Meet the team
Get to know the changemakers and professionals (and all-around amazing individuals) who lead FilExcellence!
(@gabeandangelsmom) is a mom of teen twins, an accomplished sales and marketing professional, and an enthusiastic fan of interior design. As a novice tennis and golf player, she enjoys honing her skills in her spare time. Argentina is also a passionate advocate for mental health, engaging in meaningful conversations that promote well-being and personal growth.
Joshua De Leon
Director of Policy & Advocacy
Josh De Leon (@joshoflion) is an interdisciplinary changemaker, community organizer, and equity and justice facilitator based in Long Beach/Los Angeles, California. Josh was one of the first Filipino Americans to be elected as an assembly district delegate in CA AD-52 and is on the board of directors for Rising Organizers, an activist training NGO.
Gian Besana (@carryonbabe) is a collborative business development manager in the tech industry who uses her expertise in creating systems and processes to oversee programs for FilExcellence. Outside of the nonprofit, she is probably exploring a new country or city, holding a safe space for deep uncomfortable conversations, dancing her heart out at an EDM show, cooking for her friends, or planning her next adventure.
Director of Communications & Marketing
Lara Santos (@laraisabird) is a multifaceted creative. A native Angeleno, Lara is passionate about using her organizing, writing, and leadership skills to advance progressive movements and elevate her local and global Filipino community. Outside of her 9-5 and FilExcellence, you'll never find Lara doing the same thing - catch her listening to poetry at an open mic, at a Lakers game, weightlifting, dissecting a film, trying the latest Michelin-starred restaurant, touring a house for its architecture and interior design, or, of course, writing.
Monica Blanco (@asapmonny) is a mental health advocate, certified Trauma-Informed Personal Trainer, and creative force on social media. With a strong commitment to uplifting the Filipino community, she achieves her goals through content co-creation, collaborations, and community events. When she's not at the gym, she's likely embracing her big 4'10 panganay energy with her family, experimenting in the kitchen, booking last-minute flights, or indulging in conversations that delve into the profound mysteries of the universe.
Director of Social Media
Edward Raya is a proud Cebuano from Chicago. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Rehabilitation Sciences and double minored in Global Asian Studies and Disability + Human Development. Edward has been a part of many cultural organizations such as UniPro, Istorya, and Theta Lambda Beta. Having worked with brands such as Abakada and NO-CONTROL Studio, he aspires to one day start his own brand that pays homage and gives back to his Filipino roots.
Matt Veland (@mgveland) is a father, business owner, and advocate for the Filipino American community based in the Washington, D.C., area. As a financial planner, he's passionate about educating and serving AANHPI business owners, healthcare workers, and young professionals. Matt also serves as the Executive Vice President of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Metro DC. When not at networking events and board meetings, he's at home with his wife, dog, bearded dragon, and one-year-old son.
Director of Special Projects
Joseph Blanco (@jtablanco) is a dedicated Electrical/Computer Engineer focused on sustainable developments in technology and society. He actively fosters relationships between Filipinos and other communities. During his free time, he enjoys playing rugby, watching movies, and embodying big bunso energy within his family and the FilExcellence community.
Ben Bulatao (@benster_33) Is a 6x Emmy-nominated Film/TV Editor. For the past 2 decades, Ben has edited a variety of shows like A&E BIOGRAPHY, ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, STORAGE WARS, JAY LENO’S GARAGE, COAL, RECIPE FOR CHANGE, Orlando Bloom: TO THE EDGE, and most notably, DEADLIEST CATCH. Bulatao was also a former board member of Media Action Netwrok for Asian Americans [MANAA], and marched with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition during the 1996 Academy Awards Ceremony, protesting the lack of diversity behind and in front of the camera. Ben is a huge advocate of mentoring hopeful BIPOC creatives trying to get into the entertainment industry.
Michael Thomas (@ugatclothing) is a passionate human rights advocate, dedicated to empowering and uplifting the Filipino masses, particularly those in marginalized communities. Through his advocacy work, he strives to create positive change and promote social justice for those who face systemic challenges and inequalities. His ultimate goal is to contribute to the advancement and well-being of the Filipino people. Whether it's through advocacy, art, Baybayin, or education. He also enjoys frolicking in a field, preferably the rice terraces in the homeland.
Social Media Intern
Adrian Alora (@adrian.alora) is a community organizer whose goal is to use the creative arts to empower Filipinos and other marginalized communities. He is a fourth year student at the University of Virginia majoring in media studies and he likes to listen to music, learn K-pop dances, and write poetry in his free time.
Mackenzie Pacquing (@mackenziee.p) is a dedicated advocate for AAPI rights who is focused on cultivating a deeper connection with her Filipino heritage. She actively contributes to FilExcellence's fundraising endeavors and is currently a student at the University of Virginia, where she is studying Cognitive Science. Her interests include dancing, crocheting, and weightlifting.
Patrick Yuson (@patrickyuson) is an inspired advocate for Filipino communities both in the U.S. and the Philippines. He has contributed to several of FilExcellence's marketing efforts. Patrick is junior at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Computer Science and Cognitive Science. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball, hang out with friends, and play guitar.