More than ‘ladies who lunch’

There was vivid energy that filled the Pool House at Grand Hyatt that day — it wasn’t just the orange and purple coats, either, but the brilliant ladies who talked about the work they do at Zonta International.

Galerie du Soleil Manila owner Tess Rayos del Sol (right). The exhibit showcases ‘narratives of strength, resilience and empowerment through the eyes of female artists.’
Zontians (from left) Beging Soriano, Susan Lim, Dandy Gomez, Baby Perez Sison, Livie Ferry (past and only Asian international president), D17 governor Lia Bautista, Rita Dy and Tess Rayos del Sol. Not in photo is Mita Rufino, Special Events chair. | Photographs by Dinah Ventura for The Daily Tribune


Over Pomelo Salad, a most delicious Seafood Laksa, Pad Thai and a Seafood Platter with Galbi Gui Korean Short Ribs, we chewed over the topmost problems in the world that women face — and the kind of response an organization like Zonta International has done over the last hundred years.

Women caring for women — there is good reason this group has thrived this long — and the first Filipino to make it as the international president, Olivia Aguinaldo-Ferry, succinctly puts it into words: “A better world for women is a better world because when you educate and capacitate a woman, you achieve the double dividend of capacitating not only herself, but also her children, her family and her whole community.”

Livie Ferry, past ZI president District 17, said,“We believe in making the world a better place by empowering women. We find joy in doing this in a supportive community of like-minded professionals from diverse countries and cultures.”

It’s not all socials or glamour, indeed, as Rita Dy, ZI District 17’s PR and Communications chair, added. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” she laughed, adding that fulfilling their goals as an organization does take commitment and dedication.

“Zonta does its work at two levels,” she explained, “at the international and local levels.”

This was echoed by the rest of the distinguished ladies at the lunch — ZI District 17 governor Lia Bautista; Organizing Committee chair Baby Perez-Sison; Special Events chair Mita Rufino; Conference vice chair Dandy Gomez, Finance chair Susan Lim, Ways and Means chair Beging Soriano and Zonta Club Fort Santiago president Tess Rayos del Sol — who talked about how “Zonta’s history extends beyond the community service of each individual Zonta club.”

An important detail that must be pointed out is that beyond the millions of dollars provided by ZI through the Zonta Foundation for Women, the group extends its influence to help “empower women and girls and expand their access to education, health care, economic opportunities and safe living conditions.”

“Zonta’s vision will not be achieved by monetary donations alone,” they said. “At the local, national and regional levels, Zonta clubs and individual Zontians are advocating for laws and policies that ensure gender equality and help every woman and girl realize her full potential.”

Education remains a top urgent issue, and ZI District 17 continues to do its part toward this end. Catch updates of their activities through their new Facebook Page,


Upcoming District Conference

More issues will undoubtedly be discussed by the time they hold their 22nd District 17 Conference.

This year, it will be held at the Grand Hyatt from 29 September to 1 October. The Zontians are looking forward to this Philippine hosting as the last time they had it here was in 2017 when they had a Filipino president.

This year, ZI District 17 Governor Lia Bautista said they aim to “bring at least 400 members of D17, especially first-timers, to attend the Conference.”

Apart from tackling Zonta business “in a richer, more engaging and more instructive business program,” there will be “fun, entertainment, friendship and fellowship among Zontians” through ticketed events like the “Recognition Night,” “Love the Philippines” themed lunch and “A Bridgerton Affair” ball.

There will be shopping and sightseeing, especially for Zontians coming from Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Among the highlights of the conference, added Baby Perez-Sison, is the Marketplace, featuring 50 selected concessionaires including Jewelmer. At the second floor of the Grand Hyatt will be held the exhibit “Her Story in Color: Celebrating the Diversity and Creativity of Women” throughout the conference duration.

Post-conference, Zontians may join the tours to Pico de Loro and El Nido Resorts, Miniloc Island.

Clubs will be encouraged to choose the next biennium leaders wisely as Zonta moves into transformative times.

Zonta came to life at the initiative of “forward-thinking executive women” in 1919, in Buffalo, New York.

They envisioned a group of like-minded individuals who would use their expertise and strengths to serve their community. Little they may have known how their cause has grown worldwide — and how the work of women for fellow females has impacted lives “through more than 1,100 Zonta clubs in 62 countries across the globe.”