Archive for January, 2009

Daughters

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

A series of my columns that started two weeks ago, from “’Til death do us part”, ends with this column.

My wife received a call at 2:30am from her brother. The time has come, and her dad was soon to expire. We all rushed to the hospital with my children to bid him farewell. It was actually my first time to see and experience a loved one passing away. The family was all gathered. His wife and all his children were there. The room was full. It was like how we send off people in an airport. But, at that time, we all knew that it would be the last time in our lifetime that we will see him. Sadness filled the room. His daughters and sons were all in tears. My children, who have been close to their grandfather, were also in tears. They could not help it, knowing that it was the last time they would see there lolo.

What came to my mind was the song of John Mayer, simply entitled “Daughters”. The song says that fathers be good to your daughters, as they become mothers and they will take care of their fathers. True. My father in law has always loved his children. Since they lost their mother to cancer at a young age, the children had him as a dad and a mom combined, especially to the youngest son Jay. His children, in the end, took care of him.

Normally in Chinese tradition, the men take a more special role than the women. To most Chinese families, the eldest male is normally the apparent heir. But, we can see that in the end, it is the women who end up taking care of their parents. Parents who have brought up their children, with love, respect and the right values, will be rewarded with the care as they grow old. This is a treasure that no money can buy.

My father in law did not die a wealthy man. He faced a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur. But, he will be remembered by the community that he served. He set up a building for the church of Victory Christian Fellowship, along with his other contributions. He has given the love and time to all his children. He lived the Christian values that he taught. My wife, a true daughter, will miss all those early morning phone calls to her dad. She will also miss running to him at times when we have normal quarrels.

Life is indeed short. While it is early, we must realize the real treasures in life and give enough time while our parents still are alive. Treasure them. To the parents who have been busy building their negosyos, don’t forget to spend time in building a relationship with your children. This investment, in time, will be remembered when the day comes. Life, indeed, is a journey of experience through family and friends. Sometimes, we are blessed with a wealth of varying degree. To those who are given more, much more is also expected. Let us use this wealth in creating a better future. In the end, the measurement of how we lived our lives will be through our children, our friends and the communities we have influenced and helped with the wealth that has been given to us. This is the process of identifying real success. These are the things that matters most in our next life. Eternal happiness is the real pot of gold that we should all be looking for.


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Tomorrow, Go Negosyo together with Gov. Lray Villafuerte, a Go Negosyo Champion, will be hosting the largest entrepreneur summit in Camarines Sur – the “Go Negosyo sa Bicol Express”.

It was once a sleepy province; until Gov. Lray, who is only in his early 40’s, decided that the Camarines Sur government should take the lead in establishing the province as destination for extreme sports.

He felt that tourism was the right business model for this province, to make it a lot different from others. Today, thousands of tourists come to CamSur to visit and experience wake boarding, water complex, eco village, ancient landmarks and the amazing beaches. Also, the province will host the first ever Half Iron Man event and another World Wakeboarding Event. He has created great interest in his area that attracted more investors like call centers and more learning institutions as new locators. Refusing to just sit around and wait for investors to come, Gov. Lray decided that he would let the local government of CamSur invest by setting up tourism facilities. The investment paid off. To us, he is one of the leading Governors who is a Negosyo Champion in his area. Go Negosyo is encouraging more local leaders to be the Negosyo champions that will hasten the entrepreneurship development nationwide.

Our vision, especially now that I am presiding as chair of the MSMED with Secretary Peter Favila, is to partner with governors and mayors to champion the cause of negosyo in their areas. We would like to help them identify the business model that will work in their area. By doing so, they will be able to create a more focused approach in developing an entrepreneurial environment. Through the MSMED council, we will be able to get the government inter-agencies to support local governments, with an entrepreneurship development template that they can follow.

This year’s Go Negosyo Caravan will kick off with the “Go Negosyo sa Bicol Express” on January 30, 2009 at the Camarines Sur Convention Center.

