Meet the three Pinoys named on the 2018 “Asia 21 Young Leaders” list

Xyza Cruz Bacani, Jam Acuzar & Paul V. Rivera

Three young Filipino professionals were selected for the 2018 class of the Asia Society’s “Asia 21 Young Leaders Program,” joining other young Asian Pacific Islander (API) leaders for the 13th Annual Young Leaders Summit in Manila this November. 

The program brings together leading figures in government, business, the arts, media and activism under the age of 40 to establish concrete solutions to global and local problems. 

The Asia Society group will be a part of a global network of 900 professionals from 40 different nations that will convene in Manila to collaborate and strategize meaningful ways to make a positive impact on a number of issues.

“These young change-makers are already reshaping the most dynamic region on earth,” Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran said in a press release. “They are a remarkable and truly diverse group — and Asia 21 provides a platform for these young leaders as they tackle the most vexing challenges in the region, one connection at a time.”

Xyza Cruz Bacani

The  31-year-old Filipina street and documentary photographer has been featured in the New York Times, Lens Blog and CNN for her work on migrants workers rights and forced labor and human trafficking from the perspective of individual stories. 

Her mission to document such underreported human rights stories was borne from 10 years as a domestic worker in Hong Kong. Born in She saw first-hand the injustices and abuses migrant workers face around the world and, through her photography, shed light on these issues to the world. 

Bacani has been named on several “30 under 30” lists from Forbes and photography organizations as well as a position as one of the BBC’s 100 Women of the World 2015. The Nueva Vizcaya native has also exhibited her work worldwide and received awards for her excellence in photography as well as her backstory that provided inspiration for her to tell the stories of oppressed migrant workers and trafficking victims around the world.

“Leadership is doing what is right, even when there is no one looking,” Bacani said in the press release. “Leadership encourages us to dream, to maximize our potential, and to prove that all dreams are valid.”

Jam Acuzar

A dedicated patron of the arts and savvy businesswoman, Acuzar, 28, is the founder and director of Bellas Artes Projects (BAP), a non-profit foundation in the Philippines that curates interactive contemporary art exhibitions in Manila and Bataan. 

When she was 18 years old, she moved to Paris to study at the American University campus there, and although she spoke no French, she immersed herself in the worlds of fashion and art and worked for prestigious companies like Conde Nast International and Sotheby’s.

Acuzar was inspired to become a curator of the arts because of her father’s project, Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, which restores Spanish colonial structures. In 2013, she established BAP as an artist residency programme in 2013 to give Filipino artists a platform to showcase their creativity.

In five years, the organization has expanded to focus on artist residencies and workshops and has also partnered up with art institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design and other galleries and artists around the globe.

As a leader in the Philippine arts world, Acuzar told the Philippine Tatler that she is proud of Filipino culture because “we have such a great multi-layered and complex culture. I can’t wait to discover more and help create other cultural interdisciplinary links with the incredible content we have in the Philippines.”

Paul V. Rivera

As co-founder and CEO of the technology start-up company Kalibrr, the 29-year-old entrepreneur worked for Google before a friend propositioned him to co-found a call center with him in the Philippines.

After he left Google in 2007, Rivera started his own business processing outsourcing (BPO) company called Open Access BPO which served startups in Silicon Valley like He grew Open Access into a 300-employee company, but then realized another world problem that needed to be addressed: help find people jobs and help companies find the best talent.

In that need, he co-founded Kalibrr, which strategically provides talent acquisition solutions to the top 1,000 companies in the Philippines and Indonesia with a focus to solve recruitment and underemployment problems; Rivera plans to expand Kalibrr to other countries like India in the future.

“My vision is to create a LinkedIn for emerging markets and help people get their first jobs,” Rivera told YourStory in 2013. “We want to grow fast in the Philippines, then set up base in India, and then going into other fast emerging markets where there is an acute need for freshers. We want to become a two-sided platform where job seekers come to train themselves, and companies come to hire the best talent.” 

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