What’s Now, What’s New, What’s Next in Business

Published February 1, 2021, 8:00 AM

by MB Business

This is part of a series of profiles on a new generation of leaders, thinkers, creators, innovators, and trailblazers across many fields in the country. The list is drawn under the theme “What’s Now, What’s New, What’s Next” in celebration of Manila Bulletin’s 121st anniversary as an exponent of Philippine progress.

Michelle Tiu Lim: An heiress leads Mega Global journey

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Michelle Tiu Lim was raised by a strong mother, who gave her the strength to lead the country’s largest sardines manufacturing firm Mega Global Corporation.

“I can say that being a woman did not hinder me from taking on the challenging role of the COO,” said Michelle.

Michelle Tiu Lim

But his father inspired her: “My father is a very good and inspiring teacher. He is strict with us but also very liberal. From him, I have learned the values of humility, hard work and respect for everyone. These values helped shaped me to be a better leader.”

For the past 21 years, Michelle devoted her time witnessing the growth of the family company. “I will continue to improve efficiencies and focus on the numbers using the right metrics for each department,” said Michelle. Aside from that, Michelle said she will also focus more on people development and succession planning as she emphasized a team of employees with genuine “malasakit” for the growth of the company.

Acknowledging it is not easy to find this kind of employees, Michelle shared that they nurture their employees’ professional growth along with the growth of the company. “For me, happy and motivated employees are what drive a company to its success,” she added.

“My goal is to keep the dominant market leadership for Mega Sardines not only in the Philippines but worldwide. We also plan to launch new brands and product lines to complement our existing products so we can take advantage of our high distribution reach. Ultimately, I aim to diversify into new businesses that can complement our operations,” she said.

Together with her siblings, Michelle is confident the family legacy will live on. “We can be instrumental to faster growth of the company that our parents have built from the ground up,” said Michelle.

Michelle proudly said that the family siblings work together as a team, maintain an open communication, and pull each other up.

“My vision is for Mega Global Corporation to be a self-sustaining company with exponential growth driven by passionate, reliable and happy employees. We want our employees to be proud that they work at Mega. I also envision Mega Global to have presence all over the world with great relationships with both customers and suppliers,” Michelle said.

Michelle Lim-Gankee:  The daughter groomed to lead rice hybrid producer

By  Madelaine B. Miraflor

When it comes to the developments at the SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC), the biggest hybrid rice producer in the Philippines, it’s normally its founder, Henry Lim Bon Liong, who is at the forefront of discussion.

If it’s not him, it’s usually Michelle Lim-Gankee, who is under the spotlight, making a speech and doing public interviews on behalf of the company.

Michelle Lim-Gankee

Well, Lim-Gankee, who serves as an executive vice president of SLAC, also happens to be Mr. Lim’s daughter.

She, together with her sisters Hazel Lim-Lee Hok and Pauline Lim, was also responsible for bringing the global cosmetics brand Inglot to the Philippines. She likewise serves as VP for Marketing and Business Development in Sterling Paper Products, a company that was built by her late grandfather. 

In an interview with Business Bulletin, Lim-Gankee shared her vision for SLAC as well as her contributions to the company that her father founded.

“I have been working in our family business for 22 years now. I started in SL Agritech 10 years ago,” Lim Gankee said.

“SL Agritech’s technology is in producing high yielding hybrid rice seeds to maximize the yield and income of farmers while also providing premium rice to the Filipino people. Our long term goal is for the Philippines to be self-sufficient in rice and uplifting the lives of more Filipino farmers. We also want to continue providing delicious high-quality rice for Filipinos and to the rest of the world to enjoy especially our healthy brown rice which is really the best tasting brown rice in the market,” she further said.

Built in 2000, SLAC is the company behind the famous special rice brand, Doña Maria, which is now being exported to different countries. Its founder, Lim-Gankee’s father, Mr. Lim, is now regarded as the Philippines ’ “Father of Hybrid Rice” by many people.

According to Lim-Gankee, it was during her time in SLAC when the company started exporting Doña Maria rice.

“We made sure to have complete certifications to pass all the requirements of our clients. We are proud to see that Doña Maria rice is available in 14 countries now and still growing. It’s time to share the best-tasting rice in the Philippines to the world,” she said.

To be specific, SLAC is a private company engaged in the research, development, production, and distribution of hybrid rice seed and premium quality rice.

It is also part of the Sterling Paper Group of Companies, which is a diversified paper manufacturing company that was founded by Mr. Lim’s father, Lim Seh Leng, in 1946.

