Let these Four Influential Women in the Philippines Tell You ‘What Is An Empowered Female?’

MANILA, Philippines — To celebrate the strength and beauty of women this Women’s Month, Rustan’s caught up with four personalities whose work and achievements have inspired many.

Regardless of age and background, these ladies have defied all odds and are making their own mark in the world. Meet Hon. Cristal Bagatsing, a congresswoman who heads the Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran (KABAKA) foundation to help alleviate poverty and conduct feeding, educational, and leadership programs; Frankie Pangilinan, a lady who fearlessly uses her platform to raise awareness on social and political issues; Shaira Luna, one of the country’s most prolific photographers; and Alexa Kaufman, the youngest member of the Philippine Opera Company. 

Bold, beautiful, and successful, these women’s work and achievements have inspired many lives and are true embodiments of “Girl Power”.

Q: What are your self-discoveries for the past few years in terms of your career/accomplishments? How do you think this has possibly inspired other women?

Cristal Bagatsing: Prayer & Hard Work is what rings in my head all the time, something that I learned from my time studying in St Scholastica’s College, so as best as I can, I try to carry that out in the things I do. I realized through the years that if you want something done right, you have to oversee everything from start to finish. Make sure you follow through the projects that you are really passionate about and it won’t be that hard to see it through and make sure you have a good solid team of people you can trust.

Hon. Cristal Bagatsing, Photo courtesy of Rustan’s

Frankie Pangilinan: I think a primary discovery was that I seem to be braver than I think. Everyday, I’m constantly terrified of things over which I have little to no control. To carry just enough bravery with me to get things done, however fragile or weak I may feel, that takes strength, and it has taken me places I’ve never once thought imaginable. It’s very humbling. 

Shaira Luna: One thing I love about being in the creative industry is that I always discover something new – both about the craft and about myself! 15 years in the industry has given me not just skills, but many friends, dreams, and the realization that you really can make your own path, at your own pace. I am lucky that I get to share my story sometimes, and can only hope that it has inspired someone out there to take a chance on something they want to do, and find happiness and fulfilment in it, too. 

Alexa Kaufman: Appreciation, love and respect are three things I was fortunate to receive at a very young age. These have inspired me to give back and to be who I am now. For as long as I can remember, music has always been played at home. I would play the piano and write my own lyrics to sing along with the tunes I have created. My parents have always been loving and supportive. Growing up, as I progressed from teacher to teacher, I gained more confidence. I experienced a few challenges when, not knowing my limits, I caught a cold and ended up completely losing my voice after a performance so I learned that it is very important to take care of one’s health. With all these amazing experiences, I believe sharing one’s talent, always giving my best, and by not letting anything hinder me from pursuing what is beautiful can help empower and inspire my friends and family to be more than who they think they are.

Q: What is one quality that you are most proud of to have as a woman?

Cristal Bagatsing: Probably being gentle-hearted; others would say women are emotional, but I think that quality is what sets her apart because feelings often help when dealing with decisions, at least in my experience so far. I think that because a woman has more “feels” that’s where we get that “woman’s intuition”.

Frankie Pangilinan: I think it’s my femininity in itself. So much of culture seems to be built upon equating the lack of femininity with strength, and I don’t believe in that at all. I think strength and femininity can coexist; they often do. I’m nothing without my femininity.

Frankie Pangilinan, Photo courtesy of Rustan’s

Shaira Luna: I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to myself, and I’m quite proud of that!

Q: How do you make the most of your time and what advice do you want to impart to fellow ladies? 

Cristal Bagatsing: Never take things for granted because if 2020 has taught us anything, that would be that life is fleeting, take chances while you still can. Savor each moment with your loved ones and in the things you do.

Frankie Pangilinan: I write so much (so, so much)! Reading too, but writing more often nowadays. I hope we learn to cherish what we truly are passionate about, regardless of anybody’s expectations, including our own. We are often so limited by what we build to be our own standards too that we forget what makes us truly ourselves. Wear what you want. Say what you want. Free yourself from the confines of people-pleasing thoughts! 

