When Bankers Turn Mentors

Citi continues tradition of coaching microbusiness owners at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center


Bayan Academy and Citi Philippines once again teamed up for several weekends in May and June to reach out to the students and alumni of the Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC).


Citi Corporate Affairs Director Aneth Lim addresses eager participants during the personal finance session.

Citi Corporate Affairs Director Aneth Lim addresses eager participants during the personal finance session.

Starting May 17 through June 7, volunteers from Citi Philippines served as mentors on various subjects to micro business owners as part of the 9th Global Community Day (GCD), an annual day of service where employees go out and give back to the communities where they live and work.


“Global Community Day is a unique opportunity for all of us in Citi to convey a simple yet powerful message — through volunteerism, Citi employees are committed to making a positive impact in the local community globally,” said Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi.


“For the Philippines, GCD is actually a misnomer,” Sianturi went on to say, “because we celebrate this milestone across several weekends to give our employees many opportunities to serve again and again.”


Indeed, this year, 17 activities were spread across five weeks and a total of 3,507 volunteers participated in various activities such as tree-planting, ocean cleanup, and building homes for Typhoon Yolanda survivors.


Out of this number, over 40 Citi employees imparted their expertise on various subject matters at the CMDC.


The partnership between Citi and Bayan Academy go as far back as 2005, when they joined hands to work on a financial program for working mothers. Since then, funding from the Citi Foundation has helped Bayan train over 1,300 high-potential microfinance clients so that they could bring their microenterprises to the next level.


Over four weekends starting mid-May, the volunteers played mentor and coach to 38 eager participants who received free lectures on matters that face them daily in the course of running their businesses.


Citi counsels spent two mornings educating microbusiness owners on the laws that apply to their enterprises.

Citi counsels spent two mornings educating microbusiness owners on the laws that apply to their enterprises.

On May 17, Citi volunteers arrived armed with advice regarding customer service and acquisition. They addressed the participants’ queries on handling customer complaints, maintaining an open dialogue with customers, and delivering personalized service.


On May 24, the volunteers shared the value of personal finance and managing one’s money. The microfinance clients wanted to know how to get their spending and debt under control, which investment tools are good for novices, and how to ensure a sustainable business.


On May 31 and June 7, the legal team from Citi conducted pro-bono legal clinics to the microentrepreneurs. On the first day, they tackled taxation, supplier contracts, and protective regulations. On the next weekend, they addressed issues regarding trademarks and patents.


A Citi volunteer shares tips on how to attract more customers with CMDC trainees.

A Citi volunteer shares tips on how to attract more customers with CMDC trainees.

Billie Adelman, a Citi volunteer who served during the personal finance session, opined that the learning that transpired across the activities was a two-way street. “Participating was a great opportunity for me to learn,” she said. “CMDC is an impressive facility, but the highlight for me was the coaching session with the microentrepreneurs,” she continued, pertaining to the one-on-one dialogue between mentor and trainee after the presentations. “I was impressed and humbled by their motivation and dedication, their commitment to their business despite some hardships and set-backs. I hope that my little contribution made a difference to someone’s life.”


Raul Manikan, executive director of Bayan Academy, said in a speech during an event to toast Citi’s NGO partners held prior to GCD that “It is a grace to be able to do something to redress social imbalances by way of helping people improve the skills they possess.” Citi volunteers should be proud to have been able to directly impact a person’s livelihood at CMDC, and the microbusiness owners can count on them in the coming years to continue the mentoring tradition.

Citi Celebrates International Women’s Day with Women Microentrepreneurs

CMDC scholars discuss leadership with Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi 


Manila – Citi Philippines recently celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) with CEO Batara Sianturi hosting a roundtable discussion with women microentrepreneurs at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC) in Quezon City.


Citi Philippines started its International Women’s Day celebrations with a roundtable discussion with women microentrepreneurs.

Citi Philippines started its International Women’s Day celebrations with a roundtable discussion with women microentrepreneurs.