Moving forward, Lim-Gankee said the challenge now for SLAC is the decrease of the income of the farmers due to imported rice that are flooding the market.

Ana Aboitiz-Delgado: Reshaping PH banking with digitalization

By Myrna M. Velasco

Pre-pandemic days, digital banking was a road less travelled or it might even had been an unpaved pathway in the Philippine banking industry.

But there’s one lion-hearted player prudently trailblazing its course into the digital highway – that’s Aboitiz-led Union Bank of the Philippines. It wasn’t exactly a ‘big bang’ approach, but its manifest during the pandemic-lockdowns that Union Bank’s digital banking play flourished — and the brand successfully pivoted to become almost synonymous to digitalization.

Ana Aboitiz-Delgado, is a fifth generation business leader from the famed Aboitiz clan, designated with a key role at Union Bank — as executive vice president and chief customer experience officer, a responsibility giving her the opportunity to experience direct connections with clients transacting with the bank.

Ana Aboitiz-Delgado

This MBA graduate from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a recipient of several awards, including one of Asia’s Top Outstanding Women Marketer of the Year 2020, believes that “it’s essential to see the purchase behind every fund transfer made, to fuel the story being built by every loan granted, and to honor every dream behind each peso carefully saved.”

She reckons that “banking has never been about money. Banking has been and always will be about people and uplifting lives.” 

With initial successes gaining traction, Delgado credits the Union Bank team “whose hard work has redefined banking experience and made banking accessible to millions of Filipinos especially amid this pandemic where we have been able to service our clients with little to no disruption.”

 And as technological advancements galvanize even higher degree of complexities for businesses, Delgado enthused “to be a successful business leader, one must be an innovator and a compelling storyteller,” and “one must be able to guide seasoned and aspiring leaders alike to deliver work that matters,” – primarily in building brands that make a difference in customers’ lives and have the ability to adapt to the ever changing times.

“As socioeconomic trends evolve at an increasingly fast pace, future business leaders will need to be open to considering different business models from what they’ve been used to,” she added.
Delgado similarly views the modern-day consumer integrating many facets in product preference and brand patronage, hence, this will require corporate movers and shakers “to revisit the definition of a competitor” – to still do benchmarking but position the business beyond the boundaries of what competition offers.

Danielle R. Del Rosario:  ‘People first’

By Myrna M. Velasco

As the whole world faces financial turbulence, corporations are steering the wheel on finding solutions so the economic backbone of a country will thrive.

For PHINMA Corporation which is into education, construction and real estate businesses, the conglomerate is pacing into a direction that gives premium to enhancement of training and sharpening the skill set of its employees, so they can contribute fully in the company’s growth.

Danielle R. Del Rosario

A young corporate figure who is leading the company into that route is Danielle R. Del Rosario, vice president and chief risk officer of the PHINMA Group, who believes that “leaders must have ‘people first’ mentality.” And by that, she means “investing in continuous learning and talent development of their employees and executives to support a changing and dynamic workforce.”

With the strike of the pandemic, she emphasized that it is crucial for companies these days  “to have a merged business imperative and social imperative to match the needs of our people with our business objectives.”

Despite the pressure of ensuring viable operations of the company, Del Rosario qualified that a business leader must still strive to choose kindness, – because that can serve as potent weapon you can use in stimulating the organization, so they will do their best to contribute to the scale of work and solutions needed in ensuring the success of a business — and that’s a core value she adheres to, especially in carrying out her critical task of assessing and addressing the risk factors impacting their company.

“Even the smartest leaders can fail at sincerity and ‘commitment to purpose’ if they are lacking in empathy and kindness,” she said.

She is the daughter of PHINMA President and CEO Ramon R. Del Rosario Jr., but Danielle’s move up the corporate ladder wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. In her work, this younger Del Rosario generation sets a high bar for dynamic thinking and innovation as long- term anchors of corporate success – citing modern-day business paragons such as logistics giant Amazon; or the women-led THINX (a period-proof underwear maker) or even start-up firm CANVA that offers design templates for free – as business models that present and future corporate captains must seriously contemplate on if they have to ensure business sustainability or to whet the appetite of consumers in patronizing their products.

Lorraine Belo-Cincochan: A woman spearheads Wilcon Depot’s expansion

By James A. Loyola

Lorraine Belo-Cincochan has steered Wilcon Depot Inc. after the Belo family consolidated its retail home improvement business in 2016 and took the lead in taking the company public in 2017. 

