HOW did Vietnam turn into the second largest rice-exporting country from being the world’s top importer of rice? Through the Contract 100 policy and Land Law, farmers were liberated from a collective and one-price policy, according to Dr. Vo-Tong Xuan, the first Dioscoro Lopez Umali (DLU) awardee for agricultural development. “They have higher yield and have incentives to grow more rice and to sell at a higher price,” Xuan added. Xuan played a key role in Vietnam’s transformation, as he convinced both local and central government to adopt new agricultural policies. But before Xuan achieved a critical mass of participants in the national effort in agricultural and rural development (ARD), he went through several stages. But first he advised that one should have the "heart and head" for ARD and nation-building. "I reckoned it would take first our own people to help themselves before other people would come to help us," said Xuan. Xuan said governments should not only be competent technically but also possess a strong political will to come up with incentive policies for farmers and agribusinesses. However, challenges to the rice-exporting countries like Vietnam remain, he said. “It is easy to boost rice production but very difficult to increase farm income. We need further political will to take rice farmers out of the poverty trap,” said Xuan. Currently, Xuan is advocating a movement to raise farmers’ income through the “value chain” approach. He is planning to form a farmer’s cooperative to create a permanent link to marketing enterprises. As a DLU Awardee, Xuan who is an Agricultural Chemistry alumnus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, received a plaque and a cash prize of $10,000. The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and the DLU Foundation give the DLU award every year to individuals who shows excellence, leadership and service in the field of agricultural development, environment, natural resource management, technology development, food security, poverty reduction, economics, business policy and governance.
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By Izah Morales IN a local slum area where people are seen drinking alcohol, playing bingo, taking fleas out of a dog, there were women who chose to take the road less traveled. Every Tuesday, about 50 women residents of barangay 182 Mulawin in Pasay City gather in the barangay hall to crochet bags out of plastic and recycled materials. “Wala naman akong ginagawa sa bahay. Nababagot lang ako [I’m doing nothing at home. I just get bored.],” said Rosalina Aquino, 41, and mother of four children who was among the women who has decided to be part of a unique project. Before, Aquino spends an afternoon doing nothing. But after Aquino decided to join the workshops of the “Invisible Project” of artist Ann Wizer, she realized that she can engage in an activity that is worthwhile. Former factory worker and now a housewife, Andrea Dosal, 35, and mother to six kids, says that she can now make ends meet through crocheting plastic bags. “Kahit nasa bahay ka lang, may perang dumadating. Makakatulong sa mga bata, pambaon nila. ‘pag may project sila, at least may nabibigay ako. [Even if you’re at home, there’s money. It helps me earn some money to give to my kids for their school projects.],” said Dosal. These women’s attitude towards plastic has changed because they’ve realized how much money they can make in recycling it. “Nung una tinatapon namin. Ngayon pinapahalagahan na namin dahil dun kami kumikita. Noon balewala lang ang mga plastics. Ngayon mahalaga na sa amin bawat plastic. [Before, we just throw plastic away. Now, we value them because we earn from them. Before, we just ignore it. Now, every plastic is important to us.],” said Aquino. Dosal said that is now collecting plastic instead of just throwing it in the river. A handful of out-of-school youths have also become part of the Invisible Project. Cherry Pie Bermudez, 18 years old, said she learned crocheting when she was still studying in high school. But then, they used threads instead of plastic to crochet. “Ang plastic pala may saysay sa mga tao. Dito napapakita mo ung kaalaman mo, ‘yung alam mong gawin kahit sa plastic lang siya. [I realized that plastic has use. You can show what you can do even by just using plastic (as material for crocheting)],” Bermudez said. Through the Invisible Project, not only were the women’s attitudes towards plastic changed but also their relationship to each other. “Nagkaroon kami dito ng mga bonding. ‘Yung mga dating hindi magkaka-kilala, ngayon magkakakilala na. ‘Yung mga dating hindi nag-uusap, ngaun nag-uusap na. [We’ve been bonding. Some who never knew each other are now friends. They are now talking with each other.],” said Aquino. “‘Yung ibang tao na walang ginagawa, imbes na tumambay sila o kaya kung anong ginagawa nila, gumawa na lang sila ng kagaya nito. Malalaman pa nila ang talento nila. [To people who have nothing else to do, they should learn doing what we did because they will discover new talents.],” said Bermudez. Indeed the once humdrum afternoon in one slam area has turned into something more fruitful for women who chose to make a difference. In fact, as they help themselves earn a living, they are also helping Mother Earth.