Cecilia Pagkalinawan: Online Fashion Retailer Queen

Cecilia Pagkalinawan is a Filipino-American woman who set the fashion trend among Internet executives in New York’s Silicon Alley, the East Coast version of California’s Silicon Valley at the height of the dotcom craze in 1999.

She is the founding president and CEO of Boutique Y3K, an online fashion retail and marketing company that was established in 1998. In 1997, she co-founded MOUSE (Making Opportunities for Upgrading Schools and Education), a volunteer group of over 500 Silicon Alley professionals dedicated to improving technology in the educational system to help prepare youths for a future in new media, business, and technology.

She was featured in the pages of various international magazines, such as Vogue, A. Magazine, Industry Standard, Internet World, and AsiaWeek. One publication described her as an example of the new “cyberstyle”. The US-based Filipinas Magazine gave her an Achievement Award. She was named as one of the 10 Hot Asian American Entrepreneurs under 30, in 1998. She was included in the Silicon Alley Reporter’s “Top 100 Internet Executives in New York” in 1999. She was also conferred “New York City Woman Business Owner of the Year” by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

From a family of entrepreneurs, Cecilia was born in the Philippines. Her mother a graduate of Restaurant & Business Management with a masters in Nutrition, owned a restaurant near the UST Hospital while her father, an engineering graduate from the Mapua Institute of Technology was President and founder of Duxon Paints in Bulacan. They moved to the US when she was only eight years old. A US-based, she is still very Filipino. She eats at turo-turo and speaks the Filipino language.

Engr. Gregorio G. Sanchez: Innovative Cebuano Entrepreneur

3rd from Left Greg Sanchez Jr.

Engr. Gregorio G. Sanchez just had to find a way to keep alive the hundreds of piglets in his livelihood program. A kitchen experiment resulted in a food supplement formula that fattened the piglets and eventually, became the foundation of a full-blown business.

Engr. Sanchez is a civil engineer whose early career was in the construction business. After returning from the US in 1983 following the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, he became a street parliamentarian. Engr. Sanchez was subsequently appointed as Board Member of the Province of Cebu in 1986, reappointed in 2003, and became Vice Governor in 2004. It was between his appointments to the Provincial Board when Engr. Sanchez developed Lactopafi Probiotic Bacteria. He was led to do research on lacto bacillus after his pig dispersal program failed because of the piglets’ malnutrition. He performed countless experiments with only pots, pans and a small tank for equipment. His persistence yielded a food supplement that would suppress bad bacteria in livestock.

Those who witnessed the positive effect on livestock urged Sanchez to produce a health drink for human consumption. He developed Lacto Pafi Probiotic Bacteria, currently among the superior probiotic bacillus strains in the world (probiotics are dietary supplements containing live bacteria taken orally to restore beneficial bacteria to the body). Those who took the concoction claim to have been healed from various ailments.

Lacto Pafi’s reputation spread by word of mouth and through testimonies broadcast in local radio. The product was registered with the Bureau of Food and Drugs and Sanchez decided to manufacture it commercially. Engr. Sanchez also developed new products with the lactobacillus component such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and other personal care products. Lacto Pafi products have reached Norway, France, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and the US. Engr. Sanchez is also breaking into the rest of the Southeast Asian region and China.

For his contributions to business and the community, he was awarded Most Outstanding Alumni of the University San Jose-Recoletos in 2003. In 2005, his product was cited as Most Outstanding Lactobacillus Health Drink and Best Pro-Biotic Supplement by the Philippine Marketing Excellence Award Group and the National Product Quality Excellence Awards Group, respectively. The product was approved in 2005 by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Joey Gurango: Filipino Software Engineer

Joey Gurango

JOEY GURANGO is the Chief Executive and Chief Technology Officer of Gurango Software. Prior to forming the company in 2003, Joey founded Match Data Systems (MDS) in the U.S. and served as its President from 1987 to 1991. In 1999, he sold MDS to Great Plains Software, which was eventually acquired by Microsoft Corporation in 2001. Gurango Software is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, with 115 employees operating in six countries.
WEBWORKS OS founder and chief executive officer Joey Gurango was recently cited by Microsoft Corporation as one of its Most Valuable Professional (MVP) awardees for 2005.

Organized by Microsoft 11 years ago, the MVP Award acknowledges achieving individuals for outstanding contributions in a wide range of community activities.With endeavors ranging from newsgroups to top user group websites and message boards, books and speaking engagements worldwide [This is not very clear to me.], MVP status is awarded to the most active online community experts for their technical expertise, voluntary willingness to share their experience, and commitment to helping others realize their potential within Microsoft technical communities.

This is the second year in a row that Gurango has been welcomed into Microsoft’s elite group of individuals in online and offline communities worldwide who share their passion for Microsoft products and technologies with others.As an MVP awardee for the Visual Developer – Solutions Architect category, Gurango was commended for his extraordinary efforts in guiding his peers in this field, particularly for WEBWORKS OS’ performance last year as the only software development startup in the Philippines specializing in Microsoft’s .NET technology.

