Eduardo Azores of Koronadal City, South Cotabato was named National Winner during the recent awarding ceremonies of the 17th Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in Manila. This microentrepreneur successfully developed variants of a food product and wisely used his initial success to grow his business and brand.
The owner of Ali-Ali Pastil restaurant, Azores sells the popular pastil, a Muslim dish of steamed rice and shredded fish, chicken, or beef wrapped in banana leaves; and offers close to 30 other kinds of toppings including laing and seafood. From his restaurant’s earnings, Azores was able to open a convenience store, a catering business, a lodging inn, and another restaurant branch. Azores credits his success to Rizal Micro Bank that granted him loans to raise his capital.
Also honored during the event were Regional Awardee for Luzon Lea Mancera, owner of Daniel’s Handicraft Weaving and Metal Frame; Regional Awardee for Visayas Merly Domingo of Ebina Garment Manufacturing; and Regional Awardee for Mindanao Lucrecia Neri of Manna’s Alternatives Herbal Products and Ati Manna Organic Hub.
Romualdo Blanco, Jr. of San Pascual, Batangas and who owns PK Maja’s Special, received the Youth Microentrepreneur of the Year Award. Two deserving microentrepreneurs were chosen as Special Awardees for Agri-Micro business- Rolando Pega, a spring onion farmer in Pangil, Laguna; and Rosanna Sinapilo, owner of Coco Deli in Candelaria, Quezon Province. Caroline Jamias of Carol Line’s Ethnic and Fashion won the Special Award for Preservation of Traditions for her enterprise that showcases the Kalinga culture.
In his keynote address, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said, “The CMA honors the men and women whose transformed lives and journey as entrepreneurs demonstrate the power of microfinance as a poverty alleviation tool. Most of these microentrepreneurs started with close to nothing, and yet were able to build and grow a business that support their families and even their communities. Theirs is a story of empowerment. And this is what microfinance is truly about.”
Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed, in his welcome remarks, said, “The compelling stories of the CMA winners speak volumes about the winning spirit of the microentrepreneur. This highlights the need for recognizing and rewarding the journeys of these outstanding entrepreneurs who have overcome a multitude of challenges to grow their businesses, improve the lives of their families, become catalysts for motivating other aspiring microentrepreneurs and contribute to employment and development within their respective communities. We are thrilled at having the opportunity to contribute to financial inclusion through the CMA program. Additionally, we would like to highlight that 76% of the awardees over the last 17 years have been women.”
Since its inception in 2002, the CMA has recognized 141 outstanding microentrepreneurs who overcame struggles and showed determination to bring their businesses to a higher level of success. The awards program is a signature initiative of the Citi Foundation; and highlights the efforts of partners BSP, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. to strengthen microfinance and enterprise development, and financial inclusion in the country.
Azores and the seven other winners were chosen by the National Selection Committee co-chaired by Governor Diokno and Mr. Ahmed. The committee members are: Mr. Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III, President and CEO, RFM Corporation; Ms. Teresita T. Sy-Coson, Vice Chairperson, SM Investments Corporation; Hon. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry; Ms. Imelda M. Nicolas, President, Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran; Ms. Marixi Rufino-Prieto, Former Chairperson, The Philippine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael L. Tan, Chancellor, University of the Philippines Diliman; and Mr. Fernando Zobel de Ayala, President, Ayala Corporation. The national winner received a cash prize of PhP200,000; while each of the regional winners and the special awardees were given PhP100,000. They also received a laptop; life and health insurance coverage for one year; and access to grassroots entrepreneurship management and basic computer literacy training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, another Citi Foundation program in partnership with Bayan Academy. The winners’ loan officers and microfinance institution partners were also given a plaque of recognition and cash incentive of PhP10,000 each.