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net YOU often see crocheted bags made of threads and yarn. But have you seen one using plastic? The Invisible Institute, a non-government organization (NGO), is now using plastics as material for their homegrown crocheted bags. “As we all know, we have many poor women who really need more income generating activities because they have so many people depending on them. What we’ve done is to take those people whom I call ‘invisible’ or ‘unseen’ and put them together with invisible waste, which I consider factory waste,” Invisible Institute founder and artist Ann Wizer said. The group uses “clean trash and garbage bags” as materials to teach poor women to crochet. “It’s a very simple skill. And we’re also teaching any men who are willing,” said Wizer. Crochet is a French term that literally means “hook.” It describes a “series of interlocking loops onto a chain using a slender rod with a hook at the end,” according to CrochetDoilies website. Wizer began the organization in collaboration with another non-government organization called Gems Heart, which gathered women in Malibay, Pasay in October to train every Tuesday afternoon. “In this project, I have given very little design advice because I was trying to see what they would come up with themselves first,” said Wizer. Virgie Buencochillo and Rene Sison, two of the participants in the workshop, related how the program changed the way they eventually see plastic. Buencochillo, for her part, said she now saves plastic bags from groceries and uses them as materials for crocheted bag. She also uses empty containers as another material. Sison admitted plastics turned into bags can generate extra income. “Sometimes, our budget is insufficient since I still have kids who are studying. That’s why I use the money that I get [from this new livelihood] when we’re short of budget,” Sison added. So far, Sison has created bags out of scrap materials, such as rejected syringe, plastics, excess carpet. He said he has earned about P 4,000. Buencochillo has also finished some bags which has earned her a total of P 1,950. Sison said crocheted plastic bags are very cheap to make. You don’t need a lot of capital since the materials are junk. Rejected and unused syringes, for instance, cost less than P 100. “It’s a self-empowering skill,” added Wizer who admitted that the organization still needs funding to hire more experts and staff. “The next step for the Invisible Institute is to get some design expertise. I love to see more designers and artists involved. We also need funding because we have to make this a real, legal entity and a real cooperative and later run by Filipinos so that they can feel the benefits,” explained Wizer.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net DO you want to be a millionaire at an early age of 21? You may raise an eyebrow and say it is not possible but certified public accountant and entrepreneur Joey Magtibay made it possible as he became a self-made millionaire at 21 years. “It’s very doable. When I started, I was only 18 years old. It took me two-three years to learn how to do business,” said Magtibay. How did he do it? He began by exploring financial literacy. According to Gene Stone, senior associate of Loma citing Lois Vitt’s study on financial literacy in the US, financial literacy is the “ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future, and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy.” But for Magtibay, financial literacy is simply making the right decisions when it comes to money, business, and investments. “It’s about having the right mindset,” said Magtibay. However, Magtibay said that financial literacy is not taught in school. Nonetheless, he said that it can be learned from seminars, books, workshops and programs. Magtibay cited that the on-the business-training program they are holding can help people develop entrepreneurial mindset. “Bakit ba tayo nagnenegosyo [Why are we in business]? Not just to earn money but to achieve financial freedom,” stressed Magtibay. But before entering into any kind of business, Magtibay shared that an aspiring entrepreneur should first check whether the business has at least a five-year track record of audited statements, has a long-term vision of 10-20 years, has the right system and can run on its own. As Robert Kiyosaki, famous author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad puts it, “Why climb the corporate ladder, when you can own the ladder?”