Shaira Luna: I can’t keep still! When I’m not shooting, I’m either thinking of images or looking at them. Everything I do seems to come back to creating or envisioning something. I probably collect objects as much as I collect ideas, because I know I will be able to use them for the shoots I do! And you don’t need to be in the creative industry to do the same. It just pays to always gather and retain tidbits of information or knowledge in your head, because they may come in handy someday! 

Alexa Kaufman, Photo courtesy of Rustan’s

Alexa Kaufman: I am a very curious and passionate girl. I love exploring and doing many things like reading, playing the piano, digital arts, figure skating, performing in musicals, ballet and painting. I have been homeschooled since 2014, so balancing school and my other interests has been a walk in the park.  I wish to carry on learning and training so that I can continue to improve and build on what I have already achieved and be a good example to others. I believe that if one is willing to work hard and make sacrifices, with God’s grace, there is nothing to stop you from following your dreams. 

Q: On a lighter note, do you believe that fashion uplifts your mood and, ultimately, empowers you? What piece of accessory or clothing makes you feel more empowered? 

Cristal Bagatsing: ANIMAL PRINT and the color red. I, without a shadow of a doubt, believe that what you wear helps you express what you feel, and wearing the right color or print changes your mood and energy that’ll give you that empowering feeling! 

Frankie Pangilinan: I’ve been loving rings as of late! Rings and a pretty manicure. I love doing my nails and taking the time to make them look clean. My hands take me everywhere, carry me through my day. It’s only essential that I treat them correctly.

Shaira Luna: Fashion uplifts, empowers, and inspires me, one hundred percent. My work and the nostalgic images I produce rely on clothing to help bring out the stories, and I think that crossed over to my everyday life! What I put on for the day is usually inspired by the set or location I will be in, so you can just imagine the daily mental exercise I get from all the colors and patterns in my closet!

Q: What does Women Empowerment mean to you?

Cristal Bagatsing: Strength & Inclusivity.

Frankie Pangilinan: It means support. Mutual growth. Lifting one another up when so much of life has been built to tear us down. Embrace the parts of us we’ve been taught to hate. Learn to love fearlessly.

Shaira Luna: That you can make your own choices, adjust, tweak, and improve yourself as necessary, and find contentment and joy in the journey!


Shaira Luna, Photo courtesy of Rustan’s

Alexa Kaufman: Although my life experiences are very limited, I know from my observations, from people I admire and my readings of biographies of outstanding people, both male and female, that there is no limit to what can be achieved. I do believe this to be true, so it is not a question of female empowerment or girl empowerment, but simply self-empowerment.


Just like these four empowered women, confidently show the world what you’re capable of. Be proud of what you stand for and never be afraid of expressing yourself. Look and feel your best while doing so, with a wide variety of choices from Rustan’s.

This women’s month, from March 1 -15, Rustan’s equips the strongest of females with powerful ensembles and accessories that will make any woman look and feel their most confident. Ladies can enjoy a 15% discount on all regular-priced items under Rustan’s Private brands including Criselda Lontok, Lady Rustan, Lotus, and Luna. Spruce up your wardrobe and always be ready for online meetings or even quick coffee runs with more fashion choices at 20% off on all regular-priced items from brands Adrianna Papell, Daze, Elle Tahari, JOA, Lafayette, Lilly Pulitzer, Lost + Wander, Natori, Ricardo Preto, Vivienne Tam, among many others. 

Comfy and stylish shoes, paired with the perfect handbag, completes a power look: avail of a 20% discount on all regular-priced items from brands such as By Far, Danse Lente, and DeMellier, Kurt Geiger, LeSportsac; Rafe, Rejina Pyo, Schutz, See by Chloe, Staud, Strathberry, and Manu Atelier. For a finishing touch, accessories from Echo Designs, France Luxe, Janavi, Richmond & Finch, and Spartina 449 are also offered at 20% off on all regular-priced items.