Pinky Pe Tobiano: A Chinoy chemist with a heart of gold

In keeping with the #1CH1NOY campaign, CHiNOYTV, in partnership with CNN Philippines, unveils a new season that aims to spotlight modern Chinoys. They are personalities from different walks of life who showcase the Chinoy cultural values, and one of them is renowned Chinoy chemist Pinky Pe Tobiano.

Pinky Pie Tobiano is the president and chief executive officer of Progressive Laboratories and Qualibet Testing Services. Defining Pinky as the CEO of a specific company is easy to write, but it’s clearly not easy for this Chinoy to own that title, especially for someone who grew up in a traditional Chinese family who values hard work and perseverance.

“Hard work was really part of our culture,” Pinky tells CHiNOYTV. “When I was young, after school hours when all my classmates could play and study, I couldn’t since after school I had to “Ko Tiam” or watch our store, I gave the change, and talked to people.”

According to Pinky, for those who don’t know Ko Tiam, it’s the term they use when describing the action of ‘manning a store.’ “On Saturdays when everybody can go out to the mall, I couldn’t. I have to stay in our poultry supply and give change or make sure I close the store,” the chemist looks back.

Pinky admits that there were days during her younger years when she wished to grow up like a ‘normal child so she could spend her free time the way she wanted to. “But had it not been for this training of my parents, I would not be where I am today—employing and helping these 300 families, almost 700 lives that matters. This is because of the values my parents taught me. Hard work at a very young age of five,” Pinky realizes.

On Chinoy Values 

Aside from hard work, one of the Chinese values Pinky holds dear to her heart which she learned from her ama (grandmother) and angkong (grandfather), is paying it forward to the community. 

“My Angkong was very active in the Filipino Chain of Commerce, especially for the Malabon Chain of Commerce when he was still alive,” Pinky recalls. “I would see how he transformed lives, how he helped a lot of Filipinos and also Chinese in our Fu Jen province. So there’s an association that has inspired me to be able to give back in my little way.”

True enough, Pinky embodies the value of giving back, especially when she established the Pinky Cares. Aside from her own foundation, she also assists in several institutions such as the Gold Acres Home and Reception for the Children. According to Pinky, the shelter has 72 sexually abused infants to seven-year-old boys and girls. 

“These are the values which have defined me. It’s in my DNA of who I am today. I think hard work, giving back are some of the greatest values I have learned from my being Chinese by blood and Filipino by heart. Chinese practices but giving back to our loving Philippines,” the CEO shares proudly. 

In light of giving back to the community, Pinky spends her birthday celebrating at an orphanage for the past 30 years. “My birthday is the day of giving back unconditionally. So that makes me most happy,” Pinky says with a smile.

On reaching her dreams

When Pinky got pregnant with her eldest daughter, she jump started her business using the laboratory her parents gave her to pursue her passion for chemistry. “When I started, I only had three people. I don’t even have a machine to make medicines. I have to do it manually. And I couldn’t even open the aircon. I need to make sure I have money to pay for the electricity. I have to deliver the medicines in a truck. I had to drive the truck,” Pinky narrates. 

At first, Pinky’s parents were against her taking up chemistry, saying that there is no money in chemistry. But, Pinky knows what she wants from the very beginning, becoming a chemist. 

“I took up chemistry even though my parents didn’t want to. I made sure I have the grades. I am on a consistent dean’s list. I finished with honors. And while studying, I even taught high school chemistry in Immaculate Conception Academy, Green Hills, just to make sure I have extra allowance because I wanna show my parents, and I wanna show the world being a chemist will also give you a lot of rewards,” Pinky expounds.

In the end, Pinky had proven herself worthy of her decision to pursue chemistry when she got her first big break when a multinational company entrusted her to formulate veterinary medicines, and the story of how she stumbled upon the opportunity is like no other.

“I sat beside a person in the plane, and I love to talk. So that’s one of my assets. So, I didn’t hesitate to talk to the man beside me in an airplane,” tells Pinky. The conversation, according to Pinky, went like this:

Pinky: “Hey, sir, why are you going to the Philippines?” 

The guy beside her: “Because of the company that makes our medicine.” 

Pinky: “Medicine, right?” 

Guy: “Animal medicine is on strike. It’s a multinational company.” 

Pinky: “Wow, really, I can make you another medicine like another veterinary factory or laboratory.”

After two weeks of that encounter in an airplane, Pinky received a phone call from an unknown number, and to her surprise, it was the man with whom she had a conversation on the plane. And he was not just an ordinary man. Instead, he was the CEO of a multinational company which Pinky refuses to name.

And the rest, as they say, is history. As of this writing, Pinky heads Progressive Laboratories, specializing in veterinary medicine and maintenance services specifically by producing and packaging vitamins, antibiotics, orals, injectables, premixes, and water-soluble powders. 

“I am so proud of being a chemist—a Chinoy chemist with our medicines going global. It all started with a dream, and now it’s a reality,” Pinky says, grateful.

On facing her biggest battle

For the past decade, things were going great for Pinky and her family until she and her mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“In 2004, my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. That was enough heartbreak to break my life, my parents’ life. Then, after two months, I got diagnosed with cancer myself, and I was a single mom by that time. It was the most shattering moment of my life,” Pinky recalls.

According to Pinky, it was the most shattering event of their lives. “I grew so thin, so frail, always in the hospital,” shares Pinky. “And I’ve never learned how to pray so hard, and I think that saved me.”

With God’s grace, Pinky survived breast cancer, and she is now totally healed. I’m cancer-free, and so is my mom. “After battling cancer, I started another company which is Qualibet Testing services. It’s my advocacy for food safety. Because cancer, being a chemist, comes from the food we eat, from the water we drink, or from all the trans fat and chemicals. So I started Qualibet Testing Services,” she says. 

To date, Qualibet Testing Services Corp. is one of the few testing laboratories recognized by government agencies in the Philippines. 

With these chemist’s achievements in her chosen field, it’s safe to say that Pinky is one of the Chinoys in the country that many people look up to. For Pinky, it’s okay to go after your dreams even if it’s frowned upon by your family at first. Use it as a motivation to prove yourself instead. After all, Pinky says that Chinoys nowadays are more accepting.

“The Chinoys now are more accepting. Marriages between Chinese and Filipinos are more accepted. And I think that’s one of the things I am thrilled about, that this cultural change is now evolving. It’s what I call a paradigm shift of culture. That is modern Chinoy,” she concludes.

Want to hear more from Pinky? Then tune in to CNN Philippines every Saturday at 8 p.m. to know more and discover other Chinoy personalities on the newest TV documentary program, “CHiNOY TV Presents: Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart.”

Did you like what you’ve just read? Follow CHiNOYTV on Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok for more content like this one.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply