Ruben Nepales elected chairman of Hollywood Foreign PressBy Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz J.D.
Inquirer columnist Ruben Viado Nepales was elected on June 8, Chairman of the Board for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Golden Globes that reaches 250 million readers across the globe.
Elected Board members include Helen Hoehne, Yoram Kahana, Yukiko Nakajima, Lorenzo Soria and Dierk Sinderman (Alternate).
During the election, General Members first elected the officers and board members, who in turn elected Ruben V. Nepales as their new chair.
“I never expected that by night’s end, I would also [be] elected chairman of the board. I am humbled by the honor,” said Nepales.
A lone contender was nominated by a member, who ended up also voting for Nepales. Other HFPA officers are Jorge Camara as the new vice-president, and Ali Sar as treasurer.
As chairman of the board, Nepales will be working closely with the incumbent president.
Dr. Aida has this to say: “Since Ruben became a member, I noticed his intelligence, poise and calm demeanor and objectivity — qualities of a good leader. Ruben is an asset to the association. I look forward to working with him and the board as we tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”
Dr. Aida Takla-O’Reilly (who was re-elected as HFPA’s president) reported that HFPA has been able to give back $13,000,000 in the last 17 years, through its grant programs in higher education fellowship and institutional support, professional training and mentoring, preserving culture and history of film and cultural exchanges through film.
Last year, HFPA granted $1,579,500 to 45 universities, institutional entities, organizations and theater projects. More recently, HFPA gave $25,000 to Unicef Philippines as relief efforts to children survivors of Typhoon Sendong. Darren Criss, the star in TV show Glee, received it on behalf of HFPA. Ruben and Janet Nepales delivered the HFPA’s donation personally to UNICEF Philippines.
One of their members view this newly elected board chair with enthusiasm.
Mario Amaya, a member of HFPA said: “Having Ruben as a Chairman of the board of the HFPA is a breath of fresh air to us. The expectations and trust a group of international journalists has given to him in order to bring new ideas for the future of the association is big, and we are confident he won’t disappoint. And another name [from] the Philippines is [a] milestone in the history of Hollywood. Congratulations to him!”
With reflective candor, Ruben shares his own view of moving from the margins to the center, both in his work and in his residence and his future plans in this new role.
“We see it as good news that’s meant to be celebrated and shared. This family [Nepales] seems to be blessed with genes in time management skills. The laundry may pile up occasionally but that is insignificant amid our drive to serve and pursue our respective dreams with passion, zeal and commitment,” Ruben said.
“When I arrived in LA for the first time as an immigrant in May 1985, my brother, who picked me up at the airport, said these very words to me as he drove close to the downtown area where they lived and where I would live: ‘Welcome to the ghetto.’ This was at a time when the neighborhood was rife with gangs. Our apartment was infested with cockroaches. So yes, we literally lived in the ghetto. The gleaming skyscrapers nearby looked like a magical yet forbidding place from my new immigrant perspective. I plunged headlong with positivity and determination. It was tough in the beginning, especially experiencing rejection after rejection when I was applying for jobs. And now, we’re back living in downtown, with a view of the ghetto where we lived in 1985. That area is now being gentrified of course, with a beautiful new urban park beside it. Still, it reminds me of my humble beginnings in Los Angeles, a city that many folks despise but one that I love and I am very grateful to,” Ruben added.
He shared that he was motivated to serve in HFPA’s board, in return for the blessings and opportunities that he received.
Leadership is service to a constituency. Sharing my time and effort is the least I can do. Being a good listener is one of the most important leadership traits. Leadership does not mean you always have to be talking. One of the best compliments I received was from a distinguished colleague with many years of experience being a leader. One day he just said to us in a group, “When Ruben speaks, everybody listens because he does not have the compulsion to talk all the time.”
On his plans for HFPA: “I will work closely with the President, the board and the members in these crucial times for the association as it continues to be involved in litigation. And in an age when journalism as a career is beset with all sorts of challenges, especially in these ever Ð changing technological times, I hope to seek more story opportunities for our members.”
