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5 January 2018

Broadway producer Jhett Tolentino gives the introduction and background of his self produced film, “Life is What You Make It” prior to its private screening held at the Philippine Embassy on 04 January 2018.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Philippine Embassy welcomed the New Year with a private screening of “Life is What You Make It,” a short documentary film that tells the uplifting story of award-winning Broadway producer Jhett Tolentino.

Born and raised in an impoverished community in Iloilo, Jhett was able to finish his studies with the assistance of the Meguko Society, a charitable student organization at the Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo, which raises scholarship funds for indigenous children in India and the Philippines.

Armed with an accounting degree and a determination to succeed, he migrated to the United States in 2002.

“I was one of the millions who wanted to take a shot at the American dream,” narrated Jhett in the film.

He worked in various fields, including finance and healthcare. Jhett eventually found his way into the business of producing theater shows and received his first Tony Award for the comedy play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in 2013, making him the second Philippine-born to win the prestigious award.

Two more Tony Awards followed in 2014 for A Raisin in the Sun (Best Revival of a Play) and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Best Musical). In 2017, He received a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for The Color Purple.

Jhett applied and got accepted to the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) in 2016, becoming one of the ten (10) participants in the annual immersion program jointly implemented by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ayala Foundation, Inc. and the FYLPRO non-profit organization.

“Life is What You Make It”, which Jhett himself had written, directed and produced, is his FYLPRO legacy project.

In the film, Jhett underscored the importance of getting an education, saying at one point that “One must get an education, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what course you take as long as you get a diploma. If you have a diploma, you distinguish yourself from the rest.”

During the Q&A after the screening, Jhett shared his plans of setting up a scholarship foundation to benefit underprivileged students in the Philippines. He expressed the hope that the film would inspire young people to pursue education as a way to get out of poverty.

“Of all his achievements, what impress me most about Jhett are his passionate advocacy of education and his dedication to empowering others. It is challenging enough to attain personal success, and it is still harder to look beyond oneself and help others realize their full potential,” remarked Minister Patrick A. Chuasoto, the Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires ad interim, in a video-recorded message.

“Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal once said, ‘It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.’ As a gift, life may either be squandered or well-spent, for its meaning stems from the choices that we make,” Minister Chuasoto concluded. ###

5 January 2018

Jhett Tolentino gives away souvenir CDs containing the soundtrack of “Life is What You Make It” to Philippine Embassy Staff, Armando Arroyo and Rose Calderon.

5 January 2018

Jhett Tolentino with US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson and wife, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan and Lithuania Anne Derse.

5 January 2018

Jhett Tolentino (2nd from right) reunites with fellow FYLPRO alums RJ Diokno (leftmost), Tiffany Batac (2nd from left), and Christal Simanski (rightmost) at the Philippine Embassy on 04 January 2018.