It has been a series of award-giving ceremonies for the past weeks. It all began with the Go Negosyo Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, where in 30 thousand young Filipinos trooped to the World Trade Center to witness the recognition of Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs. The success stories of the awardees served as an inspiration to the young participants that they also can succeed.

Last week in Malacañang, together with PNoy, we honored 31 finalists of The Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP). They are the ones who made it from the hundreds of nominations that our RFM Foundation received. Among the 31, 10 were selected. The TOSP is a selection and a community of young Filipinos who were able to balance and maintain academic and professional excellence, leadership and socio-civic involvement.

My father even gave one of the most amusing speeches recorded in the history of Concepcions. He recited the words of the song “Impossible Dream“ and kept losing track of what he or my sister wrote as his speech. The best part was that he forgot the name of CHED Chair Patty Licuanan. In front of the crowd, in the middle of his speech, he asked Chair Patty what was her name again. I think that part was the funniest, even for PNoy and the crowd. But, he was so cute with his mannerisms that even Chair Patty, who is close to my father, understood that everything comes with age. He deserved the grand applause from the crowd and no less from PNoy himself who addressed him as Tito Joe in his speech.

PNoy himself gave an excellent speech. I have to say that he is one of the very few presidents who make you feel comfortable, as his style is just as ordinary as any regular person’s style can be. That is truly one of his features that inspire people who have the chance to meet him.

Luckily, I try to do all my speeches extemporaneously. I learn a lot from motivational speakers who grace our events, like Francis Kong, Joe Go, Bo Sanchez, Anthony Pangilinan and many more. Recognizing these students for their excellence gives me fulfilment. The same is true when we help young and micro entrepreneurs. We are changing a mindset of the Filipino people. Success starts from having that right mindset.

National Bookstore’s Fred Ramos has been a supporter of TOSP’s efforts for many years. Fred attends the event himself. Likewise, we also have had the support of PLDT’s June Cheryl Cabal. My sister Marie is also always very dedicated in heading the search. My father, who is an inspiration despite his age, continues his ‘impossible dream’.

Last night was another awarding ceremony, but it was for the bigger boys. It was the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards (EOY). I was even supposed to be one of the judges, but I was abroad during the deliberation. It was an especially good bunch, as more than half of the awardees are Go Negosyo advocates. Congratulations to the winners.

I am very happy to have presented an award to Edgar “Injap” Sia, the man behind Mang Inasal, last night. He bagged the award for Small Entrepreneur of the Year. In fact, we awarded this young man two years ago in Iloilo. At that time, he had more or less a hundred stores. Today, he has 300 stores. I told him in jest that he cannot be a small entrepreneur, as he plans to go public next year and his market cap will be in the billions.

Esther Vibal was awarded Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. At 86 years old, she is an inspiration to all women. She has also joined Go Negosyo as a trustee. Her award was presented by last year’s Woman Entrepreneur Corazon Ong of CDO, who is also a Go Negosyo trustee.

Go Negosyo Bicol awardee Lyndon Tan was also recognized at the Agribusiness Entrepreneur of the Year. Today, Lyndon’s Basic Necessity had taken over the lettuce industry.

The Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga. I’m sure this recognition is for his efforts in Bayan Anihan. Bam Aquino and Mark Ruiz also deserve the award for Microventures & Hapinoy. Maybe both finalists should have been awarded, as we would like to encourage more social entrepreneurs.

The 27-year-old Gaino Abejo of Abejo Builders Corp was the recipient of the Young Entrepreneur Award. The Master Entrepreneur and the main Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to the President of Bounty Fresh, Tennyson Chen. It is a well-deserved recognition indeed.

Congratulations also to the finalists who were recognized. Aside from Bam Aquino and Mark Ruiz, the other Go Negosyo advocates who made it to the list of finalists are Joy Abaquin of Multiple Intelligence International School, Benjamin Liuson of The Generics Pharmacy, Ronald Pineda of Folded & Hung, Remegio Salanatin of R.G. Salanatin Construction Company, and Annabella Wisniewski of Raintree Management Partners. Likewise, I would also like to congratulate the other entrepreneur finalists like Anthony Huang of Stores Specialists Inc., Teodoro Ferrer of Generika Drugstore, Junie Del Mundo of EON, Ireneo Dalayon of Federation of ARB/Banana-Based Cooperatives of Davao, Adelfa Lepura Borro of Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy, and Corazon Pineda-Aquino of C & Triple A Supermarket.

For the last five years, I am proud to see many succeed and be honored. People have also mentioned that I should be nominated for awards. I tell them that I am perfectly happy to be the storyteller — to be the one recognizing, awarding, inspiring, and sharing stories so others will not lose hope and continue to pursue their dreams of success.

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We would like to invite everyone to join our two-day Negosyo Seminar (Negosem) on Friday and Saturday (Oct. 15 & 16) in the Conference Room of the PLDT Innolab in Mandaluyong City. This will be Go Negosyo’s first Negosem in partnership with the Purposeful Stewardship Institute. Feel free to call our Secretariat (6379229 or 6379347) for details and requirements of the Negosem.