Go Negosyo sa Bicol Express will be graced by Senator Manny Villar and Presidential Management Staff Secretary and recently inducted Press Secretary Cerge Remonde. Member agencies will also be present to reach out to the participants. Go Negosyo mentors and entrepreneurs will also be joining our forums to share their stories and business advice. Governors and local leaders from all the provinces in Bicol will be there as well.

We will also be giving recognition to the local entrepreneurs who took control of their lives through their negosyo. Our congratulations to our Most Inspiring Bicolano Entrepreneurs, as they have all worked hard for their success.

Most Inspiring Bicolano Entrepreneurs

* Eng. Salvador Albia – TROPICS AGRO INDUSTRIES
* Elizaldy Co – SUNWEST GROUP OF COMPANIES
* Dahlia Dy – SOUTH STAR DRUG INCORPORATED
* Alice Esquela – BEN’S BAKERS CORPORATION
* Avelina Miranda – RPM PILINUT CANDIES
* Jerly Peyra – JERLY PEYRA POULTRY FARM
* Eng. Florenio Regala – MACAGANG BUSINESS CENTER
* Lyndon Tan – BASIC NECESSITY, INC.
* Mediatrix Villanueva – SHELMED COTTAGE TREASURES

Most Inspiring Bicolano Microentrepreneurs

* Marianne Gabrielle Bordado – CHOCO NAGA
* Pedro Durante – FAMILY SPRAIN EXPERTS
* Hanilyn Aguilar-Hidalgo – PROPOLIS LIFESTYLE
* Carlito Millano – CGM HANDICRAFT
* Rolando Nicerio – DAD’S SPECIAL PINANGAT
* Marianne Olano – BAYCRAFTS
* Cindy Pereña – COP PILI SWEETS AND PASTRIES
* Carmen Ravago – RAVAGO’S LONGGANIZA DE GUINOBATAN
* Hector Torente – BIKOL CERAMIKA

Most Inspiring Bicolano Entrepreneurs – Special Award

* Labo Progressive Multipurpose Cooperative
* Simbag sa Pag-asenso, Inc.

ASEANpreneurs Alpha Challenge (AAC)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

What is the challenge?

ASEANpreneurs Alpha Challenge
is a scenario-based competition whereby participants are expected to harness the power of media to spread the stories of successful entrepreneurs in ASEAN amongst the region. We believe that these stories, in turn, will inspire the participants and the audience to emulate the success of these ASEANpreneurs.

Basically the competition will consist of two parts either to answer,

A. Is there an Entrepreneur in ASEAN whose story has inspired you?
(prize 1000 singapore dollars)

B. Imagine yourself as the CEO of a start-up in ASEAN that has been established for more than 5 years. Where will you take the company 5 years from now? In this case, they must choose from the start-up companies given in the website.
(prize 2000 singapore dollars)

Teams must consist of four (4) members.

Format would be in digital media like a video (not more than 6 mins) or digital images or comics.

Every team needs to submit their story in digital media form via the online portal (by uploading it in the website) from 1st February to 8th March 2009.

About the Organizers
The ASEANpreneurs Youth Leaders Network (AYLN) is a student organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the ASEAN region. It serves as a platform for budding student entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries to network, share ideas and knowledge, and to collaborate and learn from each other. Some of the network’s activities include organizing the flagship Leaders Exchange and the upcoming Conference, dissemination of entrepreneurship information, news and initiatives in the form of quarterly newsletters.
 

For more information, visit http://aseanpreneurs.org/program.html

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The Power of Hope

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009



The past columns have been very optimistic about the Philippines. Some friends who have read my last column ‘Till death do us part’ even found it mushy. What I have tried to project are the real life situations on how we define success as we live in this physical world.

Now, with the change in leadership in America, the question asked is “Will Obama save America and the world?”

