Miss W

April 12th, 2012

This country’s future will depend a lot on the entrepreneurial ability of the private sector. Optimism, passion and of course creativity will spur greater economic activity. As we share stories through our television show on GMA News TV and NBN Channel 4, our columns, books, summits, caravans, forums and many other forms of mass media communication, and together with our partners who support this advocacy, the Philippines will be a nation we will all be proud of.

What started as a small advocacy became a large movement for many entrepreneurs. And I owe this a lot to the first few entrepreneurs who believed in the cause. One of them is Rosalind Wee.

Rosalind is one of our long-time trustees. She’s foremost an exemplary entrepreneur, having founded Marine Resources Development Corporation – the country’s biggest producer of carrageenan (seaweed powder), which is used for food stabilizers and emulsifiers. Her children would take after her and start their own businesses in real estate developing, and now they own all the skyscraper W buildings in Fort Bonifacio.  The Sky Lounge, which is located at the roof deck of W Building, is fast becoming a popular hangout place for young professionals to take a break.

But Rosalind is now also especially known for her efforts in various social causes. She’s currently a member of the board of governors of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the treasurer for the PRC-Quezon City Chapter, the president of the Philippine Federation of Local Councils of Women, and the president of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation Philippines, after being the third Filipino woman to have received the Pearl S. Buck International Woman of the Year Award. Just to show how prestigious this recognition is, Rosalind joins the likes of Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Cory Aquino, Amelia Juico Gordon, and Audrey Hepburn who have also received the award.

But how Rosalind had developed a big, compassionate heart, she shares it’s inspired by life-changing experiences. Just like many entrepreneurs today, Rosalind started with modest means, coming from a family with very humble beginnings. Rosalind’s parents did their best to support all 14 children, and Rosalind was the tenth child. But the family would still go through financially tough situations. There was even a time when a kind-hearted neighbor helped Rosalind in funding her way to school.

Rosalind came to Manila after teaching for three years in Jolo, and married her high school classmate, Lee Hiong Wee, who was a professor of Physics at that time. To augment their income, the couple started several businesses in their small apartment – from handicraft and t-shirt printing, to selling fish in Divisoria, to renting and booking movies for the provinces, and others more. But it was in the production of carrageenan, which is being exported and used in a wide range of food and dairy products as well as in cosmetics and pharmaceutics, that they would found a highly successful enterprise today.

From not having much, Rosalind says she learned how to share, how to be patient, and how to wait for one’s turn. Coming from little really does instill life’s most important values. Her experiences made it easy for her to understand what most Filipino families go through today.

But there would be more difficult challenges that will change the way she sees life, quite literally. About 20 years ago, Rosalind survived a life-threatening brain tumor surgery. She would lose 75 percent of her vision. Having only one-fourth vision, Rosalind says, “My vision has no distance, no depth, no dimension.”

Experiences like these are difficult for anyone, but Rosalind found that they only strengthened her faith. She found herself talking to God everyday, trying to find out the reasons behind all these. She realized that these would actually give more meaning to living life. “Life’s not easy. You have to suffer to know what the value of life is.” One would learn to distinguish what matters. “It’s hard after working so much, you suddenly lose your vision. It makes you realize that money is not that important; life is.”

Hence, Rosalind gives utmost importance to life. It’s one of the reasons why she’s also passionate about her involvement in the Philippine Red Cross. Blood donation is one of the causes carried out by the organization. It all connects. Rosalind says, blood is life; and to give blood to those who need it direly is to give life.

Rosalind has attended almost all of our Women Entrepreneurship Summits, and this is not only to support Go Negosyo as a trustee, but also because women empowerment is an advocacy very close to her heart.  She, along with others, has been pushing hard for anti-violence on women, trying to protect those who suffer from domestic abuse. She believes this can be done by targeting the root of the problem, which is poverty. Teaching women how to be entrepreneurs is one way for abused women to learn how to stand on their own and to prevent them from returning to an abusive household.

It seems as though Rosalind tries to squeeze in as much as she can into her commitments to be able to reach out more to the less fortunate. As head of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation Philippines, she has also been caring for the welfare of children. Rosalind steers the organization towards achieving its goals, which in the Philippines, is to primarily find adoptive families particularly for boys, sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs. Rosalind received the international honor of being the Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year back in 2009.

These causes, along with Go Negosyo’s advocacy, are some of the things that Rosalind pursues passionately. She is perhaps one of the best examples of those who rise above adversity, staying positive through it, and instead use these difficulties as their driving force to live a better life for themselves and for others.

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Catch Go Negosyo sa Barangay on the following dates:
April 12-15: Bohol Tropics Resort, Tagbilaran, Bohol
April 19-22: Camp Holiday, Samal Island, Davao