Archive for February, 2007

Mar and Joey

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

No it’s not Mel and Joey, it’s Mar and Joey: Mr. Palengke and Mr. Negosyo. Funny how people call me up these days and think I am running in the upcoming elections. It has never crossed my mind and while it has been offered to me now and again, I politely refused on the basis of my belief that what the country needs today are more negosyantes. People must become more excited to become a negosyante than to be a candidate. Mar sent me one of his speeches and asked me what I thought. Let me summarize his speech and my reaction which I got his permission to make public.

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The way forward
(Keynote speech of Senator MAR Roxas during the 61st Anniversary of the Liberal Party, Club Filipino, San Juan)
Sixty-one years ago today, the Liberal Party was founded as an instrument for renewal, leadership, and hope. Back then, as the Second World War ended, our people rolled up their sleeves for the hard work of establishing our freedom and rebuilding our nation…

Sixty-one years ago, the country emerged from the horrors of a second world war… Yet although physically broken, our countrymen were strong in spirit, powerful in terms of dedication, brave in the face of adversity. They believed they could make a difference and they did.

The way forward for them was to conquer their fear, grit their teeth, put shoulder to the grindstone and do the necessary hard work of rebuilding our nation. Together, they went on to build our country to become the strongest economy of Asia. That was then.

Today, the Philippines is divided into the haves, the have-nots, and the will never-haves: a nation in conflict politically, but also gutted from within…

How do we get our people to set aside their cynicism, re-engage in civic life and come on-board our platform? I believe our way forward is not to make the political debate be about us, the politicians… I believe our way forward is to lead this debate, and make this campaign a battle of ideas, and not just personalities. I believe our way forward is to present, run on, and make our mark based on the 2 pillars that prop up our country today: our people themselves and the sacrifice they made on the EVAT…let all EVAT revenues be set aside and conferred a status reflecting what it really is – an internal rehabilitation fund. It should be used for investment type activities and not for consumption type undertakings.

But the monies collected from the expanded VAT must go over and above what would regularly have been spent in priority areas. This is in order to jump start important sectors of our country like education, health and infrastructure towards modernity and world-class standards.

Let this be our advocacy – to recognize that upon our people rests our future, to recognize the sacrifice they made and to apply good governance thereupon, making each peso of sacrifice count by treating it as a special account of the people, for the people, and by the people.

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Thank you, Mar, for giving me a copy of your speech. I would also like to thank you for dropping by last February 5 and supporting Go Negosyo for the past 15 months.

From the time I first became an entrepreneur, which was when I was in high school, my views towards the Philippines have somehow changed. As we look back at how our country has progressed, one could see a cycle of misery. The 20 plus years of martial law and the socio-political turmoil that followed led to the Philippines becoming a laggard in Asia.

From my point of view, it is because of our political immaturity, coming from a political system that does not seem to work. If you look at the country as Philippines Inc., we basically have a set of Board of Directors that consists of two often disparate bodies, the House and the Senate. Imagine having 2 sets of directors in a private corporation or a family corporation, you will never get to do anything and the company will move very slowly.

My personal views on Philippine politics can go on and on, but that has never been my advocacy. This is not to say, however, that we cannot continue to progress with what we have today under the bicameral system. What is important is for all political parties to come together and build on the momentum we have today. We must strive for greater optimism, and translate this to greater hope for the countless Filipinos out there who seem to have lost hope. We must teach them to take control of their own destiny, and not rely on government to do it for them. I know we have an imperfect system, and there are those who criticize the President for this, but we now have this unique opportunity to stop this cycle of misery that has plagued this country for so many years. It’s time to end it and move forward. This is what entrepreneurs and investors know best and do best, entrepreneurs have that gift of finding good business models, and people who see this will also come in and invest. This is why we must continue to create a favorable business climate, as entrepreneurs will do the rest in finding what the country needs and finding a way to fill those needs.

Mar, you are a great leader and will have a big influence in our country’s future. Your recommendation on EVAT and the use of it especially on education is good. Good governance is part of the process of developing political maturity, especially among the electorate who must learn to choose the right people to lead this country. For as long as we keep electing the wrong people, we will never break the cycle of misery and poverty. Good governance should be the standard in selecting future leaders so that we correct our problem from the source. Let us choose leaders who will not just give people fish for the day, but teach them how to fish for a lifetime. As the nation once more moves towards elections, this is what Go Negosyo hopes to advocate.

Is it luck or destiny?

