Growing up as an American girl of Filipino descent, I knew at a young age that I will always be labeled as a minority even at first glance. Being aware of that made life a little more difficult compared to my non-POC counterparts. They will never know directly what it is like to be a POC in this country. The media didn’t exactly help either. There was a lack of female Filipino figures; therefore, I had no role model to look up to. Representation is so important in order to invoke hope in certain individuals. Not having that for myself throughout my childhood felt detrimental. No representation of a female Filipino figure in the media lessens the hope and aspirations of myself and many other female Filipinos.
Luckily, over the years, the media started to shift and improve in adding more representations of minorities. This goes for female Filipino representation, too. So, being one myself, here are some female Filipino figures in the media I hold dear.
If you don’t know who Lea Salonga is, you might recognize her by her voice. She is the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and Mulan from Mulan. Watching these two Disney films was made a little more special for me since Lea played a huge part in them by providing the vocals. She was one of the earliest instances of female Filipino representation I’d seen. She also made a name for herself as the first actress of Asian descent to be featured in the Les Misérables Broadway musical as Éponine and Fantine, the lead role as Kim in the Miss Saigon musical, and recently as Aunt Gail in the film Yellow Rose. She is such a legendary actress who continues to be successful in her career and thrives as a prominent female Filipino figure in the performing arts.
Vanessa is known as Gabriella Montez from the High School Musical Disney Channel movie series. She also appeared as Corrie in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Rebecca in Drake & Josh. Vanessa is actually half Filipino; her mother is a Filipino native from Manila. After her time on Disney Channel, she then starred in more mature movies such as Spring Breakers, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and The Princess Switch. Even though there wasn’t really that much female Filipino representation in the media, Vanessa was one of the rare actresses I’ve discovered growing up as she played a lead role in an iconic Disney Channel original movie trilogy.
Anna Maria Perez de Tagle
Anna first made her appearance on Hannah Montana as Ashley Dewitt. Later on, she was cast as Ella Pador in the Camp Rock movies. I had no idea she was Filipino at all until sometime after Camp Rock came out. She can also speak Tagalog! Not to mention, she is the granddaughter of Sylvia La Torre, a Filipino music legend. Anna is a marvelous singer and actress. Nowadays, you can find her being active on TikTok! Here is her profile.
Jessica was a contestant who placed second against Phillip Phillips on the 11th season of American Idol. She is half Filipino as well; her mother is a Filipino native from Samal, Bataan in the Philippines. She became quite a crowd favorite when she was a contestant. She did have prior experience as a child when she competed on the 1st season of America’s Got Talent. Her singing skills are god-like; she is a powerhouse singer, to be exact. She also has a single, “Tonight” featuring Ne-Yo. Years after her time on American Idol, she started her own Youtube channel posting videos of her singing covers of songs. Here is her channel.
Now, this figure isn’t actually a real person. Rather, she is actually a video game character from the video game series Soulcalibur. Each character has their own purpose for finding Soul Edge and Soul Calibur, two mythical and rivaling swords. Her name translates to “sharp” or “blade” in Tagalog. Talim was introduced in Soulcalibur II as the last priestess of the winds for her home village during the start of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Her journey starts off when a foreigner leaves a metal fragment of Soul Edge in the village. She sensed its potential danger and was determined to return it to where it came from, knowing that she herself might lose her innocence. She appears again in Soulcalibur III and Soulcalibur IV. She does not return in Soulcalibur V due to the game taking place 17 years after the events of the previous installment; however, she finally reappears again in Soulcalibur VI.
She is my all-time personal favorite Filipino representation; I’ve always wanted to be just like her when I was younger because of her pacifistic strength and selfless attitude. She is a uniquely kind soul compared to the other characters. Upon fighting in combat with many enemies, she does not blame them for their actions and shows constant mercy, self-doubt and worry when she defeats them.
She is also not a real person like Talim but she does deserve to be on this list. Raya from the upcoming Disney film Raya and the Last Dragon can be interpreted to be Filipino because she represents Southeast Asians as a whole. She wears a traditional Asian conical straw hat called a salakot (it is called various other names in different Asian countries) to protect herself from rain or harsh sunlight. Her fighting style she uses is called Kali (also called Arnis or Eskrima), the national martial arts of the Philippines. She also wields a wavy double-edged Moro sword called a kalis. You can see a lot of these elements in this trailer. All of my life, the closest thing I got to general Asian representation was Mulan because of Lea Salonga. Now, us female Filipinos and fellow female Southeast Asians have our very own Disney princess.