Early this year, we were fortunate to get one of world’s greatest fighters Manny Pacquiao as our endorser. A breakfast meeting was arranged at my home. He agreed to endorse our new product then, Vitwater and to help promote our advocacy in Go Negosyo.

Manny’s story, as many know today, is not only about fighting it out in the boxing ring, but about fighting poverty and taking control of one’s destiny in wanting a better life. Some people might call it suwerte, but suwerte does not happen without hard work, passion, and perseverance. He developed his boxing skill to the fullest, with mentors like Freddie Roach to guide him.

Go Negosyo, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council, National Livelihood Development Corporation, Land Bank and the President’s Social Fund, will be launching the “Tagumpay Mula sa Kahirapan” campaign. These government agencies, through their various programs, have been helping people fight poverty – the country’s biggest problem. We are consolidating all our efforts to take the assistance to the next level and give free entrepreneurship education. It’s time to encourage people to continue their battle against poverty and show them how others have done it. The best examples come from the community of micro, small and medium entrepreneurs.

A nationwide teaching program called the Go Negosyo Seminar or the “Negosem” will be sponsored by PGMA herself, through the different agencies supporting micro enterprises. This will initially benefit 10,000 MSMEs, youth groups, and aspiring entreps. Go Negosyo shall be the private sector partner in implementing the Negosem – our brainchild. Close to 40 “Angelpreneurs”, who are experts or ‘gurus’ in their fields, with the heart to educate our less fortunate kababayans, have joined us for this cause, and more are going to be angels to others.

Helping people fight poverty is like teaching people how to fish and feeding them for many lifetimes. This has been the mantra of Go Negosyo. The power of negosyo cannot be underestimated. It has changed lives for the better; and it will change our country’s destiny for the better. It will sustain the homes that Gawad Kalinga and Habitat builds for the poor. It will sustain communities, towns, and provinces to becoming more progressive. There is no other solution in solving poverty but through negosyo, or by having the mindset and skills in entrepreneurship. It’s time to show people’s triumph (Tagumpay) over poverty (Kahirapan).

Another inspiring effort is the annual Citibank Microentrepreneur of the Year Award. Citibank, a group that has been a big supporter of Go Negosyo, is a strong advocate of helping microentrepreneurs. Under the leadership of Citibank Philippines Country Officer Sanjiv Vohra, they have been active in the development of microenterprises. Even Jaime and Fernando Zobel de Ayala have launched their own microenterprise program. There are so many other groups and organizations that pursue the same purpose. But, it would be great if we have more people join in and help micro, small, and medium enterprises, not only through financing but most importantly through mentorship and training.

Congratulations to the 2009 Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Awardees and finalists. All of them definitely share a Tagumpay Mula sa Kahirapan story.

Lolly Cabbigat, the Luzon Masikap awardee, focused on a business that reflected their Ifugao culture. While her husband, Jonathan, collects the pieces of driftwood from the forest and does the woodcarving, Lolly takes care of the marketing and distribution. They are proud of a business that is a product of their high regard for culture and respect to Mother Nature.

In early 2008, Shirley Ecot’s husband passed away of liver cirrhosis. She was a single parent buried in debt because of her husband’s hospital bills. Her strength of will kept her going, to provide for her family and ensure their future. She persisted to grow her small business. Now, she continues to strengthen her own brand – “Fritzie’s Peanuts. Shirley was chosen as the Visayas Masikap Awardee.

On the other hand, Dionesia Dela Peña’s gold comes from a native delicacy made of malagkit. Dionesia used to sell fried bananas and banana chips to school children, until their family was forced to resettle to the outskirts of Oroquieta City. This was when she thought of making and selling suman. Now, Dionesia’s suman is considered by balikbayans and visitors a trademark pasalubong.

Masikap National Awardee Annabel Bonsol started her small negosyo by sewing pillow-cases and curtains. Her business only evolved into her present rag-making business when her customers kept asking for rags. After studying how the pieces could be put together, she began making rags. Today, Annabel has 69 employees and has regular orders from big companies.

Another inspiring story is the journey of Ben Villanueva, the Maunlad Luzon Awardee. Ben, who only finished grade six, used to work in a rubber factory in Manila. He used to bring home Php 150 to his wife who worked as a fish vendor and six children. This kind of life drove Ben and his wife to go into business. From one Bangus fishpen, which they put up by borrowing from a rural bank, Ben now manages 12 fishpens and plans to increase them to 20 in the next few years.

Cherry Yack, the Visayas Maunlad Awardee, was also recognized by Go Negosyo as one of the 2008 Most Inspiring Cebu Microentrepreneurs. From his work in a rattan factory in Cebu, he moved on to work as a bulldozer operator in Malaysia. After saving money, he came back home and started his Cassava Cake Business. He is a remarkable example of an OFW who sacrificed abroad and saved enough money to make a brand new start for his family back home.

For Mindanao Maunlad Awardee Sahala Hadjuri, being a fisherman’s daughter taught her the hardships in earning for her children. She used to carry around goods to sell in different areas. Then, Sahala started buying and selling bread. She started taking lessons to make her own bread, realizing that she will be able to earn more. After getting a loan from an MFI, she opened her own bakery. She was also able to expand it into a mini-mart. Today, her business provides her family of 11 members with a stable source of income.

Virginia Lubguban now reaps the success of a business. After working as an OFW for a world-renowned furniture brand, Virginia’s husband came home. Using their savings, they established their very own wood furniture factory. Their team made use of their complementary skills to grow their business. Aside from their furniture-making shop, they also own a bakery and cattle-fattening business.

* * * * *

Share with us your life changing moment when you decided to fight poverty. Send us your story when you faced a serious challenge in life and succeeded.