It Is Better to Light a Candle than to Curse the Darkness

Last Thursday, the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) awarded Namfrel for its efforts in restoring democracy and protecting the people’s votes for the last 23 years. My father who is more known as Joecon founded Namfrel in 1983 because he was tired of seeing the rights of Filipinos violated and the economy controlled by only a few of Marcos’ cronies.

I was still an apprentice in RFM at that time, when the country’s situation was clearly taking a turn for the worse, I vividly remember asking my dad what he had in mind to help fight this dictatorship and restore democracy. He said he was working on something that would help the Filipinos rediscover their courage. The National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) was born with the help of concerned civic, professional, business, religious and community leaders such as Ting Jayme, Ting Paterno, Teresa Nieva, Bishop Antonio Fortich, Hilario Davide, Christian and Winnie Monsod, Vicky Garchitorena and Gregorio Atienza, among many others. Namfrel became the rallying point for the church and the private sector to band together and guard the ballot with their life. When Marcos called for snap elections, my father had to travel all across the country to mobilize Namfrel and I remember having a scary experience riding around with him, with bodyguards from all sides ready to shoot. Even in those dangerous times, a lot of Filipinos still joined the Namfrel movement and volunteered to poll watch.

For the first Operation Quick Count, it was a great sight to see the La Salle Greenhills Gym filled up with volunteers from all over the nation, people who were happy to be Namfrel volunteers. This was to me the start of Filipinos gathering courage and taking control of their destiny even if it meant sacrificing their lives. This was to me the start of Filipinos deciding to light their candles rather than cursing the darkness.

In a way Go Negosyo has that same vision as Namfrel, not to guard the ballots or restore democracy, but to bring Filipinos to light their own candle for their economic future and that of the nation. Rather than curse the economy or their situation, lighting the candle means taking control of their own destiny and doing something that will lead into a better future for themselves and our nation. The spirit of hope must be encouraged thru the inspirational stories of the countless entrepreneurs who have done well and who believe that nothing is impossible. In the end, it is a mindset change that we need as a nation. What Namfrel has started in a way has some similarities with some of the most influential advocacies of today such as Gawad Kalinga led by Frank Padilla and Tony Meloto, helping people light their own candle of hope.

* * * * *

The Go Negosyo fever is spreading even to telecommunications companies as Globe SME launches their Masigasig campaign which promotes entrepreneurship via opportunities using the mobile, voice, and broadband products and services. They have a Masigasig magazine and a weekly TV show of the same title every Saturday at 6:30pm in QTV where they feature both successful and start-up entrepreneurs. PLDT on the other hand subsidizes computers for their business broadband subscribers so entrepreneurs can utilize the advantages of going broadband. Through their free pc program, PLDT has given away 7,000 computers to SMEs. The big brother-small brother approach is what will bring a greater support towards a Go Negosyo climate. Those larger corporations whose stock price or IPO’s have raised cash thru the market can truly help the nation as they create business opportunities for the SMEs. The band wagon must continue and so should the excitement. Banks must lend to more MFIs and rural banks so they can in turn lend to microentrepreneurs. Globe, in partnership with the government’s Microfinance Program Committee, also launched Micro Asenso! Text Facility, a service that leads you to the nearest microfinance institution in your area. In cities nationwide, you can locate an MFI by texting the following: “MICRO FIND NAME of CITY” Send to 2973 or in the provinces,“MICRO FINDNAME OF PROVINCE comma NAME of TOWN” Send to 2973 or “MICROHELP Send to 2973.

We have also heard good news about the impact of Go Negosyo especially in Cebu where we had the first leg of the caravan. According to Jay Aldeguer who was our co-chair for the event and the CBM 2007 Entrepreneurship Conference Chairman, “It’s been almost 2 months since the Go Negosyo launch in Cebu and the spirit not only continues to linger but has spurred strategic action from different sectors. The schools for instance have held mini Go Negosyo forums, the chamber has also set up local business councils in town, and CHED has also stepped up entrepreneurship advocacy in schools. But most of all, it is the students of different schools that have been most motivated. I spoke to a professor at St. Theresa’s College, Ms. Mayette Pastrano, and she says that half of her class have already engaged in some form of business since the Go Negosyo event. The university of San Jose Recolletos for instance under their president, Fr. Anthony Morillo, OAR, just inaugurated their business resource center, again inspired by Go Negosyo.”

In the end, this is what our Go Negosyo advocacy would like to see, to have that optimism and can-do attitude, to experience a spark within ourselves to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, to pursue their dreams. A Go Negosyo spirit among Filipinos will start lighting the many candles of hope around the nation.