The affair brought together eight CMDC scholars who shared their thoughts on business leadership, empowerment and challenges.  After listening to the inspiring testimonials of the women, Sianturi acknowledged their hard work and commended the women on their successes.  He then offered his advice on how they can overcome challenges in sustaining and building their microenterprises.
Photo 2“The Philippines is actually one of the most progressive countries when it comes to women empowerment,” Sianturi said. “You have had two female presidents, some of the top corporate CEOs are women, and the country can claim a robust microenterprise and microfinance industry comprised of mostly women. Filipina women are known for being empowered and strong-willed and I must admit, from my experience in Citi, also make some of the best managers.”


Sianturi also shared his insights on leadership which were influenced by more than 25 years of working for Citi. According to him, there are many different leadership styles that work for different types of individuals but the best way to lead is through servant-leadership, where leaders put their people first and look after their development. “I believe that many of you do this — providing jobs to people in your community, your families, and really assisting them to prosper and grow. I know it is tough but the fact that many of you are here shows that you are all doing a good job,” he added.

2013 regional winner of Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards Regina Paller vow to rebuild her business that was affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

2013 regional winner of Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards Regina Paller vow to rebuild her business that was affected by Typhoon Yolanda.


At the end of the discussion, the women thanked Citi for giving them the opportunity to take part in CMDC’s programs.  Regina Paller, whose business was affected by typhoon Yolanda, shared that “with the new things we learned from training, we hope we can rebuild, and possibly even grow our business.  In life, we should not lose hope, especially because our workers and their families also depend on us.” Regina Paller joined CMDC’s training program as a regional awardee from the 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.


Lucia Brondial, who has completed the entrepreneurship training and is now receiving customized business advice and mentoring, lauded Citi and Bayan Academy for their generous and consistent support to Filipino microentrepreneurs as they persevere to improve their businesses.  For Marylyn Cleto, another regional awardee from the 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, she welcomed the opportunity to articulate her business concerns and appreciated the attempts of Citi and Bayan Academy to address these and help her enterprise.


As he closed the discussion, Sianturi challenged the participants to become better entrepreneurs and leaders so that they may continue to inspire change not only in their families and businesses but also in their communities.
Now on its 4th year, CMDC aims to reach more than 800 beneficiaries with training and coaching programs, and will seek to expand beyond Metro Manila to cover Palawan, North and South Luzon, as well as Visayas and Mindanao.  The center works with the country’s high potential microentrepreneurs who are identified by microfinance institutions for capacity building and skills training in the hope that they will make the jump to small and medium sized enterprises.

Enabling Progress for Micro Businesses through the Citi Microenterprise Development Center

Manila – Alvin Abaja, Rona Bautista and Zenaida Santilanan all knew that setting up a business was their best bet to escape poverty. With courage, hardwork, and help from their partner microfinance institutions, all three have made the leap to become successful entrepreneurs.

From left: Bayan Academy president Raul Manikan, Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc. board member Rona Bautista, Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi, Buchi King owner Alvin Abaja with business partner Christian Caparas, and Citi corporate affairs director Aneth Lim

From left: Bayan Academy president Raul Manikan, Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc. board member Rona Bautista, Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi, Buchi King owner Alvin Abaja with business partner Christian Caparas, and Citi corporate affairs director Aneth Lim

While they may have started only with “Sipag” and “tiyaga” to grow their business beyond the micro-level, they all agree that they needed quality training, guidance and mentorship. And all three are grateful to have found these in the Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC), a program established in partnership by Citi Philippines and Bayan Academy.
“In a country where over 90 percent of registered businesses are micro enterprises, it is unfortunate that only a few make that leap to small and medium sized due to the lack of technical skills and know-how,” related Batara Sianturi, CEO of Citi Philippines. “In CMDC, we offer an entrepreneurship training program as well as provide a venue for these microbusiness owners to receive quality and relevant mentoring, to address their specific business challenge.”
Established in 2011 after a successful pilot in 2010, the CMDC is funded by Citi Foundation and has worked with over 1,000 high potential microfinance clients to increase their income, employ additional people, and improve on their loan performance as microfinance clients.

