Yes the Filipino Can

Last Monday, after a rollercoaster ride in the financial markets during the weekend, RFM Corporation celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In 1958, my grandfather Dr. Salvador Araneta founded RFM Corporation, together with my other grandfather Jose Concepcion, Sr., and other close friends BJ Server, Pete Grimm, Albino Sycip, Zoilo Alberto, Leonardo Eugenio, Francisco Gamboa, Sr. as well as his wife, Victoria. It was also the same year when I was born. My baby picture, wearing a baker’s uniform, was placed at the entrance of RFM’s first office. RFM was the very first flour mill in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. At that time, flour was imported.

We have seen two crises in the past 50 years. At one point during the dictatorship, we thought we would lose our business, especially during the Martial law when my father was going against the dictator. Then, in the recent years during the Asian financial crisis in the late 90’s when RFM had a maturing dollar bond, we saw the peso collapsed from 25 to 50 pesos to a dollar. We survived both challenges. RFM paid its bond obligation, even if it meant selling a jewel, like Cosmos, just to maintain our reputation. It was good that Cosmos was sold at a very attractive price.

As part of our golden anniversary last Monday, we had President Arroyo as our special guest during the morning celebration, when we had a symbolic re-dedication of our flour mills, which still stand after 50 years. This was followed by the inauguration of the RFM’s Fiesta pasta plant, which is now the most modern and largest pasta plant in Asia. We had this investment in response to the upswing in demand for our Fiesta pasta, which is now the fastest growing and a close number 2 brand in the market.

During the commemoration of founding day, my message to our employees was simple: God has given us our purpose in life as a company, which is to produce quality food, always at the most reasonable prices. We have survived for 50 years because we have fulfilled this mission, and we will continue to survive another 50 years if we continue to fulfill it.

As we have gone through the years in RFM, I have seen my father work not only for the company but for the betterment of this country, especially at its darkest point. Launching Namfrel became the catalyst for the People Power movement, giving hope and courage for Filipinos to stand for what they believe in. Namfrel has served its purpose during those dark times, together with the countless number of Filipinos who joined the group to protect the ballots.

Today, the time for solving poverty level has come. Through Go Negosyo, an advocacy that inspires people to think that all things are possible, and with the right attitude in life, we can attain our dreams. It is through the creation of more negosyos that we can hire more people and one day improve the condition of poverty in this country.

This is what we also celebrated during the evening of the RFM anniversary at the NBC tent. Close to three thousand people also witnessed the launching of the first Yes The Filipino Can! Awards. In a way, Namfrel, Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) and Go Negosyo are all products of the Yes The Filipino Can!

The Yes the Filipino Can! attitude and passion can be seen in many Filipinos and we recognized a select group of Filipinos and organizations that have continued to inspire millions of Filipinos with their unselfish dedication and advocacies.

We had awardees like Rico Hizon, whose Good News Pilipinas web portal only talks about the good news about the Philippines and inspiring Filipinos, and no bad news. The Philippine Star’s Belmonte family always felt that a newspaper should not only inform but inspire people and give them hope today. Because of this mindset, Star is the most widely read paper. Another awardee, Dylan Wilk of Gawad Kalinga is a British citizen who is more Filipino than many of us, building homes for the poor. Elena Lim also has an entrepreneurial spirit that is so infectious, with a heart for the Filipinos. In spite of challenges, she inspires people to never give up.

Despite being blind, Tony Llanes has set up ATRIEV, a school to teach other blind people, and has produced a number of successful entrepreneurs who are blind, like Marx Melencio who is in the IT software outsourcing business. Of course, who would forget Former Senator Juan Flavier’s contributions for a healthy nation. He brought healthcare to the barrios as he also made a choice to continuously serve the poor. Francisco Colayco also believes in building the Filipino’s future by spreading financial literacy to many Filipinos.

Onofre Pagsanghan applies his own advocacy by being an educator for more than 50 years. Through his teaching profession, he is also able to share his love for his country. Former Senator Santanina Rasul is dedicated to improving Mindanao and its people through her foundation’s Magbassa Kita literacy programs. Two of the awardees are foundations that believe in nation building. Unlad Kabayan focuses on helping develop micro-enterprises, and the re-integration of OFW thru entrepreneurship. Another awardee is Tulkas Katutubo which works on empowering indigenous communities through education and preservation of culture.

All of these advocacies say one thing – YES THE FILIPINO CAN! I dedicate this to my father, Jose Concepcion Jr., who has brought me to another point in my life that it is not all about making money but serving the Filipinos. To my father who has been my mentor and inspiration, this annual Yes The Filipino Can! Awards will be here to inspire others to dream the impossible.