Who We Are

Mission

To strengthen Filipino identity through education and build thriving global communities by fostering a deep appreciation of the Philippines’ rich living heritage and history.

Values

Inclusion

We welcome everyone and foster a deep sense of belonging among those who participate in our programs.

Collaboration

We collaborate with like-minded organizations and individuals to do our best work.

Innovation

We believe that innovation is integral to how we do our work.

Service

Service to others and elevating the common good is integral to our program.

Self-discovery

We nurture a strong sense of self and connection to one’s Filipino identity and heritage.

Community

We value building strong, thriving communities throughout and beyond our programs.

Member of National and International Organizations

International Association for Intercultural Education
World Council on Intercultural and Global Competence
Massachusetts Nonprofit Network
National Council of Nonprofits

People

Our leadership team is made up of accomplished Filipino and Filipino-American professionals who are committed to sharing their knowledge, skills and networks to strengthen the global diaspora.

Geraldine Acuña-SunshineCo-Founder &
President of the Board

Geraldine is a corporate lawyer, community builder, and social impact entrepreneur

Geraldine has practiced corporate law in New York and Boston, most recently as Senior Counsel in Derivatives and Alternative Investments at Bracebridge Capital, a fixed-income hedge fund in Boston, MA. She graduated from Harvard College, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Columbia Law School. She serves on several boards including on the Harvard University Board of Overseers, the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, the Harvard Kennedy School Fund Executive Council (Co-Chair), The Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean’s Advisory Group, The Harvard Club of the Philippines Global (Co-President 2020-2023), The Resolution Project (Social Venture Fund), the Women’s Foundation of Boston, and the Massachusetts General Hospital Board of Trustees.

In addition to spearheading the Philippine Living Heritage Initiative, Geraldine is also Founder and President of Khan Academy Philippines, whose mission is to bring a free and localized world class education (with a special focus on math) into the Philippine public school system.
She established the Collaborative Center for X-Linked Dystonia Parkinsonism (XDP) at the Massachusetts General Hospital and The Sunshine Care Foundation for Neurological Care and Research, two institutions focused on finding effective therapies for XDP, a genetic movement disorder affecting only Filipinos. Through her foundation, Geraldine provides free medicines and clinical care for indigent patients in Philippine rural areas and humanitarian aid for communities in need. The foundation’s partners include top research universities worldwide, as well as the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, the Philippine National Institutes for Health, and the Philippine Genome Center. She has co-authored various peer-reviewed journal articles and lectured on XDP and recently received the Alab ng Lahi award from the Philippine Consulate General in New York for her work in the field on behalf of the Philippine community.

Myrish Cadapan-AntonioCo-Founder &
CEO

Myrish is a lawyer, community builder, leadership development expert and higher education professional

Myrish served as Deputy Legal Counsel, Faculty of Law and Director of the Dr. Jovito R. Salonga Center for Law and Development at Silliman University in the Philippines for over a decade before she and her family moved to the United States. She was also as an elected local public official for two terms.

In the US, she trained young public leaders pursuing their graduate degrees in public policy and public administration as Director of Fellowship and Leadership Development Programs at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. Most recently, she was Senior Director of Global Initiatives at MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship where she managed various global programs including its pilot Foundry Fellowship for successful founders across Africa and taught early stage entrepreneurs on building stronger ecosystems. She serves on the boards of the Harvard Club of the Philippines Global, Save One Life (Interim President; an international non-profit serving children with bleeding disorders worldwide) and Khan Academy Philippines. Myrish received the 2019 Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Global Leadership Development, was among the 2019 Harvard Heroes and received the Philippine Consul General of New York’s 2021 Sinagtala Award for Distinguished Filipino Women in the United States. Myrish graduated from Silliman University, The George Washington University Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. She lives in Boston with her husband and 3 boys.

Mara EalaCurriculum and Programs
Research Fellow
(October 2022 to June 2023)

Mara is an educator and a community builder

She started her career as an English teacher for 5th and 6th graders in Metro Manila. Through her work as a classroom teacher, Mara saw both the fundamental value of education as a means of improving equity, and also the opportunities to expand the realm and reach of education systems.