It all started with a vision

Buchi King owner Alvin Abaja (left) and business partner Christian Caparas

Buchi King owner Alvin Abaja (left) and business partner Christian Caparas

One fateful Sunday, while Alvin was praying, he saw a clear vision of himself cooking buchi (sticky rice balls) in different colors. Seeing a potential in the buchi business, he convinced his relatives Rosario and Christian Caparas to join him in this venture. Alvin who is a computer engineer, Rosario who is a cook, and Christian who is an accountant, all admit to their initial lack of knowledge in making buchi. Undaunted, they began watching videos about buchi-making and found it simple to do.
After a series of careful experiments, they put up Buchi King, the first flavored buchi brand in the country. They began selling it to their friends, colleagues and neighbors until they decided to set up a food cart and were able to earn P13,000 a day. Alvin handled the business development, Christian handled the finances, and Rosario managed the store and kitchen operations. From a daily production of about five boxes, they are now selling hundreds of pieces of buchi everyday. The business became a success and in 2013 Rosario won the 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Award for Innovation for her contributions to the development of the unique products being sold by Buchi King. Rosario was one of seven microfinance clients who bested over 100 nominations to be recognized as the country’s most successful and inspiring Filipino microentrepreneurs.
The success of Buchi King was a collaborative effort, and Alvin admits that the CMDC seminars helped a lot in improving their business skills. “Our sales have increased when we applied what our mentors shared with us.”
Buchi King started with only four employees in 2012 and now they have 21 workers across three branches in Laguna. Aside from the usual monggo and ube flavors, Buchi King sells flavoured buchi such as cheese, chocolate, macapuno and sweet cream.


Aiming business growth

Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc. board member Rona Bautista

Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc. board member Rona Bautista

As early as her elementary school days, Rona Bautista was already exposed in her father’s trading company selling protective gears like gloves, safety shoes and hard hats. When her time came to finally help in their business, Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc., she realized that she did not have the right business skills.
“We didn’t know what our company needed for a boost in business growth. CMDC’s Grassroots Entrepreneurship and Management Program helped us become aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. It allowed us to consult with experts and professors on how to grow our business.”
Now, Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc. has grown into a corporation that provides safety gears to companies like Unilever, San Miguel Corporation and Philippine National Oil Corporation.


From housewife to businesswoman

Kabalikat Para Sa Maunlad Na Buhay Inc.’s Zenaida Santilanan

Kabalikat Para Sa Maunlad Na Buhay Inc.’s Zenaida Santilanan

Zenaida Santilanan has always been a housewife while her husband, Eduardo, works in a foam factory in Valenzuela. The goal of bringing her six children from the province to the city was what prompted her to start her own business. Seeing that foam when used to make pillows can bring in good profits, they asked for small amounts of foam from her husband’s factory.
With an initial capital of P500, they started their pillow business in 2002. While her husband got the foam from the factory, she was busy working on the pillowcases. At first, their customers were neighbors and street vendors, but word of mouth allowed them to build their network into supplying pillows for a local company.
With the increased business success, they were able to bring their children to the city and began sending them to school. Zenaida’s children also assisted her in making pillows and convinced her to attend seminars of the CMDC.
“Back then, I thought that running a business was easy and attending seminars weren’t necessary. But CMDC opened a new perspective by teaching us to value our customer, value the money that we earn, and how to spend our profits wisely.”
Now that she’s learned the proper way of handling their business, Zenaida hopes to have her own sewing machine and a delivery truck in the future. These will greatly speed up her business’ production and improve delivery to customers. As the pillow business continues to grow, she plans to expand and sell her products in nearby provinces.

Social commitment and progress for all

According to Raul Manikan, president of Bayan Academy: “Over the last three years, CMDC has proven to be a highly effective program, aiding many small entrepreneurs grow and develop their enterprises. It has been doing this quietly for many years without fanfare – a truly social program.”
Zenaida’s story, along with Alvin’s and Rona’s, are just some of the inspiring accounts of students of CMDC, who are now making lives better not only for their families, but for their communities too.

Citi Philippines and Bayan Academy mark three years of nurturing high-potential micro business owners

Citi Microenterprise Development Center (CMDC), a program of Citi Philippines and Bayan Academy for Social Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Development, Inc., recently celebrated its third year of nurturing high potential micro business owners at the CMDC training center in Quezon City.

Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi and Bayan Academy executive director Raul Manikan led the launch of the 3rd year of the Citi Microenterprise Development Center in Quezon City.

Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi and Bayan Academy executive director Raul Manikan led the launch of the 3rd year of the Citi Microenterprise Development Center in Quezon City.

Since 2011, CMDC has been providing training, coaching and business advisory services to more than 660 microfinance clients around the country, opening more doors for entrepreneurship in the microfinance sector.  Funded by Citi Foundation, the program seeks to address knowledge and skills gaps to enable its participants to grow their businesses, resulting in asset and income growth, as well as job generation for their local communities.


On the celebration of CMDC’s third year, Bayan Academy Executive Director Raul Manikan expressed his joy on the continuing success of the program: “We are glad that this program which started in Metro Manila has now spread to all over the country, helping microentrepreneurs scale up and take their businesses to the next level. I am amazed at how far we have come in our shared advocacy with Citi in promoting not only microfinance but also enterprise development.”


In August, CMDC received the Social Empowerment Award during the 2013 Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards (AREA) held in Singapore.  AREA is one of Asia’s most prestigious recognition programs for organizations that champion sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship. The Social Empowerment award honors businesses that promote empowerment of communities or individuals that are socially excluded or economically disadvantaged. CMDC received the award for the impact it makes on microfinance clients towards improving and scaling-up their businesses, and was a timely and unequivocal confirmation of the relevance of what Bayan Academy is doing together with Citi Foundation and Citi Philippines.


Addressing the first batch of scholars for CMDC’s third year, Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi made a strong case for entrepreneurship.  “Entrepreneurship is what drives economic progress.  It is what makes economies prosper through innovation and wealth creation. If we look at first world nations like the United Kingdom and the United States, they were built on entrepreneurs who sparked the first industrial revolution.  Close to home, if we look around, the most successful people in this country are also entrepreneurs like Henry Sy who started selling shoes in a small store that eventually become SM, a retail chain that now impacts the economies of local communities.”


“Our goal in CMDC is to equip you with knowledge and skills that helped these successful individuals grow their businesses from very small and humble beginnings.  Some of them did not have much capital to start with; sometimes not even a college education, but they had the drive, passion, and ability.  Through CMDC, we can all become partners for your success,” said Sianturi.


High potential micro business owners receive entrepreneurship training as well as customized coaching and business advisory at CMDC.

High potential micro business owners receive entrepreneurship training as well as customized coaching and business advisory at CMDC.

During the event, CMDC hosted its first batch of 40 scholars for the Grassroots Entrepreneurship and Management course, an entrepreneurship course designed for micro business owners.  Participants included clients of several microfinance institutions such as Kasagana-Ka Development Center, Inc., Kabalikat para sa Maunlad na Buhay Inc., Center for Community Transformation, Uplift Philippines, and Bayan Academy.  Some participants of the CMDC also showcased their products to demonstrate how the program has succeeded in aiding them develop their products and grow their businesses.


Two successful microentrepreneurs – Alvin Abaja and Rona Bautista – gave testimonials during the celebration. Alvin, the owner of Buchi King, started with only four employees and now employs 21 workers as his innovative product attracted more and more patrons. Rona, on the other hand owns Luce Global Environmental Health and Safety Specialist Inc, a trading company that grew from a small enterprise into a corporation that now supplies safety gloves, shoes, helmets to companies big industries.


Through the likes of Alvin and Rona, and the many aspiring microentrepreneurs it has helped, CMDC continues to enable and uplift the skills of these individuals so they can improve their lot in life and help others through the jobs they generate.

Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi (3rd from left) and Corporate Affairs Director Aneth Lim (rightmost) join (from left) Bayan Academy executive director Raul Manikan in congratulating Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc.’s Rona Bautista and Buchi King’s Alvin Abaja and Christian Caparas, two micro businesses that have considerably grown their assets and income following their participation in CMDC.