Since then, she has been taking charge of the company’s rapid expansion nationwide as the leading home improvement and construction supply chain in the Philippines.

Belo-Cincochan started working in Wilcon Depot in 2000 under the training and guidance of her father, the company’s founder, William T. Belo. Eventually, she has taken more roles and responsibilities and served as IT Department head.

Lorraine Belo-Cincochan

With the company’s aggressive expansion plans, she was entrusted to lead and manage the first-ever depot store format of Wilcon from 2003 to 2005. 

Following her success and experience in managing the first Wilcon Depot store, she then moved to serve as the Executive Vice President for Operations in 2005.  To continually support the rapidly growing organization, she was appointed as the Chief Financial Officer in 2006, holding the position until March of 2016.

Belo-Cincochan was named as one of the Forbes Emergent 25: The Women Making Their Mark In Asia’s Enterprises – the only Filipino on the list.  

Not resting on her laurels, Belo-Cincochan said her goal is to grow Wilcon Depot to 150 branches by 2025 “to serve all the home improvement and building needs of every Filipino homeowner and builder across the country.”

“Barring any unexpected external factors. I am truly humbled to share that we are on track in fulfilling our #FlyingHighTo100 store expansion campaign as Wilcon now has a 65-strong store network nationwide bringing our top-notch products and excellent services,” she added.

While personally trained by the family patriarch on the ropes of the business, Belo Cincochan also brings a fresher approach in management.

“I noticed that younger leaders focus on innovation, growth, and people. We always find new ways to do things more efficiently and effectively as we take advantage of the power of technology and automation,” she said adding that, “For our people, we focus on empowering them, maximizing their strengths, and helping them flourish and become promising leaders in the future.”

Antonio Tiu: Setting a good example 

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Businessman Antonio “Tony” Tiu, 45, believes that being considered a next generation leader demands that he set a good example and be an inspiration.

Ever since he started in business, Tiu made a big splash in the business community. Starting with his agriculture venture, Tony is now a diversifying company with ventures in infrastructure and green technologies.

Tiu pioneered a green revolution venture with AgriNurture, Inc. (ANI) and Greenergy Holdings Inc. (GREEN). Then he jumped on the infrastructure bandwagon with Philippine InfraDev Holdings Inc. (IRC), Makati City Subway Inc., Agricultural Bank of the Philippines, and The Big Chill Inc.

Antonio Tiu

“I’m an advocate of change.  Embracing change in the way we do things and adapting to change in the way we run our companies. That’s why I’m pioneering a green revolution within my organization. The pandemic is a wake-up call for all. We should invest in green technologies, as we keep our eyes open for opportunities,” says Tiu, a graduate of the University of New South Wales Master of Commerce in 1999 and  De La Salle University where he finished BS Commerce in 1996, and Chiang Kai Shek College in 1993.

Even as he moves forward to modern technologies, Tiu says that success can be ensured by looking at lessons of the past. “I’m an avid follower of history. To succeed we must always look back — to follow trailblazers while avoiding their mistakes. I will try to be different by continuously innovating and creating my own path,” says Tiu, who hails from Zambales.

He has learned that doing business is not easy — there are good and bad days. But for Tiu, the key is to invest wisely, to find the right partners at the right time and to work hard. There’s no substitute to discipline and hard work.

His hard work did not go unnoticed. Tiu was recognized as EY Emerging Entrepreneur of 2009 and a TOYM 2011 awardee.      

That is why everything he does comes with a green vision. From farming to digitalization of the agri sector; from investing in renewable energy to building underground mass transportation, all these are geared towards the same goal: to build a greener Philippines for the next generation.

“Our goal is to always innovate to be a first mover and improve everyday as a team.  These will ensure our success,” said Tiu.

Justin Pe: Raised to build a business 

By Lee C. Chipongian

Billionaire John Gokongwei Jr.’s grandson, the 25-year old Justin Pe, is a confectionery senior scientist at food and beverage giant Universal Robina Corp. (URC). It’s a job he’s very good at, having studied B.S. Chemistry at New York University.

Right after school – he graduated in 2017 – he was hired as product quality adviser at Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. in 2018 and as its business development analyst a year later. In mid-2019, he left Shell and became a senior brand assistant and confectionary scientist at URC.

“I am currently part of the manufacturing side of our food business URC, where I work as a food scientist at the Global Innovation Center. Having finished a degree in chemistry, I want to apply and put in to good use in URC what I’ve learned in college. I want to develop and create products that people will love and enjoy,” said Pe.

