Local ‘Icons of Inspiration’


One of the most admirable traits of Filipinos is our resiliency—that ability to cope with any situation and rise above every challenge and achieve our dreams through hard work and perseverance.

Recognizing this unique characteristic, international luxury watch brand, TW Steel, recently awarded four Filipinos the Pilot Your Life award. They are Philippine National Football team, Azkals captain Chieffy Caligdong, Miss Universe 2010 first runner up Venus Raj, actor and restaurateur Marvin Agustin and runner and coach Rio dela Cruz as the campaign’s Icons of Inspirations.

TW Steel Chief Executive Officer Jordy Cobelens visited the country to personally honor them at an event held at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

According to Cobelens, these four individuals epitomize the spirit of the TW Steel’s Pilot Collection. The famous, accomplished personalities may not have been blessed initially with wealth but with grit, determination and self-belief, have “piloted” their careers to heights they never even dreamed of.

“It inspires me to hear their stories,” Cobe-lens told The Sunday Times Magazine in an interview. “The message we want to send is that the things people dream about, it is possi-ble. Although, at times the future doesn’t al-ways look bright, the opportunity is always out there. And these four ‘Icons’ have showed it.”

After awarding four Icons, the brand then launched the Pilot Your Life online competition that will grant a deserving TW Steel timepiece buyer the chance to take his dream to the next level.

After purchasing a TW Steel watch interested participants just have to visit www.twsteel.com/pilotyourlife, fill in the code from the watch and write about their dreams and why they should be chosen.

“You can write, ‘I want to be an astronaut or a stylist’; ‘I want to go to Harvard Business School’; ‘I want to open a school for Guatemalan children’; or ‘I want to do volunteers work.’ Anything is possible. You just have to fill in you dream and your goal, and if we think we can make it happen, you’ll get selected,” Cobelens explained.

“The grand prize of this life-changing experience is a meet-and-greet with all our ambassadors. There will be 125 prize winners, so there’s a good chance someone from the Philippines may win,” he ended.


Venus Raj

Venus Raj: From the province to Miss Universe
Who could have guessed that a poor, dusky girl practicing her queenly “walk” in the  rice paddy in Bato, Camarines Sur would one day stand on the Miss Universe stage?

“Everyone is meant for something big—bigger than what she dreams of,” Venus says. “It’s just important to know what you want.”

Back in elementary, Raj knew what she wanted. While other kids their age played games like bahay-bahayan, she and her friends pretended to be in a beauty pageant.

In Grade V, Raj was asked to join her very first beauty contest—an elementary school competition. On the pageant night, it was announced that she won. Before the celebrations started, however, “our principal went up the stage, to say that the Grade Six contestant was the winner.”

The upset of that young defeat returned when Raj won the prized Bb. Pilipinas-Universe plum in 2010—only to be disqualified shortly thereafter because of citizenship issues (her father’s an Indian national).

The prayerful Venus left it to God while seeking the guidance of Atty. Francis Padua Papica who headed a foundation that also paid for her college education. Papica rang up his lawyer friends and then, before Venus knew it, she had a legal team which paved the way for her reinstatement.

Vindication further ensued with a fourth runner-up finish at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas.

Today, Venus Raj marvels at the journey that took her from Bicol to a, well, universe of possibilities. “Don’t settle; never stop dreaming,” she concludes.


Rio dela Cruz

Rio dela Cruz: Run for his dreams
To many of the burgeoning community of runners the Philippines, Rio dela Cruz is the iconic Coach Rio—a symbol of fitness, health and what an ideal runner should be. But perhaps more compelling than what he is now is the tale of how Coach Rio rose from the grip of poverty to be an unlikely yet convincing role model.

Realizing he excelled at running, Rio successfully tried out for his school varsity team. “The first goal was to compete with my school mates, then it was on to division meets, the NCR meet, then I wanted to compete in the Olympics,” he continues.

But what dawned on him primarily was crucial. Rio’s family was poor, and he saw that he could use “running as a stepping stone” to finish his matriculation. “We didn’t have enough money,” Rio recalls.

But because of his running proficiency, Rio was approached by various coaches and schools as a scholar. He was able to pursue a degree in Physical Education from the College of Human Kinetics of the University of the Philippines.

“My goal is to let other people know not to make poverty a hindrance to your dreams,” Rio insists. “It was a motivation. I became more focused and dedicated.”

Today, Coach Rio is at the helm of the successful RunRio—a race organization enterprise that already has a number of corporate sponsors, in addition to many supporters. “I feel good to share my passion and knowledge. I’m proud to be part of the running community,” he declares.


Marvin Agustin

Marvin Agustin: From Actor to entrepreneur
Actor Marvin Agustin took two paths that rarely come together—entrepreneurship and acting. Smiling, he says: “It was culmination of a series of great things that happened in my life . . . I never expected to be an actor or to work in a restaurant.”

The Agustins were not well off when Marvin was young, so he learned the value of hard work. He didn’t shirk from it; in fact, Marvin was gainfully employed at 16—working for a restaurant at night while he was studying college in the day. Marvin has been a waiter, a guy in a mascot suit, and filled other blue-collar roles. He confesses that he found happiness in these jobs because he loved what he did.

Meanwhile, the big break in joining showbiz came for Agustin when ABS-CBN included him as a Star Magic talent. This opened the door to a more comfortable, financially secure life. Doubtless, Marvin found another calling in acting—evidenced by a number of awards he garnered appearing on numerous TV and movie projects.

Even as his track to success is a unique one, Marvin Agustin maintains anyone can achieve what he sets his mind on doing. “There are challenges that may turn you off because they are hard to do but I was never afraid of those challenges and obstacles,” he underscores. “If you feel passionate and good about something, just do it. Nobody can ever limit you except yourself. If you do the things that you love, the pay is just a bonus.”


Chieffy Caligdong

Chieffy Caligdong: The true-blooded ‘Azkal’
This diminutive, spitfire left-winger on the pitch is undisputedly one of the pillars of the Philippine Azkals. Outside of it, he is soft-spoken, politely reticent—shy, even. That is Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong for you.

The Iloilo-born spiker first fell in the love with football as a 7-year-old. The sport wasn’t a novelty in his hometown of Barotac Nuevo. More people played it than basketball.

Even as his prowess steadily grew with age, Chieffy was nearly exiled from the sport due to a knee injury he sustained in high school. Chieffy’s triumphant return to football opened more doors to him—particularly a chance at free college education courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“You should believe in yourself,” Chieffy says. “Don’t be defined by other people. We just put our heads down and worked hard.”

He advises everyone: “It’s important that you do not dwell in negativity.”

Despite all the success, Chieffy maintains a grueling schedule to stay in competition shape. He practices daily, and then plays on the weekends. His fame and stature on theteam means nothing to him. Caligdong says he’s just one of the Azkals on the 50-strong pool. He has to stay in top form to make it to the 15-man lineup.

Chieffy presently also plays with the Green Archers United Globe in the United Football League, and has been discharged honorably from the Air Force. That gives him more time to focus on achieving even more on the pitch he dearly loves.


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