By Anna Valmero and Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MAKATI CITY, Philippines – For 20 years, Consuelo Foundation has offered hope to about 50,000 children and families in the Philippines. Offering support to non-government and nonprofit organizations, the Consuelo Foundation has been involved in programs for the development and rehabilitation of abused children and spouses, as well as the homeless. The Consuelo Foundation has about 125 partner organizations both in the Philippines and in Hawaii. The Consuelo Foundation started a year after Consuelo Zobel Alger’s meeting with Patti Lyons who established Child and Family Service Philippines in 1987. Lyons was foundation president and CEO until 2006. After struggling with funding for the shelter program for the sexually abused kids in Baguio, Lyons met Consuelo and introduced the Filipina who retired in Hawaii to the shelter kids. Alger had a vision to renew hope for those who have lost it and give hope to those who have never had it. “After introducing to Consuelo the 40 children in the shelter, she told me: ‘You know dear, I never had a child of my own. And I think that now I have 40 children and I want to do this forever.’ Consuelo then became a benefactress of the CFSPI. And a year after started her foundation,” Lyons said. Alejandro Padilla, Consuelo Foundation board of director member and grand nephew of Consuelo, said the foundation supports organizations through various activities, including capacity building, training in entrepreneurship, finance and service delivery or whatever aspect that the foundation sees is required to better run operations. “We are forming joint ventures by choosing organizations with programs that can be duplicated in other areas and support them in the long-term so we have a sustainable program, Padilla said. A good example of this join venture is the foundation’s program with local partner International Deaf Education Association (IDEA) Philippines. Bohol-based IDEA trains houses deaf and blind individuals, allowing them to earn by working in the restaurant and café located within the vicinity of the organization’s compound. According to Geri Marullo, the president and CEO of the Consuelo Foundation, the organization will focus on different programs this year. These programs will include 'Healthy Start' under which LGUs will go house-to-house to look for cases of abuse in families, training for e-skills, livelihood as well as teaching social responsibility and life skills. Among the 122 partners of Consuelo Foundation, two of them shared how they built their dream and achieved their goals through their partnership with the foundation. “I was just beginning with a dream and they believe in that dream. So they partnered with us. And they were the first one to give us the first building of a dorm school,” said Fr. Rocky Evangelista, founder of Don Bosco Tuloy Foundation (DBTF). Evangelista said the Consuelo Foundation helped them with the operations and encouraged them to pursue their dream. IDEA president Dennis Drake recalled how Consuelo Foundation helped them through financial, moral support and technical expertise. IDEA was able to send 361 kids in school and employ 120 deaf in different skilled professions. Drake shared the story of a deaf beneficiary who was once an abused child and is now a successful chef, a husband and a father to a college student. “So he’s just part of the regular community and everybody looks to him as a success story. Very successful and contributes to the community well,” added Drake. The beneficiaries Maricar Miranda, 16, and Marilou Cuevas, 16 of DBTF also shared their story of regaining hope when all was lost. “Dati po, hindi po ako nangangarap. Pero ngayon po, may patutunguhan po ung mga tulong nila sa amin [Before, I wasn’t hopeful. But now, their help has given us hope,” said Cuevas. Cuevas who is now taking vocational technology course in electrical and electronics technology at the DBTF, wants to enter the call center industry when she finishes school. Meanwhile, Miranda said the foundation has helped them build their character, helping them achieve their dreams and ambitions even if they are poor. The foundation will soon start a program for training foster parents who will take care of the children coming from the shelters they support. The Consuelo Foundation together with its partner organizations held a program Monday to commemorate its founder. Concurrent with the program is a two-day meeting of the foundation’s local partners to share best practices and innovations.