Aside from the prestige attached to being a Microsoft MVP awardee, WEBWORKS OS will receive technical resources and relationship services from Microsoft to further enhance the already impressive competitiveness and service delivery capabilities of the company.

Gurango is one of seven Filipino Microsoft MVP Award recipients this year.Other Filipino MVPs were awarded for their work in such fields as Windows – Mobile Services; Visual Developer – Visual Basic; Visual Developer – .NET Compact Framework; Windows Server System – BizTalk Server; Windows Server – Media Server; and Window Server – Management.

Incorporated in October 2003, WEBWORKS OS provides software development services for the Microsoft ecosystem and offers full product lifecycle support, migration to the .NET platform, maintenance and upgrades, software test engineering, and end-user documentation.It has established a solid reputation in the Australasia and the United States for supporting developers of commercial software applications.WEBWORKS OS helps its partners build the next generation versions of their applications.

Gurango himself has a strong track record developing commercial software.Early in his career he founded another firm that was bought by Great Plains which was itself later acquired by Microsoft, where Gurango became a senior regional executive.In each of these organizations he implemented world-class development processes that assure projects come in on time and do what they are supposed to.WEBWORKS OS development processes are aligned with the industry standard Capability Maturity Model Integration, or CMMi.His company’s software engineers are all Microsoft Certified Professionals with significant industry experience, most trained by Gurango himself.

Tony Tan Caktiong: The Making of a Global-Filipino Brand

Tony was the third of seven siblings born to poor parents who migrated from the Fujian province in China to look for a better life here in the Philippines. His father began as a chef in a Chinese Temple. Not later on his father was invited to open a restaurant business in Davao so the whole family moved south. All together, they helped one another in managing the restaurant business which in turn became profitable. This allowed young Tony to return back to Manila and pursue his course Chemical Engineering at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
In 1975, Tony and his colleagues went on a visit to a Magnolia Ice Cream plant located in Quezon City and learned that it was offering franchise when he saw a poster for it. By the month of May, with his family savings, he took P350,000 to grab the franchise opportunity and opened two Magnolia ice cream parlors named Cubao Ice Cream House located near the Coronet Theater, and Quiapo Ice Cream House located beside the bridge – the one going to ilalim – near a Mercury Drug outlet
Tony started with just two ice cream. Then after two years, he offered chicken and hamburger sandwiches, because customers were telling them they didn’t want to be eating ice cream all the time. They prepared the food in the back kitchen, and soon noticed that people were lining up more for hamburgers than for ice cream. Then in 1978, when they already had six ice cream parlors, they asked themselves: “Why don’t we change into a hamburger house?”

That was also the time they decided to incorporate and realized thet they needed a brand name. They were looking for a symbol that would represent the group, and because Tony was very impressed with Disneyland characters, they decided on a bee. The bee is a busy creature that produces honey – one of life’s sweetest things. They thought it would be a very good symbol to represent everybody. They decided they would all be very busy and happy at the same time, because if they were busy but not happy, it wouldn’t be worth it. That’s why they put the word jolly and just changed the “y” into “i” to form a brand name – JOLLIBEE.
McDonald’s came in 1982, but they didn’t feel threatened because they were a little naïve and Jollibee was doing very well. They found McDonald’s to be very good at everything, but it didn’t know the local culture. They knew the Filipino’s taste buds and what he liked in food, so they offered him flavorful and good-tasting products. He likes pasta, so they started offering spaghetti. He likes chicken, so they came up with good fried chicken by mixing different flavors. They also knew something important all along: Filipino taste is sweet. This is very Filipino – very Asian. He said: “If we eat anything sweet; we don’t really think it’s sweet; but try giving it to a foreigner and they’d be surprised.”
Jollibee group has also become bigger. Now they have Chowking, Greenwich, Delifrance, and the recently acquired Red Ribbon. Greenwich pizza started as an over-the-counter pizza store at the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, Metro Manila, in 1971. One time, the founder approached Tony to ask if they were interested – at that time she has 50 kiosks and having difficulty managing the business – when she asked them if they were interested, Tony said, “why not? Let’s form a joint venture.” They took over the management in 1994, but they retained the taste of her products because it suits the local market. On the other hand, they took over Chowking in 2000 because Chinese food is also very popular among Filipinos, but there was no good company serving the market. So they took over and worked on it.

“Delifrance is doing so-so. And the reason is because we’re still not used to eating bread as a meal – therefore, the market is limited to the AB classes. It can’t grow into a mass-market type.
Tony Tan Caktiong is another exemplar example of an inspiring entrepreneur. He had all the achievements from Management Man of the Year in 2002 to an Agora Award for Outstanding Marketing Achievement, from a Triple A Alumni Award from the Asian Institute of Management to a Ten Outstanding Young Men Award for Entrepreneurship. And to cap it all, he also won the World Entrepreneur of The Year 2004 by Ernst & Young besting other 31 world entrepreneur competitors

Loida Nicolas-Lewis: Richest Filipina in the World

Born and raised in the Sorsogon City, Philippines, Lewis comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her father started one of the country’s largest furniture manufacturing firms, Nicfur.