Citi Philippines CEO Batara Sianturi (3rd from left) and Corporate Affairs Director Aneth Lim (rightmost) join (from left) Bayan Academy executive director Raul Manikan in congratulating Luce Global Environmental Health & Safety Specialist Inc.’s Rona Bautista and Buchi King’s Alvin Abaja and Christian Caparas, two micro businesses that have considerably grown their assets and income following their participation in CMDC.



Adelaida Rabino – Adelaida Rabino started entered the business of making shoes in 2003 and is now a subcontractor of Natasha shoes.

Sharpened by Challenges, Strengthened by Faith

“I just kept going.”
Adelaida Rabino, a 48-year old subcontractor of Natasha shoes may have gone through hardships since she started her business in 2003, but she did not let those discourage her. Hired by a general contractor, she performed the services in making the upper part of the shoes. She started with a capital of P 5,000 which she loaned from Alay Buhay. The business ran smoothly until the 2009 Ondoy typhoon. At that time, she had 3 factories and 20 employees. Being located in Marikina, the business did not escape the whip of devastation. She was left financially broken. “All my machines were submerged in the water. Not one was left working.” Even so, she was determined to continue. Adelaida started from scratch. Since in subcontracting, the orders just keep coming, she was able to get back to business. The usual number of orders that came in her line was 500 pairs. “Actually, it would be better if we were able to make more.”
adelaida-rabinoIt seemed things were getting better until another problem struck. She was diagnosed with a serious illness. “I had cancer.” She had to undergo chemotherapy so she asked her children to oversee the business. It was a year after when she was able to recover and head their business again. With consistent coming of orders and hard work, the business got back on track. She also had the opportunity to join the CMDC training as she was endorsed by Alay Buhay. She was introduced to certain business know-how an d was encouraged to improve the services that her business was offering. After the training, she came up with an idea to offer designs to the general contractor that would be used for the production. It did not take much time before these were used. Having strong faith in God, Adelaida was very grateful and expectant for what had happened.
But disaster struck again in the year 2012. The country was affected by another typhoon named Habagat. Despite of her big loss with machineries, Adelaida still managed to recover. She asked for a loan from Alay Buhay worth P50, 000. “I had to keep my business running and the loan was a huge help for it to regain its stable condition.” she said. She might have lost her machines but the people that she was working with never left her side. The general contractor had trust in her. “The order still kept coming. I am thankful with the trust that they have given me.”
Adelaida’s business is still in the recovering stage. “I am still on the process of paying my loan and slowly reinvesting with machines.” With 7 personnel, she now accepts orders from another shoe label, Bandolino.
Improvements might take time but she has some options that she wishes to carry out in the near future. Her plan is to build her own shoe store in a flood-free zone and directly supply local shoe stores in Marikina. “I just want to focus with shoes,” she shared.

MFI Alay Buhay Community Development Foundation Inc.
Batch 5
Age 48
Civil Status Married
Educational Attainment High school Graduate
Enterprise Name Subcontractor of Natasha
Year Established 2003
No. of Years in the Business 10
Products and Services Shoes
Loan Cycle 6
Loan Amount 50,000
Asset Size 102,470
Monthly Gross Revenue 33,000
No. of employees 9
Net worth 52,470

Bienvenido Manglo – The 51-year-old entrepreneur shares how he was able to grow his enterprise, Bensley Marketing, without having to create his own products.

In the Ministry of Good Business

If there is one thing Pastor Bienvenido Manglo has learned, it’s that being a good entrepreneur does not necessarily mean having to create your own products.

“The idea of becoming a retailer dawned on me when I attended courses at CMDC. I discovered the possibility of creating a market for products being made by other people,” he revealed.


Bien Manglo1A native of Batangas, Pastor Bienvenido is a 51-year old engineering graduate who now resides in Biñan, Laguna. He used to support his family by selling load for prepaid phones, raising livestock and soap-making. His strong faith as a pastor has helped him weather various challenges as an entrepreneur. “Sometimes I am baffled why I try all these businesses when I don’t even get much return,” he confessed.