By Ria Mendoza FOR many Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the underlying dream is to save up, go back home, start a business and eventually attain financial independence. But even though many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have done this before, a huge percentage has also found the path to entrepreneurship very difficult. Eventually, the savings from years of hard work end up in smoke. (Photo: From left to right: UP Professor Ilano, Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano, PBC President Lucille Ong and UP Professor Florendo awards the sixth 'Managing for Business Success' seminar participants the certificate of completion). On the other hand, others have no solid idea where to start realizing their dreams. This is the reason why 19 Filipinos working across all sectors made a beeline for the “Managing for Business Success” seminar organized by the Philippine Business Council (PBC) in association with the University of the Philippines (UP). The three-day seminar, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel from September 23 to 25, is the only seminar certified by UP outside of the country. Choosing the right business to get into is always tricky, but the discussion of UP Marketing and Strategic Management Professor Art Ilano gave the basics of not only finding the right fit for a person, from franchising to starting an all new enterprise, to branding, expansion and effective marketing. Complemented by the lectures of Joselito Florendo, UP Professor of Finance and Accounting, the participants learned the intricacies of income statements, cash flows and balance sheets. However, Florendo emphasized that though the work can be done by accountants and bookkeepers, it is important for business owners to know how to interpret this data to know how their business is faring. Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano attended the closing ceremony and awarded the participants their certificate of completion together with PBC President Lucille Ong, Professor Ilano and Professor Florendo. The “Managing for Business Success” seminar is the sixth in the PBC-UP seminar series to be held in Dubai and was sponsored by the Western Union Foundation.
By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--In business, it pays to go green, to embrace one’s roots, and to engage small communities. Ask the owner of Binalot, a fast-food chain famous for its low-budget Pinoy meals wrapped in banana leaves harvested in a poor farmers’ community in Laguna, a neighboring province of Metro Manila. As it continues to make good business through its 35 outlets, mostly inside malls in Metro Manila, the young company is starting to gain international recognition. Out of the box United Parcel Service (UPS) has named Binalot the recipient of a $10, 000 special prize for a small business exemplifying “end-to-end customer service,” the UPS theme for its centennial celebration this year. In the UPS “Out of the Box” Small Business Contest, which was opened to the Philippines this year, Binalot bested entries from China, Singapore and other countries in the Asia Pacific. It was the first Filipino company to win the prize. “The UPS prize was a gift from God,” Rommel T. Juan, president of Binalot Fiesta Foods Inc., said in an interview. “We didn’t know it was gonna come. We didn’t expect to win the prize.” Dahon program He joined the online contest months ago, and had all but forgotten about it until he got a call from UPS. And he believed its use of banana leaf from a poor community clinched the prize for Binalot. “Why did we win? Because of the Dahon program. It’s end to end. We get it directly from the farmers, bring them to the commissary, deliver them to franchisees, and the end customers,” said the 35-year-old marketing management graduate from De la Salle University. Besides, helping the poor proved to be a “good karma,” he added. Rommel left Monday for the United States to receive the prize in Atlanta, Georgia, where UPS is based. Since its small delivery operations in Makati City began in 1996, Binalot has served the meals in banana leaves harvested from different communities. Typhoon ‘Milenyo’ But it was only in January that Binalot decided to get its supply from a community of poor banana farmers at the foot of a mountain in Laguna as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). “When Typhoon ‘Milenyo’ struck [in September 2006], it wiped out our regular supply of banana leaves. So we were forced to source somewhere else,” Juan said. Soon after, Binalot found a viable source in a banana plantation in Laguna, and developed a CSR program, “Dangal at Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon” (Dahon) or leaf, to help farmers earn income right in their own backyard. Proper harvesting Binalot personnel trained the farmers from 29 families on proper harvesting, trimming and sanitation, equipped them with tools, and set up a modest workplace for them. So each day, the men would head for the clumps of banana trees at dawn to cut leaves, and haul these by horse to the workplace where their wives would clean and trim them according to Binalot’s specifications. The company buys banana leaves at P60 to P70 per bundle from the farmers thrice a week, providing a regular livelihood for them, weaning them off idleness and boosting their confidence. “The men are earning P300 a day and the women, P200,” Juan said. “Just imagine how a crisis (damage