Fiona Patricia S. Escandor listens to the voice behind a vibrant noontime radio show
A period of soul searching brought her to the Philippines three years ago. Having jumped from one job to another at that time, Irena Byriel recalls how at that point she had felt “lost”—until a road of opportunity led her to Cebu where she ultimately found a new home, and a niche in broadcasting.
“I have always been drawn to the Philippines. I have a special connection to the land, the water, everything. It’s energy,” she said. The Filipino-Australian radio host grew up in Brisbane and would occasionally visit the Philippines only for vacations. It was in 2010, at the age of 23, that she decided to give it a shot.
Irena’s interest in communication inspired her to study film at the International Academy of Film & Television, where she was eventually absorbed as the school’s development coordinator. Then for the past year, she was part of local design show Urbanfolio as host, director and producer. Today, Irena is the voice behind Midday Vibes, a noontime radio show that airs on Y101.
“When I did Urbanfolio, I would go with Jiggy in his morning show where I had a design segment. We had good on-air chemistry that for ages he kept asking me if I’ve ever been interested in radio,” Irena shared. “I didn’t think much of it until one day, my intuition just told me that maybe this is meant to happen.”
Irena got her own show in eight weeks after she formally joined the station—a feat, she said, that’s rarely heard of in the industry. On the side, she does events hosting and voiceover work, most of which are used for radio ads and nationwide television shows.
Irena disclosed that her next project is her singing career—something she has always loved since she was a child, and one she is determined to pursue this year. For the past few months, she said, she has been training professionally under Cha-Cha Blanco Arquiza of Cha-Cha 101 Music Studio.
“I think you’re lost until you find your passion, and when I found mine, everything in the world made sense. Everything that ever happened, both bad and good, led me to this point of discovery,” Irena said.
Other opportunities Irena met this year included being a product ambassador for Norkis-Haojue, where she endorsed the Lindy series of scooters for women. Recalling that experience, she said, “When people see something in you, they open up a door for you.”
Off air, Irena does muay thai and kickboxing to stay fit, followed by catching up with her friends who she already considers as family in Cebu, since her maternal family are mostly based in Leyte. “My mother is nonetheless so proud of me now because I came back and didn’t forget my Filipino heritage,” she said.
With a promising career in broadcasting, Irena—an independent woman at heart—said she
wants to use her newfound influence as a way of being a role model to other women. “I want to speak for them and be their voice,” she said. “I want to help women get on their feet and not lose themselves, say, over a man.”
Irena said, “I’m all for women who are determined to find their passion and go for it.”