Earlier this year, our Go Negosyo Bicol Caravan in the province of Gov. Lray Villafuerte set the record in terms of the attendance of people with the interest to start a business. It was a huge success.

This time, we have set another record. The Go Negosyo: Babae Yaman ka ng Bayan truly lived up as the biggest entrepreneurship event we ever completed, in partnership with the National Commission n the Role of Filipino Women Chairperson Myrna Yao and the Micro SME Development Council. The World Trade Center was packed with women, who participated because they wanted to learn and be inspired.

Luli Arroyo-Bernas, who represented her mom, came like any ordinary Filipina, with no guards and no assistant. She even walked in the registration area and asked how she would go to the stage. She is truly a great example of humility and simplicity.

Walking around the World Trade, you could really feel the excitement. It was a great feeling to see so many women. In fact, in my short welcome, I congratulated all the women taking the first step just by coming. Some of them even came as early as 5am to make sure they would get seats. I also mentioned that we have planted the seed in them. It is now up to them to work, see it grow, and bear fruit.

Everyone we invited to the forums showed up. They were in awe to see so many people and such a beautiful set in pink and green, with a humongous LED screen. We made sure this time that the event captured the emotions of women entrepreneurs who struggled to become successful. We also recognized three “Mother of all Mother Entrepreneurs”: Nanay Coring Ramos of National Bookstore, Dr. Helena Benitez of PWU, and Madam Eulalia Baylon of Immaculate Conception College Albay.

It was very important to capture their stories. Our video director Frank Mamaril and event directors Bambi Verzo and Carmel Tan did a great job with the entire event. We opened the event with a little girl, Hannah Laurel, who sang “The Prayer”. We also had our own version of a “Babae Ka” song performed by talented singers. Then, the video on women entrepreneurs set the emotion for the day. The video talked about the inspiring stories of several microentrepreneurs, especially Elibel Bautista from Zamboanga who has a crab-fattening business and Zenaida Guray who started a hog-raising business.

I personally learned a lot during this event. I asked all my children to skip school and attend this event. It is rare to have all these people in one day to share their truly inspiring stories.

Gina Alexander, who is featured in the book, came all the way from LA just to attend the event. She even wondered how we got her name and what she does in the United States. This shows that our Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship team researched for stories that are truly inspiring.

That day made it clear to me why women are natural-born entrepreneurs and why they are naturally so enterprising. They are the soul of the family. They are truly the inspiration not only for us men, but for our children. If this nation will move out of poverty, women will play a huge role in making it happen. BABAE, TALAGANG YAMAN KA NG BAYAN…

Prior to the women event, we had a successful book launch last week. PGMA attended and came on time. She surprised a lot of the women featured in the book, as we did not inform some of them that she was coming. She was also supposed to sign only five books, but she was gracious enough to sign the books of the featured women present during the launch. It was truly a women-inspiring week. Tessa Prieto-Valdez, who hosted that night, was also great. She was able to interview most of the women present on how their stories inspire others.

While the great recession is taking place, the Philippines is somehow still insulated from the magnitude of a crisis affecting almost all nations. For once, the Philippines is the shining star. MAYBE it’s because we are just too small of an economy, or MAYBE it’s because we did not grow as fast as our Asian neighbors grew. MAYBE it’s because we were one of the last ones to get out of the Asian crisis, making our banking institutions and corporations better prepared. MAYBE PGMA has done her job well. If one wonders how she survived all the coup attempts, God must have placed her to lead our nation to prepare us for what is coming. Or, MAYBE it is because the Philippines is the capital of manpower services – from exporting people as nurses, doctors, engineers, managers, seamen, yayas, etc. to exporting services through call centers and BPOs. MAYBE it’s because this business model of our country is more resilient than exporting durable goods, which China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan do. It is a simple business model, but many do not understand that great service is inborn and taught from the very day we are born. This service, for me, is recession-proof. More and more people and countries will need to cut cost and replace with cheaper labor.

Just MAYBE, this time, Filipinos will believe that we do have a chance to be a great nation. I believe that we will remove the “MAYBE the Filipino can” and change it to “YES, THE FILIPINO CAN!“.

Let me thank all those who have helped us plant the seed from the book launch: starting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Sec. Cerge Remonde and Sec. Arthur Yap, National Bookstore President Alfredo Ramos, of course our editor Joanne Rae Ramirez, Tessa who was very colorful as a host, her mom Marixi Prieto, PhilStar’s Kevin Belmonte and wife Roseanne, Citi Phil. Head Sanjiv Vohra, PLDT’s SME Nation Head Kat Abelarde, Smart’s Doy Vea, Condura’s Ton Concepcion, SM’s Tessie Sy-Coson and Debbie Sy, French Baker’s Johnlu Koa, F&H’s Ronald Pineda, Nokia’s Sandeep Kahnna and Nikka Abes, Small Business Corp. Chairman Vir Angelo and President Benel Lagua, Directors Dodit Leano of DTI and DepEd’s Joey Pelaez, among many others.

We also thank those who shared their time and talent to inspire and mentor all the Babaes in the crowd. Thanks to Sen. Loren Legarda, Congresswoman Cynthia Villar, Luli Arroyo Bernas, Sec. Espie Cabral and Sec. Peter Favila, Gov. Grace Padaca, Usec. Merle Cruz, Mayor Marides Fernando, and Asec. Malou Orijola. That forum was moderated by seasoned hosts Rico Hizon and Connie Sison. We had a “husband and wife” forum on women empowerment and shared responsibilities animatedly moderated by Boy Abunda and Susan Enriquez. Maricel and Anthony Pangilinan, Dina and Les Reyes, Anna and Dylan Wilk, Cathy and Mike Turvill, Val and Ping Sotto, and Michelle and Eric Reyes were the couples who participated. The self-confidence and personal imaging forum was led by Abbygaile Arenas-de Leon, Cory Quirino, and Doyee Tumpalan. Our entrep-learning forum was moderated by Tintin Bersola Babao, who is a serial entrep herself, joined by our dynamic mentor Dean Pax Lapid, Chit Juan, and Dir. Tess Fortuna. Thanks also to our guests in the Alternative Business Opportunities Forum led by Jesus Hofilena of Insular Life, Atty. Joey Lina, Joey Sarmiento and Joanna Romero, who has an online cupcake negosyo.

Lastly, we would like to specially thank our 55 women entrepreneurs who unselfishly showed support, joined the forums and mentored our participants. Thanks to our partners PLDT, Smart, Citi Phil., Insular Life, Pagcor, SMC, RFM, Condura, Phil Star, Globe, National Bookstore, Splash Corp, R.A. Gapuz Review Center and ICCP Group. Our media partners are QTV11, GMA7, NBN, Multiply, Lifestyle Network, Working Mom, DZMM, XFM, Businessworld, Creamsilk, Absolute, Ever Bilena and Aspac Law, V-Cargo, Creative Voices and Proudly Filipina.>