For those who stayed up late to watch Obama’s inauguration and speech, it was truly historical. Being the first black president, he is now the world’s most famous man, who has a gargantuan task of not only saving America, but also the world.

Looking at the faces of Americans, many of whom were in tears, they know that the United States of America is now facing one of their greatest challenges. Somehow, many of them already know what lies ahead. A lot of Americans are suffering from defaulting home mortgages, credit cards being maxed out, retirement funds losing a lot of its value, among many other problems. For the very few who have savings, they are now earning less than one percent on their deposits. Their worst problem is the part of not knowing if they will still have jobs the next day.

Indeed, it was a very sad ending for President Bush to see him fly off that way, leaving America the way it is. Obama will have to prepare for this. The biggest challenge is for him to keep his foot on the ground. He must realize that it is indeed his destiny to become president at a time like this. He will be tested in this crisis. Sometimes, power changes people.

While African-Americans have dominated different sports, this is a chance for Obama to show that color or race is not a factor in excelling as a leader of a country like America. I do hope he will be like Michael Jordan in playing basketball or a Tiger Woods in golf.

Obama will be the hero of the game and save the world from entering the great depression like the one in the 1930s. So much expectation is being laid in front of someone who, at the age of 47, has not experienced any crisis of this magnitude. While it is easy to have the “Yes We Can” slogan, leading a nation to believe is the challenge. America is pinning their hopes on him, and so is the world. Obama will have to initiate the team effort from every American. They have to prepare and expect that things will get to worst before it gets better. This will then be the stage when American patriotism will be tested once again.

I am without a doubt that many Americans will rise to this challenge. In order to do this, they must start at the root of all problems – spending beyond ones means. This will have to be changed over time. The attitude towards excessive credit will have to change. This will take time. In the process, pain has to come through. But, let us not underestimate the power of hope. This has brought forth many miracles. Nothing is impossible if hope is still alive. This is what Obama brings to America today.

In the Philippines, we have seen the power of hope. During the Marcos dictatorship, an organization called Namfrel headed by my father started to light the candle of hope. Despite the odds, it was like David and Goliath when they were guarding the ballots with their own lives. Millions of Filipino volunteers brought hope. When Ninoy decided to come back, it further increased the power of hope. When he was assassinated, rather than people losing hope, the people power revolution started. Since then, we have had four presidents: Cory Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Fidel Ramos, and PGMA.

Many people will say that the poor are still the same; that this country has not moved forward; that the level of corruption is at its highest. While I may agree to some of these statements, and yes many of these exist today at varying degrees, it has been four presidents since then. What will change things for us? Maybe it is time that we rethink our approach. Let us start projecting the best things in this country, which will continue to inspire people to do good and not only good but their very best. Let us project the stories of countless Filipino OFWs who sacrifice and leave their families so that they can earn money, send their children to school, and give them a bright future. Let us also project the good work of civic organizations that are helping people.

Go Negosyo also continues to project the heroes of poverty, who are the entrepreneurs from micro, small, medium to large. Hopefully, let us pray for religious organizations to stop fighting each other, but instead continue to provide the right Christian virtues that are needed in times like these. Hopefully, our friends in the media will be able to project more of the good news, similar to what an OFW TV host Rico Hizon is doing. Rico also has a website that talks about only the good news. We have to keep inspiring people. Through this, gradually in time, people will be proud to be Filipinos and the rest will follow. Let us not underestimate the power of hope. This is the only thing left with our Filipino OFWs, the countless microentrepreneurs out there and our fellow Filipinos below the poverty line.

