lifestyle . Interview

These Accomplished Filipino Men Reminisce Working With Their Outstanding Female Mentors

She’s his idol

Standing behind the curtains are remarkable women whose roles in shaping the destinies of those in the spotlight are often overlooked. This month, we celebrate them and magnify their brilliance.

“Women are not fit for positions of power.” That’s something we shouldn’t be hearing in 2021 but for some reason, we still do. Gender-bias and cultural nuances are often the reasons for it. Then, there are research studies showing that men find female leaders threatening and emasculating, despite being effective at their positions of power. Women are left to defend their positions as if they didn’t earn them.

It’s time we turn things around. Ahead, our chat with two accomplished Filipino men, Chef Miko Aspiras and Designer Seph Bagasao, who proudly proclaim that admiring a female leader is empowering.

Miko’s life would be very different if it weren’t for Peachy’s words of wisdom

Miko Aspiras, Peachy Juban

Peachy (left-most) with Miko (right) and Miko’s friend and business partner, Chef Lottila-Uy (center)

Miko Aspiras is one of the Philippines’ most sought-after pastry chefs. He founded the country’s first ever craft cookie bar, Scout’s Honor. The burnt Basque cheesecake? He made it popular in the Philippines. Needless to say, he’s one of those to blame for all the trending treats that got your mouth watering at one point.

In 2018, he was recognised in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia in The Arts category. A year later, he moved to Australia with his husband, JV. In 2020, he opened Seta, his first restaurant stationed in Sydney.

But besides Miko said that someone who influenced him greatly is Chef Peachy Juban.

Peachy is the woman behind the pastry shop SHORTCRUST, which has been around since 1994. She also organises masterclasses for baking enthusiasts and fellow chefs and is a professor at De La Salle-College Of Saint Benilde. Miko met her during his freshman year in university.

Miko looked back, saying: “I have heard of her prior to meeting her. Everyone from Benilde seems to love her. Her pastry classes are sought after. She was quirky, funny, smart, had plenty of energy and passionate. She is an amazing cake artist, pastry chef, mentor, and friend. The first time I met her, I felt like I was in the presence of a pastry royalty.”

Miko Aspiras, Peachy Juban masterclass

Miko and Peachy in one of her classes.

From them on, Peachy has had a huge impact in Miko’s life, especially when it comes to professionalism, work ethic, and creating relationships with the people you work with.

“Her support to me over the years is what inspires me to become better everyday,” he shared. “She always reminds me that one does not need any reason to continue to be a good person. Just be good.”

Miko believes that Peachy will always be one of his many great influences no matter what stage he is in his career. His life would’ve been very different without their shared experiences — good and bad — and meeting her is one of his most treasured encounters.

“I don’t know if she has the slightest idea, but her words — especially those that she shared with me during the earliest moments of my career — were very important to me,” Miko said. “Up until today, I remember every phrase, every letter, every quote. Even her sentiments that weren't necessarily addressed to me are still stuck in my head. And I still refer to those ideals.”

Seph learned the true meaning of ‘hard work’ through Josie Natori

“I have many idols,” admitted Filipino designer Seph Bagasao. But one that truly inspired him the most is his former boss, Josie Natori.

Josie Natori was named by Yahoo! as one of seven successful “Self-Made Immigrants” in the U.S. in 2012. And at present, her namesake brand is one of the most established names sold in upscale department stores in New York.

For Seph, meeting her and being able to work for her for three years, is, indeed, an honour.

“I applied for an internship in her Manila studio and also got a position in the design team,” he shared. “She was a little intimidating in the beginning. She exudes this certain kind of power; a true power woman.”

Josie’s “dedication, passion, and heart” for fashion was something that Seph really admired. Now that he has his own brand, BAGASAO, he tries to live by the same principles.

“By working with her, it became very obvious how she became successful,” Seph said. “She showed the true meaning of hard work. When you work hard and smart and know your vision, no one and nothing can stop you. Even in her stature and position in the global industry, she is one who never slacks off.”

Beyond her strong and empowering presence, Josie also has a comforting and supportive side to her that truly helped Seph and his career perspective. He said that in moments when their chats “went beyond work”, she openly gave a lot of sincere and humble advice. This extended even after he left her tutelage.

“Josie’s influence is really about humility and hard work which I have witnessed and experienced first-hand,” he said. “She also inspired me to have the courage to do the things that you want to do and be the best that you can be as you do it.”

Those who oppose the idea of women in influential positions tend to underestimate their effect. Miko and Seph’s experiences show that under the guidance of a power woman, learning about dedication, heart, and hard work is just scratching the surface.

Next, these Singaporean men talk about the women who inspired their successes.