Meet the 10 game-changing Filipinos who made it to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list.
What were you doing when you were 15?
Amin Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had been researching about alternatives to plastic bags. At such a young age, he was able to invent a biodegradable type of plastic out of nata de coco (a coconut byproduct) for his science class. This won him a bronze medal at the 2015 International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project (I-SWEEP) Olympiad in Houston Texas.
Amin and the nine other Filipinos who were included in the inaugural Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list prove that age is never a hindrance if you have the determination to succeed. These young entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators from the fields of science, tech, media, arts, education, and entertainment (their ages displayed beside their photos below) were put together by a panel of expert judges in Asia. They form part of the 300 entries from other fields across the region.
Let’s start with the youngest of them all.
Amin Hataman, inventor
What started out as a science project for Amin Hataman didn’t only win him awards and accolades from all across the globe; it’s also about to change the way we live. His biodegradable plastic made out of nata de coco, once patented and mass-produced, could replace five billion of plastics used annually worldwide and provide a long-term solution to our problem with pollution.
Leandro Leviste, president, Solar Philippines
The son of businessman Tony Leviste and Senator Loren Legarda, Leandro Leviste is making a name for himself by becoming the biggest provider of solar power in the Philippines. He has powered residential buildings as well as malls like SM North Edsa and Robinsons Palawan, and converted a 160-hectare farm in Batangas into the largest solar facility in the country.
Charice Pempengco, singer
From being a regular at amateur singing contests to being a viral video sensation, Charice has come a long way. In 2010, she wowed the whole world with her hit song “Pyramid,” earning her the spot at the Billboard Dance Chart merely a week after its release. Once dubbed by Oprah Winfrey as “the most talented girl in the world,” Charice was the second Filipino to do rank in the Hot 100 chart, after Lea Salonga.
Rachel De Villa, founder and CTO, Cropital
With the goal of helping local farmers raise capital for their crops through crowdfunding, Rachel De Villa developed Cropital, and now she is reaping the efforts she sowed. She was one of the winners of last year’s Youth Entrepreneurship Development Workshop, which was done in partnership with GoNegosyo and the United States Embassy in Manila.
Ronson Culibrina, artist
Before Ronson Culibrina was represented by the Michael Jansen Gallery in Berlin last year, he has already been winning awards even as a student of fine arts at the Technological University of the Philippines. Just recently, he held his first solo exhibit Before Sundown at 1335 Mabini, showcasing his distorted renditions of the works of the late National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.
Koh Martinez Onozawa, co-founder & CEO, Loudbasstard
After quitting his management work in Japan, Koh Martinez Onozawa decided to go back to Cebu and see how he can make indigenous materials achieve global recognition—and thus, the bamboo music amplifier Loudbasstard was born. This year, Onozawa is planning to enter the US market after achieving success in the Philippines and Japan.
Valenice Balace, founder & CEO, Peekawoo
Despite the dominance of Tinder in the dating app market, Valenice decided to swim against the tide and created Peekawoo, a dating app designed by women for women. After only two years in the making, the app has now made ripples and has been featured on international press agencies like the BBC.
Raphael Mijeno, co-founder & chief financial officer, SALt
Together with his sister Aisa, Ralph developed a low-cost lamp that runs on saltwater, called the SALT Lamp, with the goal of lighting coastal towns with little to no access to electricity. The Mijeno siblings attracted global media attention and is currently working on mass-producing the lamps for more families.
Henry Motte-Muñoz, founder, Edukasyon.ph
To make sure students are well-equipped before they even go to college, Henry Motte-Muñoz decided to put up Edukasyon.ph. He ensures that children who deserve it will get what they need to succeed by allowing students to get matched on scholarships and programs based on their qualifications. Aside from Eduksayon.ph, he also founded Bantay.ph, a youth website that advocates for good governance.
Xyza Cruz Bacani, photographer
When Xyza Cruz Bacani arrived in Hong Kong at 18 as a domestic helper, she didn’t know her life would change after buying her first camera from her employer. After taking stunning photos of the lives of domestic workers in Hong Kong, she earned global recognition for her works and became a Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellows award last year. –Dino Mari Testa