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Let me share with you other feedback from readers of this column:

“Hi Joey! Tuwa at Tawa para sa mga pilipinong naniniwala sa magagandang mangyayari pa sa ating bansa sa hinaharap.” Ernie Cordero

“I personally experienced the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur last 2008.The “downs” hit me hard to the point of losing grip on my faith to achieve recovery. Thank you Mr. Concepcion for reminding me that despite all these, there is HOPE! More power to you and Go Negosyo!!” Engelyn Belmonte

“yap i still believe we can make it joey! its just a matter of holding the line and pushing the rope for success and victory, from the mistakes we have learned i think we are prepared to be matured enough to face such challenges” Art Zambrano

“Your recent article entitled “Till Death Do us Part” made me teary-eyed. Truly, it is so saddening to hear of people cutting short their lives due to depression. I remember my Papa who passed away in 1998 due to cancer. We saw how he battled it out till he finally accepted his fate. Thank you for continuously inspiring us, your readers. Thank you for making us still believe that more than material wealth, there are more important things in life – happiness, contentment, peace of mind.” Techie Gonzales

“I have been reading your column and have always been inspired by your perspective. Your column today brings us back to what really matters in life. The global economic recession is a wake up call. It makes us realize that what really makes people happy are rooted in the non-material matters of life: relationship, peace, love, hope, contentment, joy.” Herman Moldez

Go Negosyo Goes Bicol Express

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

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'Til death do us part

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Last week’s column, again, elicited a lot of response from many people. These are even the people who I thought would not read my column entitled “10 reasons why we should be happy in ‘09”. In fact, students even posted it in their personal blogs and social sites.

Anthony Pangilinan sent me what he thought should be the 11th reason. He wrote: no. 11, God still loves YOU Joey! Corruption is another 11th suggestion, which is a negative thought. Of course, there are still a number of people who believe that under this PGMA administration, the Philippines will not move forward.

Last week, the Philippines raised 1.5 billion dollars, being one of the four countries that were able to do so after the crisis. The other three are Brazil, Columbia and Korea, but the Philippine bond is the only one holding up quite well. This means that the Philippines has a great future, or else, it would not have been over four times oversubscribed.

This present financial crisis has more effects than the loss of financial properties. Just recently, a German billionaire committed suicide because he has lost what he has created and earned. This billionaire was even one among the 100 richest people in the world and holds the record for Germany’s fifth wealthiest. After this death, another business tycoon committed suicide in Chicago. He was one of the tycoons in America’s real estate industry. Even last year, the founder of the hedge fund Access International Advisors was also found dead and had apparently committed suicide. Reports say that he lost as much as 1.4 billion of his investments. The thought of being poor makes the rich decide to end their lives. This is why the financial crisis that the world faces today has hit the rich very hard. But, even though these people may have lost a lot, they are not even close to being poor compared to others.

Lately, I have been visiting my father-in-law Jose Orosa, who has been confined in St. Luke’s Hospital. He is now in the ICU. His cancer, which started in the colon, has now spread all over. It is just a matter of days or weeks. As I look at a dying man, it makes me think of how others can take their own lives, when people who have been given their death sentence due to terminal cancer are still trying to fight for their lives.

It is a challenge to think about what is more important. This is a big challenge, as when we are brought up, we are told to succeed in life. Mostly, we achieve this through material wealth, because in the physical world the things that we can touch are the ones that make more sense. It is all about the cars that we drive and the houses we live in. In this very competitive world, we start school and we are supposed to excel. Our grades become the measure of our success. As we mature and graduate from school, our measurement of success is the wealth and fame we have achieved. It is all about how big our negosyo becomes, etc. But, life does end.

My father in law was a workaholic, unfortunately. Even until his last days prior to an operation that should have never been done, he was still busy. His children, all five of them, love him very much. They are not embarrassed to show the affection they have for their father. In the spiritual world, all these material wealth and power don’t mean anything. As we get older, the realization becomes clearer for those who are open to embrace the more important non-material things in life. For those who have taken their lives because of wealth loss in this financial crisis, they have given up to the pressure of what this physical world demands.

