MANILA – From a hopeful start-up to a full-fledged communications agency CASTRO Communications has shaped up to be a fervent warrior for the LGBTQ+ agenda in the Philippines.

The brainchild of Managing Director Martin Castañeda, 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. From his early professional years in the Corporate Communications arm of known personal care brand, L’Oreal Philippines, Castaneda grew his one-man-team with the help of constant collaborator, and long-time friend, events professional and now PR Director, Janlee Dungca. Together, CASTRO slowly built its lifestyle and luxury portfolio, partnering with companies such as Branded Lifestyle Inc., distributor of Ray-Ban and most luxury eyewear brands in the country, and the L’Oreal Philippines flagship, with its lineup of hugely successful brands such as L’Oreal Paris, Kerastase, L’Oreal Professionnel, NYX Cosmetics and Kiehl’s. Other well-known brands include Nivea, Levi’s, Guess, SM, and Celeteque.

CASTRO Communications’ Managing Director Martin Castañeda

In 2014, the duo welcomed Lui Castañeda into the agency as Accounts Director to complete the team’s triumvirate. From there, CASTRO grew both in terms of client base and employee size. Currently, CASTRO has expanded its client portfolio to include household FMCG brands such as Toblerone, Cadbury, Cheez Whiz, Eden Cheese, Oreo, Belvita, Tang and Berocca, and has partnered with prominent celebrities and content creators in their campaigns and events.

CASTRO Communications’ PR Director Janlee  Dungca

In building CASTRO’s commercial success, the agency has also started to be recognized as one of the most progressive, pro-LGBTQ+ companies in the country. The name CASTRO itself was inspired by Castro District in San Francisco, where the yearly LGBTQ+ Pride Parade found its early beginnings. Individually, CASTRO’s founders are advocates of the LGBTQ+ community, who actively contribute to the cause apart from their full-time responsibilities in the agency.

For one, Dungca 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. Castañeda has since exemplified the cause of the community to collaborate and celebrate the skills and talents of members of the community. Throughout CASTRO’s seven 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 reshaping the gay identity in the Philippines. CASTRO has since expanded in Singapore, with an office headed by happily married couple Alvin Miranda and Jappy Reyes, both established marketing professionals.

CASTRO Communications’ Accounts Director Lui Castañeda

As CASTRO built its corporate brand, the trio realized that their pro-LGBTQ+ stand has become an essential part of the company’s identity—in fact, it’s become the introductory line in their client pitches. The CASTRO directors consider this brand DNA both a privilege and a responsibility, for they now recognize their role as frontliners in the cause to raise awareness on gender equality in the workplace, both locally and internationally.

As Castaneda works on expanding and starting an office in the US, 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 see the company continue to push the gay agenda through our unique place in the PR industry.”