She attended her secondary education in St. Agnes Academy (formerly Academia de Sta. Ines), the oldest Catholic school in Albay, Philippines.

Lewis graduated cum laude from St. Theresa’s College, a private, Roman Catholic women’s college in Manila, Philippines (that location has since closed). Later, she earned a law degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law and was admitted to the Philippine Bar.

Lewis was the first Asian American to pass the American Bar without having been educated in the United States. She is eligible to practice law in the Philippines and New York.

A wide and frequent traveller, Lewis learned to speak English, French, Spanish, and Tagalog. She currently resides in New York City with her two daughters.

Loida Nicolas-Lewis is probably the richest Filipino living outside her home country. She is the chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., a two-billion-dollar corporation of 64 companies based in 31 countries. TLC is a marketer of ice cream in Spain and the Canary Islands, the leading manufacturer of potato chips in Ireland, and a prime distributor of beverage in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Thailand.

A lawyer by profession, Loida is also an author, a philanthropist, and an active leader of the Filipino community in the United States. She owns the distinction of having been the first Asian woman to pass the New York State bar exam without having studied law in the U.S. As a businesswoman, she was ranked number 1 among the “Top 50 Women Business Owners in America” by the Working Woman magazine in 1994.

In the United States, she is known as the remarkable woman behind the success of Reginald Lewis, the first Afro-American to hit the US$1B-in-assets mark. In January 1993, Reginald died of brain cancer. So revered was Loida’s love for her late husband and “tutor” that she later wrote a book, entitled “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? How Reginald F. Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business Empire.” It sold several hundred thousand copies.

Reginald’s untimely death left Loida with the responsibility of raising their two daughters alone and taking care of the family business. She finished her AB course at the Saint Theresa’s College and her law degree at the University of the Philippines.

Jonathan “Jay” Aldeguer: Wold-Class Souvenir

Jonathan Jay Chiongbian Aldeguer, currently the president of the Aldeguer Group of Companies. A TOYM awardee at the age of 27, Aldeguer actually has every right to be that intimidating, overpowering man. But he’s not. His success was brought about by his unwavering optimism about his country, unbelievable determination, and a highly creative mind, tempered with a realistic outlook in life.

Aldeguer (yes, a nephew of the ’70s dance icons Terry and Lally Aldeguer) recalls his beginnings as a businessman, which started during his college years at the Ateneo: “I engaged in several businesses when I was still in school. I’d be going around in my backpack, selling T-shirts to my classmates,” he shares. He says that coming from Cebu and moving to Manila to study had him looking for ways to augment his allowance.

But his business acumen would bear fruit shortly after he graduates. “I went backpacking in Europe and started collecting T-shirts from the different places I’d visit. And then, after Europe, I went around the Philippines as well, and I wanted to do the same thing. And I found out that in the Philippines, there weren’t attractive souvenirs. They were all old school native stuff, which, for a young college grad, wasn’t appealing at all. So I thought, there’s an opportunity,” he recounts.

And he didn’t waste any time. Just a few months after thinking of the concept, he set up shop in Cebu and opened Islands Souvenirs. He quickly turned his and other tourists’ problem into a business opportunity. He took an old idea, which is the souvenir industry, and put a new spin on it.

“We’re known for native handicrafts, and we have beautiful handicrafts, but they’re all native and dark and wooden. I felt that the Philippines, being a tropical island, was not properly projected in our souvenirs. I felt it would be best to project the fun, colorful, sunny, tropical island,” he says of his jump-off concept for Islands Souvenirs. And true enough, entering any Islands Souvenirs store transports you to a sunny and bright atmosphere, no matter how stiff the mall can be.

From Cebu, Islands Souvenirs expanded to other provinces. Aldeguer describes the company’s first year as “phenomenal,” as it reached a 400 percent increase in sales, which is no mean feat for a start-up business. In the store’s third year, Henry Sy loved the concept and immediately installed Islands Souvenirs in every SM outlet in Manila. Today, there are over 100 outlets of Islands Souvenirs in the country, including stores and kiosks. Aldeguer has also expanded globally by putting up branches in Okinawa, Japan, Singapore, and Macau.

And this Cebuano does not intend to stop there. Today, using Islands Souvenirs as his jump-off point, he has developed a new concept of the pasalubong center: a small department store-type setup, which includes all the pasalubong that hails from that certain province. He has opened an outlet featuring this new concept in Cebu.

“For instance, in Cebu, we have everything from guitars to chicharon, otap, of different brands. That way, we elevate the retail experience of pasalubong shopping, and at the same time, we’ve been able to help young entrepreneurs and small businesses by putting them in a more professional setting,” he explains. And he hopes to create this concept in other destinations as well.

