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Go Negosyo’s Kabayan 2022 last Saturday was an overwhelming success. There was, of course, the pleasant and unexpected gift from the President of P200,000 each to the nine outstanding OFW awardees of our Kabayan Awards. The announcement by the First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos was met with thunderous applause from the crowd.
It was a day of appreciation of our OFWs. Our own sponsors gave away millions in cash and Negosyo packages – loans, motorcycles, sari-sari store packages, you name it. Our mentors were there to coach active and aspiring entrepreneurs, while all day, on stage, we had speaker after speaker imparting their knowledge about running a small business, using social media for promotions, making smart investment decisions, and generally equipping our audience of OFWs and their families with the right tools and mindset to venture into the world of entrepreneurship.
The President, in his message, said it well: Through entrepreneurship, our OFWs will now have the option to come home for good, with the ultimate goal of making working abroad a choice rather than a necessity.
OFWs, especially, are in an advantageous position to become entrepreneurs. Right now, their dollars can go a long way; even longer if they invest in small businesses.
Our awardees during Kabayan 2022 are proof-positive that, yes, OFWs make good entrepreneurs. They already have an appetite for risk. By going out and trying their luck in a strange land, they have the heart and the will to improve themselves, to explore the unknown. That many of our OFWs have succeeded and thrived is such a promise to what more they can do once they come home.
I mentioned during my speech at Kabayan 2022 the story of two outstanding OFWs, Alvin Esperida and Elpidia Abel. Alvin used to work overseas as a supervisor in a construction company. When the pandemic struck, he decided to return to the Philippines and opened a small store selling essential goods at low prices. His business attracted a bit of social media attention, and before he knew it, it grew and soon became a warehouse, which he named Bodega ni Tatay. The store continues to sell affordable grocery items and now employs around 40 people from low-income families in the community.
Elpidia is quite a legend in OFW circles. She has won many accolades for her work in helping her fellow OFWs, and it is not surprising to see why. She taught herself how to bake, to carve fruit, and to sew gowns using upcycled materials. She never had formal training, but got by on grit and passion, and she even went further. She now uses her free time to empower and share her skills to her fellow OFWs. She is also a cancer survivor.
They are just two of nine OFWs whose stories are certainly inspiring. We have OFWs who freely share their knowledge and experience. Angelito Castro worked overseas for many years in the aquaculture industry. He lost his job during the pandemic, and though he was offered to work again as an OFW, he chose to return to the Philippines and build his own freshwater fish hatchery. He now earns as much as he did when he was an OFW. Not only that, he shares his knowledge about aquaculture through social media, and free seminars and training. Like Elpidia, he has received awards for his dedication to teach fellow Filipinos about fish farming.
Then there are OFWs who are dedicated to making the lives of our kababayans a little better. Cebuano Anthony Leuterio founded Filipino Homes knowing how much home ownership means to every hard-working OFW. He used to lead a global organization engaged in marketing, and is now applying his leadership prowess in out-of-the-box solutions to real estate investing.
Another out-of-the-box awardee is YouTube content creator and former OFW Jeffrey Guansing. His channel, Harabas, went viral for its ‘catch and cook’ content and his initiative to help preserve the environment by planting mangroves and performing coast clean-up drives.
Industries that took a beating will certainly need the help of OFWs like Malou Prado. She is the owner and CEO of MPQ Travel and Tourism, and is currently based in Dubai. She recently launched a branch in the Philippines, and is the only Filipino national to be nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year at the Middle East Excellence Award 2022. During the 7th Middle East Hospitality Excellence Awards, MPQ Travel & Tourism clinched a gold award for Best Travel Company.
Our garments industry can use the likes of Marvin Intal. Marvin was an OFW for more than four years; when he had enough savings, he started Intal Garments. His early stage of venture was not easy since he had to remotely manage his business when he was still in Qatar. Despite the hardship, Marvin was able to put up with the demands of doing business and grow Intal Garments.
Then there are OFWs who showed how digital technology can help small businesses. Mardel Delos Santos, owner of Ledam’s Collections and known to her online followers as Ledam, is one of the most successful online sellers in the Philippines. She started her online business with only P4,000, selling Divisoria goods in Japan where she worked as an OFW. When Facebook Live was rolled out, she quickly joined the trend and was able to rapidly grow her business.
OFW Mark Durotan let his hard years as a seaman propel him to found two businesses: Diko’s Food Processing and Diko’s Integrated Farms, both rooted in his sense of community and passion for organic agriculture. His natural leadership skills and perseverance helped him overcome personal hardships and obstacles in his initial ventures into business. Ever the leader, Mark continues to establish farmers’ associations and gives free talks and consultation to his fellow farmers.
I am sure there are many more OFWs and stories out there. We hope that as we continue to explore how we can grow entrepreneurship in the Philippines, we will have more of them.