Monday, September 16, 2013

PROFILES IN ACTIVISM | Meet Loida Nicolas Lewis, One of the World's 100 Most Influential Filipina Women Leaders

NEW YORK CITY |  Between now and October 4, 2013, Loida Nicolas-Lewis will stay on one message. As the lead producer of the New York premiere of NOLI ME TANGERE opera, Ms. Lewis will be hard at work raising funds for the show, raising awareness for it among the members of her vast network and doing her best to get as many people as possible to see this unique production.

With a book by Guillermo Tolentino and music by Felipe de Leon, the NOLI opera has been Ms. Lewis's baby project ever since saw it in a Chicago production and was appropriately wowed. It is the first full-length Western-style opera that the Philippines has produced. Based on Dr. Jose P. Rizal's important novel about the oppressive Spanish rule of the Philippines for 333 years, the NOLI opera performs October 4–6, 2013 at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

Visit the official website of the NOLI ME TANGERE opera to purchase tickets or get more information: http://nolimetangereoperanyc.org/

Me and Ms. Loida Nicolas Lewis at the Asia Society
Ms. Nicolas-Lewis has been fervent about her building of support for the NOLI opera. What’s at stake goes far beyond ensuring the success of this stage production. If given the right level of support, the East Coast premiere of the NOLI opera could serve as a model for the globalization of Philippine classical music and theatrical performance. Can we promote and sustain the arts and culture we have created?  How do we U.S. Filipinos and Filipino Americans build, cultivate and engage passionate communities that will rally for arts and culture over materialism — for the perpetuation of Philippine art forms and musical literature that transcend language barriers?

"Nothing happens in the world if it does not happen in New York," Ms. Nicolas-Lewis said. “The Philippines has now shed its title as ‘Sick Man of Asia’ and is now considered a rising star. Our mother country [now has the third highest growth rate] in Growth Domestic Product for 2012. We extended a $1-billion loan to the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the economy of our former colonial master Spain. It is time for us Filipino Americans to show the world that we are a cultured people.”

Soon after the October premiere of the NOLI opera, Ms. Nicolas-Lewis will fly to San Francisco. Why? She has been tapped to speak at the Global Filipina Women: Power & Influence as part of the 10th Filipina Leadership Summit from October 24 to October 26, 2013 in San Francisco at the Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel.

Ms. Nicolas-Lewis will receive an award as among the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World (FWN Global 100). The organizers of the Filipinas Women's Network has dubbed this working recognition award as "the ultimate showcase of the Filipino community’s most inspiring individuals in the private and public sectors, who exemplify innovation, femtorship, professionalism, empowerment and leadership." It is "an important initiative of Pinay Power 2020," says FWN Founder Marily Mondejar.

Last year, Ms. Nicolas-Lewis was named "China's newest public enemy Number 1." As the national chair of the US Pinoys for Good Governance, she held a press conference in Manila on July 14 to announce a worldwide campaign to “Boycott Made in China Products.”  She explained that her group's call for the global boycott of all kinds of China-made products was a way of matching China's diplomatic and military arrogance in claiming ownership of the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan group of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"We have to internationalize the issue," she said, noting the rich oil resources in those islands. "Who will share this black gold? Who will share the natural gas?"

China’s government-controlled media fired back with a newscast calling on the Chinese people to boycott a chain of convenience stores in China believed to be owned by Ms. Nicolas-Lewis. She used to own a Cayman company that operates retail convenience stores in four Chinese cities: Xiamen, Chengdu, Suzhou and Guangzhou. Unfortunately for her former Chinese business partners who bought out her ownership interest in the “Beatrice” stores – at a substantial discount – several years ago, the China authorities are boycotting a wholly-owned Chinese business.

Here is a video of an NTD.TV newscast of Ms. Nicolas-Lewis articulating her political cause:



This past August, Ms. Nicolas-Lewis spoke again at an intimate conversation with the Filipino American Press Club of New York. In the following video, prepared by New York Balita and shot at the Jeepney GastroPub, she explains her political stance to a group of mostly young people and interested insiders:



BIOGRAPHY | Loida Nicolas Lewis served as Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, a $2 billion multinational food company with operations all across Europe, from 1994-2000. She assumed the leadership of one of the largest companies in the U.S. after the death of her husband, the African-American, Wall Street financier Reginald F. Lewis, and won over a skeptical business community by moving quickly to sell assets including the corporate jet, paying down debt, downsizing the New York corporate staff by 50 percent and increasing earnings. After successfully running the company for six years, she completed the sale of TLC Beatrice and its related businesses in 2000, achieving a 35 percent on investment for its shareholders.

In 1987, her late husband, Reginald, a Harvard Law graduate, had bid for and won the international operations of Beatrice International in a $1 billion leveraged buyout that at the time was the largest of its kind. In 1992, he was listed by Forbes Magazine as among the 400 wealthiest Americans. In 1995, Loida appeared on the cover of Working Woman magazine as the Top Business Woman in America.

Currently, Loida is Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice, LLC, a family investment firm. A lawyer by profession, admitted to practice in the Philippines and New York, she was the first Filipina woman to pass the New York bar without attending law school in the United States.

After having won her discrimination case against the US Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1987 and been awarded three years pay back, Loida served for ten years as General Attorney with the INS. She co-authored "Hot to Get A Green Card," now in its 10th edition and a best-seller in its genre.

Loida is Chair of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to Harvard Law School, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland's African-American History and Culture, and Virginia State University. There is a Reginald F. Lewis International Law building at Harvard and the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University.

She also supports Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Asian Pacific American Film, Asian American Arts Alliance, Asian American Federation of New York, Asian American Foundation, Diversity Theater and Ma-Yi Theater.

Loida was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Reporter and the Apollo Theater Foundation.

She has two daughters, both cum laude A.B. graduates of Harvard University; Leslie is an actor and Christina is a freelance writer following a five-year stint as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. She has three grandchildren, Christian, Savilla, Calvin and two sons-in-law, Gavin Sword and Dan Halpern.
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