This is a man who was able to successfully establish a business that has been running for 14 years now, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Now, how does he do it? He says one of the reasons for his success is innovation. “I think what I did, which many people have done as well, is that they found a business concept, and reinvented it. We hit the nail right on the head when we came up with the concept,” Aldeguer states. “It’s more significant more than ever in this ever-evolving world to constantly innovate.”

He also acknowledges the hard work of the people behind Islands Souvenirs. “I always believe that you have to trust people. Other people can actually do some things better than you can,” he declares. “I don’t think you can ever expand your business if you feel no one else can execute it other than yourself.” He believes that a business thrives because of the talents of its people.

And because of these principles, Aldeguer has received quite a number of accolades. He has been the proud recipient of the TOYM award, the Agora award, the British Council Design Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and recently, the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Small Business. Islands Souvenirs has also brought him to the Retailer of the Year Hall of Fame, as he was able to bag the prize three times.

But even with those awards, Aldeguer maintains a modest stance, and pronounces that work is just one aspect of his life. When asked how he is able to balance his time between his personal and professional affairs, he quickly replies, “That’s never been a problem. Ever since, work never defined me. There’s more to life than just work.”

When he is not wrapped up in his business, he tries to squeeze in as much leisure traveling as possible. In fact, his passion for travel is what spurred his successful business venture. He cites Bantayan Island, an island off Cebu, as one of his favorite places on earth. “I love that place. I keep kidding around that I might even retire there one day,” he says with a smile. He shares that he enjoys the water, and tries out as many water sports as he can. Right now, he’s looking into trying kiteboarding, and also hopes to visit El Nido sometime soon. Of international destinations, he cites Oia, Santorini, in Greece, as his favorite getaway spot.

In his travels, he also loves to take snapshots of people engaged in decisive moments. “I’ve always been a frustrated artist. The problem was, since I’m a very visual person, I have an idea of how I want to execute it, but for some reason, it doesn’t come out the way I envision it. It got really frustrating, so I shifted to photography,” he shares. He has been taking photos for five years now, and is planning to put up an exhibit this year.

And of course, aside from these passions, he devotes a lot of his time to his family, especially to his children. He has three children who are rapidly growing up, and he spends as much time with them as he possibly can. “Relationships are most important. I like to nurture relationships, whether it be with my family, my children, or my friends.”

Aldeguer clearly manifests an incredible zest for life, not letting anything get in the way of his passions. He has managed to build a business empire without compromising his time for his family. Quite an unusual sight to see in today’s fast-paced world. In fact, when asked to speak to young, aspiring entrepreneurs, his advice does not involve business principles or money-making schemes. “Start young. We have what it takes to be great entrepreneurs, and the environment’s so conducive for the young. I think they should exploit this opportunity,” he says. “More than business advice, I really try to instill hope in our country, because a lot of us have become hopeless. We’re all looking to leave the Philippines, which is understandable. I know there are great opportunities abroad, but I love the Philippines. I believe in its people.”

Illac Diaz: Social Entrepreneur

“The Philosophy of One. To Touch One Life. And In Doing So improve Society by the Smallest.. Then All Efforts Would Not Be In Vain”. by Illac Diaz

Illac, whose name is an Aztec term meaning “God of Light,” is in a unique position to inspire others with ideas, vision and passion to create enterprises that uplift sectors of society that would otherwise be forgotten. He is pioneering a whole new field of entrepreneurship, one that seeks to bring the strengths, efficiencies and solutions of business to bear on problems of society.

 His father Ramon is an accomplished visual artist who also happens to be a brother of the first Filipina Miss Universe, Gloria Diaz. His Italian-born mother Silvana, nee Ancellotti, runs the dynamic art house Galeria Duemila adjacent to the family home in Pasay City. Surrounded by both art and squatters in the neighborhood, Illac’s childhood memories include accompanying his mother on her weekly feeding program for street children.

Today he credits what he initially resisted as a chore for the human connection he developed with people outside the “cloistered groups” he was born to. Before Illac became a model, party figure and sometime executive for Smart Communications, he had already closed a crucial inner gap separating the educated Filipino from the teeming ranks of the Philippine poor.

With a bachelor’s degree in Management Economics as a full academic as well as athletic scholar at the Ateneo, the seed his mother planted began its blossoming as Illac next earned a masters degree in social entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management. His graduate thesis, “Shanties to Jobs: Creating a Migrant Center in Manila,” was not only chosen Best of the Year at AIM. It would be the first proof of a well-grounded, compassionate vision.

Establishing Pier One in Intramuros the year he graduated from AIM in 2001 was the beginning of Illac’s lengthening trail of firsts. This first migrant housing center in Manila met an urgent demand for affordable, clean and safe transient housing for men coming to Manila from the provinces to look for work as seamen, and seamen awaiting the next voyage out. Before then their housing options had been unhygienic shanties, expensive but run-down government shelters or the open air at the Luneta.

Pier One made Illac Diaz the youngest AIM alumnus to receive an Honors & Prestige award in 2003. CNN reported the story and three new awards came in 2004 – an Everyday Hero Special Award from Readers Digest Asia; an Entrepreneur Award from the 1st Johnny Walker Social Awards; and a runner-up award in New York’s Next Big Idea International Design Competition. In 2005 came a TOYM Award, the first for Social Entrepreneurship.

