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It’s Christmas season once again, as marked by the first week of Advent that began with the traditional lighting of the Advent candle at church last Sunday. As Christians, Christmas is very special as it reminds us of the birth of Jesus who is the basic foundation of our faith. It is the season for us to reflect on ourselves and on how we have lived our lives. But children look forward to Christmas for the festivities and Santa Claus, as what my five-year old daughter is excited about. As early as November, the Christmas rush was becoming evident because of the worsening traffic in the mall areas. But on a positive note, this is a good sign that consumers are upbeat and spending. The Philippines in fact got an early present, with the GDP hitting 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012, making us the fastest-growing country in Southeast Asia.
I am in Singapore today to participate in Standard Chartered Corporate Day, and RFM has been invited once again as one of the three companies from the Philippines. RFM’s share price, I would say, would top this year’s best performing stock with a 400% increase in less than one year. We will be meeting close to 30 investors to brief them on our company, and why it is the best time to invest in the Philippines right now. The Philippine stock market is one of the best performing markets in Asia. Without a doubt, our economic team composed of Cesar Purisima, Greg Domingo, Amando Tetangco, and their team is doing an excellent job, which makes things easier for the private sector.
While the good times have started to come in our country, there are still many who have not benefitted from these blessings. We need to empower more and more Filipinos to make a move, to work hard and be more enterprising. This is the only way that the economic boom will trickle down to all Filipinos. Interest rates are very much lower today, but the cost of owning a land and a house has gone up due to the economic boom. Yes, it is starting to go toward that direction, but it will take a little more time before poverty is eliminated. The migration of people to other countries as OFWs will have to continue, as this would bring immediate impact in improving the economic standards of the less privileged. While a strong peso will benefit our business, I am not really for it, as many of our OFWs will get lesser pesos for their dollars, which in turn will have an impact on their economic future. Until today, Hong Kong has pegged its currency, while China’s currency trades within a small trading range, which is still controlled.
I do want to see more of our less fortunate people share in the economic benefits happening, and this is why Go Negosyo, together with the many successful entrepreneurs who have joined this cause, are coming up with methods to inspire, teach, and mentor the many micro and small negosyantes. We have just finished with the PLDT MVP Bossing awards which brings in more entrepreneurs in the medium to large category to join the advocacy. And just last Tuesday, the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year, a search that I have been supporting for the past four years, selected its national winner. This is a good avenue to show everyone how people, who really have nothing at first, were able to achieve their dreams through hardwork. As I was seated beside fellow judges Robina Gokongwei-Pe, who joined the search this year, and Marixi Prieto, who has been a judge of the MOTY since its inception, we were all inspired by Floraiwin Cainglet’s story. She definitely was the driving force in putting up this business, with her husband playing the co-pilot role. Her speech, which was very emotional, was delivered very well, and this inspired me even more. Filipinos like her is proof that Go Negosyo is on the right track, and more needs to be done.
Her entrepreneurial journey started when Floraiwin and her husband Romel got married in 1998 right after graduating from college. Initially, she raised two piglets, and soon after she learned how to make puto, while her husband worked as a tricycle driver. Romel was given an opportunity to work as a seaman, but he went back soon because he could not bear to be away from his wife and children, who were starting to grow up at that time.
Floraiwin then decided to focus on the piggery, and in 2004 with the help of her husband, she began purchasing sows and piglets, as well as the construction of pigpens. But the husband-and-wife tandem soon encountered problems along the way. Aside from the constant worry to look for additional capital to sustain their growing negosyo, the pigs would get sick from time to time, which made them unfit for sale. During those times, Floraiwin and Romel would find strength from each other, and from their faith in God. Soon after, their prayers were answered through Valiant Bank, which trusted them enough by approving their first loan of P50,000.
Through their efforts, their piggery now has around 150 pigs. Just last year, they started another business in quail egg production. One of Floraiwin and Romel’s achievements is that their piggery has introduced innovations in their local industry, such as automatic feeders, a sow-piglet separator, and a biogas converter that converts hog waste into methane gas which they use in their house. Their next project is to construct a windmill which will give power to the water pumps for their community since it is hard to source water in their place. But more than these, the couple employ people from their community to man their piggery and quail pens, and they have purchased carabaos for their farmer neighbors. Less fortunate children are also benefitting from her weekly feeding program. And because she is named as this year’s national awardee, she shared in her acceptance speech that 20 kids would be happy this Christmas because she pledged that she would buy them new clothes if she wins the award.
Floraiwin’s story strengthens the perception “ang hirap maging mahirap”, but with the right attitude in life and dedication to improve one’s condition, as well as courage to take opportunities that will come along the way, any person can make it. As the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Awards continue through the coming years, we will be seeing more and more success stories that will inspire each one of us that success is possible, especially for those who want it the most.