PHOTO CAPTION: Go Negosyo shares its advocacy to the 28 delegates of the Basilan Young Leaders Program.

Whenever outsiders hear of Mindanao, the reactions would be mixed as they are reminded of either a rich vast land of abundant agricultural harvests and natural wonders and tourism spots or it could be one of conflict and violence. From the militant group Abu Sayyaf to the long battle of justice for the Maguindanao Massacre to the recent Mamasapano clash, these incidents affect the image and integrity of Mindanao and its people. Sadly, while not all areas in Mindanao are involved in these heinous incidents, they are generalized and collectively called as one, putting the region in the negative light. The fight for peace has been an issue for many decades now and the national government continues to do its efforts to resolve and amend all political, cultural and even religious concerns. After all, we are all for peace and development.

But looking beyond the violent conflicts caused by multi-faceted factors, Mindanao remains to be a great place to start a business. Mindanao with its vast natural resources has its potential to be a leading region of business and enterprises.  Entrepreneurs transform these raw materials into high-quality products. Go Negosyo has known many entrepreneurs who have been successful in their business ventures in Mindanao and are now attracting markets with their products.  From the Gaisano’s and Lim’s, notable Mindanao entreps in the Go negosyo community, just to name a few, would be Senen Bacani of La Frutera, Ferdie Maranon of Sagrex Corporation, Charita Puentespina of Puentespina Orchids, Salvacion Leuenberger of SUL Orchids, Ben Lao of Lao Trading, Henry Canoy of Mindanao Network, the late Rene Stuart del Rosario of Suka Pinakurat and also our very own trustee, Rosalind Wee of Marine Resources Development

Despite the challenging environment in some areas, particularly the impression we have in the area of Basilan, we know that there are bright spots of opportunities in the area.  Moreso, we were glad to know that there is a big move towards creating hope and change in the area. We recently conducted a special Go negosyo session for the twenty eight delegates of the Basilan Young Leaders Program. The Program is an initiative of the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG-ARMM), Ayala Foundation and Eisenhower Fellows Association of the Philippines that aims to “engage, expose, equip, empower, immerse, inspire and involve the next generation leaders of Basilan.” These BYLP fellows embarked on their 28-day journey which consists of plenary discussions, workshops, teambuilding and educational and institutional tours and Go Negosyo is glad and honored to have been part of their journey.

In the short dinner program we prepared, we have invited five young entrepreneurs who have shared their journey to where they were today. These entrepreneurs were Zarah Juan of Green EcoBags, Brian Belen of Ato Belen’s Farm, Kadee Aguila of Gayuma ni Maria, Enzo Pinga of Bahay Kubo Organics and Benedict Carandang of Tuldok Animations. Aside from sharing their humble beginnings, they have imparted valuable learnings for the delegates.

No matter where we are, challenges, trials and problems are constant parts of our lives. And since these are constant, we are encouraged to face it head on. Brian Belen shared that in these challenges we learn valuable things. As we face difficult times in our lives, we imbibe life learnings and characters which will serve as stepping stones for our next conquest. Zarah Juan agreed on this as well as she too has faced challenges. For her, challenges are inspirations which should not stop us. We can transform these into energies and remind of what we have conquered. We just have to turn the negatives into positives.

For entrepreneurs, relationships are important. This is true since in business since we constantly deal with people, partners and competitors. These relationships we build over time will also be a helping factor for us. Kadee Aguila revealed that in his experience working with Gawad Kalinga, he interacted with different kinds of people in which he learned things that are not taught in schools. Same goes for Brian who interacted with mothers and farmers from Calauan resettlement who they taught to be enterprising. Brian shared, “Every person is a lesson waiting to be learned.” I too believe in that since in our advocacy, we have heard countless stories from different sectors and we have learned a lot from them. Every story they share are sources of learnings and lessons. From our summits, to radio and tv programs, inspiring stories are shared and aspiring entrepreneurs can learn a thing or two.

Enzo believes that entrepreneurs fill a need in the society. When there is demand, there is a market in which entrepreneurs fill. That is why entrepreneurs must always find the demand of the people so that they can innovate and create new trends. And in our progress, we continue to include the tradition and culture of our country which is what Benedict and his team is doing in their animation projects.

In conclusion, I can see that these Basilan young leaders will lead their respective communities with a renewed hope and a clear vision of progress. With their active participation during the brief gathering, we felt their determination, depth and desire to make a difference in their localities. Go Negosyo will keep its doors open and will continue to host summits and seminars to benefit Mindanao especially its entrepreneurs and its young people.

In the end, we are one with the 28 Basilan Young Leaders in their journey toward growth and prosperity!