As I write this column, it does not mean I am able to succeed in beating the temptations of this world. It is maybe through this process, as we see people move on to the spiritual world, when this realization becomes more real. When we get married, the priest would say “Til death do you part…” I wonder how many people really understand this and what it means to part with relationships and material things in the world we know. In pursuing our negosyo challenges in life, we should remind ourselves that these are all temporary things. For those who are fortunate to have a good life, maybe it is a bigger challenge. But, for those who have less or nothing, maybe it would be easier. But, as we all strive to move up in life and become successful, we should not part with the belief that being successful is being happy and contented. It is all about staying healthy, being able to help others, and above all, having stronger relationship with our Creator.

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Go Negosyo receives the People of the Year Award from People Asia, a magazine owned by The Philippine Star. Annually, they recognized people who have contributed to the Philippine society. This year, Go Negosyo is one of the awardees. This goes to all the entrepreneurs who gave their time, effort and support in inspiring fellow entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium group. The only way our country can move forward is through the creation of more negosyantes who will employ people. An enterprising Filipino culture is what we need. Thank you to The Philippine Star for helping us inspire this nation of Filipinos and continue to light the candle of hope.

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Let me share with you other feedback from readers of this column:

“Hi Joey. Happy New Year. Just read your article. Article was very timely. It gives you confidence to think positive for 09 and also entertaining. Congrats again on the tremendous success of GO NEGOSYO.” Vince Tanjutco

“Good evening Mr.Conception!i’m Monica,a psychology student here in Baguio.i just read your article in the philstar.its good that you’ve written such write-up because it gives us joy knowing that there are still reasons why we should be happy this year,amidst global crisis.i can’t help but smile.Godbless!” Monica

“boss joey im touch and im proud to be a filipino im inspired in your ten reason why we should be happy , every filipino must read it it will boost our moral and the spirit to make new ideas be unleash the time is now!!! im noel lobo from pampanga and im proud to be a filipino!!! Keep up the goodwork Boss!! God Help Us” Noel

“Hi Joey, I really appreciate your enthusiasm on your latest column. Yes, there is no other way but UP in these tough economic times. I thank God for people like you who share the optimism and passion for economic growth. Innovation and creativity, I believe are key words for 2009. More power to GONEGOSYO!” Alvin Lizada

“…Filipino’s are like bamboo trees and very resilient in any problem they are facing. We will survive during this hard times… If we Filipino can start Patronizing our own Goods (Filipino Made Products) . These measure will certainly can generate opportunities and can create jobs. It’s been awhile that a company like yours RFM made a big consideration to augment the needs of our people by slashing down your market price in order to help people and thereby patronizing our own !!!!! Please continue to be the 1st Model Filipino Company to revolutionize the patronage your own products. I firmly believe by doing so, we will overcome any adversity at hand. God Bless for your Company and to you Sir!!!!” Edward P. Asis

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Ten reasons why we should be happy in 2009

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Upon reading all the columns these days, there is nothing but bad news about 2009. Not that I disagree with many of the views, but I think things will be different. The Philippines will be far better than many other countries. Here are 10 reasons why I think we should be happy in 2009.

1 – We (Philippines, Inc.) have a unique business model, which is now more Service-based, through the export of manpower services and the migration of Filipinos to countries like America, Canada and countries in Europe. A lot of Filipinos continue to be one of the best performers in different industries, especially in the fields of medicine, construction, domestic service, among the many services provided. Many Filipinos, especially in America, take on two jobs and work very hard. Many of them even own the nursing homes in America. This is an industry wherein many Filipinos really excel. This strength comes from many generations of respect for elders. For example, the mano po tradition is still commonly practiced up to now. When a Pinoy eats, he never fails to say “Kain tayo!” and offers his food to be shared. These simple gestures show the many generations of respect. Our yayas who leave their families to take care of our own children are, in a way, traini ng for many who plan to go to Asian countries to do the same with higher pay. These OFW remittances will continue, which contributes to our GDP. In a way, this is the same as the oil that the Arabs have, or what durable products China has for exports to America. This is also now greatly affected as Americans have slowed down on consumption. Even though other countries, especially China, is well known for their export of hard goods, people will always have the option to put off buying furniture, toys, appliances or their other products. But, services are different because these are always needed. Our country’s export of services via OFWs, call centers and BPOs is very unique. Compared to This service is hard to replace, as Filipinos have the passion to serve and a natural advantage in communications skills especially when abroad. Even here in our country, a call center operator would make 300 dollars a month. This is just equivalent to three days wage of an American working in a call center. With the crisis in their country, they would have to relocate here.

