Johsa Marie Gutierrez Manzanilla was born on October 18, 1985 at Makati Medical Centre, Philippines, the only child to Masarap Jr. and Julita Manzanilla. At the age of 15 months, she moved to Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, where she lived with her parents who were employed there as an engineer and nurse. When Manzanilla was 4 years old, she and her parents immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Though throughout her life she has traveled to many countries, it is here in Canada that she grew in both scholarship and in service, becoming involved in her schools and university, as well as the greater community.
During her early childhood, Manzanilla attended French-Immersion and Catholic primary schools. In the second grade, she was accepted after an intensive interview and entrance examination process to the all-girls independent school, Balmoral Hall, in Winnipeg. While at Balmoral, Manzanilla was elected as a Junior School Prefect, participated heavily in the theatrical arts program, gained many academic honours, such as consistently achieving B.H. Scholar status of 90 percent on her overall averages, and began her public speaking and debating career.
As Manzanilla entered Middle School, she decided she wanted more of an academic challenge and applied to another exclusive school, St. John’s-Ravenscourt (SJR), also in Winnipeg. While at SJR Manzanilla joined the debating team, where she honed her oratory skills and was a Finalist at the Canadian National Debating Championships. She also held several leadership positions, such as Organizer of the International Schools Public Speaking Championship, Editor of the school literary magazine, Director of Middle School Plays and a Columnist for the school newspaper, as well as a Delegate of the World Affairs Conference. High school progressed much the same way as her primary years, with Manzanilla receiving merits in volunteering (2002 Youth Leadership Award, Health Sciences Centre), French public speaking (2001 Provincial Champion, Concours D’Art Oratoire), as well as in academics and the arts (Governor’s Honour Roll, Member of Parliament’s Award, Norman Young History & English Academic Prize). She also appeared in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in plays by local Filipino playwright, Rod Cantiveros, taught Sunday School, and volunteered as a Youth Leader at the Philippine Pavilion for Winnipeg’s annual Folklorama.
In 2003, Manzanilla was accepted to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with Entrance Honours with Merit. At Queen’s, she immersed herself in student life, becoming involved in Department Student Councils, Queen’s Model Parliament, and Youth Parliament of Manitoba (when at home in Winnipeg). She has also held various leadership positions in the Queen’s Philippine Cultural Association and the Queen’s Debating Union, and was a Student Prosecutor for the university’s non-academic discipline process.
This past February, Manzanilla was elected as the 30th Rector of Queen’s University. She is the first female ethnic minority and the youngest individual in the history of Queen’s to hold this position. After the Chancellor and the Principal, she is the Third Officer of the University. An advocate and mentor, the Rector serves as the representative of all undergraduate and graduate students on matters pertaining to education at Queen’s.
Manzanilla has worked for Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, the first Filipino Member of Parliament, and at the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. In her spare time, she composes her own music and has recorded 3 independent albums to date. Her future goal is to be a human rights lawyer and advocate.