When I first met Edna Villegas-Cheng at an exhibition of her dear brother, artist Arnel Villegas, one would easily get the impression that she is a woman of strength, courage and dignity. A woman who values herself and is determined to fight for what she believes in. Yes, by talking to her about her “goals and objectives in life”, you would know that she wouldn’t give up no matter how many obstacles stood in her way.
It is therefore not at all surprising that Edna Villegas-Cheng, a proud Davaoena, is recognized as Gawad Dr. Jose P. Mananzan Para her Natatanging Alumni Awardee 2022 from the Asian Institute of Tourism of the Philippines (UP-AIT) . This prestigious award “recognizes and celebrates the achievements of UP-AIT alumni for their contributions to their profession, community and country.” UP-AIT is the premier tourism education institution in the Philippines. It is the first school in Southeast Asia to offer a four-year degree program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Tourism. The institution’s mission is to upgrade the travel and tourism profession by providing quality education and training to students who will be the future leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, and technical experts in the industry. On the other hand, the late Dr. Jose P. Mananzan, considered the “Father of Philippine Tourism Education and the Founding Dean of UP-AIT”, believed in the abilities and potential of every AIT student. .
Edna Villegas-Cheng graduated with honors Cum Laude from UP-AIT in 1983. She was valedictorian of high school in 1974 from Immaculate Conception College in Davao City. She then took a BS industrial management engineering course at De La Salle University in Manila and graduated in 1979. The brilliant lady also has a certificate course in continuing education in management from the University of Massachusetts , in the United States, in 1985.
It was in 1973 when Edna Villegas-Cheng’s father, Quirino Villegas, developed an inland tourist resort in Maa, Davao City. The 10-hectare farm was not only planted with durian, rambutan, pomelo, and other tropical fruits, but it was also an open-air museum showcasing Philippine folklore, history, and culture. “This is how the first agro-tourism complex in the city of Davao was born. To be able to run this natural paradise, my father hired me. I felt that I needed a solid experience in tourism to be able to help my father realize his dream of a garden complex in Mindanao, the “Land of Promise”, so I decided to m enrolled in UP-AIT in order to have the excellent education I needed to run my dad’s dream resort. It was one of the best decisions I made in charting my career path… Thanks to the solid foundation I learned at UP-AIT, I was certain to succeed in the career path I had chosen”, revealed Edna Villegas-Cheng.
After running her father’s resort called GAP Farm Orchard Resort for three years, Edna Villegas-Cheng decided to leave to pursue her own dream of “seeing the world”. “New York is where I have spent most of my career as a tourism professional, particularly in the area of hotel management. All the knowledge and skills I acquired at UP-AIT have been put to good use and even better in a great way. I was able to climb the ranks to become a manager in the best hotels in New York such as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the New York Hilton Midtown, the Empire Radisson Hotel, the Suites at Liberty View and the Bristol Plaza… I lived the American dream and proved to the world that if I can be successful in New York, I can be successful anywhere,” commented Edna Villegas-Cheng adding, “Now that I am back in the country with valuable knowledge that I learned from my experience in New York, I have many goals in mind to further improve our GAP Farm Resort and make it a premier destination in our city. My second goal is to become a serial entrepreneur by creating multiple streams of income by partnering with colleagues with the same entrepreneurial spirit as mine so that we can provide jobs for our fellow Filipinos. »
“I I would like to thank God for granting me time, talent and treasures. The words of Saint Jose Maria Escrivo, the founder of Opus Dei, who says: “Don’t fly like a barnyard hen when you can soar like an eagle”, always inspires me to achieve excellence in everything what I do,” Edna Villegas-Cheng said. Admirable woman, indeed.