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The Philippines is hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games where world-class athletes compete for the honor and glory for their respective countries. This includes our own Filipino athletes, who, on just the second day of the regional sports meet, have already surpassed our gold medal record in the previous four SEA Games. The support of our government has been a key factor in the empowerment of our dedicated athletes.
Like our Filipino athletes, cooperation is also what helps the ASEAN countries win the race towards prosperity. The essence of forming the ASEAN 52 years ago, where 10 countries who compete against each other in trade must also win as one, will not hold if only a few will benefit. Thus, prosperity for all cannot be achieved.
Similar to the SEA Games, the ASEAN aims to promote brotherhood and trust among competing nations so that we can stand together as a regional block, becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. The key to this is the empowerment of micro and small entrepreneurs in the Philippines and other countries in the ASEAN.
Last week, I had the opportunity to get to know this year’s awardees of the CITI Microentrepreneurship Award (CMA). I was part of the national selection committee in the nationwide search for the most outstanding Filipino micro-entrepreneurs. CMA is made possible through the joint effort of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines.
One of the recipients of the special award for agri micro-business is Rosanna Sinapilo, owner of Coco Deli in Candelaria, Quezon. Rosanna and her husband work hard in order to establish their business. During our breakfast meeting, Rosanna said she did not finish high school. I assured her that she was just as capable of achieving success as those who have completed their schooling. I did not finish my college education, but I was able to head the country’s foremost institution for MSME empowerment. Being honored for the work she has done should be enough proof to continue believing in herself.
Another micro-entrepreneur, Lucrecia Neri, also displayed the outstanding entrepreneurial skills of Filipinas. She is the owner of Manna’s Alternatives Herbal Products and AtiManna Organic Hub in Midsayap, Cotabato, and was recognized as the regional awardee for Mindanao. A cancer survivor, Lucrecia resorted to herbal medication after her surgery. With the help of CARD Bank, Inc., she was able to grow her business and also help her employees receive weekly training sessions for their own development.
Lucrecia believes in the importance of learning as she herself has drawn inspiration from the teachings of other successful entrepreneurs. When she was just starting, Lucrecia read our Go Negosyo books, which inspired her to try her luck in business.
Restaurateur Eduardo Azores, who owns Ali-Ali Pastil in South Cotabato, won this year’s CMA Microentrepreneur Award. Eduardo popularized one of the best-loved delicacies of Muslim Filipinos, which is pastil, made from steamed rice with dry shredded beef, chicken, or fish wrapped in banana leaves. With the help of Rizal MicroBank, Eduardo was able to attract more patrons to his restaurant, and provide an avenue for Muslims and Christians alike to unify and share meals together.
Like Eduardo, Lea Mancera’s handicraft microenterprise has also helped provide livelihood to different sectors: abaca farmers in Bicol, as well as to over 100 inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa whom she employs as workers. To increase business production, the loan she received from Kabuhayan sa Ganap na Kasarinlan Savings and Credit Cooperative has been instrumental for Lea, who received the regional award for Luzon. Visayas regional awardee Merly Domingo was also able to improve the production of her garment business through loans from Taytay sa Kauswagan, Inc. A seamstress, Merly creates her own designs – from PE uniforms, jerseys for athletes, hoodies, and other sports garments.
Dedication is also a quality we will find in this year’s Youth Microentrepreneur Awardee. A former delivery boy in Manila, Romualdo Blanco, Jr., used his meager savings to put up his first puto business in his hometown in Batangas. Using a loan from Bangko Kabayan, he sold more products, such as maja blanca, pichi-pichi, and nilupak, which are now being delivered in different stores all throughout Luzon. Another special awardee for agri micro-business is Rolando Pega, a spring onion farmer who heads the AGAP Farmers Association of Laguna. Rolando was one of the farmers tapped by Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. to supply spring onions for a major fastfood chain. He was able to gather other onion farmers and they are now supplying spring onions directly to three major fastfood chains in the country.
Caroline Jamias, the recipient of the special award for preservation of traditions, began as a seller of native costumes in Kalinga in 2008. I was surprised when she mentioned that she was a graduate of our Kapatid Mentor ME program last year. Now her business continues to supply authentic Kalinga textile designs and handwoven products, contributing also to the preservation of the Kalinga culture.
Like our athletes, these inspiring micro-entrepreneurs have excelled in different fields, using their own unique sets of skills and expertise. But they all have been enabled by reliable financing institutions, as well as a community of mentors, who have also helped them enhance their competencies and develop their potential.
Through collaborations with organizations from both the public and private sectors, we aim to provide an enabling environment for our MSMEs and help them scale up. Ultimately, we want to help them achieve success, as empowering our entrepreneurs is the essence of growth and progress. In both the athletic world and the development of our MSMEs, we can win as one through a culture of mentorship and cooperation.