She co-founded The Ultimate Learning Accelerator (TULA), a chain of after-school centers that aims to improve access to quality educational supports for children from low income backgrounds in Metro Manila. For seven years, Mara led the development of the TULA model, and spearheaded curriculum development and people development for the chain. Since its inception, TULA has reached thousands of students and trained dozens of teachers in the Philippines and in Pakistan.

Though no longer involved in its daily operations, Mara continues to drive systems level change in education through her work with Delivery Associates, a social impact consulting firm that works with public sector partners in the execution of their projects. Mara graduated from Ateneo de Manila University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is currently based in Cambridge, MA.

Nicah SantosProgram and Operations Fellow

Nicah is an educator, strategist, and development sector professional

She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in Metro Manila, the first phase in her pursuit of a personal mission to improve the lives of Filipino youth. Her experiences of working with underprivileged communities in the Philippines fostered her passion for education as a door to social mobility, economic development, and civic engagement.

After gaining four years of classroom teaching experience, Nicah ventured to increase the scope of her work towards impacting education systems. Through a fellowship with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, she conducted research in Portsmouth, Virginia on youth gun violence reduction and provided policy recommendations to the city’s local leaders. Then, she worked as a strategic consultant for Teach for the Philippines, a national nonprofit that works to address education challenges in the Philippines at the system-level. In that role, she co-managed the organization’s flagship program, provided data-driven insights for improving operations, and co-designed their medium- and long-term strategic plan.

Having expanded her impact from the classroom to the local government and national levels, Nicah now works at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global research center for anti-poverty policy located at MIT in Cambridge, MA. As a senior policy associate, she supports the creation and dissemination of causal evidence on the impact of education programs and policies. Her work contributes to the adoption of evidence-based education policy around the world. Nicah holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Philippines and a master’s degree in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Raya EstebanProgram Management and Operations Fellow

Raya Esteban is an early childhood educator, a researcher, and an advocate for high quality care and education for all.

Raya began her journey as an educator by serving at Teach for the Philippines (TFP). As a TFP Fellow, she was assigned to teach fourth grade at Kamuning Elementary School (KES), a high-needs public school in Quezon City. In an effort to help close substantial literacy gaps, Raya ran remedial reading programs, tutoring students who needed extra assistance in reading and writing.

After graduating from TFP’s Fellowship program, Raya worked as an Education Program Officer at Mano Amiga to learn more about education ventures that support low-income children and communities in the Philippines. At Mano Amiga, she was responsible for developing modules and training public school teachers across the country in topics such as Project Based Learning and Student Engagement through Mano Amiga’s partnership with Globe Telecom.

Raya then decided to return to the classroom. Disheartened by the immense number of students she met that were behind grade level and struggling to cope in higher grades, Raya sought to understand more about early childhood development. At the Philippine Montessori Center, where she served as an Assistant and Lead Guide, Raya developed her passion for early childhood education and the promise it holds for children, families, and the greater economy.

Currently, Raya works as a Project Specialist for the Hawaiʻi Early Childhood Educator, Excellence, and Equity (ECE3) Project house under the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is responsible for researching policy and financing options to increase the compensation, improve the working conditions, and bolster the professional advancement pathways of early childhood educators in Hawaiʻi. Raya’s work contributes to the research and advocacy movements dedicated to championing legislative policies that strengthen the early childhood education workforce.

Raya holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in education from the Ateneo de Manila University and a master’s degree in human development and education with a concentration in early childhood from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Ken Garcia-GonzalesCurriculum and Programs Adviser

Ken is a seasoned educator, DEIB consultant and trainer, school administrator, and classroom teacher

Originally from Northern California, Ken has over twenty-five years of experience in public, independent and international schools, as well as in the education not-for-profit sector.

