2020: To A Year That Was

Facing 2020, I remember how huge our plan was for MSMEs since this would be Go Negosyo’s 15th anniversary. Our first major event that year was the Women Mentorship program held at SM Megamall Fashion Hall. The event was followed by another two women’s events in March – celebrating Women’s Month. The former was the Forum on Philippine Indigenous Weaving, which brought together more than 500 artisans and enablers, and the latter was the “WOMEN 2020 Entrepreneurship Summit: Perspectives of the Global Woman of Impact,” which was attended by more than 9,000 participants, filling the World Trade Center in Pasay City. It was an event attended by local and international women icons, leaders, enablers, MSMEs, and academicians.

This WOMEN 2020 Entrepreneurship Summit, however, would be our last major physical event as the COVID-19 outbreak would begin in the Philippines in March. Looking back, it was a stressful time as the waves of fear and panic swept the country. Needing to continue and fulfill our set goals for the year – reinvigorating our ecosystem of Mentorship, Money, and Market – it was great that we had already created the Mentor Me Online as a platform for our fellow entrepreneurs.

I remember back in 2019, digitalization was a buzzword and was considered as one of the strongest drivers of the economy. That’s why we created Mentor Me Online to utilize the digital platform and make it more inclusive – providing better access to money and market. We have utilized this further with the COVID-19 pandemic and it also became our main platform for mentorship.

Into the COVID-19 pandemic, our March 16 MMO session tackled this issue on the pandemic. Together with Johnlu Koa of the French Baker, we provided our insight on the pandemic in light of the growing concerns posted by our MSMEs. Helping our MSMEs was the first thing that came to my mind during this time and I saw this as best accomplished with the private and public sector working together.

Emphasizing the importance of striking a balance between how we manage our economy and how we manage the virus, I suggested the granulized lockdown approach which our government adopted. Also, when it came to me that our country needs a hand in terms of its testing efforts, I called for the help of our friends in the business sector and created Project ARK to push for testing and testing innovations. Project ARK was conceived because we wanted to make testing more massive, affordable, and accessible for everyone. Also, seeing that many businesses were already suffering from the lockdown, we saw testing as the best way to open the economy gradually in the safest way possible.

Fast forward to around November, Tessie Sy-Coson introduced me to AstraZeneca and their zero-profit program to help our country. Valuing life above all, the vaccine is the ultimate solution to this pandemic and AstraZeneca has it. So, I had a conversation with our partners and big brothers from the private sector and we discussed how we can help in our own ways. Given that vaccine manufacturers are only allowed to sell to the government, we created the tripartite agreement model.

Our partners and big brothers from the private sector are much willing to help in the best way they can and with this, me with the Go Negosyo team created the “A Dose of Hope” initiative. We launched the campaign publicly with our weeklong anniversary celebration where we conducted various activities from the MSME Conference, the Agri Conference, the Women Conference, the AMEN Conference, the SIGN UP Conference, and the culminating event where the “A Dose of Hope” was launched and a ceremonial signing was held to secure 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for the country.

Me, with the Go Negosyo team, ended the year on Dec. 23, 2020 with a special forum on the “A Dose of Hope” where we announced to everyone the second wave of the A Dose of Hope – which secured 17 million doses in total from donations of the private sector to the government, and LGU procurement. We also held our last Mentor Me Online for 2020, the same day.

For many of us, 2020 is a year that we lost, but it’s not. 2020 was a year of lessons and a year where we saw the extent of human unity and camaraderie. Looking back, 2020 is a year where we saw ‘Bayanihan’ in action. It reintegrated the idea that we are a nation of fighters and brave hearts.

This pandemic can be considered as the biggest crisis of this generation. But in retrospect, this crisis taught us how to adapt, pivot, and innovate through the challenges that it presented. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine, we can only look back at 2020 as “the year that was.” From here on out, we can start on a high note carrying the lessons of 2020 that made us better, stronger, and wiser.