If your go-to Filipino celebrity reference is Manny Pacquiao, you’re not alone. So if you want to learn about other famous people from the Philippines, look no further.
Keep on reading to discover the Philippines’ most famous sons and daughters, including some celebrities you didn’t know were Pinoys.
1. Jose Rizal
Along with Andrés Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini (pictured above), Jose Rizal is widely considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines. That’s because he was a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement, which advocated for political reforms during the Spanish rule of the country. Rizal paid the ultimate price for his freedom fighting, as he was executed by the Spanish government in1896. In an everlasting tribute, Pinoys celebrate Jose Rizal Day every December 30th, the anniversary of his death.
2. Manila Luzon
Geography buffs will recognise “Manila” and “Luzon” as two popular locations in the Philippines. RuPaul’s Drag Race fans will know Manila Luzon as one of the show’s most popular contestants. An American drag queen, comedian, singer and reality television personality, Luzon came to international attention as a participant on the third season of the show. In June 2019, New York magazine placed her 19th on their list of most powerful drag queens in America. Originally from Minnesota, Luzon was born to a Filipino mother and American father.
3. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
It’s fair to say that parts of “GMA’s” career have been mired in controversy, with multiple allegations of corruption levied against her. That said, it would be unfair not to highlight her accomplishments as a pioneering woman in politics. The longest-serving President of the Philippines, she was also the first woman Vice President and Speaker of the House. During her long and illustrious career, Arroyo was also a senator, Undersecretary of Trade and Industry and Secretary of Social Welfare and Development.
Honourable mention to Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the Philippines’ first female president.
4. Manny Pacquiao
If you’ve read our cool facts about the Philippines article, you’ll know that Pinoys are obsessed with Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquiao. A legendary boxer, Manny went from homelessness to winning 12 major boxing titles in his career. If that wasn’t enough, Manny turned his hands to politics in 2016. And as a serving senator, “PacMan” has just announced his candidature for President of the Philippines in 2022.
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5. Josefa Llanes Escoda
She made our list of inspiring women to remember on International Women’s Day 2021, and Josefa Llanes Escoda has repeated the trick here. The founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Escoda was a teacher, social worker, and staunch advocate of women’s suffrage, fighting for Filipino women’s right to vote.
6. Lea Salonga
You might not have heard of her, but you probably have heard her voice. That’s because Lea Salonga, a Filipina singer and actress, is best known for her roles in musical theatre and also supplying the voices in two Disney films (Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Princess Mulan in Mulan). At age 18, she played the lead role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon in the West End and on Broadway The show’s success led to Salonga winning an Olivier and picking up a Tony Award, becoming the first Asian woman to receive the honour.
7. Gloria Diaz
In 1969, a Filipina brought home the Miss Universe crown for the first time. The victorious 18-year-old contestant was Gloria Diaz, who charmed the whole world with her beauty and wit. After that remarkable night, Diaz continued to make history as she flew across the world to advocate for issues such as women’s and worker’s rights.
8. Tim Tebow
Born in the Philippines, Tim Tebow is probably more famous in the US than in his homeland. As a quarterback for the University of Florida, Tebow achieved cult-like status during his four seasons with the team. Thus Tebow Mania was born. A devout Christian, his penchant for praying on one knee with his head bowed became known as “tebowing”. He even managed to trademark the word. After his stint in college, Tebow would go on to the NFL where he would play for five teams including the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and New England Patriots. A proud Pinoy, Tebow regularly visits the Philippines to conduct missionary work in the country’s poorest regions.
9. Peter Gene Hernandez
“Who?” you may ask. And we don’t blame you. While his parents may call him Peter, or even Pete, you may know him by Bruno Mars. Speaking of his parents, “Bruno” was born to a Filipino mum and a Puerto Rican-Jewish dad and grew up in Hawaii. Proud of his Pinoy roots, Mars regularly performs in the Philippines on his world tours.
Honourable mentions go to these other entertainers with at least one Pinoy parent:
- apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas.
- Nicole Scherzinger.
- Enrique Iglesias.
- Vanessa Hudgens.
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10. Lou Diamond Phillips
Lou Diamond Phillips has one of those faces you’ve seen before but can’t quite place. He’s a Filipino-American film, television, and stage actor and director. His breakthrough came when he starred in the film La Bamba as Ritchie Valens. He earned a supporting actor Golden Globe Award nomination for his role in Stand and Deliver and a Tony Award nomination for his role in The King and I. Phillips, whose mother is Filipino, is currently filming Easter Sunday, a Pinoy-inspired comedy starring fellow Filipino, Jo Koy.
11. Jo Koy
Comedian Joseph “Jo Koy” Glenn Herbert’s upbringing mirrors that of many Filipino-Americans. His American father was in the US Air Force and was stationed in the Philippines when he married Koy’s Filipino mother. And if you’ve ever seen any of his Netflix specials, you’ll know that his Filipino heritage is at the forefront of his comedy. In fact, “Ko” means “my” in Tagalog and “Jo Ko” was his aunt’s pet name for him as a toddler. However, it wasn’t until recently that he realised that “Ko” is spelt without a “y”.
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