Our Members: Cecilia Pagkalinawan

By Sophia Perlstein
Jan 24, 2019

Habitas member Cecilia Pagkalinawan is a woman of many talents. Startup founder, CEO and philanthropic entrepreneur are just a few of the many hats she wears on a daily basis. Inspired by the strength and resilience of her grandmothers, her work celebrates women, diversity and culture.

Cecilia launched BRWN Media as a response to the lack of cultural diversity in ad campaigns and runways, but most importantly in corporate management. Her work with BRWN explores the ways in which our spending dollars contribute to the kind of world we want to live in and the type of content we want to see.

Her most recent initiative, FlyWay Inc., supports artisans through sustainable cross-border commerce, creating brand partnerships with artisan manufacturers in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Her mission empowers local communities with the skillsets and materials necessary to become independent and self-sufficient. FlyWay creates a market where goods can be sold, similar to a sustainable Etsy.  For Cecilia, creating inclusive systems for immigrants and refugees isn’t just her work; it’s her life purpose.

What or who inspires you the most?

My grandmothers, Lola Gloria and Lola Fermina. They survived wars, managed to raise 11 children between them, and still look beautiful.    

What is your idea of happiness?

Exploring places I’ve never been.

What is your present state of mind?

Excited and curious.

What is the most important thing you discovered or learned this year?

That I’m strong and a survivor just like my Lolas.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

It’s a tie. Raising my son Mateo as a single mom. He is now 16 and will be in college in 2 years! Also, co-founding in 1997 where we started wiring NYC public schools on the internet and built computer labs via volunteers.

What life event has had the most profound impact on who you are today?

Immigrating to the US from the Philippines with my parents and 4 siblings when I was 8. It taught me to be fearless and take risks.

What are the top 3 places you want to visit?

Pompeii, Galapagos Islands, and to go on a Safari in Africa.

What initiative or cause do you support most?

Preserving and restoring this beautiful earth we call home and also helping refugees around the world.

If you weren’t running FlyWay, what profession would you dedicate yourself to?

I would want to be like Jane Goodall and be among endangered animals and take care of them.

What is your motto?

I changed Kierkegaard’s quote a bit. His is: Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced. Mine is: Life is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be experienced.