Justin Pe

Working for the family is home to him, especially URC which is the JG Summit Group’s largest subsidiary company. It is also a company named after his mother, Robina Gokongwei-Pe, the taipan’s eldest daughter.

Pe said his parents have been the greatest influence in his life. His father is Perry Pe, a senior partner at Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and De los Angeles.

“They have always supported me and have helped me with major decisions that I have made in my life,” he said. “They both continue to inspire me to be indomitable and not to give up easily when I encounter setbacks. They also encourage me to explore,” he said.

Outside of the family business, Pe has shown a penchant for investing and he continues to hone his financial and analytical skills by reading books and “watching shows in Netflix to expand my knowledge.”

“More recently, I have also started dabbling in trading at the stock market and have started to develop an interest on the investment side. Immersing myself in these pursuits I think will help further expand my knowledge in business,” said Pe.

He admits he has a long way to go, and he knows he is going to be a lifelong learner of business as part of a prominent family that helped build the nation.

“I don’t see myself as leader yet; I’m far from it,” said Pe on being tagged as one of the nextgen business leaders.

“But wherever I go I’m still going to apply the values that my late grandfather, Mr John, has taught us all, especially on how the family is here to support the business; the business is not here to support the family,” said Pe.

Dante Recio Bravo: Mining industry’s credible leader

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Dante Bravo comes with a very impressive resume. A CPA-lawyer, and among the top 10 in the bar exam in 2001, Dante served as director in the Tax Division of SGV & Co, the largest auditing firm in the Philippines, and a member firm of the Ernst & Young Global. He was a special lecturer in taxation to Philippine bar reviewees enrolled in San Beda as well as a lecturer in taxation for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) administered by the Supreme Court.

Thus, when he finally became the president of the country’s second largest nickel ore exporter – Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc.— the mining industry gained a prime mover. He is also the president of the various wholly-owned subsidiaries of FNI, namely: Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC), Surigao Integrated Resources, Corp., PGMC-CNEP Shipping Corporation and Ipilan Nickel Corporation. Dante is also president of Philippine Nickel Industry Association.

Dante Recio Bravo

At a time when the mining is under so much pressure from all sides, Dante lends a credibility. He himself is confident of what he can do to make the industry better.

He understands there is a high expectation for the current leaders in the mining industry. Unlike the previous leaders, Dante realizes the mining industry has to address issues that were never a concern of the past. These are environmental protection and preservation, protection of   indigenous  people’s  rights, local  and national development, tax and royalty contributions, etc.

“As leaders of today in   the mining industry, we have to consider all these things, including our contribution to future generations,” says Dante, who makes it a point to always continue learning things that were never taught in school.

And rightly so, Dante is in a position right now of greater influence and contribution. “I am able to understand better the mining  industry in terms of its  importance to the world,   particularly, on value creation, modernizing the world, environmental    protection  and preservation,  and social development. I am able to help generate jobs, develop communities, contribute taxes,  protect the environment     and expand to other ventures  to create more value and help more people  and communities. All these    things bring  joy to me,” says Dante.

He sees FNI diversifying into complementary businesses like steel manufacturing  and logistics to ensure the long-term growth of the company. This can be achieved by having a good management team that has lots of energy integrity and a company that takes care of its people and the community.

Lester Yu: A leader for a healthy lifestyle 

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

LESTER C. YU, CEO of Lush Enterprises that eventually evolved into Fruitas Holdings Inc., grew the business to 1,000 stores nationwide with notable brands that promote healthy lifestyle.

Before founding his own company, Yu helped out in their family business and ventured in the corporate world from banking and marketing. It was 2002 when Yu officially established Lush Enterprises by opening his first Fruitas Fresh from Babot’s Farm kiosk in SM City Manila.

Now, his brands include, Fruitas fresh from Babot’s Farm, Black Pearl, Johnn Lemon, Buko Loco, Buko ni Fruitas, De Original Jamaican Pattie, and Sabroso Lechon, among others.

Lester Yu

The publicly-listed company has expanded its product portfolio to pursue its mission of providing healthy, delicious, and affordable products. In the medium term, Lester is targeting to increase annual revenues to P5 billion and increase annual net income to P500 million within a 5-year horizon, and 2,000 store network on or before 2025.

As next generation leader in this digital age, Lester has used technologies to execute faster, simpler, and data-driven decisions.

Lester says its success is ensured through its unique competitive advantage, strong market leadership, and its highly competent management team. Aside from this, the company is known to provide healthy and delicious products such that allowed them to be market leaders in four categories: Fruit Shake, Buko, Meat-filled pasties, and Lemonade.