He started his career as an Ethnic Studies teacher at Berkeley High School, at that time the only public high school in the country that designated ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. He transitioned into independent schools as an Administrator and Dean. He served as Dean of Multicultural Life at the Urban School of San Francisco and also taught Ethnic Studies, Identity Development, Asian American History, and Service Learning. He next served as the Senior Administrator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the first person to hold this position in the history of the school.

He also has extensive experience working in the education not-for-profit sector. He worked as the Program Manager for School Services at KQED, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) San Francisco, and oversaw the development of curricular, instructional, and web-based content for over forty films in the PBS pipeline. Ken currently works as a Program Associate for Facing History and Ourselves, an international non-profit that provides teacher trainings, professional development, and curricular resources centered in critical history, social-emotional learning, and civic engagement. He holds a B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in Ethnic Studies, and an M.A. in Teaching. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), a husband and father of three, and lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Rosanna Quesada PalmFilipino Culture and Arts Adviser

Dessa joined the Philippine Educational Theater Association at age 13 and has since devoted her life in theater as a performer, teacher, organizer, director, and playwright

Dessa spent many years with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), and worked with UP Repertory, Ma-Yi Theater in New York City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Silliman University. She finished AB Economics at the University of the Philippines (1986), and her master’s in International Relations at the New School for Social Research (1994) as a Fulbright scholar, and has worked at integrating theater in education, advocacy and development work and community building.

She has conducted theater and other workshops all over the Philippines as well as parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. She lives in Dumaguete City and co-creates with the members of the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) which she co-founded in 2005. YATTA was declared one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in 2008 by the National Youth Commission, and was a recipient of the CCP Kaisa Ini sa Sining, Lunsay nga Artistang Pilipino (KSSLAP) Awards in 2021.

She served as Head of the Committee on Dramatic Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts from 2017-2019 and is currently a faculty at the Silliman University College of Performing and Visual Arts. She is the Vice President of the Women Playwrights International- Philippines.

Ivan Anthony Henares, PhDPhilippine Heritage Programs Adviser

Ivan is a tourism educator, cultural policy researcher, and advocate for heritage conservation in the Philippines

He is Secretary General of the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines and Assistant Professor at the Asian Institute of Tourism of the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He is also the current Secretary General of the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee (ICTC), Head of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites and Vice Head of the Subcommission on Cultural Heritage of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Chairperson of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS)Philippine Committee President of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH Philippines), Board Member of the Southeast Asian Heritage Alliance (SEACHA) and, International Correspondent (Philippines) to the Asian Network for Industrial Heritage (ANIH). He was named one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) in the field of Heritage Conservation in 2012, and an Asia 21 Young Leader in 2008.

His advocacy and research interests are in heritage conservation and tourism policy, and cultural tourism in historic urban landscapes, industrial heritage, cultural landscapes, and indigenous communities in the Philippines. His work is currently focused on Pampanga cultural heritage, especially in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, and the Sugar Cultural Landscape of Negros Island, where he is working with local stakeholders to protect early 20th century sugar centrals, hacienda houses and plantations, and 19th century sugar mills.

Dr. Henares completed his Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Master of Business Administration and Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning degrees all at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He received his PhD in Hospitality and Tourism Management and Graduate Certificate in Environmental Policy from Purdue University as a 2017-2018 Fulbright-CHED Scholar.

Ella Akira SyProgram and Operations Intern, 2024 Program [Philippines]

Ella Akira Sy is a student, environmentalist, and small business owner from Manila, Philippines.

She is an incoming freshman at Columbia University where she will study Chemical Engineering. Driven by her passion for STEM and her strong desire to make a positive impact in the lives of Filipinos, she aims to establish sustainable development practices and the use of eco-friendly materials in the Philippines. Ella currently interns for Khan Academy Philippines. Through her work here, she hopes to play a role in empowering Filipino youth through access to quality education and resources.

Ella is also a co-founder of Planet Vintage, a monthly pop-up event uniting local brands dedicated to sustainability and slow fashion. It serves as a platform for the promotion and sale of vintage clothing and accessories that reflect the essence of Filipino craftsmanship. By promoting local businesses and artisans, Ella not only contributes to the preservation of Filipino heritage but also advocates for conscious consumerism.

