“Calabasa” No More

It seems that I don’t hear the end of it, with my friends saying that my column about the “Secret of My ‘Success'” (the mushy column dedicated to my wife) has created so much pressure from their wives. I promised them these things only happen every 25 years, so don’t expect it again to happen so soon.

Meantime, the kryptonite economy column last week was well received by many, using superman as the symbol for the US, which can also be hit hard by a crisis. Well unfortunately, rates were still increased by half a point and hopefully this would be the last. I firmly believe we need to keep lending rates low to push the economy forward. Anyway, the Peso has appreciated back, which is good for importers while bad for exporters and BPO’s.

Last week, I met an entrepreneur coming from the ‘second generation’. I guess people our age would still remember the Collezione shirts. We used to buy these shirts until designs became more exciting with newer brands. But, what recently caught my eye is the rebirth of the second generation Collezione shirts with new and amazing but simple design. A Philippine map is on the left part of the shirts, something like the big Polo emblem, but now with a nationalistic flavor. (My sister gave me the first two shirts.) Looking at it, I saw it was different. I started to wear them and people kept asking me where to buy one.

Joey Qua is the son of the founder of Collezione shirts. He has recently named it Collezione C2. I guess the C2 stands for second generation. For the first time, it feels good to be wearing something, which shows that we can be proud of the Philippines.

Manny Pacquiao has helped build the same patriotic feeling through his championship fights, or shall I say victories. More international artists, like Lea Salonga, continue to do well. International entrepreneurs such as Monique Lhuillier, Josie Natori, Tina Maristela-Ocampo, Bea Valdez and Dado Banatao continue to build our image and pride in the Filipinos.

Despite what people say about the rating of the President, she still has the enterprising spirit in her. I guess having the right work habits and discipline helps. She is always on time and never late in all engagements. She has attended most Go Negosyo activities and she was never late. In fact, I was the one almost late at one time. The President works hard and is very passionate with what she does in the midst of adversities and limited resources. She is passionately focused on common goal to spur economic development and uplift conditions of the Filipinos.

Sometime early this year, actually during Good Friday, PGMA thru Sec. Cerge Remonde, tried to call me when I was in Japan. When I returned his call, Sec. Cerge relayed PGMA’s announcement. Go Negosyo was asked to help get the private sector to mentor and assist the Benguet State University with their vegetable processing center. This assistance will develop and market vegetable-based products like noodles, bread, juice, and other formats. The task was to develop noodles and other products enriched with nutrients from vegetables, which in the end should help the farmers get more demand for their produce. In fact, she already announced this intention in TV, with RFM to help in this task. I responded to Sec. Cerge that we will work on this.

Our PCE – Go Negosyo Executive Director Mon Lopez worked with the inter-agency MSME council of Sec. Cerge on the planning and implementation of this project, and they were able to develop as a first output, a Pancit Canton product using Calabasa. We proposed to brand it “Proud Harvest” and have the packaging with the Philippine flag in dedication to the hardworking Filipino farmers.

Meantime, Oishi-Liwayway Marketing and Lucky Me – Nissin Monde have also joined us in developing the use of vegetables in snacks and instant noodles.

We see the role of the private sector complementing what the government can provide. The private sector like RFM Corp., can take projects to commercial levels with economies of scale and assuring quality. Private companies will have to ‘adopt the project’ and provide needed working capital, raw materials, expertise in building the brand and spending behind marketing activities. For the project to prosper, the products should use the private corporations’ sales infrastructure. This can push the products to the mainstream market and improve the chances for its continued viability. In the “Proud Harvest” project, the business model provides for these corporations to toll process or buy from the Benguet State University and other small toll processors. This can provide income opportunities to these institutions as well as market for farmers’ produce.

This is an example of how the private sector and the government can work together. In the end, a crop like Calabasa, which was considered to have limited use, is now in “Proud Harvest”. Calabasa may now become one of the most in-demand crops, encouraging more farmers to plant it. Now, the Calabasa vegetable, which is sometimes associated to an insulting ‘calabasa award’ connotation, will now have a new improved image.

There are a lot of things we should be proud as Filipinos, from the Collezione C2 shirts projecting the Philippine Islands and hopefully to the “Proud Harvest” veggie-canton noodles. PGMA deserves the credit for this effort in finding ways to help the Filipino farmers. We also give credit to the cooperating government agencies and private institutions. Rather than complain or criticize, everyone is given the chance to help. As my father has always reminded us in his NAMFREL advocacy, “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness”. In the end, what is truly important as we all get older is how we do our own share, no matter how small, in helping improve the lives of the people around us. Thousands of farmers will surely benefit from their ‘proud harvest’.

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Our Teen Negosyo Edition III kicks of next week as we head back to the City of Pines to share to the youth the good news of finding solutions to poverty through Negosyo.

Together with the Department of Education – Center for Students and Co-Curricular Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry – Philippine Trade Training Center, and The Master’s and Lighthouse Foundation, the Third YECS Entrepreneurship Training and Conference dubbed as the Teen Negosyo will be awarding the 2008 Go Negosyo-Dep Ed Most Inspiring Student Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Educators. This award will recognize the best high school student entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators who have successfully implemented the YECS programs at the secondary level.

Go Negosyo will also be awarding Most Inspiring CAR Micro Entrepreneurs. We will be recognizing Cordillera’s micro-entreps who gave positive contributions to their community and inspired others with their negosyo stories. They are the micro entrepreneurs who rose from the challenges of life, serving as role models in their own businesses.

With the theme “Young Entrepreneurs Taking Charge”, the third edition of Teen Negosyo will be on July 26 to 30, 2008 at the Teachers Camp, Baguio City. Activities during the event include plenary sessions, interactive break-out sessions, contests, and entrepreneurial showcases. High school students and educators are invited to join.