In September that year, Illac left for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston as a Fulbright-Humphrey Scholar and Research Fellow in a Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS). This would lead to a grand slam of firsts never before accomplished by Filipinos at MIT – three grand prizes for teams either led by or with Illac Diaz as a member: the inaugural $ 100 K Business Plan Competition on the “development track”; the $1K Business Ideas Competition; and the IDEAS Competition.

The latter included a “Peanut Revolution” to help women manually shelling peanuts with simple pedal-powered machines, and First Step Coral, an artificial coral reef system to attract fish stock to shallower waters and hasten the growth of the shellfish population – important sources of nutrition for coastal communities in the Philippines and beyond.
Practically without a pause next came Illac’s new MyShelter Foundation, Inc. and its “earthbag” construction, the first in Asia. This more affordable, indigenous rather than fully manufactured construction material addressed the shortage of clinics and schools in rural Philippines.

MyShelter has thus far built five clinics and twenty classrooms at one fourth the cost in 10 provinces, as well as conducted complementary seminars on preserving dwindling forest resources.Housing and all forms of shelter have been a constant theme of Illac Diaz’s public life. “(The) dome houses he worked on some years back impressed me as a project that combined pragmatism with aesthetic sensibility. Bonus points on the work’s ‘compassion’ and ‘creativity’ scale went through the roof. In this case, literally an egg shaped roof, made of soil, lime, water and some cement,” wrote Ria Ferro in an interview for the magazine Pinoy Global Access in November, 2006.

“Nearly fireproof and earthquake proof, with a naturally cooler internal environment, such houses would take less energy to maintain, and cost about 50% less to construct than a traditional assembled box house. I remember thinking: what sort of mind would come up with something as unique, unexpected and relevant as that?”

The idea had alighted on Illac while visiting his late aunt Rio Diaz-Cojuangco in Negros, where he noticed adobe bridges built in Spanish times. Internet research and visits to India and America made him realize that the idea of adobe houses was eminently applicable to the Philippines.
More important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’ is the ‘why’ that he shared with Ferro:
“The issue here is the need for more housing. As population escalates, so will the gap. The main point is the involvement of the residents themselves in the task of sustainable construction and community building. By the way they build their own settlements even at the barest of resources, we can see that they that they are willing to work and capable of coming together.”

In 2006, his year at MIT, he was named one the Ten Outstanding Persons of the World by Jaycees International. Word of the WEF Young Global Leaders Award came as he presently works on a global architectural competition to design more disaster resistant classrooms in the Philippines. Back in Boston, this time he’s on a mid-career Masters in Public Administration as a Catherine Reynolds scholar in Social Entrepreneurship in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Illac Diaz was awarded the “Young Global Leader of 2008” by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Geneva.

He is also feature in the GO Negosyo book by Jose Concepcion, interviewed by Boy Abunda, Making headlines in the Philippine Star and cover story for Star week Magazine and countless publications. He truly deserved to be a part of our growing list of  Filipino Achiever.

Francisco J. Colayco: Filipino Financial Freedom Guru


Author and Financial Guru

We may constantly lament about not having money or not being able to save, but all of us are capable of handling our finances effectively, no matter how big or small our income. That is the message that Francisco J. Colayco wants to share with the Filipino people. He stresses the importance of putting away some of our income for savings instead of using it all up on unnecessary things. This he particularly addresses to Filipinos working abroad, since many make wrong financial decisions and end up spending their hard-earned money on unimportant things without being able to put away some for their future.

Colayco himself worked hard to get where he is. Even when he was younger, he already knew that he wanted to create opportunities for himself. After graduating from Ateneo de Manila with a degree in Economics, he immediately landed a job as a management trainee in Procter & Gamble. Already he had an eye to spot opportunities so that he ended up doing things that he wasn’t hired to do, finding better ways to do things. “I’d always look beyond what we were talking about. I’d say, what is it we want to accomplish? I’d always fall back on the essence, and I guess that carried through in everything that I want to do.”

For him, making money was not a conscious effort, but a result of trying to achieve other goals. “I was always trying to achieve things which more often than not resulted in some money or creating opportunities to make money as a result of that objective.”

After two years working at P&G, Colayco started to feel that while working in a structured environment was good, it was not exciting enough for him. He decided to take post graduate courses full time. Doing well in school, he started getting job offers even before he finished his MA in Business Management. “It was a good indication that somehow I was somewhat recognized,” he says.

His excellent performance in graduate school proved true as he continued to go beyond his job description in the positions he took after completing his studies. Recognizing his vision, his employers gave him a free hand in making decisions, showing a strong indication of their trust and belief that he could do all that he needed to do. Thus, Colayco was able to create opportunities not only for the company but also to fulfill his dream of travelling. “Of course I had to justify it. And the fact that I kept on doing it month after month, year after year, I think was because I was succeeding and I was proving that my trips were worth it for the company. I ended up with good results.” He certainly proved the worth of his vision, because by the age of 40, he was able to start his own business.

