On stage at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 11, 2018 are (from left) Jerry Sibal, Sandra Bookman (emcee), Jon Jon Briones, Janet and Ruben Nepales, Nina Pineda (emcee) and Edwin Josue.  (Photo by Troi Santos)

Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

It was a fun-filled evening at the first-ever Unity Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on May 11, 2018.

Hosted by the Friends of the Philippines Society USA Inc., the gala benefit dinner featured a silent auction; a presentation of award for public service to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; a fashion show by Renee Salud and Rocky Gathercole; a presentation of award for achievement to journalists Janet and Ruben Nepales; the presence of HRH Princess Katarina De Silva (who delivered a short speech), President of the Guild of Travel and Tourism of the United Kingdom; musical performances from tenor John Andrew Fernandez and soprano Brittany Palmer; and a show from the Parangal Dance Company.

Emcees of the gala were journalists Nina Pineda, a Filipino-American; and Sandra Bookman, both of WABC-TV Channel 7.

Founders of Unity Gala Jerry Sibal and Edwin Josue welcomed the crowd stating their commitment to “empowering diversity and integrating multiculturalism, and seek to promote understanding and cross-cultural collaboration in the global milieu.”

Miguel Bautista is another co-founder of Unity Gala.

Apparently, Gov. Cuomo was not in attendance and the award was accepted on his behalf by Lourdes Zapata, the Governors Chief Diversity Officer.


Welcoming the guests are Unity Gala founders Edwin Josue (right) and Jerry Sibal.  (Filipino Reporter photo)

Awardee Ruben Nepales is an award-winning journalist who is a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — the first and only Filipino to be elected.

He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in communications arts.

He is currently based in Los Angeles and is a native of Calasiao, Pangasinan.

His wife and fellow awardee Janet Susan Rodriguez Nepales is also an award-winning journalist.

She was voted by the Filipina Women’s Network as one of the “100 Most Influential Filipino Women in the U.S.”

She also is a graduate of UST, cum laude in journalism.

Ruben and Janet have two children — Bianca Nicole and Rafaella Angelica.


Guests at the gala benefit dinner. From left, Dr. Lestrino Baquiran, Consul Arman Talbo, Cora Reyes, Dr. Linda Pelayo (Filipino Reporter publisher), Nina Pineda (journalist at WABC-7), Dr. Angie Cruz, L.P. Pelayo, Dr. Frank Rabadam, Marieta Lamar and Dr. Kit Reyes.  (Photo by Troi Santos)

Addressing the crowd was Jon Jon Briones, an actor and singer.

He is best known for playing “The Engineer” in “Miss Saigon.”

The Quezon City native recently appeared in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”

He played the role of Modesto Cunanan, father of Versace’s murderer Andrew Cunanan.

Prelude to the Unity Gala was the Explore Islands Philippines at the iconic Grand Central Terminal in the heart of Manhattan.

The exhibit ran from May 9-12, 2018.

On display were the numerous islands of the Philippines, as well as art displays, music performances and dishes from the homeland.


HRH Princess Katarina De Silva (center) with Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. and Eleanor de Leon.  (Photo by Troi Santos)

In cooperation with the Philippine Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, the Friends of the Philippines Society USA Inc.’s host committee are Dr. Angie Cruz, Aida Bartolome, Agnes Jamora, Billy Samson, Carl Nelson, Connie Montoya, Christine Pomeranz, Edwin Josue, Elizabeth and Robert Dobrish, Hank Hendrickson, Jorge Ortoll, Jerry Sibal, Karen Gamba, Ledy Almadin, Lolita and Frank Savage, Dr. Lorraine Henrickts, Dr. Lestrino Baquiran, Marilyn Abalos, Miguel Bautista, Paul Magahis, Richard Aguinaldo, Robert Andal Brito, Rose Aiello, Tess Dela Cruz and Wayne Purville.

Silent auction donors include Aida Bartolome, Cake by Marissa Roces, Christine Allado, Conrad Hotel Manila, Dress by Renee Salud, Dress by Rocky Gathercole, Glossy Skinnovation, Guenevere Rodriguez, Jeanet Oris, Jerry Sibal, Kathy Sio Home Goods, Loida Nicolas Lewis, Lolita Savage, Ma-Yi Theater, Mita Quiogue, Pastry by Anna Gray, Philippine Airlines and Starbucks.


From left, Marieta Lamar, Dr. Linda Pelayo, MariaLara Gregory, Dr. Angie Cruz, Cora Reyes and Dr. Elma Castillo.  (Photo by YetBo LoveRita)


From left, Jerry Sibal, Marivir Montebon (President of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York), Edwin Josue, Olive Osia-Magpile and Lindy Rosales.  (Photo by Troi Santos)


From left, Jon Jon Briones, Oliver Oliveros and Don Tagala (journalist at ABS-CBN).  (Photo by Troi Santos)


Loida Nicolas Lewis at the event.  (Photo by Troi Santos)


From left, Edwin Josue, Ruben and Janet Nepales, and Jerry Sibal.  (Photo by Troi Santos)


Rocky Gathercole greets the crowd after the fashion show.  (Photo by Troi Santos)


The models with Rocky Gathercole.  (Photo by Troi Santos)


Renee Salud acknowledges the crowd.  (Photo by Troi Santos)

All photos below by Troi Santos:








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