wrought by Milenyo on Binalot’s supply) turned into something good.” Until Binalot came into the picture, most of the farmers earned income by selling their banana leaves to small traders at low rates, and mainly subsisted on remittances from children working abroad. Less trash The leaves also meant less trash for the company. By Juan’s reckoning, the company has set itself apart from the rest, not only because of its “eco-friendly” packaging and “truly Pinoy” meals, but also because of its Dahon program. “This CSR is one program that our whole organization is proud of. We are 35 outlet-strong. We are a truly Pinoy fast food, but it’s different when you’re able to help others,” he said. Through this program, Binalot shattered the misconception that only corporate giants could come up with a good CSR program. “They always thought it was the domain of Ayala, of Shell and of big companies. We’re a testament that it’s not,” he said. After initially working for the family-owned MD Juan, which exports jeep bodies and parts, Juan and his older brother decided to start their own food business in 1996. And their childhood memories of family outings helped shape it. Binalot begins In one of their talks, he told his brother: “Do you remember when we used to go to Alfonso, Cavite? [We had a farm there with a river in the back. We’d go there on weekends. My mom would wrap our food in banana leaves] So I told him, the food was more delicious that way. Why not offer it in Makati?” Thus began Binalot (which means wrapped). After tapping Aileen Anastacio, a chef-friend of the Juans’, to do the cooking for which she got good reviews, the brothers started delivering home-cooked Filipino favorites in banana leaves to offices from their condominium unit in Salcedo Village in Makati. “Since it was residential, not a commercial area, we didn’t tell people where we were based. When customers called to ask, we’d just tell them we’re in Makati. But neighbors would find out and come knocking,” the younger brother said. There came a time when the Juan brothers had to move out when the other tenants started complaining of the smell of adobo (meat dish). But they soon found spaces in Greenbelt mall and on Jupiter Street. The initial offerings were rice topped with Filipino favorites adobo, tapa (cured meat), bangus (milkfish), tocino and longanisa, garnished with pickles, salted egg and tomato. Financial crisis Months after the financial crisis hit Asia in 1997, the Juan brothers thought of closing shop after their customers started bringing home-cooked lunch to work. Delivery sales dropped sharply. Then came an offer from Shangri-La mall in Mandaluyong City that it had a space for Binalot in its food court. “Our mini-board met, and I said ‘Let’s go for broke,’” Juan recalled. “When we opened in Shangri-La [in 1998], it was an instant hit. We were alive again. We realized the sale was constant unlike in delivery service.” Exponential growth After gaining confidence, Binalot opened more outlets in other malls, mostly from its annual earnings, and hired more people to run the growing business. In 2003, it went into franchising. “That’s when we started to grow exponentially,” Juan said. Over the years, Binalot’s menu has evolved, too. It now serves varieties like the funny-sounding Tapa Rap Sarap, Bistek Walastik, Bopisticated, Pride Tilapia, Sisig na Makisig, My Dinuguan & Only, and Love Me Tenderloin Tips in all its outlets. With the $10, 000 prize, Juan and his partners plan to set up a foundation or a social enterprise, and develop other banana products, like chips and cakes. “If we have things we can develop, we’ll start with them (farmers),” he said. “What we want to develop is an industry for them that’s related to our business.”
By Maria Congee S. Gomez Inquirer ZAADERA "DIDA" Basmala, 45, juggles her time tending to a "carinderia" or small canteen) and weaving on the side. A widow for the past 10 years, Dida is raising her five children with ages ranging from 11 to 22 by herself. Her dream is to see them complete their studies, so that, in her words, "they can have better jobs in the future." The carinderia has been a big help despite the competition. Like Dida, most of the women in Barangay Amilo, Dayawan, Lanao del Sur, have no other means to augment the family income except tend a carinderia and, in their free time, engage in loom weaving. Dida says that one point, loom weaving was in a precarious state. The craft that she and others like her learned from their mothers, who in turn learned it from their own, had been relegated to the back seat mainly because of poor returns. That young Maranao women are leaving home and desperately seeking a better lifestyle in urban centers does not help matters any, she says. Happily, things are looking up for the endangered centuries-old craft. The Dayawan Weavers Association is showing the way. Indonesian traders Loom weaving in Lanao is a craft believed to have been introduced by Indonesian traders long before the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans. The local people's resistance to foreign subjugation enabled them to preserve the craft, which provided them a steady source of income. The woven products were used to buy grains, fish, other basic necessities, even cattle. When mercerized cotton was introduced during the American period, weavers were forced to buy raw materials. The presence of third-party traders in the marketplace was not of help, as they dictated