Last November 19, on what was my first visit to Los Angeles, I witnessed the 21st edition of Gawad Amerika Awards which recognized the excellence of some achievers in the Filipino-American community. It was nice to see that some recipients are friends from way back.
That evening, I saw again after many years my old friend Rally Vargas who on social media aptly describes himself as “half radio, half human.” The seasoned radio broadcaster known to many listeners as Papa Gio is the founder and CEO of V81 Radio Los Angeles which was hailed as Best Filipino Online Radio Station, a citation it also won last year. A former senior DJ at Barangay LS 97.1 and operations manager at Energy FM, Rally received the award with his partner-operator Bernard Kho.
Days later, I went to visit their state-of-the-art California Talk Studio that houses their station. Right from the moment I entered, with its slick design and incandescent ambiance, I could say they truly deserve the award.
Colleague Joey Sarmiento, also a radio jock and entertainment columnist, was likewise around and did hosting for the occasion.
Now US-based Bryan Termulo, a singer whom I first met when he was new in the Manila music scene, was named International Male Entertainer of the Year. Another winning singing act I’ve previously written about more than once is Alisah Bonaobra (Best Female Pop Vocal Performer of the Year) who’s currently in the US to surely thrill crowds with her superb voice.
Halfway through the event, one of the elegantly dressed attendees with a trophy in her hands approached me and to my surprise, she’s rising artist Kristine Lim. She’s gaining ground by collaborating with songwriter Jonathan Manalo through her paintings. In the past, I helped promote Kristine’s entrepreneurial pursuits while at one point I wrote a set of lyrics that Jonathan turned into music.
Since everyone’s friendly and welcoming I was also privileged to be introduced to other empowered women. There’s Mic Diaz who was awarded Most Outstanding Producer. Small wonder she’s spearheading the “Sing & Dance Holiday Party” at Kusina Filipina in Eagle Rock, L.A. on December 17 to raise funds for the non-profit organization Eyes of a Mother. That she is doing it for underserved families speaks about her conviction to party for a cause.
Mic also partnered with the Filipino-American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) to stage the foodfest and afternoon dance on January 28 as a nod to the Historic Filipinotown, one of the six Asian Pacific islander neighborhoods designated by the city of Los Angeles.
Then there’s “Queen of Queens” awardee Corazon Ugalde Yellen who said, “I’m thankful for this recognition and honor. I cherish every award because it recognizes my work. I want to be a role model for the younger generation.”
Later in the night, I encountered gifted male singer Kenneth Laurente (Promising Performer of the Year), and Outstanding Young Entrepreneur awardee Tommie Mopia.
The spectacle was wrapped up by showbiz reporter and talent manager Ogie Diaz who in his acceptance speech urged, “Ipagpatuloy niyo po ang pagiging successful sa America.”