“We continue to maintain this leadership and build on other brands to achieve the same in their respective categories,” says Lester as he merged both past and present experiences to ensure sustained growth.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. He was named the Entrepreneur of Year award in 2017 by Ernst & Young and has led the Group to be a national and regional finalist under two major categories in the ASEAN Business Awards 2017.

While he would follow the best practices of his idols in business, Lester also stressed that leadership evolves as the environment progresses. “That’s what the previous generation of leaders did which my generation should always be mindful of,” he stresses.

True to his mission of providing healthy beverages and products, Lester espouses a healthy lifestyle.

“Health is the top priority everybody should consider. Being physically healthy through food intake and daily activities improves the person’s ability to discern, decide, and execute tasks successfully,” said Lester.

Raymond B. Ravelo: Energy sustainability and the future of mobility

By Myrna M. Velasco

Big bets are on the table for innovative technologies and corporate rulebooks are changing for escalating push on energy transition agendas – not just in the Philippines but all over the world.
At Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distribution utility, it is not just transforming business platforms on how its customers will be efficiently served, but it’s also pushing the frontiers on how ‘sustainability’ will thrive as its corporate holy grail; and how it can gain ‘followership’ on this goal not just in the MVP group but across corporate spectrums.

A rising business leader from the MVP-led conglomerate who is doing the heavy lifting on the group’s sustainability goals is Raymond B. Ravelo, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Meralco. He is also the president and CEO of eSakay Inc., the electric vehicle (EV) business unit of the group.

Raymond B. Ravelo

Sensibly thinking about the state of planet Earth he would want his 5-year old son Pio to have in the future, Ravelo is keenly motivated on advancing sustainable use of energy – that a power company like them must not just serve the electricity needs of consumers today, but it must give premium to the welfare of the next generation — so they too can live comfortably without the perils of degraded environment.

“Amid a world that is unwell, sustainability should be front and center in a business leader’s agenda. I believe that we must go beyond ‘business as usual’, ensuring that our actions and decisions will not only deliver profits for shareholders, but more importantly, contribute to the protection and preservation of our planet,” he asserted.

An Ivy Leaguer armed with MBA from Wharton School-University of Pennsylvania, this insightful young executive looks up to Bill Gates as a business icon whom he draws inspiration from – cheering on the kind of metamorphosis that the American billionaire had pulled off, from being the founder and driving force behind Microsoft and then re-channeling his business success to humanitarian works, primarily in helping farmers produce more food with sustainable farming techniques, supporting developing countries eradicate the menace of malaria; and promoting research to develop HIV treatments, among others.

“My hope is that future Filipino leaders will also make the same bold decision to place sustainability at the core of companies’ strategies and operations to meaningfully contribute to better lives for all – today and for generations to come,” Ravelo stressed.

Alvin Lao: Launched an unknown firm and succeeded

By James A. Loyola

D&L Industries Inc., the country’s largest producer of specialty food ingredients, plastics, and oleochemicals firm, was a bit of a puzzler for the stock market when it had decided to go public in 2012 because there is no other locally listed company engaged in the businesses it is in.

But D&L had Alvin D. Lao, then its Chief Finance Officer, who personally went out of his way to introduce the company to fund managers, stock market analysts and investors to show them the unique advantages the firm has as consumer company.

Alvin Lao

These efforts paid off with D&L’s successful initial public offering and, for a time, the stock was considered a darling of the local market. Lao’s efforts to reach out to stakeholders was recognized by various award giving bodies. He was named Best CEO three times by the Institutional Investor and Best CFO by Finance Asia and IR (Investor Relations) Magazine.

Under his leadership, D&L was also listed among Forbes’ Asia’s Best Under a Billion companies, in Asian Development Bank’s Top 50 Best Performing listed companies, as well as other awards for management and investor relations from CLSA, Campden FB, and AsiaMoney.

 While a member of the family that controls D&L, Alvin did not start working for the company until much later.

  Lao started his career as an IT professional who graduated with honors from the University of Western Australia with a double major in Information Technology and Statistics. He worked as an IT professional at the Singapore National Computer Board before getting his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management (1995).

He interned at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York (1996) before joining D&L as Management Trainee and worked his way up to be Finance Officer, then Finance Manager, before becoming CFO from 2005 to 2016 and CEO starting 2016.

 It was during Lao’s tenure as CFO and CEO when D&L was aggressively expanding its businesses and looking overseas for growth.