terms that weavers often found unfair. Also, the entry of modern clothing materials at a fraction of the cost of locally woven products lowered the demand for the latter. Not only did the profitability of woven products decline, a number of artisans also showed waning interest. The influence of modernization was that strong. Meanwhile, Dida's weaves, which she had hung on the walls of her home, were gathering dust. Each time she ran her fingers on them, she uttered special prayers to Allah for buyers--to no avail. Changing times Amilo is not the only barangay beset with the grim reality facing loom weaving. The decline is also prevalent in the municipalities of Balalabagan, Madalum and Tugaya. Times have changed, the weavers say. They anticipate a sudden gain, a windfall, from their craft, but actually they spend the money even before receiving it. And to think that Dayawan was once popularly known in Lanao as the center of expert weavers. (The majority, or 92.59 percent of the residents have not gone to school. Only 5.56 percent finished secondary education, and a measly 1.85 percent went to college.) If this were the Spanish period, the woven products would have been deemed important merchandise--as gifts by members of the nobility to their guests. The Philippine Foundation for Resources Management (PFRM), a nongovernmental organization based in Marawi City, has a clear grasp of the situation. Its acting chairman, Cosain Madale, derives inspiration from preserving the Maranao cultural heritage for the young generation. "Loom weaving is at an alarming stage. Parents have become so busy eking out a living that they have forgotten to train their daughters. We fear this might hasten the obliteration of their heritage, and therefore we must find ways to preserve it, or strike a balance between what the modern and the traditional can best offer," says Madale. Early snags In the Maranao social organization, husbands and wives equally share decisions in running the household. But it is the women who imbue in the children the responsibility needed for future family life, including passing on the craft to their daughters. It was not easy to discuss development plans with the women, Madale recalls. The husbands would not allow their wives to mingle with other men despite Madale's being a Maranao (he lives in Marawi City, and is thus considered of another origin). It was not much different for a female development worker. Mariz Limpo, program officer of the Philippine-Australia Community Assistance Program (Pacap), recalls that initially, not one among the 40 women who came to the PFRM center welcomed her. Her being a Christian made matters worse, she says. Moreover, a community that had been pampered with funds doled by local government officials without benefit of sustaining objectives appeared to have no patience to engage in serious discussion of, say, a project proposal. At the mention of policies, marketing strategies and counterpart sharing, the weavers quickly remarked: "When will the funds come in?" But the NGOs recall that the succeeding meetings saw the women earnestly beginning to talk about the dire situation of loom weaving in Dayawan. In time, everyone proved interested in working for the cause of the craft. In the six months within which the project proposal was made and approved, the women underwent intensive capacity-building seminars and workshops. Empowerment Buckling down to work was quite easy after all concerns were laid out and addressed, says Madale. The husbands did not mind their wives' late-night meetings, knowing this was a woman thing. (Still, as the days wore on, when the women devotedly applied themselves to preparing the reports they were required to submit, the menfolk began to question whether the late-night meetings would be of benefit to them. When orders--and the resulting cash--started coming in, the men wanted to know: "What about us?") The PFRM reports that the women have organized themselves into the Dayawan Weavers Association, with a set of officers and registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They are mapping out plans for nearby trade fairs, and eyeing the marketing aspect of their products. Pacap executive director Lody Padilla is quite happy about the changes among the loom weavers of Dayawan. Padilla says it was Pacap's holistic approach that developed the women's sense of discipline. "We have guided them to avoid unsuccessful moves, and taught them to be sustainable by looking at the whole thing on a long-term basis. These are what have strengthened their self-esteem and self-respect." Maranao loom weaving has highly adhered to a creed of stylized designs. Believing that they are now ready to face the challenges of the market, Dida and friends have expressed willingness to adapt Western and Christian patterns in their designs. While there have been apprehensions regarding the extent of flexibility as far as designs and colors were concerned, Dida says she and her co-weavers are thinking of ways to make certain changes in order to draw more clients. The Dayawan Weavers Association is bracing for bulk orders. Their products come in attractive forms--cover folders, bags, coin purses, blankets, table runners and pencil cases, among other items ideal for corporate giveaways. "For us to survive, we need to mix commerce with the preservation of our tradition. It should be complementary in nature so that one does not obliterate the other," Dida says.