It was around five years ago when a new opportunity presented itself to Colayco. Already, he had seen how money can be made so quickly, and it can be lost just as quickly. One night, while listening to the radio, he heard an advertisement of a woman who called herself the super lady. “What she was selling was super candy, super everything. What she was actually doing was attracting listeners to join her franchise, to sell herbal products that she called super fruit, super candy. Her tone was very appealing to the masses, and I thought that this is what I should do. I want to reach out and touch people’s lives.”

So he went on to find out how he could go on radio, and found himself with a 15-minute daily slot on a station. It was a pro bono stint for him, but he simply wanted to share his belief. On the first session, he was introduced as an economist, but he quickly made a correction. “I’m not an economist. In fact, let’s take out the word economist; otherwise, let’s call each of us economists, because we are all responsible for our monetary and financial lives. You have to achieve a certain level of financial success, because we cannot share what we don’t have. That’s your first obligation.”

In less than a year, his 15-minute slot was extended to an hour-long program called “Usapang Kabuhayan” on the Radio Mindanao Network. People called in and Colayco answered questions regarding financial matters. He was amazed at the public’s interest on the subject, and he would talk about mundane day-to-day matters that people don’t usually talk about, affirming what his callers were doing or offering alternative ways of running their business.

Eventually, people in Hong Kong heard about it and suggested a simulcast. Colayco was later invited to come speak for OFWs in Hong Kong in November 2003, and he put together a handout for a paid seminar. “My belief was that it cannot be free; I don’t believe in giving freebies. You want to learn, you pay for it. Invest your time, invest some money; I cannot do it free. I’ll spend for my trip, the people, and spend my time doing it. I’m not supposed to make money, but I’m not supposed to lose either.” The seminar was a huge success, with 400 paying participants, and not one of them standing up to leave.

His next seminar was in February 2004, and by the third one, he decided to put his ideas together in a book. “Wealth Within Your Reach: Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo” was launched during the June-July 2004 seminar, where the first 400 copies were given away free as part of the seminar. Colayco was not sure if people would read what he wrote, but the book made a big splash, winning the Manila Critics Circle’s Book of the Year award in 2004. The success of his book drove him to write a second book, “Making Your Money Work.”

By that time, he had already established the Colayco Foundation, which was dedicated to his advocacy of touching people’s lives and share his belief that each of us is capable of taking care of our finances responsibly. “They deserve to know how to make financially profitable decisions in their lives, because everybody just loves to earn to spend, earn to use. Very few earn to keep.” Colayco doesn’t claim to be the expert, but only wishes to open people’s eyes so that they can plan their financial life. “In some instances I can help; in some, I can direct you to someone else who can help you better. You cannot rely on the government, on your parents, on cousins; you should be responsible for your own self.”

The Colayco Foundation has been conducting public and private seminars, as well as one-on-one sessions with those who are in real need. Pleasantly amazed at the accomplishments of the Foundation, Colayco is now trying to fine-tune the method of delivery of his advocacy. He is piloting a TV program, and planning a cyber network of delivery. “I am fixated with the idea of having as many people absorb the basic message; that’s why the foundation is growing. But we also realize that we cannot continue working on this advocacy unless there is some commercial benefit to the sponsors. They’re shelling out money; there has to be some commercial message for them. And that’s were trying to fine tune so we can continue the advocacy.”

The greatest “psychic income” that Colayco has gained from his personal project is hearing from people he has helped in the past. This has come to him in different degrees – from letters to emails to personal encounters. “Some of these we’ll put together in the episodes, to share with the general public.”

With this advocacy in mind, Colayco stresses that one’s mindset it the very first step to financial independence. First of all, we must set our minds to the task of taking the responsibility for our financial lives. “I really believe if your thinking process is right, well-directed, you can solve any problem and learn any subject matter. Of course there will be limitations; if you don’t have the mathematical aptitude, you can only achieve a certain level of expertise. But then how many really want to be Einstein, mathematically speaking? But the process of thinking, anyone can be Einstein. This is my philosophy.”

The second simplest thing that one can do is to follow what he calls the 80-20 rule, which states that we should use only 80% of our active earnings for our needs – the necessities in lives. The 20% should be put away in investments or “passive entrepreneurship,” where our money can earn passively. For wants, which we deserve from time to time, we can take only from the money earned from the 20%. This way, we are ensuring our future and the continuity of our financial independence.

These two points are the easiest and most basic things that we can do to take hold of our finances. This is the message that Colayco wants to share with us. “I’m not after the big economic solutions; I’m more concerned about the individual.” After all, before the bigger picture is complete, we have to start with the small things, with the individual.

Another inspiring story from a Filipino who is willing to share his knowledge regarding finance which makes it easier for us to understand those terms which are oftentimes we are afraid of. Kudos to Mr. Colayco for a job well done. You truly deserved to be a part of the famous Filipino Achievers.

