A Woman Called Loida

A Filipino American immigration lawyer, former CEO of a Billion Dollar business empire and political advocate New Yorker speaks of how to succeed in life

H er origin is Bicolandia in Sorsogon, Philippines where she was born and raised by her parents NICFUR furniture maker Francisco Nicholas and Pharmacist businesswoman Magdalena Manalac.

She graduated from St Theresa's College and took her law studies in the University of the Philippines and was admitted to the Philippine Bar In 1968.

She was sent on a round-the-world trip as her father’s gift for passing the bar. In New York, she met Reginald F. Lewis, Harvard Law Graduate, on a blind date. In 7 months, they got married. They lived in New York where they raised two daughters: Leslie and Christina.

In 1974, Loida passed the American Bar and earned the title of being the first Asian American Woman to pass NY bar without having been educated in the US.

After winning her discrimination case, she was awarded three years back pay and started work as a general attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1988, she resigned from the INS to live in Paris when her husband engineered the leverage acquisition of Beatrice International Foods on a leverage buyout for a Billion Dollar, the largest African American multinational company at that time. Reginald died of brain cancer in 1993.

After mourning for a year, Loida Nicolas Lewis took over as the Chair and CEO of her husband’s business TLC Beatrice International Holdings, more than a billion dollars in revenue a multinational food company with operations all across Europe. She paid down the remaining debt and liquidated in 2007 the company’s businesses one at a time and received $1 billion in accumulated selling price.

She is known to live a spartan lifestyle with her life and business. In an article written by Coco Marett entitled "How Loida Got Her Groove Back," the author states: "But despite her position and her wealth following her takeover of TLC Beatrice, Lewis remained far from flamboyant. In fact, the humble businesswoman's first move was to sell the company jet and limousines, and move her office from its top floor luxury suite in Manhattan to a more humble and inconspicuous space.

After selling all her business in 2007, she opted to be a philanthropist.

Loida led as the National Chairwoman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) from 2002-2006, the largest advocacy group for Filipino Americans in the United States. She was an active board member of the Philippine Development Foundation (formerly Ayala Foundation), a public charity that focuses on building an ecosystem of science and technology-based entrepreneurship and innovation for social and economic development in the Philippines

She is also one of the founders of Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), and is the National Chair and Co-Founder of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG).

Loida was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Reporter and the Apollo Theater Foundation but has recently resigned from both.

She also supports her daughter Christina Lewis’ All Star Code, the leading nonprofit organization creating economic opportunity for young men of color by helping them develop the tools needed to succeed in a technological world. All Star Code has graduated 750 black and brown High School students and many who already graduated from college and universities are gainfully employed in the tech world.

She is currently the Chairwoman of a Long Island based Children Orchestra Society which teaches the language of music to children and teens for the past 51 years.

Being very busy with her activities, Loida describes her regular daily routine.

She starts the day with a 15 minutes of Zen meditation. She based this early morning routine from the biblical provision Psalm 46:10 which says "Be still, and know that I am God.”

She says that is the only way to listen to God’s promptings in order to follow His will.

Then she reflects on the Holy Mass of the day, reads it from the magazine “The Word Among US, and writes in her daily journal in order to review the “consolation and desolation” of her actions the day before.

F or the Spotlight Media Magazine readers, she shares the secret of her success and its stands for three letters which is G.O.D. Because with God, anything is possible (Matthew 19:26) Nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Loida says, "The first letter is G which stands for Goal. Set a Goal whether its for 1 year, 5 years or 10 years but you need to identify your direction. Otherwise you are like an aimless ship in the sea.

The next letter is O for Obedience to a Code of Ethics. You have to observe the Golden Rule of Love God and Love your neighbor. This means you do not lie. You do not cheat and you do not steal. Integrity is very important, your reputation precedes you, so people will trust you as you build and operate your business.

The last letter is D which stands for Determination. One should be tenacious and should not give up your goals and whatever you dream to do. Work hard towards your goal. But be attentive to Opportunities. Failure is just another name for success if you learn from your failure."

In the course of human events, Loida Nicolas Lewis is a beacon of light as she serves an inspiration to all of us in these dark pandemic times with her words of wisdom and her selfless service to her community as a Filipino and as an American