An entrepreneur and leader

Published April 3, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Managing a business is difficult enough, but serving as barangay official at the same time makes it even more difficult. Abdulia Austria, a native of Palawan, however, has always been known as being tough as a nail, never backing down from any challenge in pursuing goals.
 
Small wonder then that the tourist inn owner and barangay kagawad (official) is recognized as Special Awardee for Community Leadership in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.
Abdulia Austria (2nd from left) receives her Special Awardee for Community Leadership prize last December 6 during the awarding ceremonies at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. With her in the photo are (from left) Monetary Board Member Antonio Abacan, Jr.; Ayala Corporation President and National Selection Committee Member Fernando Zobel de Ayala; and Abdulia’s account officer Mark Jeson Laurin.
Abdulia Austria (2nd from left) receives her Special Awardee for Community Leadership prize last December 6 during the awarding ceremonies at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. With her in the photo are (from left) Monetary Board Member Antonio Abacan, Jr.; Ayala Corporation President and National Selection Committee Member Fernando Zobel de Ayala; and Abdulia’s account officer Mark Jeson Laurin.
Funded by the Citi Foundation, the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) program recognizes outstanding microentrepreneurs around the Philippines. The program, first launched in 2002—the same year Citi marked its 100th anniversary in the Asia Pacific, including the Philippines—is a signature initiative of the Citi Foundation aimed at generating economic opportunities for low-income people including youth, around the globe.
 
The awards program provides entrepreneurs with resources to strengthen their business, including access to networks, capital, tools and training, and enables individuals to create economic sustainability for themselves, their families, and their communities.
 
The CMA program is a combined effort of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. to strengthen microfinance and enterprise development and financial inclusion in the country.
 
Abdulia, who raised her child as a solo parent in 1995, worked as hard as she could – as a landscape artist in a beach resort, as an English tutor, and selling just about anything from beauty products to livestock. When  she returned to her hometown, Port Barton, Abdulia put up a sari-sari store.
 
Port Barton is a beach town frequented by tourists, so in 2009, Abdulia thought of offering tour boats for rent. Her first loan of P5,000 from Taytay sa Kauswagan, Inc. (TSKI) was invested in a pump boat for tourists who go island-hopping around Palawan.
 
With income from the boat rental business, Abdulia decided to take advantage of the booming tourism industry in Port Barton.
 
In 2017, she renovated two rooms in their old house, and built a family room with airconditioning and hot and cold shower. The construction of two native cottages and a tree house soon followed. Abdulia’s current loan with TSKI stands at P50,000, which was used to renovate what is now known as Unodus Tourist Inn.
 
Accommodations cost from P800 to P2,500 depending on the type of room. Boat rental rates are at P700 per head for the island tour, and P2,000 per head for overnight camping (inclusive of food).
 
When she started, Abdulia’s assets were worth only P19,000, but since then, that has grown to P4 million. In a year, Abdulia earns a net income of over P1 million from her sari-sari store, boat rentals, and lodging house.
One of Abdulia’s cottages in Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan. She has her hands full with responsibilities as entrepreneur, public servant, and as leader or member of various civic organizations in her place.
One of Abdulia’s cottages in Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan. She has her hands full with responsibilities as entrepreneur, public servant, and as leader or member of various civic organizations in her place.
 
Kahit off-peak season, online kami, so may mga customers na local and foreign tourists. May booking na kami for overnight camping sa 2019, kaya nagpapagawa kami ngayon ng malaking bangka (Our business is online, so even during off-peak season, we have customers—local and foreign tourists. We already have a booking for overnight camping in 2019, so we are having a big boats made for that),” Abdulia shared.
 
If you ask Abdulia, the biggest change in her life brought about by her business success is being financially capable to help those in need—from their church she attends to her siblings’ children, to aunts who are on maintenance medication. “Yung walang-wala (Those who have absolutely nothing),” she said.
 
Abdulia is not just a microentrepreneur but a public servant as well. After previously holding a barangay post, she returned as an elected kagawad in 2007 and continues to serve her barangay up to this day.
 
Abdulia leads the barangay’s coastal clean-up activity, participates in Brigada Eskwela, provides assistance in barangay training and seminars, and leads programs for senior citizens, women, and the youth. As kagawad, Abdulia chairs the Committee on Ways and Means, and Committee on Health and Sanitation.
 
Her secret to being able to divide her time between business and government service is simple: time management. She wakes up as early as 2 a.m., so she can offer hotel guests free coffee or tea when they wake up.
 
Her secret to business success, on the other hand, is this: “Kailangan may goal at dapat maabot ito. Dapat may tiyaga at determinasyon. Laban lang nang laban (Have a goal and make sure you achieve it. You need hard work with determination. Just keep on fighting),” Abdulia said.
 
As CMA Special Awardee for Community Leadership, Abdulia received P100,000 in cash, which she used to purchase a generator and a washing machine for the lodging house, as well as construction equipment for renovations and repairs.
 
Abdulia’s winnings also include a laptop, basic computer literacy training, life insurance coverage for one year, and access to a nine-day entrepreneurship training program at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center. Abdulia was also honored with a town hall celebration in her community.
 
Abdulia and seven other winners of the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards were chosen by a National Selection Committee jointly chaired by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla, Jr. and Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed. The committee members are: Antonino Alindogan, Jr., independent director, Philippine Airlines, Inc.; Jose Maria Concepcion III, Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship; Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairperson, SM Investments Corporation; Atty. Felipe Gozon, chairman and CEO, GMA Network, Inc.; Secretary Ramon Lopez, Department of Trade and Industry; Mary Ann Montemayor, Mindanao Private Sector Representative, National MSME Development Council; Imelda Nicolas, trustee, SPARK! Philippines; MarixiRufino-Prieto, chair, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael Tan, chancellor, University of the Philippines Diliman; Orlando Vea, president, Voyager Innovations, Inc.; and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president, Ayala Corporation.
 
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