HONG KONG - A Filipino author here hopes his recently published book "100 Filipinos", will reframe how Filipino achievements are celebrated and commemorated in everyday life and in schools.
"We need to refocus our lens because we see so much of celebrities and there's so much of what they call the celebrity culture that they tend to emulate these celebrities," Noel De Guzman tells ABS-CBN News in an interview at his Tung Chung office.
"So they know if a person...who, let's say a model or an actress, they know where she is now, what she's eating now or what she did last night. But if you ask them who is this Filipino who's significant, who made valuable contribution to our country, they don't know."
It was in November 2018, a "regular working day" as the Manila-born author had described it, when he chanced upon pioneering Filipino pediatrician and founder of The Children's Medical Center, the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, Dr. Fe Del Mundo, who was featured on Google Doodle. He clicked on her profile and found out she was "an amazing person".
The "Mother of Pediatrics", as also published in the book, was born in November 27, 1911. She was the first female pediatrician to be accepted at Harvard Medical School in 1936.
"I was very amazed and at the same time, I felt ashamed of myself for not knowing her. So that's why the book came into fruition," De Guzman says.
In his initial, mostly internet-based research, De Guzman says the list swelled to 500 before he narrowed it down to the 200-page book, which he admits was a "difficult process". Joining him on the team to help verify are historian Dr. Vic Villan, a professor of history at the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of the Philippines, who is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines; Fish Magazine Assistant Managing Editor Elle Z. Silvestre; and accomplished content writer and editor Joseinne Pascual who helped proofread the book.
The inspiration behind the title, De Guzman says, came from an article on people's fascination with listings and how "100" is associated with a perfect score. This is the illustrator's second book, his first being "100 Best of Hong Kong: Plan The Perfect Trip (The Yellow List)", which is available on Amazon.
The common denominator for "100 Filipinos", De Guzman explains, is that Filipinos should have excelled or excel in their field and have contributed something to the country such has having achieved an extraordinary feat. Plans of turning it into a series is in the pipeline.
De Guzman, a father of two and who is himself an accomplished artist having worked with international companies such as Kraft, McDonalds, IBM, Citi, Shangri-La Hotels, South China Morning Post, the World Health Organization, the Hong Kong Design Institute, Lan Kwai Fong Group, and KPMG among many others, says being a Filipino has no boundaries, is "not defined by geography", and not defined by blood when asked to describe what a Filipino means to him after having lived abroad for almost 30 years.
His publishing company, Artmazing!, is also the publisher of The Correspondent, the magazine of the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, Insurance Asia News, and Week In China magazine.
He says he felt more Filipino after doing the book.
"So it was like I was away from my country for so long that you start to long for the Filipino in you so you start to read more about Philippines and I think that's where the book came in as well," De Guzman says.
"I realized being away from the country makes me even more passionate about being a Filipino."
And with De Guzman himself having experienced discrimination at the work place, where, for example, he was expected to perform below par, it gave him the opportunity "to aim for excellence and perform more than what's expected" of him.
"So being Filipino is strengthened when someone challenges you because of your nationality. So we always put our best foot forward because of that," he says.
From the Filipino physician who discovered erythromycin to the "computer genius who rocked the Silicon Valley", as well as the only man who could use a leaf to play music as recognized by the Guinness World Records to the first Filipino woman nutritionist, the collection of biographies also includes past presidents such as Ferdinand Marcos, Hong Kong-educated Manuel Roxas, Ramon Magsaysay, Manuel Quezon, and pioneers in religion, human rights, media, the environment, marine field, music, the arts, as well as business tycoons, to name but a few.
"There are always two sides of a coin in setting criteria with the book. Either some people think it's controversial or not but they have influenced a lot of Filipinos," says De Guzman.
"I think it's in the educational system that we were only introduced to let's say just the heroes, a handful of heroes. That time the access to information wasn't that great unlike today, the online information is substantial even more than that. And we often end up with too much information."
The book, which has 4,000 physical copies, is currently available at Hong Kong bookstore Bookazine and is among its list of weekly bestsellers. It is also gaining traction in the United States. De Guzman says he is in talks with National Bookstore and hopes to forge partnership with e-commerce platforms, such as Lazada, so Filipinos in the Philippines can avail of the book.
"If we surround ourselves with great books and inspiring individuals, that alone can help an individual achieve great things," De Guzman says