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#FilipinaTrailblazers: Angelica Umali, Woman In Transition

Gina Romero
Contributed by Gina Romero
December 1, 2016

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A remarkable woman who has accomplished so much, and is on the verge of another powerful chapter of her life. Angelica Umali is not afraid to venture out into new, unchartered territory – knowing that she can go beyond where she has already gone, and be so much more than she could have possibly imagined.

As women continue to be a driving force for change in the Philippines, this series aims to highlight those who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to creating an impact.

They are the leaders, activists, innovators and visionaries - whether in the public eye or behind the scenes - who are revolutionising the way we think and live. They are the #FilipinaTrailblazers.

Executive Lifestyle sits down with Angelica Umali, corporate powerhouse turned dedicated social entrepreneur. Be moved by this exceptional woman’s story as she shares with us her inspiring journey.

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Please tell us about your beginnings. How did you get started on your journey, and what was the catalyst that motivated you to make a change?

I started as a Marketing Trainee when I was 21, and spent nine years in sales and marketing, before I was sent for expatriation for seven years in various countries. I came back in 2011, and ended my corporate journey by the end of 2012. When I was applying out of college, I had to check how many women in these companies rose to the top – very few at the time, which almost made me withdraw my applications. I was cynical, always had a plan B; but I ended up pleasantly surprised! Just goes to show that you can’t judge the future based on the past. Everything evolves. My passion lies in building strong brands, and strategic work. This led me from sales to brand management to general management – I was reporting directly to the CEO in my last two posts, and I felt that, a month short of turning 39, it was time to end my corporate journey.

Coming back to the Philippines in 2011 stirred up a lot of emotions, seeing the country in the same old state as when I left and comparing that with what I have seen so far. I thought it was shameful to be in a not-so progressive place, considering that we have no war as an excuse, and we have an abundance of natural resources versus other countries, who have managed to move forward in their economy with less. This catapulted a lot of questions in my head (and heart). The turning point was when we went to Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm for senior leadership planning. I saw the work they were doing, and for the first time, I felt that I truly fit in. This was the day I decided to leave the corporate world. I knew what my next chapter would be.

Today, I consider myself to still be in transition. I have spent the last three years nourishing my soul with travels, soulful conversations, and simple joys. I have also spent a lot of time for my own personal re-birth. I felt my personal evolution was necessary to start my next chapter – that which is in the field of social entrepreneurship.

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You mentioned your personal re-birth. Can you please share with us a little bit more about this? Were you inspired by anyone in particular?

Hmm, not really. And the reason is that when I was starting out, I wasn’t aware that I was being led to a personal re-birth. In fact, had I known I probably would have resisted it – I was pretty good where I was! But, having taken this journey I now know that IT IS POSSIBLE to unlock something even better. Steve Jobs was so right when he said this: “You only connect the dots looking backwards.”

So I started in 2007 by chance - though nothing really is ever just by chance - and I was awakened! The rest, as they say, is history. My journey had begun. Years later, one of the parting gifts I received upon quitting the corporate world was a movie called “The Shift” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. That catapulted my spiritual pilgrimage. I then dedicated time following various inspirational / spiritirual gurus around the globe

Understanding that this was all a personal re-birth just came recently, when I finally felt like I was back to my center - a new center, one that was solid, secure, and fearless about the future. It’s funny, when I started this journey this quote always came to mind: “You cannot solve the world’s problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” I was like — What does that mean? How do we get there? Who the heck said this? After four years of doing intense inner work, I FINALLY know what it means - and that these wise words were actually from Albert Einstein! I am so thankful to him; his words really kept me going.


What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in your journey, and how did you overcome them? Where do you get your strength?

The biggest challenge for me during the transition period is the “voice of the ego”. Stripped of fancy titles, fat salaries, and a corner office, you would really be challenged if your self-worth revolved on these. Most of the questions I got then were based around “What are you doing? “, rather than “How are you feeling?” Let’s face it: We largely base success on the material things we can quantify, rather than the immeasurable joy of the heart. In addition, self-judgements arose as well.

