Jolina Magdangal is an icon who needs no introduction. Hailed as one of the forerunners of Philippine pop culture, Magdangal truly embodies the image of an unapologetic Filipino woman. Ever since she joined the industry, she was fiercely herself — from her unforgettable butterfly hair clip trend in the ’90s, being a hands-on mother despite her busy schedule, to her infectious energy, it was only fitting that she would be chosen by the Billboard Philippines team to host the inaugural edition of the Billboard Philippines Women in Music Awards.

Ayoko kasi siyang balewalain (I didn’t want to just wing it),” she tells Billboard Philippines, as she shared how nervous and excited she was in the days leading up to the event. In the whirlwind of events that happened prior to awards show, Magdangal opened up about the time spent practicing and rehearsing the script for the event both by herself and together with her husband, Mark Escueta. “Napaka-prestigious niya para sa akin, kasi siyempre, si Sarah [Geronimo], naawardan siya sa ibang bansa, and dito di naman pwede kung anu-ano lang ibibigay natin sa mga deserving na makakuha ng recognition. Ang naging motivation ko ay, wala kang ibang gagawin na worth it kung hindi ka nakakabahan.”

(It’s such a prestigious [event] for me, because of course, Sarah [Geronimo] was awarded in another country, and here, we can’t just give whatever to those who are deserving of such recognition. [Despite being nervous,] my motivation was that nothing is truly ‘worth it’ if you’re not scared to do it in the first place.)

She goes on to talk about how part of the reason she was so nervous was because it was a celebration of Filipina prowess, and as a Filipina herself, the cause is close to her heart. The industry has shifted and evolved a lot since she first started — today, she says, there are so many more artists and platforms that it’s difficult to take note of all of them. Despite the different stories, backgrounds, and genres that these women come from, there is a common womanhood that bridges us all together.

That’s the thing about womanhood that you can’t really quite explain. There’s an innate ability to see yourself in each woman you come across, and it’s for that reason that these honorees resonate with the country at large. Magdangal recounts that same experience during the awards ceremony, and that she found herself relating to the stories for each artist, no matter who they were.

Kahit di ko kilala masyado si Ena Mori, noong sinabi niya ‘break rules’ — nakita ko yung sarili ko doon! (Even if I don’t really know Ena Mori personally, when she said [to] ‘break rules’ — I saw myself!),” she exclaims. When it came to the other honorees, she continued to see herself in their stories, like how she resonated deeply with Regine Velasquez-Alcasid’s thoughts about the challenges that come with aging in the industry, and how at the end of the day, everything that mothers like themselves do is for their children.

It’s the reason why she was able to give her own anecdotes after each of the honorees received their awards. “May kwento ako with Tita Pilits [Pilita Corrales], yung album ni Moira [dela Torre], yung secret talents ni Regine [Velasquez-Alcasid],” she says with a laugh.

That’s why she felt that the best way to approach hosting the event was to make it personal — not just to herself, but to everyone present. She listened intently to the speeches of each artist as they all showed a more personal side to themselves, whether it was dela Torre dedicating her award to her single mother, BINI’s ambition to help bring P-pop to the global stage, and the like.

The Billboard Philippines Women in Music Awards isn’t just an awards ceremony for a select number of individuals. What it represents on the bigger scale is a communal celebration of the role that women have in the industry — honoring not only their talent, but their dedication to their craft and leadership. It symbolizes the need for a culture that doesn’t just see female artists in terms of numbers, their fashion choices, or their relationships with other people, but a deeper understanding of their human side. Behind the glamor of being an artist are mothers and grandmothers, bright-eyed probinsyanas who came from all over the country to make music, daughters of fellow strong women, and women that dare to be different.

The world is recognizing the different ways that women can own their stories. This is just the beginning.

Read more about Filipino women in music in the special print issue of Billboard Philippines, out now on SariSari Shopping.