Cecilio Pedro: Being a HAPEE Man

MANILA , Philippines – Twenty years ago, people thought Cecilio Pedro was crazy for competing head-on with global toothpaste brands Colgate and Close Up.

Now, Hapee toothpaste tubes and sachets are selling like hotcakes in the Philippines , making his company, Lamoiyan Corp., the country’s first homegrown toothpaste empire.

“Fighting multinationals was very tough. At first, everyone thought I was crazy. They told me, how will I survive this? True enough, it’s by the grace of God that I’m still here in the toothpaste industry after 20 years. God is good,” Pedro shared with abs-cbnNEWS.com

As of last year, Pedro said Hapee soared to number 2 in many areas of the Philippines, it is a solid third in Mindanao as Lamoiyan still has to untangle distribution problems, but the toothpaste brand no doubt has penetrated the market and is now a serious threat to its foreign competitors.

“We’re giving them a hard time now. We are really hurting them because of our price, promotion, and innovation,” he said.

From being a household name in the Philippines , Hapee toothpaste is now being exported to the Middle East, Papua New Guinea , Russia , Vietnam , and Hong Kong .

Pedro is planning to sell more of  his products in China and Southeast Asia .

“We hope to make a dent in China , where 1.35 billion people are brushing their teeth. And markets in Southeast Asia is similar to ours. It has less competition (compared to China ),”  he said.

His company, which he named after his grandmother, has also expanded to provide dishwashing liquid, lice shampoo, and sports powder, among others.

But before he went head-to-head with Colgate and Close Up, the 2 multinational toothpaste brands were Pedro’s only customers.

His first company, Aluminum Container Inc., sold aluminum toothpaste tubes to the 2 foreign firms from 1978 to 1985.

“At that time, I was thinking that toothpaste is something that everyone uses. And multinational firms will be here for the long term, so I thought it was a safe business,” he said.

All was going well for his company until plastic toothpaste tubes were invented. Both Colgate and Close Up decided to switch to plastic tubes in 1985, forcing Pedro to close shop.

“I never thought that they would switch to plastic tubes. My business got in trouble when they left,” he lamented.

Relying on a few customers was Pedro’s biggest mistake yet. Money stopped coming in, and he was left with millions of aluminum tubes.

“I learned that in business, you need a mass base to sustain your company. You cannot rely on one or 2 customers. Should they decide not to buy from you, your business is over,” he said.

He initially thought of filling his tubes with epoxy and selling it to capitalize on his current resources, but the market for the product is too small.

So, after a year, Pedro decided to try his hand at toothpaste making by getting some help from a Japanese company.

“I was a container manufacturer so I knew nothing about toothpaste. I tied up with a Japanese company that provided toothpaste for hotels in Japan . A friend introduced them to me to do toothpaste for us. They helped us for $20,000,” he said.

The next step was to come up with the right product, and that meant testing 200 toothpaste formulas.

“When you brush your teeth, you’re not sad. You’re happy. But using ‘happy’ is corny, you don’t use that as a brand. ‘Hapee’ looks Japanese. It could’ve been ‘Hapi,’ but ‘Hapee’ looks better,” he explained.

By 1988, Lamoiyan was born.


Pedro may have found a way to use his empty aluminum tubes, but he was faced with another challenge: how to carve a niche in the Philippine toothpaste industry currently dominated by 2 multinational brands.

“It’s the same toothpaste: the challenge is how you’ll convince people to buy it. But we’re competing with the giants, and we’re no match for them when it comes to product (recognition) and distribution,” he said.

Given that handicap,  Pedro first decided to sell Hapee at half the price of Colgate and Close Up.

Next, he divided the market into segments, offering variants specifically for children as well as low-income and rich families.

Pedro’s newly-formed company also sold toothpaste in packs, bundles, sachets to give his customers more options.

Eventually, Filipinos started to notice the Hapee brand.

“Colgate and Close Up can’t come up with such variations immediately since their global companies, but we didn’t have any problems. They had a hard time keeping up with our promos, so they were forced to come up with similar offers,” he said.

“You have to be innovative in the business. That’s how you survive,” he added.

By 1996, Pedro said Hapee wrestled more than 15% of the market. Sales were going up, and Lamoiyan had enough funds to get celebrity endorsers.

“If people don’t know your brand, nobody would buy. So I got popular people and celebrities to endorse my toothpaste,” he said.

Not giving up

Pedro is winning the battle now, but the toothpaste war is far from over.

He said Colgate and Close Up usually occupy the best grocery shelves in supermarkets, albeit costly, but which make their products more visible to customers.

Hapee, on the other hand, has to make do with a small spot in the supermarket.

“It’s very expensive to buy shelves, even more expensive than getting gondolas. Back then, grocery shelves were free. At P30,000 for a small space, we cannot afford. So we had to make do with what supermarkets give us,” he lamented.

Despite this, Pedro said he is not giving up, especially now that he has gone this far.

“I know it won’t be easy since they’re now very watchful of us. But that’s (exactly) because they know what we can do,” he shared.