By Emman Cena Inquirer HE could have stayed in the United States where his family is or in the burning deserts of Saudi Arabia to rake in more money. But Mike Bolos opts to stay home and walk the road less-traveled. âIâve had enough overseas. Lifeâs comfort is obviously there but Iâd like to get old here,â Mike Bolos tells the Inquirer in an interview. Turning 53, Bolos obviously had enjoyed the prime of his life toiling 25 years as an accountant and chief financial officer in several companies in Saudi. He had all the best. But in 2005, he decided to return and settle where, he says, his heart is. âIâd rather spend whatever earnings I have here,â says Bolos who has put up a spa center in Manila and a commercial building in his hometown, Guagua, Pampanga. The spa which started in August, 2005 employs 18 women, whom he says could have ended as domestic helpers had they gone abroad. âThey were merely high school graduates but they earn here as much as P20,000 monthly as masseuse,â he adds. The P60-million, 3-story commercial building, on one hand, is expected to be in full swing this month. It will house various establishments such as a dance studio, an Internet cafÃ©, a 7-11 convenience store and a modern American-patterned dental clinic run by one of his children. âThe mall type building will be the center of life (in Guagua). This is my way of paying back the people I grew up with. This will be a one-stop shop,â he adds. Formula for success But the success of Bolos didnât happen in the blink of an eye. âI was good in numbers and they never failed me throughout. But of course, it was sheer determination, hard work and patience,â he says. His is a classic Cinderella story. He climbed the corporate ladder from being an ordinary Accounting board passer. It was his brother who was looking for a job abroad but it was Bolos who was given the chance. At 21, he worked as an accountant in a travel agency in Riyadh where he stayed for two years. He later moved to a health care company, the Gama Services Ltd., where he spent 23 years. He left Gama as corporate assistant comptroller. At an early age, Mike learned how to juggle work with academics as business administration student at the University of the East. But the hard times didnât stop him from dreaming of a brighter life for his family. It was actually one of the goading forces behind his success. He graduated high school valedictorian which qualified him for a business course at the University of Santo Tomas. But after a year in UST, he decided to transfer to the University of the East where schedules were more suitable to him as a working student. After graduating and passing the CPA boards, he left the country in 1980. He also had his own family to miss, being married to a fellow Kapampangan at an early age. âMy first two years were miserable because I had no idea of the culture of the place. I was young and was thinking that things are done as they were done in the Philippines.â But he eventually learned the ropes, he says. He later learned how to throw his hat into the fray, so to speak. He performed well ahead of his co-workers. He started earning good money, was provided free house and car by the company. âEverything was free. A lot of freebies. So my monthly check goes to my family tax-free,â he recalls. In fact, he admits, he was one of the highest paid Filipinos in Saudi at that time. Children far from me âGiven a chance I would have tried to work out my relationship with my children. They grew up far from me. Weâve gone on our ways,â Bolos says. Two of his kids are now in the US. Michelle, the eldest has a family of her own while Michael, 20, is studying law in Chicago. The middle child, Madelaine, is helping him run the family business in Guagua. Business secret Asked his business secret, Bolos could only say, âThere are a lot of opportunities here. But the sad part is that the money that Filipinos work hard for are going to the hands of the rich people, most of them foreigners.â These days, Bolos says he gets himself busy by doing the rounds of his businesses. He rarely gets rest days. âI donât even have time to watch TV. I am always in front of my computer. I wake up at 8 a.m. to check e-mails then my day ends at about 3 a.m.â âUntil I get my team in place then Iâd finally take a break,â he says. He is currently hiring people to man his commercial center in Guagua. âIâm happy but not content. I have a lot more things that Iâve wanted to do but not for myself though.â Did he ever think of running for public office? âYes, Iâve received feedback from some of my town mates. But itâs not really my turf. Iâll help out as a private individual.â