Struggling to achieve his business goals, Pastor Bienvenido was referred to CMDC by the microfinance institution Center for Community Transformation (CCT). He was hesitant at the beginning. “I was already doing my ministry in my church, so I wondered what good would I get from it,” he shared. The experience proved to be worth it. “I met all these wonderful entrepreneurs who made very good products but did not know where to sell them. One made eco-friendly bags made from natural fibers like rattan and abaca, while another made compressed smokeless charcoal. I found my true purpose, which is to help them find their market. I became their marketing manager.”


Pastor Bienvenido contacted his former classmates at CMDC and bought some of their products, which he sold to outlets like supermarkets and department stores. In a few months, wholesalers and retailers came to him for more orders. He now also sells handicrafts like table ornaments, wallets, displays and other items. He also helps other aspiring entrepreneurs at the CCT, as a trainer and inspirational speaker. “I have learned in this life that if you let God be your guide, he will take care of the rest. You just have to do your best,” he shared.


From two employees in January 2011, Pastor Bienvenido now employs 12 workers. His monthly income rose by 80%, while his assets grew by 54%.

Mr. Bienvenido Manglo showcases his products during an exhibit at SM Megamall.


MFI Center for Community Transformation
Batch 2
Age 49
Civil Status Married
Educational Attainment College Graduate
Enterprise Name Bensley Marketing
Year Established 1998
No. of Years in the Business 15
Products and Services Livestock, Detergent and Loading Station
Loan Cycle 10
Loan Amount 50,000
Asset Size 935,000
Monthly Gross Revenue 75,000
No. of employees 2
Net worth 915,500

Elma Gabriel – Elma saw the potential in Buy and Sell businesses, which led her to establish her own enterprise called Gabriel’s Onion Magnet.

Good Business needs Right Relationships

“Treat your suppliers and clients well, as if they are your siblings.”


Elma Gabriel, a 53-year old Buy and Sell entrepreneur, believes that creating good relationships leads to success in business. After borrowing money to use as starting capital from Tulay sa Pag-unlad Incorporated (TSPI), she already knew that she had to handle every business transaction correctly. She was the one communicating with the suppliers from different farms in Pangasinan while her husband Jessie delivered the supplies to their clients.

Elma Gabriel

“We decided to start a Buy and Sell of onions because the profit that you get is big.” She remembers getting the idea from her kumares who already had their own Buy and Sell businesses and who deeply encouraged her to join the pack. True enough, she saw how largely profits grow from it. She buys 20,000 kilos of onions that costs P20/kilo and after selling them, she gains around P60,000. Although there were times when she needed to set very low selling prices, she still manages to earn her expected profit. “You just need to find good market,” she says. In the midst of business problems, Elma learned to be patient and humble. Whenever the transactions or deliveries are delayed, she immediately informs her clients and clearly explains the consequences of the delay. With that, misunderstandings are avoided and established relationships are sustained.


She learned about the training CMDC’s training program after she received a Maunlad award from TSPI. She then decided to join the training and was hoping to learn how to handle her business financial statements. “Accounting, that’s the one aspect in my business that I cannot handle well.” she says. More than the technical modules that she learned, there was a lesson that she can never forget. “Being open-handed to others– sharing not just my money but the knowledge that I gained from the trainings is one lesson that I treasure now.” She believes that rudeness and arrogance will not bring you to any heights.


Now owning one delivery truck and a storage facility for onions, Elma plans to obtain a loan fund from TSPI, as she has fully paid the money that she borrowed as starting capital. “I will use the money to buy another truck to help improve our delivery services,” she explains.  Elma wishes to open another business, a rice store and hopes to transform their Buy and Sell Business into a family heritage in the years to come.


MFI Tulay sa Pag-unlad Inc.
Batch 2
Age 50
Civil Status Married
Educational Attainment High School Level
Enterprise Name Gabriel’s Onion Magnet
Year Established 2004
No. of Years in the Business 9
Products and Services Buy and sell of onions
Loan Cycle 20
Loan Amount 70,000
Asset Size 1,300,009
Monthly Gross Revenue 35,000
No. of employees 50
Net worth 370,000


Ester Lumbo – What started as a hobby for Ester became a full-fledged enterprise called A&E Native Bags. Together with her husband, she sells bags made out of pandan, which appeals to both local and foreign markets.