“And besides, I now have millions of customers because of my toothpaste. That’s something to be happy about,” he added.

Being a hapee man is what a Filipino achievers deserved to be.

Socorro C. Ramos: Founder National Bookstore


Socorro C. Ramos is the matriarch of National Bookstore, the Philippines’ leading retailer of books, office supplies, and greeting cards. In 1965, she and her husband Jose set up a nine-story building along Avenida Rizal which would be the very first National Bookstore. What has become the Ramos family business has not stopped growing since, having opened Powerbooks, a now popular specialty bookstore, in 1996.

In 1940, Socorro Ramos, barely 18, started working as a salesgirl at a Goodwill Bookstore  branch owned by her brother in Escolta, Manila. Because of her selling skills, Ramos was put in charge of the store.

Her story is truly an inspiring one as she built the business National Book Store from scratch with a lot of challenges and hurdles as she and her husband Jose Ramos literally built and rebuilt the business three times from scratch. That’s the true entrepreneurial spirit with enough courage and determination.

Nanay Coring or Maria Socorro Cancio in her early years was born in Sta. Cruz, Laguna on September 23, 1923. Ever she was young, she grew up in an entrepreneurial environment as one of the six children born to entrepreneur parents and grandmother. Her parents used to ran a store selling a lot of stuffs from slippers to clothes and a lot more while her grandmother had a market stall where the young Socorro got used to seeing customers withdraw items on credit. Unfortunately, her grandmother did not manage the business carefully not maintaining a list of those items availed on credit and their business fell.

After that event, they went to Manila. Her mother struggled hard to feed six children and the young Socorro considered herself as lucky if she got money from her mother. Her elder sisters helped the family by working in a candy and bubble gum factory and she spent her summer doing summer jobs too. In one instance, young Socorro was hired to peel off the paper used in old cigarettes so that it can be reuse to make new fresh cigarette sticks. She received 5 centavos per pack of cigarettes. But the young Socorro started her entrepreneurial skills and hired kids and their neighborhood paying them 5 centavos for every two pack of cigarettes leveraging her efforts. Since then, the young Socorro was on her way to become an entrepreneur as early as 10 years old!

Immediately after graduating from Arellano High School, she worked as a salesgirl at Goodwill Book Store owned by the family of her present husband Jose Ramos. Socorro’s brother Manuel married one of the Ramos children and in 1940, they needed someone to look after the branch they set up along Escolta Street, on the ground floor of Panciteria National. Jose Ramos took over it and asked Socorro to work on him in that branch. They renamed it as National Book Store.

Their love story began but her parents were against with it as Socorro was just 18 years old back then. She was told to stay in the province to keep away from marrying Jose Ramos. But as they say, true love never dies, the young Socorro with just 11 pesos in her pocket, struggled to went back to Manila to marry Jose. Because of this act, her family was so furious and angry that they considered her dead already. It was short-lived though lasting only until Socorro gave birth to her twins named Alfredo, who is now the President of National Book Store and Benjamin, now the Vice President.

As mentioned above, the business National Book Store faced a lot of challenges as it was built and rebuilt three times from scratch!

First, Socorro admitted that it was not easy to start the business from scratch. She recalled that during the Japanese occupation, they would look on each and every book title on sale. If they found questionable books, they would just tear the pages off leaving them useless. So instead of selling books, Socorro and Jose decided to fill their bookshelves with stuffs from candies, soap, slippers, papers, and cigarettes. During the war, she would transfer goods to her smaller stores.

Second, when the Japanese were driven away, it was now the time for the Americans. Their National Book Store stall in Escolta was damaged in the war. They recovered a bit by selling unused greeting cards and uncensored books, which they had hidden in their home.

Third, in 1945, they relocated their National Book Store previously located at Escolta to Avenida. The business is doing quite well during first few post-war school years but unfortunately, three years after, a typhoon blew the roof of their store and they were left with soaked books and stuffs that were worthless. Again, for the third time, they have to start from zero.

They struggled hard to rebuilt National Book Store for the third time. But since then, every centavo that they earned were used to buy the lot where the Rizal Avenue Branch of National Book Store stands to this day.

Today, National Book Store is considered as the largest chain of bookstores in the country. They have ventured into several businesses already such as a convenience-type store named NBS Book Express, publishing companies named Cacho-Hermanos printing press, Anvil Books and Capitol-Atlas Publishing, another book store named Powerbooks, music store named Tower Records and Music One, Gift Gate, the home of Hello Kitty and Swatch, and a department store named Crossings department store. Socorro’s children and relatives ran all these.

Socorro Ramos’ life and success story and the challenges that she faced with her business National Book Store business was another inspiring story. In fact, it was recognized when she was chosen as the Ernst and Young’s Philippine Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005.

Today, at the age of 85, Socorro Ramos or Nanay Coring acts as the General Manager of National Book Store. And she told that the core values in her success are to keep learning, being actively involved in the business, being able to read changes and act on them immediately, and most of all, never give up!