The Pilipino American community honors contributors and philanthropists at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago

Chicago Filipino American Hall of Fame inducts the class of 2011

In the heart of downtown Chicago, in the high rising Hyatt Regency, Chicago Philippine Reports TV and VIA Times presented the 17th annual Chicago Filipino American Hall of Fame Awards on April 23rd, 2011. The night was attended by a veritable Who’s Who of Chicago Pilipinos, all gathering to honor those who have worked hard and have either made significant contributions to, or done things to bring pride to the Pilipino-American community. Among those who attended included Philippine Consulate General of Chicago Leo Herrera-Lim and Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan.

Much of the night’s entertainment was provided by the inductees themselves, like Cleo Casambre’s piano performance of her composition dedicated to Prince William and Kate Middleton. Emcee and former inductee Maria Girlie Pascual fittingly serenaded the banquet hall to the song “Fame”, and there were both Pilipino cultural and ballroom dance performances. There was also a fashion showcase provided by Jon Cotay, co-founder of Akira Chicago, one of the most well-known and rapidly expanding fashion boutiques in Chicago.

The entertainment was capped off by a parade of the 2011 VIA Man and Woman of the year. Norma Manankil has done multiple things for the community, including being a writer for various newspapers, heading many organizations like the Chicago Philippine Lion’s Club and the Philippine Independence Week Committee, and chairing several fundraising campaigns. She also has used her catering business as a way to feed the hungry via charities and has represented the Philippine Consulate by doing cooking demonstrations around Chicago.

Billy Dec(who is indeed Pilipino, as evidenced by his excited mother) is an Emmy Award winning CEO of Rockit Ranch Productions, which manages several of Chicago’s hottest restaurants and bars. This includes Sunda, one of the most popular and hip restaurants in the city that also happens to have several Pilipino dishes on its menu. Additionally, he is also involved in various non-profits including the American Cancer Society and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The night was capped off by an impassioned speech from Ambassador Cabactulan regarding nuclear armament, an ice cream bar, and (of course) line dancing; sending everyone home with good vibes in preparation for another year of supporting and working for the community.

The following is the full list of inductees:

  • Honorio T. Benzon, M.D. - Medicine-Education
  • Ambassador Libran N. Caabactulan - International Award in Public Service
  • Roel Campos - Community Leadership
  • Cleo Casambre, M.D. - Music
  • James Cleland - Friend of the Filipino
  • Jon Cotay - Business Leadership in Fashion
  • Billy Dec - VIA Man of the Year
  • Lynn Funkhouser - Friend of the Filipino
  • Sally Hunter - Human Spirit
  • Vallapa Kongsri - Outstanding Asian American-Thailand
  • Norma Manankil - VIA Woman of the Year
  • Cenon Morales - Sports-Bowling
  • Florence Nicol - Altruism & Innovation in Healthcare Technology
  • Florence Munar Palmaira - Nursing
  • Lorena Mondonedo Perez - Young Entrepreneur
  • Lolita Ranchero - Entrepreneur in Home Health Care
  • Drs. Nunilo & Elenita Rubio Family - Model Family
  • Raymond Velasco - Financial Leadership
  • Narni Therese Ilagan Yoder - Advertising & Technology


*Special thanks to Jovie Calma and Billy Dec for allowing us to attend the event!

About the Author

Ryne is a proud Filipino/gamer/geek from the streets of Chicago. His skills include proficiency in HTML, CSS, social networking, Street Fighting, and photographing/critiquing food. He is currently using his powers for good, developing websites for IBM and contributing articles to He is also the host and producer of BakitCast, the official podcast of BakitWhy.