Wow Pandan!

Ester lumbo4Her love for bag making out of pandan inspired her to start her own business. From the island of Visayas, Ester Lumbo started A&E Native Bags at Negros Occidental. Ester used to be a worker for a bag manufacturer which used pandan as material. When she realized that sales out of this business is promising, she thought of having her own shop as a good source of income. Hand-in-hand with her husband, Bartolome Lumbo, the couple started their humble business in 1996. Bartolome was the designer while Ester was the bag maker.  They started by selling their bags and banig or mats on the streets. Eventually, they found a place in the dry market. They also began accepting pre-orders. The Lumbo family raised their family business as a team. Their collective effort, according to Ester, was one of the reasons why their business grew.


Like any other business, A&E Native Bags strove to be known in the industry. It wasn’t easy especially in getting customers. However, soon, her efforts paid off as she was awarded as the National Winner in the Masikap Category of the Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Awards implemented by the Microfinance Council of the Philippines. As the winner, she had the privilege to undergo the CMDC training program of Bayan Academy. Since she was not able to finish her education, Ester felt nervous and intimidated with her co-trainees and facilitators. After overcoming her shyness, she admitted that the training program really helped her gain confidence and more knowledge in business management. The two major learnings she had from the training were on entrepreneurship and human resource management. She emphasized that she realized how important pakikisama is when it comes to her employees. “This could make or break any business,” she said. Ester also shared that she considers proper capital management as very important to a business to succeed. She emphasized that when capital is misused, the business would start to fail. Entrepreneurs should be wise in deciding where to spend their money for.


Ester had unforgettable memories back in the training days. One unexpected experience was when her cell phone rang for several times while in class. She was then in the middle of transacting with a client for her business. Her facilitator told her to stay focused on the seminar. Ester realized that focus is a very important thing not only in trainings or seminars but as well as in business. Ester  gained new friends and connections during the program which she cherishes up to this moment.

Moreover, through the CMDC program, she had the courage to embark on a new business: bakery. Now, the Lumbo family is managing two businesses. Right now, Ester is still striving hard to reach for her dreams for her businesses especially for the benefit of her children. A&E Native Bags is already stable. Its primary market is at Cebu and Hawaii and she hopes that her local market and exports will increase as the years goes by. As for her bakery, she hopes for expansion and branching out the following year.


Ester Lumbo3Ester Lumbo

MFI Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation
Batch 2
Age 53
Civil Status Married
Educational Attainment Elementary Graduate
Enterprise Name A and E Nature Product
Year Established 2006
No. of Years in the Business 7
Products and Services Nature Bags made of pandan
Loan Cycle 19
Loan Amount 50,000
Asset Size 950,000
Monthly Gross Revenue
No. of employees 10
Net worth 885,000



Evelyn Gonzales – By upgrading from a simple terminal to a fully functional travel and tours business, Evelyn was able to evolve her enterprise and take advantage of Palawan’s burgeoning tourism industry.

No Storms Can Bring Me Down

Evelyn GonzalesMrs. Evelyn Gonzales led a troubled but colorful life. In 1981, at the young age of 17, she fell in love with and married a college classmate named Wilfredo Gonzales. The sudden and unplanned union got in the way of Evelyn’s education, and it wasn’t until 1988 that she graduated from Palawan State University with a degree in business administration. With her diploma, Evelyn was able to land decent jobs in the government and private sectors of Palawan. Combined with Wilfredo’s earnings from his own job, the two had enough money to support their growing family, which soon came to include two sons and three daughters (two of whom were twins). Working and raising five children at the same time was no easy task, but those early days were the happy ones for Evelyn. For a few years, the Gonzaleses were almost the picture of the ideal family, until Wilfredo suffered a serious illness in the mid-1990s. The affliction left him partially paralyzed and unable to continue employment. With the kids entering school and growing bigger every day, Evelyn was left with the responsibility of providing for the whole family. Faced with this pressing burden, she quit her regular job in 1996.