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Since we are celebrating Chinese New Year this week, this column will talk about Feng-Shui, luck and destiny. Feng-Shui which is commonly practiced in many Asian countries is called in different names. In Japan they call it fūsui, in Korea pungsu and in Vietnam Phong thủy. Other Asian countries like Hongkong, Taiwan and Singapore have also been practicing this but the Chinese are the most widely known to practice Feng-Shui which makes me wonder, could this be the reason for their success in business?

I come from a family of Catholics and contrary to popular belief, we are not Filipino-Chinese. I am told our family is more Filipino Vietnamese which came from my dad’s side of the family. My parents are devout Catholics and my in-laws are Born Again Christians. The moment you say Feng-Shui, they think it’s evil. For a while, I used to think it was, but after using it for 20 years though not addictively and having gone thru 2 Feng-Shui experts, I can say it does help. You must keep in mind though that Feng-Shui cannot replace what it takes to be a great entrepreneur. The values of passion, hardwork and the gift of creativity must always be present as well as being able to identify business models that would be of great interest to the Philippine market.

Destiny for me means that we have all been given roles in life. Some of us will have bigger roles than others and we cannot alter what God has planned for us. We must utilize the abilities we have and destiny will take its course. So where does luck come in? When someone does well, we say he is luckier. But maybe there is no such thing as luck, it is the person’s effort, ability and creativity and of course his destiny that will affect his life; and luck is just the result. Feng-Shui to me enhances all of these elements to make sure the positive energy is maximized especially when you build a house, a plantation, a building or any kind of infrastructure. I am no expert on this so let me share with you what Feng-Shui expert Charlie Chao says:

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“Based on Chinese Astrology, the Fire Pig Year contains both the elements of “fire” and “water” since the pig really belongs to the “water” element. These two elements seem to construct each other. Based on Chinese Yi-Jing (I-Ching) principles, these elements will complement – hence it would be balanced and harmonized…

Since the Fire Pig has balanced elements of both fire and water, this could mean lesser catastrophes to be expected this year…Heated political arguments and debates are still expected. However, since the Philippines is a religious country and most Filipinos are devoted Christians, these arguments will not become worse especially this year (2007) because of the balance of fire and water elements. Local elections will be held soon and politics-related crimes are also expected. There will also be changes in government policies and systems and the peace and order situation will be improved. It should be stressed, however, that the political and economic stability of a country largely depends on the leadership of a nation.

The Philippine economy is expected to recover. Businesses like real estate, construction, and stock markets are expected to rise. Exchange rates will also be stable. General services like tourism, transportation, food and refreshments, supermarket, fashion and design, and the movie and television industry will also prosper. Agricultural business seems good. However, lumber, textile, garments, umbrellas, shoes, bags, and plastic manufacturers will still have a hard time to take off…

The lucky Feng Shui orientations are North and South. When constructing a house, replacing the altar, transferring the main entrance door/gate, or replacing the tomb, it should be facing these orientations (North or South) to be auspicious and favorable…

For guidance, the year of the Fire Pig is in contrast with the snake especially to those who were born in the years of the Metal Snake (1941) and the Water Snake (1953). In general, the luckiest personalities are those who are born under the signs of the Rat, Rabbit, Dragon and Horse. Moderately lucky personalities are those who were born under the signs Goat, Monkey, Rooster and Dog, with some exceptions. Unlucky personalities are those who were born under the signs of the Ox, Tiger, Snake and Pig…

The above analysis and guideline are just for your references only. If everyone wants to have a better life and a peaceful world, then learn how to change one’s bad attitudes. Put into mind that greed and pride are still two of the worst things that a person could have. Don’t be controlled by these, learn how to manage temper, and with proper behavior and self-discipline then everyone will definitely succeed. Always remember that God helps good people and those who help themselves.

–Charlie Chao

Are Angels for Real?

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Last Monday, I hosted a dinner at our home, to make it more personal, for the launch of Go Negosyo’s campaign for the year 2007 which carries the theme “Teach a nation how to fish…” I also chose this night to formally announce the tie-up of the private sector and government (Philippines Inc.), headed by PGMA with the assistance of MSME czar Cerge Reymonde in seeing thru the implementation of our efforts for a unified Go Negosyo campaign.

