By Flor G. Tarriela
WOMEN Business Council Philippines (WomenBizPH), composed of the top women business leaders and the lead private sector partner of government, specifically the Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Commission on Women, celebrated its 25th anniversary recently.
Women represent about half of the Philippine population and the bulk of micro, small and medium enterprises, which are considered the backbone of the Philippine economy, accounting for 99.5% of local businesses.
Senator Risa Hontiveros was the keynote speaker at the anniversary. Charter WomenBiz President Sabsy Palanca reminisced the history of WomenBiz. Twenty five years ago, then President Fidel Ramos empowered women in business, assisted by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Cesar Bautista and DTI Undersecretary Ernie Ordoñez, to search for nine women from different industries with national and international exposure to form the Women Business Council of the Philippines. Its purpose is to be the voice of women in business and serve as the platform to discuss women’s issues in business and possible government policies and solutions. The nine women were: Sabsy, Elena Lim, Emily Abrera, Yoly Ong, Doris Magsaysay Ho, Margie dela Rama, the late Aida Gordon, and current trustees Lorna Kapunan and Evelyn Singson.
Among WomenBizPH’s achievements, Sabsy recalled the first lending window for women available under easy terms or even collateral free and the first inclusion of the contribution of women in business to the household income in the National Census and many others. She mentioned then Land Bank of the Philippines’ President Doy Casuela (currently Philippine National Bank’s acting president) who launched the Pinay project, which lent billions to women in business. Development Bank of the Philippines also launched a special loan window called Inclusive Lending for Aspiring Women in 2014.
There were a few men among the guests who attended the anniversary, notably “Honorary Woman” DTI Ernie Ordoñez, FINEX President Mike Guarin, and our chair and president’s supportive husbands, “Mr. Right” Ray Jarina and Pastor Joey Rafael. Behind every successful man is a woman, and we can say the same for successful women.
I joined WomenBiz because of its noble purpose of helping women and I can’t say “No” to Chit Juan. Chit was the buyer of my mom’s coffee seedlings, a business Nanay started at age 91. So, age doesn’t really matter.
My first WomenBiz event was at a party in Alabang, with lively women and good food spread so nicely. I thought, wow, this is life. Good to be a member of WomenBiz. But I spoke too soon. I realized the group was relentless, determined, and passionate in their mission to be the Voice of Women in Business and Commerce, inspiring and creating opportunities, so dedicated and hardworking under the leadership of Aurora “Boots” Garcia and Chit Juan, Chit and Chiqui Escareal Go, Chiqui and Monette Iturralde-Hamlin, Monette and Mylene Abiva and Mylene and Rosemarie Rafael as chairman and president, respectively.
WomenBiz women are all successful and “no-nonsense” ladies, action-oriented with purpose. The recent trade fair in Megamall was to help the women in Abra right after the earthquake to sell their craft. They were also made available at the party so the ladies shopped with a purpose.
President Mylene must have been so inspired with finding her “Mr. Rightm” I have never seen so many projects in so short a time such as the I am Woman book and webinar, among others. This “whirlwind of activities” is still carried on with President Rosemarie. I invited Rosemarie to be a member of WomenBiz just last year and today, I’m very happy she is now leading the club together with co-superwoman Mylene.
That night the ladies just enjoyed the memorable and inspiring evening, looking forward to the next 25 years!
Flor G. Tarriela was former chairwoman of the Philippine National Bank., former undersecretary of finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow. A gardener and an environmentalist, she established Flor’s Garden in Antipolo, an ATI Accredited National Extension Service Provider and a DOT Accredited Agri Tourism Site.