Evelyn Gonzales1

With money that the family had saved, she set up a video rental business in Palawan’s capital of Puerto Princesa City. The enterprise coincided with the proliferation of home entertainment systems such as VHS and VCD, and was patronized by many movie-lovers in the city. Success was short-lived, however, as the entry of a Video City franchise in the same area took most of her customers away. Four years later, Evelyn was forced to close shop.


After shutting down her previous business, she found another job to keep the family afloat. When her last son, Wally, was born in 2001, her hardships made her more determined to start another business. Looking at the business prospects in Palawan, she discovered that there were a number of public utility vans plying the route from Puerto Princesa to the northern Palawan towns of Roxas, San Vicente, and Taytay. For locals and tourists alike, these air-conditioned vans were a popular alternative to the cheaper but less comfortable buses. The problem was that the vehicles only departed when at least 8 out of 12 seats were occupied, but there was no actual terminal for passengers to wait in. With the development of tourism in the province and the promise of more visitors entering Palawan through its gateway capital, Evelyn saw the establishment of a terminal as the perfect opportunity. With P70,000 scrounged up from savings and helpful relatives, Evelyn secured the necessary permits and put up the FortWally terminal along one of Puerto’s major avenues. At that time, the terminal consisted only of a covered garage and a waiting shed. Through her persuasiveness, she convinced the van operators to utilize her terminal because it would help them service more passengers – travelers could book their rides in advance with Evelyn, and the shed made waiting more bearable. In return, FortWally received a small commission from each operator. Evelyn did not volunteer much information about FortWally’s early stages, but evidently, her second attempt at entrepreneurship was an astounding success. For one thing, she no longer had much trouble feeding the family and sending the kids to school. For another, when FortWally was forced to relocate to the central station in 2003 due to a city ordinance, the business had already built up enough capital for the move. It was a major hurdle, especially during the first year of operations, but it was easily cleared. Another indicator of success was in 2007, when Evelyn saw an increase in demand for vehicles travelling all the way to the scenic beach town of El Nido. In response, the proprietor established a second terminal in the municipality. She got five van operators to run trips from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and vice-versa.As of 2011, FortWally had 14 vans doing roundtrips on the Puerto-Roxas, Puerto-San Vicente, and Puerto-Taytay routes, in addition to the five vans from Puerto-El Nido. There was an average of 35 trips per day.


With the profits from this venture, Evelyn went on to put up a FortWally office and convenience store near the Puerto Princesa terminal. But the ever-gregarious entrepreneur did not stop there. In 2010, with tourist arrivals increasing from 113,831 in 2002 to 631,145 in 2011 (source: National Statistical Coordination Board), Evelyn sought to upgrade her services to the next level. With her pool of van operators and experience from dealing with all manner of travelers, she found it easy to set up a travel and tours business. By early 2011, FortWally Travel and Tours had obtained Department of Tourism (DOT) accreditation, established a partnership with an international online booking website www.via.com, and created its own website, www.fortwallytravelandtour.com. A plethora of packages were offered, such as tours around Puerto Princesa and the Sabang Underground River (officially one of the seven natural wonders of the world), island hopping and dolphin watching in Honda Bay, and a customizable island hopping experience in El Nido.


Evelyn’s next goal was to purchase a second van and eventually build up a fleet. Whether or not she would push through with this, she had already cemented FortWally’s position as one of the leading transportation providers for Palawan’s burgeoning tourism industry. In the process, she managed to single-handedly support her family with profits from the terminal, the restaurants, and the travel agency. It seemed that for every blow suffered to her career and her family, Evelyn was determined to come up with a winning business solution. Now that she had acquired much learning from the CMDC program, these plans would soon materialize and come to life.


MFI Bayan Academy
Batch 15
Age 48
Civil Status Married
Educational Attainment College Graduate
Enterprise Name Fortwally Travel and Tours
Year Established 2009
No. of Years in the Business 4
Products and Services Travel and Tours
Loan Cycle 3
Loan Amount       1,885,000
Asset Size       1,837,000
Monthly Gross Revenue         380,000
No. of employees                   6
Net worth         997,550