My Christmas Wish

President Digong, Merry Christmas! You are an inspiration to many. And thank you to Madam Honeylet for helping our weavers all over the Philippines. Photo was taken during the Cabinet Christmas Party.

Merry Christmas to all who have been following this column for the past 13 years. There’s a lot that I have to be thankful for. My parents who are in their mid to late eighties are still with us, strong and happy to spend the holidays with family. I’m also grateful for my wife Marissa who has helped raise five great children – one son and four daughters. You can say that my life has been dominated by women! Two are now married, and we now have a one-year-old grandson.

At work, I’ve also been blessed to have built strong consumer brands, which were initially underdogs, challenging the Goliaths of the highly dynamic market. Decades later, we are now globally competitive and leaders in our industry.

From achieving business success for my brands, my story has now moved on to its new chapter and I’ve set my sights on a new horizon. This time, my goal is to help alleviate poverty and empower other Filipinos to become Davids in their own Goliath stories. Poverty can, indeed, be beaten. As we can see on the latest report where the percentage of the population who were poor fell from 23.3 percent to 16.6 percent.

This coming 2020 will mark our 15 years in fighting and pursuing this vision of helping our micro and small entrepreneurs succeed. It started with a dream where I saw myself bringing together different people, here and abroad.

In 2005, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo invited me to become her adviser for entrepreneurship. I took on the role wholeheartedly, and that’s how I started the private sector-led movement, called Go Negosyo. Back then, Tony Meloto, who founded Gawad Kalinga, served as an inspiration to the organization.

It’s been a remarkable 15 years. To be honest, it has not been smooth sailing, but we have persisted and our community has grown bigger and stronger over time. During the term of President Benigno Aquino III, we were not given any attention, perhaps they thought my loyalty was only with the former president.

Senator Bam Aquino recognized our efforts and sincerity in our mission, and filed the Go Negosyo Act. This has created over a thousand Negosyo Centers for the Department of Trade and Industry with Sec. Mon Lopez who back then was my executive director in Go Negosyo. This brought back our confidence. I’ve always believed that when our good Lord gives us a mission, He sends angels to support us.

It’s been over three years working as President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on entrepreneurship. Thankfully, our passion is still burning bright and I have never been swayed to enter politics or connect Go Negosyo to a partylist. This is why, I guess, the community has grown stronger in number, because they know that our work goes beyond mere politics. They understand the sincerity of our mission and are encouraged to help mentor others, which is the key to success.

While I continue to serve as CEO of RFM Corporation, I’m still excited about building brands and strengthening businesses, but those of other entrepreneurs. I’m passionate about helping our less fortunate brothers build a better future for themselves by helping them find business success.

Every time I would attend our programs and mentor people one-on-one, I’m reminded that I, too, once was on the other side of that table, dreaming and wanting to know the secrets on how to become a successful entrepreneur. Today, close to 1,000 mentors have joined the Go Negosyo community, and we have helped hundreds of thousands of fellow Filipinos. These mentors have been crucial to the success of many aspiring entrepreneurs.

As an entrepreneur, I know the joy and satisfaction of seeing your brand and your company grow. But there’s a different, deeper sense of fulfilment when you become a mentor and help others find success on their own, giving them hope and confidence through mentorship. For this rare and great opportunity to serve our nation, I have to thank our Lord. I also have to thank our President for his support. While we do not get any funding from the government and I do this work pro bono, I see the importance and urgency to help change lives. It’s been a blessing and an honor to serve others.

To all those who have followed this column, thank you for your support and Merry Christmas. I hope you have been inspired by the many stories of our mentors and our entrepreneurs. Let’s continue to build an inclusive Philippines, with no one left behind. Happy holidays!