“We are currently expanding our production capacity by building a new plant in an export zone, as we are targeting to reach 50 percent of our sales coming from exports within the next five to ten years,” he said.

Now at the helm of the company, Lao values lessons learned from his predecessors, noting that, “I think both generations can learn from each other. I believe the past generation relied a lot more on gut instinct, whereas I think our generation probably relies more on analysis.”

Paul Go:  A vision for PH glass manufacturing sector

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

PAUL GO, 40, is a risk taker. His vision to pursue the country’s glass manufacturing sector has pushed him to acquire the ailing but lone integrated glass manufacturer in the country – Asahi Glass Japan. He has to step up from being a pure glass trader to a producer.

“Despite knowing that my journey in this endeavor will not come easy, I still took the leap as this kind of opportunity does not come every day. That took me a tremendous amount of courage and hard work but it feels rather rewarding and fulfilling,” says Paul.

As leader of Pioneer Float Glass Manufacturing Inc., one of the very few remaining manufacturing firms in the country, Paul strives to become one of the best integrated manufacturers of float glass in the region to provide work and livelihood to the Filipino people through continuous innovation by investing in new technologies.

Paul Go

He acknowledges that if it were not for the previous generation of leaders, he probably would not be here. “They still remain an inspiration to me especially because of their knowledge and experiences, but I suppose our difference lies on the leadership approach I foster and the pitfalls they encountered taught me lessons from which I can learn from their mistakes,” says Paul.

As a new leader, Paul vowed to listen to his workers, provide conducive space for everyone regardless of their position, and treat them as partners.

There have been plenty of lessons to learn from in his journey that molded him as a person, but the most important is to act decisively, “to do it now.”  

“Oftentimes we have great ideas, but we get stuck because we spend more time contemplating on how things could play out rather than actually doing something about it. We focus so much on succeeding at the very first try that we forget to see there is also beauty in progress. So based on my experience, it is better to do things now and experience a little failure rather than living in regret why we did not start in the first place,” says Paul.

Christopher Lim: Franchise industry is in good hands

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Christopher Lim is slowly taking up the role of his father Samie Lim, the father of franchising not just in the Philippines, but internationally.

At 39 years old, Chris is already the CEO of Francorp Philippines, the country’s largest franchise development consultancy and president of U-Franchise. Francorp is the Philippine’s largest franchise matching company his father brought and founded in the Philippines.

After spending over a decade growing brands globally as senior global brand manager for Unilever in different parts of the world, and bagging the Agora Award for Entrepreneurship and the Young Market Masters Award, Chris came home to follow his follow his father’s footstep.

Christopher Lim

He is now helping grow hundreds of MSMEs locally and other big Filipino brands continue their  pursuit to grow across ASEAN.

“I feel privileged to be in a position to be able to help so many people through franchising. We are now reaping what my father and his partners sowed over 25 years ago. The Philippines is now the top 7th largest franchise market in the world and it is because of the many great leaders who came before and freely shared knowledge and insights to help uplift so many other entrepreneurs,” says Chris.

The previous generation of leaders focused on building a strong foundation for franchising. During his time, Chris will focus on bringing in more global ideas, use technology to help clients become better and to continue growing the franchise eco-system through new services and partnerships to help support more SMEs into their path to growth. 

“Our core mission as a company is to create thousands of entrepreneurs and millions of jobs by growing brands from one to many. I believe that the next phase of growth for the industry is to have more global Filipino franchise brands,” said Chris.

As one of the trustees of the Philippine Franchise Association, he and the other members of the board, would ensure that franchising players continue to align with the win-win principles of franchising.

“My father always taught us that to succeed, you need to have the ‘heart to honor the past.’ And for me, the best way to honor it is to build on their legacies. So in Francorp, as we bring in the latest technologies and techniques, and as I bring in new ideas I learned from working around the world, I always make sure to enrich this with discussions with leaders that have come before me. So that we not only build on their success, but also learn from their mistakes,” Chris said.

Caesar Angelo Wongchuking Jr.:  Grandson steers firm away from tobacco to new businesses

By Chino S. Leyco

A new chapter of the Wongchuking family has been set. Caesar Angelo Wongchuking Jr., grandson of a Chinese migrant who founded the country’s first post-war cigarette company, is being groomed to ensure that their empire will flourish across generations despite headwinds.

The legacy of Angelo’s grandfather, cigarette-tycoon Wong Chu King—founder of La Campana Fabrica de Tabacos—lives on even after the family’s diversification away from the tobacco business.

Caesar Angelo Wongchuking Jr.

