In 2021, I decided to make a big change and pursue a lifelong passion of opening a café. Alongside my friend Jean-Noel Quilatan, we took a chance during the pandemic and opened Café Kuya in the fall, serving specialty coffee and food inspired by our Filipino heritage. We aim to create a space that encourages our community to connect and be inspired, to give a voice to Filipino-run groups and entrepreneurs. Since opening, we have had the honour to be featured on CBC, La Presse, Eater and Time Out Magazine.
When I was nominated for Man & Woman of the Year, I was very surprised and honoured that someone believed that I could take on such a challenge. I chose to get involved because I’ve always believed in seizing an opportunity to help. Growing up, I was inspired by my mother who was always quick to help anyone in need, whether newly arrived immigrants or people in her church and various organizations. This cause is also very personal to me. My grandmother passed away from leukemia at the age of 72. She was very close and dear to me as she lived with us and helped raise me in my younger years.
By participating in MWOY, I hope to not only raise funds but to bring awareness of the impacts these diseases have on people's lives, families and communities. I want to rally my community to bring hope and inspire people to step out and give back.