Representing the PR (public relations) in pride is what Castro Communications aims to be. From a hopeful start-up to a full-fledged communications agency that represents one of the most remarkable gender movements of today, Castro is both known for PR partnerships and its role in pushing the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) advocacy in the Philippines.
The brainchild of Martin Castañeda, who spent his early professional years in the corporate communications arm of L’Oreal Philippines, Castro recognized the opportunity to penetrate the lifestyle PR market as more and more brands clamored for non-traditional and creative ways to communicate with the media and the public.
As managing director, Castañeda knew that growing the business was not a task he could do alone, so he sought out the services of long-time friend Janlee Dungca, formerly an events professional. In 2014, Castañeda and Dungca, named as Castro’s PR director, welcomed frequent collaborator Lui Castañeda into the agency full-time as Castro’s accounts director.
The firm slowly built its lifestyle and luxury portfolio, partnering with companies such as Branded Lifestyle Inc. and the L’Oreal Philippines. Currently, Castro has expanded its client portfolio to include household brands such as Toblerone, Cadbury, Cheez Whiz, Eden Cheese, Oreo, Belvita, Tang and Berocca. They have also partnered with the most successful celebrities and content creators in their campaigns and events.
The name Castro itself was inspired by Castro District in San Francisco, where the yearly LGBTQ+ Pride march found its early beginnings. Individually, Castro’s founders are LGBTQ+ members and advocates themselves.
Janlee is a member of LoveYourself, a non-profit organization that aims to spread awareness on HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment, especially towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Martin and Lui also continually push forward the Pride advocacy in their various interviews and features.
With Castro’s eight years in the industry, they have continually hired employees, commissioned suppliers and worked with LGBTQ+ groups and individuals, and consider it as their way of changing the stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in society.
Locally, one of Castro’s most valued members is Niko Pedro, a proud gay man who does consultancy work for the company and also works full-time for CNN Philippines. Castro has expanded in Singapore, with an office headed by established marketing professionals and married gay couple Alvin Miranda and Jappy Reyes.
In an interview she did last 2016, Janlee defined Castro’s practices as ways of “debunking myths about LGBTQ+ people perceived to always be parloristas or sex workers.”
As Martin works on expanding and starting an office in the United States, he explains: “We founded Castro in the hopes of introducing a new lifeblood to the Philippine PR and branding industry, which I built with transgender women I trusted for their talents and work ethics. I did not expect that our personal identities would affect and inspire the LGBTQ+ movement both in and outside the country. Now, as Castro fully imbibes this spirit in our DNA, I only look forward to how the company can continue to push the Pride agenda through our unique place in the PR industry.”