2 – In the years to come, we will be entering a low interest regime, with the Americans taking interest rates to almost zero. This will force other countries to lower interest rates. If Japan has had low interest rates for nearly 15 years and if America’s economy will remain sluggish, we could be looking at low rates for quite some time. This can lead to our advantage. If our central bank will not lower rates, we may see a stronger peso this coming year or at the very least a much more stable peso. If interest rates are lowered, this will benefit a lot of entrepreneurs and would be also good for business. The peso may slide to the levels of 50, but this will also be good for the exporters, OFWs, call centers and BPOs.

3 – Oil has come down from the highs of 145 levels. As I have mentioned in my past columns, when oil was at that level, it was caused more by the hedge funds pushing oil beyond its real demand. Within two months, we have seen oil collapsed to a low of 30s. Now, it has recovered to high 40s. Assuming that oil would average between 50 and 60 for the year, this will still be a big boost for the tourism industry, as air travel will become cheaper. Our logistics cost in transporting products, being a country with seven thousand islands, will go down. The cost of power will go down, helping the consumers and the negosyantes with plants running at lower energy costs. This will also prevent an excessive conversion of farm lands to be used for alternative fuel, which should be discouraged. Instead, this option should be managed, so that irrigated and productive land will be used to make us self-sufficient in terms of producing rice.

4 – We will see inflation come down very fast. Commodities have come down, from the price of steel to raw materials and food like skimmed milk, wheat, oil, soybean, corn and others. By the beginning of the second quarter, when most of the companies that hedged would have been consumed, we should see prices come down. Another possibility would be no price increase this year. In fact, our company RFM has already reduced the price of our pasta. It is now one of the lowest in the market. Even our milk, hotdogs and corned beef are priced lower; as we are already taking some losses since the replacement cost have come down. This is going to be good news for the consumers.

5 – Philippine election spending will start early as usual. I expect this will be happening sometime midyear, as we will definitely have elections in 2010. The excitement of the 2010 elections will be felt very early. This spending should filter through the economy as early as the third quarter this year.

6 – Manny Pacquiao will beat Ricky Hatton. This will give the Filipinos greater pride. There will be more of the Collezione C2 shirts with the Philippine map to be worn by Filipinos, and less of the polo shirts. We will see a proliferation of proud Filipino shirts with the Philippine flag as its banner. All these lead to building the nationalistic spirit. This is also something that is very important to our country.

7 – The year 2009 will be the last full year of PGMA in office. I am not saying she has done a bad job. In fact, she has prepared well our country for the global financial crisis. This last year of her term, many of those running would want her to already finish her term. This year, we should see her stay in office, with less of impeachment noises. If we are able to weather this global crisis and PGMA is able to deliver economic growth, this will vindicate her as she finishes her term.

8 – The political drama will unfold. Many Filipinos look forward to this. Who will PGMA endorse as administration candidate? Who will Manny Villar pick as his running mate? Will Mar marry Korina? Will it be Loren or Chiz for president? Will Vilma Santos run for vice president?

9 – The world avoids a depression.

10 – GOD STILL LOVES THE PHILIPPINES.

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Wow, what a year!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

For some reason, the Ask Go Negosyo Thursday column falls on important days this holiday season. Last Thursday was Christmas Day, and today is New Year’s Day. How lucky I am to be able to share my Christmas and New Year message to all.