To my surprise, close to 400 entrepreneurs and enterprising government officials attended the event. I really did not expect such an attendance which only means that a lot of people really want to see this country end its cycle of misery by helping promote a mindset of entrepreneurship. The next generation of taipans were all present that night from the Zobel’s, Sy’s, Tan’s, Lopezes, Gokongwei’s to the upcoming taipans like Ben Chan of Bench, Joey Antonio of Century Properties Group, Doris Ho of Magsaysay Shipping, Dr. Rolando Hortaleza of Splash Corporation…this column won’t fit my page allotment if I mention all of their names. The young entrepreneurs were also there like Imelda and Eric Teng of Maldita, Gonzalo Roque of Kamiseta, Ronald Pineda of Folded and Hung, Dimpy Camera known for her brazo de merecedes and Mary Grace Dimacali who owns Mary Grace Ensaymada. Citigroup’s microentrepreneurs of the year were also present that evening like Jennilyn Antonio, Nolie Estocado with Citigroup (Phil) head Sanjiv Vohra, Steve Lawrence and Mark Jones. Thanks to Citigroup who also sponsored the dinner for that evening. Our guest of honor was the CEO of Phil Inc. herself, President GMA with PMS Head Cerge Reymonde, and the young cabinet secretaries Arthur Yap, Ace Durano, Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, Peter Favila, BSP Governor Tetangco and of course Senator Mar Roxas who has been to almost every Go Negosyo event. I don’t want to sound like my idol column writer Tessa Prieto-Valdez who writes for her own paper, but I just want to describe the energy that filled the place was like the energy when you see how the stock market is doing now. It’s really a nice feeling seeing all the entreps gathered to support one advocacy and it has been a long time since we have seen this kind of warm reception. So is it for real? This was the common comment people asked me that night. My answer is it will be for real for as long as we continue to keep the optimism alive and of course if the government continues its reforms and support for micro, small and medium entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. We have to be players and not just an audience if we want to benefit in the economic boom.

We prepared an audio visual presentation with the theme song “Posible”, a composition of Rivermaya who also made a live rendition of the song for free. The song and the video presentation encapsulated the message of our theme for 2007 which is “Teaching our nation how to fish, feeding our nation for many lifetimes.” This is what we need to do to see this country continue with its momentum. My talk focused on one angel story which over the weekend prior, I was thinking of what message can best deliver the essence of Go Negosyo to a crowd like this. Not only were my prayers answered but someone’s prayers also got answered. This is part of her story:

“…I am a 49 year-old housewife and mother of three. My eldest is on his 4th year in architecture at UST. We have been pulling all our resources and trying hard so he could finish college. Next is a 9 year-old girl who is suffering from an irreversible congenital heart disease (blue baby) who needs medical attention from time to time. My youngest is an 8 year-old boy. Both are in Grade II at our town’s public elementary school. My husband was a 5-vessel graft bypass patient and a diabetic who needs expensive lifelong maintenance medications (Six-hundred to Eight-hundred pesos per day). I too am a cardiac patient and have suffered myocardial infraction almost two years ago. But despite all the trials, I know life has to go on and we must learn to live with it regardless of its uncertainty and hardship.

I am running a small business at home in balut & salted-egg making. It is a business I have grown accustomed to since childhood and what my town, Pateros, has been known for. I like the business as it also gives me the opportunity to give others the chance of livelihood through the “mambabalut” (the person making the balut) and the “tinderas” of balut who make a living by selling the balut we make.

But I couldn’t advance the growth of my business due to the daily needs I have to sustain for my family. Most of the time I worry about how to pay our supplier for continued supply of duck eggs to keep our business going because there are medications we cannot forego to keep my family alive.

God has been good though, for He continues to help us find ways and most of the time send us people who helped us go by from time to time. But I know it can’t be forever and we might not get help all the time. We have to help ourselves.

To make my business grow, I need to supplement my income. And the only way I could think of is to have an additional source of income to help me sustain my family’s medical needs.

We are living in a sizable lot area owned by my parents. It is a pity I couldn’t maximize the use of our place due to lack of capital. There is a store area w/c is also our kitchen fronting the house where I sell the balut and salted eggs we make. It used to be a carinderia space before I had an attack.

There are two possible businesses I could think of right now which I feel would be feasible in our area. One is the PLDT My DSL internet cafe and the other is a backyard piggery business. The computer shop/cafe my son could easily help me run and the piggery my husband and I could jointly maintain without us having to leave home.

