Grace Labaguis’s brave new world

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Are you paid for overtime hours?

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Are you paid for overtime hours?

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Mother’s Day flowers from her boys

Mother’s Day flowers from her boys

By Cristina DC Pastor

It was, Grace Hufano Labaguis thought then, a “trial visit,” leaving her two sons in Manila in 2001 to see what the future looked like in the U.S. while her husband was working in a restaurant in Saipan.

Then 9/11 happened.

“Ako lang mag-isa, everyone was worried about me,” she said.

But six months after the World Trade Center attacks, her husband, Ronald and their eldest son, Marc joined her in New York. Younger son David was still a baby and was left with his grandmother in the Philippines.

If ‘survival’ was a cultural shibboleth, Grace has plenty of it in her pockets. She went from selling Magic Mic to a string of small, episodic jobs until she was able to create her own company, Synergy Production and Marketing, Inc. that services small and big businesses, including GMA Pinoy TV.

In partnership with the Philippine Consulate, Grace now publishes a directory of Filipino American community organizations, making her also a budding publisher. From about a hundred organizations three years ago, this important guidebook for the Filipino American community now has more than 300 clubs listed, a sort of bible that ordains one’s legitimacy. “This is something I’m really proud of,” said Grace in an interview with The FilAm.

It looked like sales is really up her alley. Grace did not realize that until she came to America.

“Life here is a challenge. We start somewhere and as we go along we find what we want to do, what we’re looking for,” she said.

Grace followed her calling in various versions of sales and marketing. She promoted concerts and parades, mounted beauty pageants, brought top Filipino talents to New York, and made sure she was engaged in young FilAms’ pursuits in music, theater, and the search for identity. She was all over the community supporting organizations, sometimes calling the shots if needed. She made friends, some foes, but always hers is the image of a woman not unfamiliar with leadership and firmly in charge.

A family road trip to Pennsylvania with husband Ron, and sons Marc and David.

A family road trip to Pennsylvania with husband Ron, and sons Marc and David.

“I’m very active in the community,” she said, sharing the occasional frustration of not being able to support every organization that sought her help. “The hardest part is you’re not able to please everybody.”

In 2008 she created Essential Consulting Services, LLC, now Synergy Production and Marketing, Inc. and opened an office in Midtown. She was at her pinnacle. Her father, from whom she has been estranged for many years, sent her a charming text message of congratulations. “I’m so proud of you. You have reached the crowning glory of your career. I can rest now.”

A family divided
Grace’s parents separated just when she started college. She would hear fights, and then her dad — an Army colonel when he retired — had moved out. She was the youngest of four siblings in a middle-class family. Her mother was a traditional housewife who made sure the children were washed up, fed, and went to school. Grace did not see her father for a long time although she was sure she acquired his traits of decisiveness, resolve, and being able to honor his word.

“I’m like my Papa, when I say something I will really do it,” she said. He passed away in April 2017.

She met Ronald Labaguis, a native of Mindoro, on her last year at Maryknoll. With a few school credits left, she joined a friend who applied at Jollibee where Ron was head of the crew. They married not too long after and the couple settled in Saipan where he found work at Hard Rock Café Saipan. After the birth of their second son David, that’s when Grace bravely ventured out to the U.S. Mainland. “We started from scratch talaga.”

After a long separation, David finally arrived in the U.S. two years ago, completing the family. He now goes to a community college and has told his parents about his dream of becoming a pathologist. ‘Kuya’ Marc works at Withum, a top tax firm in New Jersey, and is reviewing for his accounting license. Ron has been for 15 years with Sofitel New York as a wait staff.

Her niche in marketing firmly established, Grace is set to make Synergy a full-service public relations and marketing company that will manage singing talents, emerging entrepreneurs, up-and-coming executives, young politicians and the like.

Like the butterfly she surrounds herself with, Grace sees in its rainbow of colors life’s attainable challenges, in its evolution her continued growth and accomplishments.

© The FilAm 2019

Fil-Am Directory: Organizations listed in this booklet are considered legit by the community.

Fil-Am Directory: Organizations listed in this booklet are considered legit by the community.

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