Martha Stewart: Sustainable development, legacy

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FINEX Folio -- By Flor G. Tarriela


It was full house at the Martha Stewart Leadership event sponsored by ANC at Sofitel. Who is Martha Stewart? Why is she such a big celebrity? She is the first self-made American woman billionaire who has consistently reinvented herself. She is the icon in lifestyle, baking and gardening, among others, and has built an empire in publishing and selling many Martha Stewart home items.

What are some lessons of her success? If you have an idea, especially a good one that fills a void, DO IT! Wake up early. She starts the day before 7am daily. No substitute for hard work and “the early bird gets the worm.” Be observant, be curious and learn something new all the time. Be open minded to new ideas. She said if she writes an article about something today and finds out there is something better tomorrow, she will write another article about it. Be flexible. Attention to details. As they say, “the devil is in the details.” You must have balance and if you’re an entrepreneur, she said “dress well and never be sloppy.” Well, at 78 years old, she is fashionable and certainly looked younger.

Her life wasn’t always a bed of roses. She was imprisoned for a time. When asked about it, she simply said she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “While it wasn’t pleasant, it was not the end of the world.” Her attitude about it said all. She doesn’t dwell on the negatives to bring her down.

At the event, “super woman” Cora Claudio asked how she would like to be remembered and what legacy does she want to leave behind? Martha responded that she doesn’t think about these things and just focus on what she loves doing and always do her best. The products of her efforts are her legacy, she said.

Cora is in charge of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) Sustainability committee to help government in the reforestation of the Laguna Lake Watershed area (10 times bigger than Singapore) in the Program on Reforestation with Development for Laguna Lake Watershed (PRD-LLW). The plan is to reforest denuded and idle areas with bamboo and indigenous native trees. Hand in hand is vegetable farming to ensure that there will be short term crops to eat as well as livelihood and profitable business to go with it.

Bamboo is grass and grows so fast. According to “Bamboo King” Ed Manda and Celia Elumba, Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Director for Textiles, kawayan tinik bamboos, eight months to no more than two years old are good for textiles. So in a relatively short term of one year, you can already start harvesting and the beauty is without killing the bamboo which is grass, unlike a tree.

Cora has mobilized partnerships in both private sector experts — such as Tony Oposa, Jun Palafox, Cielito and Pilar Habito, Vince Perez, Jimmy Ladao, Toto Malvar, and Bamboo Queen Kay Jimenez, among others — and government which includes Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, DoST Secretary Fortunato dela Pena, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Ching Plaza for PEZA accreditation, and the Development Bank of the Philippines’ Rolly Metin for grants and funding.

So many are passionate about the environment. The formidable group Cora harnessed for the giant task ahead has started moving.

We visited the beautiful Wonder Island Resort in the middle of Laguna de Bay graciously hosted by Rudy Pua and daughter Lanie. The lake is heavily silted due to soil erosion from deforestation and pollution. But there is hope. Working together towards reforestation and sustainability development, we may have a legacy to leave behind.


Flor Gozon Tarriela is the Chairman of Philippine National Bank. She is the Liaison Director for Environment of FINEX Foundation. She is former Undersecretary of Finance and the First Filipina Vice President of Citibank N.A. Contact her at