I wrote because honestly, we don’t have the capital to help us start and make go of our plans. I can only pray for an angel to save us. I will appreciate very much if you could help us thru your GO NEGOSYO…”

Mrs. Estrella Castillo

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During my speech, I acknowledged the right entrepreneurial spirit that Mrs. Castillo has. That despite all the trials and challenges, she never lost hope and even pushed harder to look for solutions and opportunities. She knows she has to do something and that is the kind of attitude we are advocating in Go Negosyo. In the middle of my talk, I asked Mrs. Castillo to join me up on stage and called on PLDT’s Butch Jimenez who was going to help get her set-up an Internet DSL center and Secretary Arthur Yap who will help her set up an agri business. I guess being in the presence of the audience that night made me realize that angels do exist and they are the God-sent people who continue to lend a helping hand and give hope to the many Estrellas out there. Go Negosyo together with its network of partners extends the needed help and mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs. I believe that is what the Go Negosyo advocacy is all about.

Teaching a Nation How to Fish

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

On February 5, Go Negosyo will launch its program for 2007 with the main theme “Teach a nation how to fish and we will feed a nation for many lifetimes”. It has been a month now since my meeting with PGMA and Secretary Cerge Remonde and things have started to move and the alignment of one advocacy to help micro, small and medium enterprises will be implemented thru Go Negosyo which will now be a partnership between the private sector and Philippines Inc (government).

Over the past week, this column has focused on entrepreneurship in government, from the CEO who is our President, to the Secretaries, Departments and agencies’ officials and the local government officials. We have a Philippines Inc. creating an enterprising culture.

We have to think positive, work on it, give it a chance and believe this model of a focused advocacy will work, where all government agencies, entrepreneurs and the academe serve as the support ecosystem that helps and promotes entrepreneurship.

“Teaching a nation how to fish” cannot be accomplished just by the private sector alone. It must be supported by the different government agencies which are part of Philippines Inc. from the Department of Trade and Industry where the first assistance of business registration starts, to other agencies’ training centers, design centers, trade expositions and marketing, to the Department of Agriculture for agribusiness assistance centers, Small Business Corporation, government banks and financial institutions and their affiliate-micro finance institutions and many more.

Just imagine if all of these can be integrated under a more unified Go Negosyo campaign to have a more effective and responsive support eco-system for entrepreneurs. Thus, anyone wanting to go into business can quickly identify Go Negosyo assistance programs provided by several government agencies who will also be their partners in business.

We are now also working in developing a one-number hotline that will enable anyone to have quick access to any business assistance and mentorship that will be needed from both government and non-government groups.  

The role of private sector is to continue to help in the “big brother- small brother” approach in developing business models for small entrepreneurs. For example, we now see PLDT/Smart, Globe, Bayantel and Microsoft, HP, Intel, Mozcom creating negosyo bundles on the internet, cell cards and eventually tawag centers using VOIP thru cell phones. But it’s not just telcos who are creating negosyo bundles, companies like Hyundai with their Pro-negosyo Starex vans, San Miguel Corporation, Unilever and food cart associations like the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. (AFFI) and the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) are also promoting business tools, franchise and distribution business models.

There are also the subcontracting of agri farm products following the poultry business model in new crops, the use of getropa or tuba-tuba as a primary source of ethanol for biofuel, new ways of urban farming and more profitable backyard-type poultry and livestock business ventures. There are so many business models still out there that we can provide to the small entreps. More importantly, aspiring entrepreneurs with new and unique business ideas can also seek advice from our mentors on how they can safely turn their plans into reality.

While it is true that the economic boom is happening, it is for those who want to take part of it. You just can’t be a citizen of the Philippines and do nothing and expect that if we see a Philippine economic boom, you will instantly get rich…no way my friend, you have to do something! Either invest or start a business. For those successful in business it’s time we follow the big brother approach so the small would- be entrepreneurs will have a chance to succeed and also partake in the economic boom of this country.

Maybe the Sy’s, Ayala’s, Gaisano’s and the Gokongwei’s who control the largest retail concepts in the country can allocate some space to new brands as incubation centers. In a way this is being done already but maybe a more conscious effort will give chance to the rise of more entrepreneurs. Former President Cory Aquino herself has now taken notice that for this country to move forward and improve the economic standard of the poor, there is a need to support and accelerate the pace of microlending.

So we all need to enhance financing, much as we need to develop and offer new business ideas to differentiate from current business models and not just have a “me too” type of business. This is where we hope Go Negosyo thru its vision of “teaching a nation how to fish…” will contribute by getting the big brother mentorship going and the government playing the role also of a father teaching his son how to fish.

I pray that the Go Negosyo advocacy will inspire people to get into business and those who have been successful should in return help others. Thru this process, we hope to see a more vibrant and more prosperous entrepreneurial nation.