Following the sale of Mighty Corp. to Japan Tobacco Inc. in 2017, the Wongchuking family had pivoted to new lines of business—real estate, agriculture, cold-chain, apparel manufacturing, and logistics.

Angelo is now the Executive Vice President at Czark Mak Group of Companies, an entity engaged in industrial leasing estate in Guiguinto, Bulacan that also wants diversify into other areas such as agriculture, trucking and cold storage.

At a young age, Angelo learned the key lesson about running a business. “Diversify. It’s hard to put all our eggs in one basket.”

Czark Mak is set to develop more industrial sites in the provinces and transform them into urbanize areas. Angelo said their goal is complement the government’s efforts of decongesting Metro Manila.

“We hope to be a fully integrated logistics provider nationwide in the Philippines,” Angelo said, adding this is also aligned with Czark Mak’s investment in agribusiness.

“Our organization feels that this will be a sustainable operation in the future. Agribusiness is long term and is a necessity for Filipinos. This also compliments our cold chain logistics,” he said.

Faced with the challenge due to the public health and economic crisis, Angelo is optimistic about the future as he believes that there is always an opportunity in every crisis.

“There is so much opportunity to further improve the business landscape of the Philippines with the world continuously advancing in technology,” Angelo said.

The young executive, however, is inclined to keep his family’s vision for the company, and at the same time, strive to be a better version of his predecessors described as “successful, intelligent and experienced businessmen.”

 “I look to follow the footsteps of my dad,” he said, referring Caesar Wongchuking. “He always taught me to wake up early, work hard, be prompt and look into the details.”

Ferdinand Co: The value of honor

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Ferdinand Co, 53, is a third-generation leader of the low-profile originally provincial business of the Co family under the Cebu Oversea group of companies. But he is the heir apparent to his father Napoleon Co’s Cohaco Merchandising and NGC Land Corp. and CW Home Depot.

But Ferdinand is also a first generation leader as he started Ortigas Technopoint Realty Corp., Sinisian Lemery Port Industrial Park Corp. Lemery Oil Terminal Corp. and Lemery Cement Silo Tank Corp.

Ferdinand Co

Combining the three generations, Ferdinand believes the key in having continuity in the business is hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and empowerment and a lot of blessings from God.

“I always believe in the saying that ‘Nasa Diyos ang awa at nasa Tao ang Gawa.”  They go hand in hand.   I also believe in my motto ‘We must work hard, play hard, but most of all pray hard.’   This means that success is through hard work but we should have time to enjoy clean good life that is due to blessings from God,” said Co.

The company leader attributes his success to his no non-sense management style. Even as the heir apparent, Ferdinand does not look at himself as the son of the owner. “I look at myself as a hired professional that has to meet certain targets and achievements that is expected like any hired professional manager,” Ferdinand said.

“In short, I earned my position not because of blood but due to performance and the captain of the ship with the help of many people from family, friends, business partners and employees.  As I am blessed to be given a good education, I was able to help improve and expand the businesses further through innovation and know how in empowering and professionalizing key people that help us make the company grow,” he said.

He vowed to ensure success of all existing companies to grow and expand further under his watch, to generate more employment, and help the community and government. “The lesson I learned from my father is the value of honor.  You can lose money and earn it back but if you lose your honor, it is hard to earn it back.   Such values have been passed on from my grandfather, Co Tiong to my father, Napoleon and to me, Ferdinand.  That is the secret of the success of the Co Family,” Ferdinand said.

Jerome Ong:  Leading CDO Foodsphere

By Madelaine B. Miraflor 

Jerome Ong, 53, is now the president and chief executive officer of CDO Foodsphere, Inc., one of the leading food companies in the Philippines, and is best known for easy to cook homemade meals.

He is the eldest son of CDO founders, Jose “Pepe” Ong and Corazon Ong.

Established in 1975, CDO began as a mom-and-pop shop when Ms. Corazon, who was a dietitian, started selling homemade meat products from her family’s residence in Valenzuela.

Jerome Ong

Jerome Ong, on the other hand, has been working in CDO for 29 years and started as the company’s vice president for sales and marketing. 

Under his leadership, CDO was able to operate its production facility 24/7 even at the height of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions early last year. “We are a Filipino company and in our 45-year history, we have witnessed firsthand how Filipinos triumph over challenges by simply working together. We strongly believe that our people will make it through this ordeal, and it is our responsibility to be able to help in whatever way we can,” the younger Ong said in an earlier statement.