Throughout all of these, it was necessary to cultivate a deep spiritual practice - and this is precisely where I draw my strength from. Believe me, transformation is a painful process, but it is all worth it. I really believe that to be a true leader, your cup should overflow, and that your self-awareness should be at its highest so you can lead people without confusing your issues with the matters at hand.

On a personal note, I believe that self-mastery is the greatest gift we can give to our spouses, kids and family. It makes everybody’s lives easier and more enjoyable.

Please share with us some of your greatest learnings during this period.

Wow, there are so many! How much time do you have? (laughs) Well, here are my favourites:

For a start, I realized that BEING is actually as important as DOING. I spent half of my life filling it with stuff and finding fulfilment in being busy. Well, the “sacred reverse” is likewise true. I find that when I am in the non-doing, I have another sacred gift – that of just BEING. It has brought back humanity into my life, instead of just being busy “checking the list." I realized that these were the times I felt “alive” instead of just “existing”. This is the beauty of BEING. It makes us alive. 

Another is that being in a position of vulnerability IS a gift. It is a time for people to show their love, but only if you let them. The judgement of the ego makes vulnerability a weakness, but the voice of the higher self makes it a gift in disguise. I have learned that to receive is as fulfilling and as blessed as to give.

When you flow with life, it is actually beautiful. Life’s detours are God’s clues for things you have never thought of. The key is to have no judgement for what is, and move on to the next path of least resistance, appreciating the present moment til we move on to the next. We each run our own race. We each have our own place in this world. 

And lastly, self-love is the basis of all love. You cannot give what you don't have. So take the time to fill your own cup till it is overflowing, so you will have a deep well to love other people. That is authentic generosity.


What changes would you like to see in our country over the next 10 years? How do you see yourself being part of that change?

This is how I would like this country to be in, 10 years forward:  To be in a state of abundance, where everybody’s mindset is “There is enough for all”; where everyone is busy creating something new rather than fighting for the old; where people are creators of their own lives, and not falling victims to their circumstances. I see wealth in rural areas, brought about by tremendous opportunities that we have collectively created. I see people respecting each other, with no life inferior over the other. I see a people of genuine happiness, overflowing from the self. And I see respect for Mother Earth, which provides for our abundance. 

I have made changes from within in order to be worthy to create the new. In addition, I am envisioning my social enterprise to be a catalyst in evolving people’s consciousness towards themselves and others, and this is my way to contribute to this end.


Can you please share some words of inspiration to those who are also going through their own personal re-birth?

Well, if you find yourself at a crossroads, don’t panic! Just be aware that your evolution is calling you to a different chapter of your life which you must open to, because it can only be for your highest good. It is possible that the principles you once believed in may no longer make sense — accept this, even if you don’t understand it yet. The path to self-awareness is one big roller coaster ride, but it’s all worth it. I believe that this is the only way to live your best life. It sounds cliche but it is true: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. 

Though self-rebirth may seem daunting, Angelica Umali shows us that by letting go of all that we presume to know, and being open to what life has in store for us, we become our best self – and we are truly able to do good and make a real impact in the world today.

Angelica’s commitment to growth and positive change is fully reflected in her social enterprises and endeavours  - making a difference though words and deeds, each and every day.


Do you know a Filipina Trailblazer that is driving change and creating impact?
Nominate her to be featured as part of our series!


Written and Edited by Michelle Sarthou 
Image credit: Angelica Umali

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Gina Romero
Gina Romero

Gina Romero is the Managing Director of The Athena Network Singapore & Asia-Pacific, and the Founder of ExecutiveLifestyle.co.

Community, entrepreneurship and technology are at the heart of everything Gina does. She runs a number of businesses and initiatives with a focus on fostering the exchange of business and expertise on a local, regional and international level – in conjunction with, and supporting, technology-powered social mobility projects.


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