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Nata de coco manufacturer is 2015 Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year

For Lydia Malot, the national winner of the 2015 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA), P300 truly went a long way. The former public school teacher only had that small amount when she decided to leave teaching and become a nata de coco manufacturer. Together with six other winners, Lydia was honored during the awarding ceremonies held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) last December.
Lydia is the first CMA National Winner to hail from Mindanao in the program’s 12-year history.
A partnership among the BSP, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc. (MCPI), the CMA is a nationwide search for the most outstanding micro business owners. Funded by Citi Foundation, it started in 2002 as part of the celebration for Citi’s 100th year in the Philippines. The CMA has since recognized more than 100 winners across the country.
This year, the CMA set a new record with 144 nominations from 28 microfinance institutions and cooperatives across the country.
Citi Philippines chief executive officer Aftab Ahmed, who served as co-chair of the National Selection Committee (NSC) that chose the year’s winners, expressed their appreciation for the industry’s continuing support for the program: “Each year, it is a very involved process to identify seven awardees from a long list of winners. With each passing year, it becomes more and more evident that there continues to be a great wealth of entrepreneurs in this country. These are men and women who have displayed exceptional commitment, determination, and ingenuity to create businesses that have contributed to better lives for themselves and their families as well as to the communities in which they live.”
The NSC members were all equally generous in their compliments for the exemplary business accomplishments and inspiring stories of the nominees. Despite the difficult task of sifting through nominations, the NSC unanimously chose Lydia because other impressive business achievements and acts of bravery and perseverance.
Armed with basic knowledge on nata de coco production and her P300 capital, Lydia and her husband were able to build a thriving enterprise. When her husband succumbed to an illness, she bravely took on the reins of the business and now supplies nata de coco to large canned food and juice producers in the Philippines. Lydia will soon be exporting her product to a customer overseas. Microfinance institution Kabalikat para sa Maunlad na Buhay Inc. (KMBI) helps her by providing capital for expansion.
The stories of the regional and special awardees are also full of hardship and victories.
Regional awardee for Luzon Ester Shiela Vitto and husband Ronald were able to carve a market for their homegrown sandals and slippers using old tires for the footwear’s outer soles complemented with a unique service offering of free repair. Visayas Awardee Jordan Inalisan who started as a pastillas business worker is now the owner of the go-to store offering special pastillas and other delicacies from Carigara, Leyte; and Maternidad Salili, Mindanao winner is a proud manufacturer of coil springs for some of the country’s biggest manufacturing companies. Ester, Jordan and Maternidad are clients of CARD Bank Inc., Taytay sa Kauswagan Inc. and KMBI, respectively.
The NSC also gave the Special Award for Agri Micro-business to two outstanding microentrepreneurs: mushroom and organic rice grower Victoria Bantilan of Negros Occidental; and fish breeder and knife fish trader Laarni Ditablan of Binangonan, Rizal. Marines Takingan’s advocacy on organic farming in La Trinidad, Benguet, earned him the Special Award for Community Leadership. Victoria is a member of the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation Inc; while Laarni is supported by Ahon sa Hirap Inc. Marines receives assistance from ECLOF Philippines Foundation.
The winners received close to P2 million in cash and non-cash prizes including life and health insurance coverage; a four-week entrepreneurship training; and laptops and IT training. They were also inducted to the CMA Alumni Network, the winners’ circle organized to provide support and networking opportunities to past winners. The alumni network offers members access to a one-on-one mentoring program that aims to identify and address specific business needs of the alumni to enhance business competitiveness.
BSP governor and NSC co-chair Amando Tetangco Jr., in his keynote, said that “indeed, our microentrepreneurs represent a gold mine of lessons and information that has been helping us transform and improve the lives of millions of Filipinos through microfinance. A significant factor in our growing harvest of successful microenterprises stories is a regulatory environment that enables microfinance institutions or MFIs to provide appropriate products and services.”
This year’s NSC is composed of Tetangco and Ahmed as co-chairs, with members Antonino Alindogan Jr., Independent Director, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.; Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, president, Summit Media; Jose Ma. Concepcion III, president and CEO, RFM Corp.; Felipe Gozon, president and CEO, GMA Network Inc.; Imelda Nicolas, chairman, Commission on Filipinos Overseas; Marixi Rufino-Prieto, chairman, The Philippine Daily Inquirer; Darwin Yu, PhD, dean of John Gokongwei School of Management of the Ateneo de Manila University; and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president, Ayala Corp.

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