Ruben’s election became the talk of his close family and friends, including his very supportive wife, Janet Nepales and his two children, Bianca Nicole and Rafaella Angelica.
John Davis, a former Hollywood producer said: “Ruben is a seasoned journalist, who is still very much ‘in the game.’ Many times, these positions go to stalwarts whose best work is long behind them. Ruben is still very active and visible member of the working press corps. On a personal level, I know how proud Ruben is of his active involvement in HFPA and how immensely honored he must be to have won the vote of his contemporaries. The Filipino community should also realize what an incredible coup this is. Out of all of the working entertainment press, all over the world, a Fil-Am has taken the helm of this legendary organization. Bravo Ruben! Bravo!”
Bianca Nicole, Ruben’s daughter, who is a teacher of children with special needs in high school, had this to say: “This role is trail-blazing in all sense of the word. My dad has literally jumped into the fire when no one is willing to, and is blazing a trail for others to follow. I hear how political the world of entertainment can be, so I am proud of my Dad for navigating through this environment with nothing but respect and humility. I grew up watching my parents talk to the most powerful people in Hollywood and draw out in these actors, actresses, and directors a connection to the Philippines. These moments helped me understand that we can find a personal connection to any person, regardless of where we came from and where we are now.”
Bessie Badilla: “I have witnessed first hand how Sir Ruben is highly respected by not only his HFPA colleagues but the celebrities too! We all know the celebrities when we see them, the difference is The Celebrities know Ruben Nepales! I have seen the likes of Rufus Sewell get up and approach Sir Ruben to exchange pleasantriesÉmaybe it is his God-given gift of making people warm-up to him making them so relaxed they forget they are Hollywood celebrities for the moment.”
At a birthday celebration, bottles of champagne piqued our curiosity. When the news was shared by Ruben’s “extravagant in passionÕ wife, Janet Nepales, we were very happy. Barriers broken, glass ceiling shattered were some of our reflections. Here are some of the feedback.
Enrique Delacruz: “That really, really transcends the ghetto.”
Rocio Nuyda: “It felt like my son’s win. But do you really wonder when he is such a good person?”
Hydee Ursulino Abrahan: “I so look up to Ruben Nepales because he never gave a limit on what to aim for himself. He just did what he did to the best of his abilities and just moved forward and up but stayed grounded with his friends and relatives. Such an inspiration!”
Ruben’s love for film was honed watching movies in the town plaza as a young boy raised in Calasiao, Pangasinan. His wife, Janet, a fellow HFPA journalist, described Ruben’s life story: “the groundbreaking election of Ruben, not only to the Board of Directors but as Chairman of the Board, serves as an inspiration to young, talented, and ambitious Filipinos who also aspire to make it in mainstream media and entertainment here in Hollywood. This is the boy from Calasiao who wrote stories in his notebooks and distributed these stories to his classmates to read. This is the young lad who despite of his humble beginnings broke doors in Hollywood as the first Filipino to be Chairman of the Board of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The life story of Ruben is a good shining guide to Filipinos who make it and remain deeply rooted, humble, grounded, respectful and thankful of what he has achieved. In fact, it is this humility and gratefulness that separates the great from the proud, the brilliant from the smart, the loved from the popular.”
In 2004, Ruben Nepales became HFPAÕs first Filipino journalist to be accepted in its 60 year plus history. Only up to five new members are accepted each year. To date, 88 members are part of this prestigious organization representing 55 countries around the world. Ruben’s works have gained him a following in the Philippines, that his once a week column, 52 issues, “Only IN Hollywood”, has now expanded to 156 issues a year in Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is also a contributing editor of Balikbayan Magazine, Wall Street Journal representative in Asia and published by Asian Journal Publications, Inc.
Ruben Nepales successfully launched his first book, My Filipino Connection: The Philippines in Hollywood in Makati, Philippines, Los Angeles and New York. The book will be launched in San Francisco on Friday, June 29 at 530pm, at the Philippine Center, 5th Floor, 447 Sutter St. (between Powell and Stockton). Email Gemma Nemenzo for information at email@example.com.
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