma-Anne Dionisio who started as a choir singer at St. Edward Catholic Church, then to a national recognition of her talent in a special cross-Canada musical project to celebrate Canada 125! And recently, Dionisio was given a recognition for her exemplary achievements in the field of performing arts.
Dionisio was born in the Philippines on July 16, 1973, and immigrated to Canada with her family. She joined the church choir, sung in various social gatherings and joined singing contest. Mary Anne Dionisio, better known as Ma-Anne, had followed a path in the entertainment world. She moved to Toronto and opened more theatrical opportunities after honing her talent with Nicolas Hytner of National Theatre who directed Ma-Anne with high standard and this polished her talent and gaining more professional standard demanded in the rightful niche in the musical theatre.
Ma-Anne won many theatrical awards, like the Dora Mavor Moor Award for best actress in a musical in 1994 and 2011; And she has been playing the role of Kim in British, Australian and American production of Miss Saigon. Her latest visit in Winnipeg was last summer when Ma-Anne played a major role in the musical “Mama Mia” by Rainbow Stage at Kildonan Park.
For her there is no place like home!
In 2009, she is the founding artist of “Theatre 20,” a musical theatre company formed by many artists. She appears occasionally in films and in television shows and expecting more challenges and success in the field of performing arts.
The 45-year old theatre thespian, a single mother with three children, Nikko, 20; Cody 14 and Anya 12 whom she considers the beacon that light her life.
Photo credit: Geraldine Ong