My column last Thursday, entitled “My Christmas Wish List”, surprised my wife and my mom. My wife was especially happy because in a way, I was able to acknowledge all her efforts in Laura Vicuna and Vides Foundations. My mother, who was also surprised, shed tears while reading it. Even my relatives’ friends who hardly read my column sent me messages to say it was quite touching. A friend of mine also sent the column to our common friend, who is fighting for his life in Houston. Basing from his last email to all his friends, he is ready to confront his cancer with optimism and the will to live.

Sometimes, we must take time to pause in our lives. Then, we will be able to realize the many things that we are missing. When we are caught up with our businesses, we tend to live in a world of our own. Then, we fail to realize how life is out there. Frankly, I am also guilty of such, especially with my blackberry. With cell phones, we become wired to a material world. These are life’s challenges. We know the things that we should avoid, but we keep doing the same old things. I am sure many of the New Year’s Resolutions never get done. These resolutions are just symbolically written in paper. My father and my uncle Raul Concepcion, who just celebrated their 77th birthday, are both guilty of this. They have also stopped making their resolutions. Being twins, my baby Isabella is so confused when she sees both of them, wondering if how can there be two ‘pappies’. We celebrated their birthday here in Hong Kong, with most family members.

For many of the wealthy, the year 2008 has brought about the most humbling experiences. Many had to experience great anxiety, after seeing their investments tumble and lose value. This makes us realize that in this material world, we can lose what we have in a matter of seconds. The financial catastrophe of many nations, especially of America, is unimaginable. It is like the story of Job in the bible. He lost everything he had.

Who do we blame for this? Well, we can say that our private bankers and financial counselors are to be blamed. But, equally, it is the greed in each of us. If there is someone out there who would say that he does not have any form of greed, he must not be human. As humans, greed and fear exist in us. We just have to find ways to manage and control these. For me, these traits have caused all these problems and crises. Excessive greed and fear are what caused the problems. It all started with the greed that caused assets to increase beyond its real value. This emboldened people to borrow and leverage beyond their capability. Then, as markets collapsed, we now see extreme fear that pushed all kinds of assets to its all time low.

What lies ahead in 2009 is a big question. How long will this crisis last? And how will it affect us in the Philippines? This is the common question people ask me time and time again. But, maybe one of the best answers came from a sermon during a Sunday mass here in Hong Kong, where we also spent the holidays. The sermon delivered a message addressing the OFWs, who were present in the mass: the greatest love of a parent is shown through the sacrifice to leave home and work overseas for a better future for the family. The pain and loneliness that parents go through, being absent specially during Christmas and birthdays, shows their highest form of love. They are willing to sacrifice just to make sure that the family back home has a better future. This is quite true when we look at the millions of OFW workers and even Filipino-Americans who risk so much just for their families. They are living examples of people taking control of their own destiny. But, there are still countless Filipinos out there who just pray for the pot of gold, hoping that one day it would come without doing anything. I made sure my kids understood what the priest meant, and how lucky we are along with other Filipinos who are able to spend time with their families abroad.

Sometimes, we do take these luxuries in life for granted. It didn’t feel like a recession, seeing so many Filipinos in Ocean Terminal, as if we were in Greenbelt shopping area. If the Koreans invaded Manila, the Filipinos invaded Hong Kong this holiday season. Filipinos are very family oriented. We enjoy family reunions during the holidays, bonding with each other until the point of having too much of each other. I guess this is what makes us all different. Imagine how we can use this strength as a nation of Filipinos – united and not divisive, more on inspiring and uplifting one another rather than keeping up with crab mentality, full of optimism and less of pessimism, more of ‘yes we can’ and none of ‘no we cannot’. What happens in 2009 does not lie on what PGMA or this government will do for us. It lies on all of us, focusing on our purpose in life and doing it the best we can. Happy New Year!

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