Cyrus Montesa of Queens now a securities attorney in ManilaBy Wendell Gaa
‘The FilAm’ is beginning a series on U.S.-born Filipino Americans who now live and work in the Philippines. Some have never been to the country of their parents and are visiting for the first time. Others are returning after they left as children — all of them making a new life for themselves.
Our first story is about Queens-born lawyer Cyrus Montesa who is currently working at the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission in the area of securities regulation.
Many of my fellow Filipino Americans whom I call my friends, associates or family have understandably decided to pursue their lifetime professional careers in the United States, which is where we have spent our formative years and developed our social and cultural perspective in life, and for this America will always be first home to many Fil-Ams.
But having spent a good amount of time living and working in the Philippines myself, I have met quite a few FilAms who have opted to move here to Manila to establish a career for themselves, and whether it was their first decision or not, a number of them have found themselves working for the Philippine government and doing what they can to make a positive impact and difference in the country. Among them is Atty. Cyrus Montesa, 41, born and raised in Elmhurst, Queens.
Cyrus, whose family is originally from Romblon province (just like my father the late Ambassador Willy C. Gaa), is now working as a lawyer for the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission in Manila, which is the agency of the government responsible for regulating the securities industries in the Philippines, as well as maintaining the nation’s company register.
Speaking to him, his accent very much reflects his New York-Queens upbringing, as well as the hip-hop urban environment he was brought in, the same that bred such popular rap artists/musicians from Queens as LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., A Tribe Called Quest, and 50 Cent.
Montesa, a 1993 graduate of a small high school in Upstate, New York, revealed to this writer how like many peers of our Generation X ”latchkey kid” demographics, he had come of age in 1980s America learning independence as a child, such as riding New York’s graffiti-painted subways without adult supervision. Such experiences actually helped to toughen him up. He would grow up to attend college at St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens majoring in marketing. He thereafter decided to go to law school in the Philippines where his ‘Lolo’ Judge Agustin P. Montesa is a criminal law professor. (He is also the nephew of retired Ambassador Clemencio Montesa, who in past years has served as Philippine envoy in such countries as Mexico and Belgium.)
He attended the San Beda School of Law in Alabang and earned his Bachelors of Law Degree. After some hard preparation, he passed the bar examinations both in the Philippines and then in the State of New York.
When asked if it was difficult for him to adapt socially and culturally to life in the Philippines, in contrast to New York, he simply said, “At first it was difficult to adapt, but everyone speaks English so that helps.”
Now that he has been working as a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Montesa said his career goal is to specialize in the dynamic field of securities regulation and corporate laws as well as attaining more knowledge and expertise in the financial industry.
As an SEC lawyer, he feels that his greatest impact in his work has thus far been drafting various legal decisions and opinions in novel areas of corporate and securities regulation laws which are policy making in nature and touches on areas like margin trading, insider trading, online commercial transactions by foreign corporations, foreign equity restrictions, investment contracts, etc. In his current occupation, Montesa has worked or trained with such high-profile government figures as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senator Sergio Osmena, Senator Leila De Lima, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, SEC Chairperson Teresita J. Herbosa; and notable sports personalities such as Aly Borromeo and Eddie Mallari of the Azkals/Philippine National team, and Sudan Daniel of the San Beda Championship Basketball team.
To other FilAms who are interested in settling down in the Philippines to establish a professional lifetime occupation, he very much encourages them to find time to visit the country first to get an idea of what it is like to live here for the long term.