Laurinne Jamie P. EugenioProgram and Operations Intern, 2024

Laurinne Jamie P. Eugenio is a student, designer, writer, and dancer from San Diego, California

She is a sophomore at Harvard College concentrating in Social Studies (the interdisciplinary honors track in social sciences) with a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights. She is pursuing language citations in Spanish and Filipino. She is interested in immigration, civil rights, and the law. Her commitment to social justice is underscored by her internship at the Torres Law Firm, an immigration law office in San Diego, CA. As an intern, she prepared USCIS forms, scheduled visa interviews, translated for Filipino clients, and managed case documentation. Her passion for social justice is deepened by her own immigration experience, arriving in the United States from the Philippines at the age of 11.

She is the Design Chair for The Harvard Crimson, the nation’s oldest continuously published daily college newspaper. She manages The Crimson’s visual brand online and in print. Her responsibilities include overseeing layout production for the weekly print paper, FM magazine, and graphics for various sections including Arts, Blog, Editorial, FM, News, and Sports. She also writes and serves as Copy Editing Chair for the Harvard International Review, the nation’s oldest student-run international relations magazine and the college’s only barcoded magazine sold on newsstands worldwide. She specializes in writing articles about current events in the Philippines. Recently, she became Co-Director of Events for the Harvard Undergraduate Philippine Forum.

Beyond academics, she dances for three campus organizations: Harvard Eleganza, Harvard Expressions, and Harvard Asian American Dance Troupe. Her diverse involvement in academics, social justice, journalism, and the arts reflects her commitment to making a meaningful impact on her community and beyond.

Eleanor Villafranca WikstromProgram and Operations Intern, 2023

Eleanor Villafranca Wikstrom is a student, writer, and advocate from Oakland, California

She is a senior at Harvard College majoring in Social Studies (the interdisciplinary honors track in social sciences) with a minor in Cognitive Science, and has been named a member of the Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Junior 24 as well as a John Harvard Scholar. Her senior thesis research, for which she was awarded four competitive undergraduate research fellowships, explores the transpacific legacy of the U.S. colonial education system in the Philippines. She is also a member of the American Historical Collection Committee within the American Association of the Philippines.

As a National Young Arts Winner in Writing and the 2019 Oakland Youth Vice Poet Laureate, Eleanor has been invited to perform spoken word poetry at events around the country, including the United Nations 75th Anniversary Commemoration. In 2020, she used her platform to lead in-class workshops on creative expression as a form of activism, which culminated in the publication of a student poetry anthology that was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Most recently, she published a series of op-eds on Harvard’s role in U.S. colonialism in the Philippines which were featured in national news outlets across Asia.

Outside of academics and creative writing, she is the Editorial Chair of The Harvard Crimson student newspaper, a co-President of the Harvard Philippine Forum, and an avid long distance runner. She returned to the Philippines this summer to pursue in-depth archival research, to advocate for Filipino language and history courses at Harvard, and to become further immersed in the culture of her mother’s motherland.

Theodore Jacob Acuña-SunshineProgram and Operations Intern, 2023

Theodore Jacob Acuña-Sunshine is a student, youth leader, and athlete from Boston, Massachusetts.

He is a sophomore at Harvard College planning on a concentration in History with a secondary in Economics. His speciality is his extensive knowledge of East Asian History. Sunshine’s studies primarily focus on systems of governance and commerce which he is eager to deploy on the trip. He is serving as social media manager and security for our trip to the Philippines.

Among other things, he is an active member of the Harvard Philippine Forum, as well as an avid outdoorsman and photographer. He also serves as a chair for Harvard WorldMUN: an international Model UN conference. Additionally, Sunshine recently competed at the 2023 World University Games on behalf of the Philippines in Alpine Skiing. While on this trip, he hopes to expand his knowledge of Philippine language and culture as Sunshine will be taking Tagalog next semester in Harvard’s inaugural Philippine language class.