The OFWs’ triumph over poverty

I have been writing for the Philippine Star Business Section for more than three years now, with my column entitled Ask Go Negosyo that comes out every Thursday. For someone like me who was just an average student in English subjects back in La Salle and who have never been fond of writing essays, I would say that it is a feat to accomplish more than 150 columns.

Sometimes, I would wonder what would be my next story for the week. But, ever since I started the Go Negosyo advocacy, I get inspiration from the many entrepreneurs who have succeeded and the Filipino cynicism that prevails in our society motivates me. The Doubting Thomases out there who feel that we are the basket case of Asia drives me to write positive news about our country and our economy.

A lot of people might agree that it is bad news that really sells. I guess this is another reason why I continue to write. Tagumpay will not replace my Business Column. We will write more about positive things; about people who have triumphed over poverty, sharing why and how they did it; and about people who have encountered so much obstacles in their life and still continue to stand and remain optimistic about their future. We hope that Tagumpay will inspire more people to see the light and to realize that nothing is gained by cursing the government and complaining. Nothing will happen if people will just wait for government to improve. Hopefully, this column will make more people take control of their own destiny and do something about their life.

I would like to share real stories of ordinary people, who strive for a better life for themselves and their family. Regarded as our modern heroes, OFWs sacrifice their time for family in order to work abroad. Let me share with you the story of two remarkable OFW entrepreneurs and I hope that those who are about to give up would continue to try and try again.

Go Negosyo has encountered an inspiring tagumpay story of a former OFW who we recently awarded in Davao. Her name is Myrna Padilla. She is the Founder and President of Mynd Consulting and Management Services – a major player in the BPO industry in Davao.

Eldest among six children, Myrna was born to a fisherman and a housewife. They struggled to raise a family of eight in a small fishing village. At the age of eight, Myrna would dive 10 to 15 feet to gather wild seaweed and shellfish under corals. She would sell them in the market and would give half of her profit to her mother. The other half, she would spend to buy pen and paper for school. Myrna also recalls the many nights that her family would sleep on empty stomachs.

Myrna worked her way through high school. After graduation, she tried her luck in Manila with the intention of working abroad. After doing odd jobs in the Philippines, Myrna also endured 15 years of working as an OFW in three different countries. She was also able to take short technical courses in basic IT and computer secretariat during her days off.

In 2006, she had to undergo a throat and thyroid surgery. Myrna decided to go back home to the Philippines for the surgery and stay for good. Back home, she started her own IT-related business with her life savings. Three years later, she has come a long way from her diving days. Myrna is a true model for OFWs all over the world.

I encountered another inspiring OFW tagumpay story from last year’s Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Award. I was one of the judges. During the deliberation, I came to know about the entrepreneurial journey of Mang Lino.

Elino Andres, fondly known as Mang Lino, used to work as an overseas Filipino worker in the Middle East with his wife. In 2001, he was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of blood cancer that deteriorates and weakens the body. This was when they returned to their home in Batangas.

With his sickness, he commuted back and forth from Nasugbu to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. The expenses for the travel already became a burden to Mang Lino’s family. For months, he endured the continuous tests and treatments. As the medical expenses were hurting him as much as his disease, Mang Lino then qualified for a foreign foundation grant that funded his medication requirements.

For his wife and son, despite of his condition, Mang Lino tried selling fish at the local market or working as a jeepney driver for income. He was able to observe as his innate ability to listen to his customers surfaced. He also ventured into selling eggs and participated in a promotion campaign by a major food and beverage company. Mang Lino was then loaned with a motorcycle with a sidecar. Since he was restricted to only sell the company’s products, he returned the sidecar and customized his own. With more grocery items and his egg supply, Mang Lino was able to set-up his own rolling store, which generated more sales.

Mang Lino’s next move was his “Text Mo, Deliver Ko” service. His regular customers would text him their specific orders from the public market and grocery, and he would then deliver them along with his eggs and other regular grocery items. Mang Lino’s system allows him to minimize his working capital and the need to further increase his inventory. This business enabled him to qualify for a loan from a rural bank. He used the loan to set up a small convenience store to complement his rolling store. As his business progressed, he later on ventured into artificial insemination of pigs.

At 62 years old, he takes pride in one of his greatest achievements – education for his son who finished Nursing. He feels blessed with the continuous medical support from the foreign foundation, the financial support from the rural bank, and the emotional support he receives from his family, friends, community and customers. He takes pride in overcoming his challenges, providing education for his son, and in raising a firm family.

Myrna and Mang Lino are indeed modern heroes. Their journeys are proof that nothing is impossible with the strong determination to succeed against poverty. They are only two of the countless OFWs all over the world who are struggling to provide a better future for their family. Myrna and Mang Lino are not ashamed of what they had to go through in order to survive. They are proud of both their accomplishments and struggles in life, which lead them to reach for tagumpay mula sa kahirapan.

To the OFWs out there and to those returning home to be with their families this Christmas, I do hope that this story would inspire you to plan for your future. One day, at the right time, you too can start your own negosyo and prove that the Filipinos are not destined to be poor.