In April last year, CDO also launched its online food delivery service called CDO Foodstore Home Delivery.

This allows consumers to order from a selection of CDO’s products using Viber or through FB Messenger. Their orders are then served by one of the company’s CDO Foodstores that are located in strategic areas within Metro Manila.

CDO is best known for its different food products, namely CDO Ulam Burger, CDO Bibbo! Hotdog, and CDO Funtastyk Young Pork Tocino, CDO Karne Norte, San Marino Corned Tuna, CDO Premium Holiday Ham, and Danes Cheese. Last year, CDO also won the Family Business Award during the ASEAN Business Awards 2020 held at the Hanoi Daewoo Hotel in Vietnam.

Edgar Saavedra: Helping build a first-world PH

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Edgar Saavedra has “mega-wide” dreams not just for his company but also for the entire Philippines. 

At 46, he is now “all-in for a first-world Philippines”, which also happens to be the current slogan of his company, Megawide Construction Corp., one of the leading engineering and infrastructure firms in the Philippines. 

“Our vision really is that the Philippines become first-world that is why from pure construction, we decided to join government projects,” Saavedra said in an interview. 

Edgar Saavedra

Established in 1997, Megawide is now the largest private airport operator in the Philippines, operating Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) with India’s GMR Infrastructure.
Megawide is also responsible for the construction and operation of Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX).

In 2012 when Megawide made the transition from being a pure construction business, catering only to private companies, to participating in the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) push. 

“We took the risk and we found out that we can do it,” Saavedra said, referring to the first PPP deal that Megawide bagged in 2012, which is the construction of 10,000 classrooms for the Department of Education. “It turned out okay and it all started from there. We also won an airport project [Mactan-Cebu International Airport].”

Now, Cebu (airport) has been designated a UNESCO City of Design because of MCIA, the most modern and second busiest airport in the Philippines.  

Saavedra was 22 years old when he built Megawide in 1997 at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis (1997). 

In 2019, Saavedra became the 34th richest man in the Philippines, having a net worth of US$260 million or more than P12 billion, based on Forbes’ list.

Saavedra’s engineering experience spans more than 20 years. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from De La Salle University.  After obtaining his license as a Civil Engineer, he pursued special studies in Foundation Formwork’s in Germany, through the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.

Moving forward, Saavedra envisions building more modern airports and public transport terminals across different parts of the country, saying that the company will push for more partnerships with local government units (LGU), not just the national government.  Just this month, Megawide announced that it struck a P5-billion deal to redevelop Cebu’s famous and oldest market, Carbon Market. The partnership was a joint venture agreement with the LGU of Cebu City.

Joshua Aragon: Bridging the gap between farmers, consumers

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Filipino-Chinese are known for their business acumen, and Joshua Aragon, 32, grew up learning from the best.

Aragon came from a family of grocery chain owners. Even when he was just a young boy, Aragon would visit his family’s grocery stores and observe how the business was run. Seeing how his family worked really inspired the young Aragon.  He already knew back then that he wanted to go into business.

Joshua Aragon

He studied Manufacturing Engineering and Management specialized in Biomedical Engineering in De La Salle University (DLSU) then later went to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and took up the Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA). 

In 2019, Aragon was selected to attend the Alibaba E-Founders Program and learned how rural e-commerce was done in China. Aragon saw how the farmers in China benefited through the program and sought to implement it in the Philippines. 

Zagana Inc., an online farm to kitchen platform, was formed after he visited the province of Benguet and talked to a farmer he fondly called “Nanay.” 

During the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) Kadiwa Agribiz Webinar on Sept. 16, 2020, Aragon said he was shocked to learn that Nanay had incurred a big debt even though she owned a huge plot of land with bountiful harvest. He discovered that Nanay had to take out loans just so she can hire people to harvest her crops. In the event that her crops go bad, Nanay had to get additional loans and start all over again. Unscrupulous traders also made Nanay’s predicament worse as they forced her to sell her crops at unreasonable prices.

The young entrepreneur wanted to empower hardworking farmers such as Nanay, so Zagana Inc. decided to bridge the gap between the food producers and consumers through the use of technology. Zagana Inc. directly engages with farmers and provides transportation, storage, and delivery of their goods.

While the initial focus of Zagana was to supply restaurants with fresh produce, their attention shifted after the lockdowns were implemented and more people depended on the online platform for their basic needs.

After partnering with the DA and Grab, Zagana was able to distribute over 3.5 million kilos of produce since the start of the lockdowns and help more than 20,000 farmers.

Aragon is proud that they can now deliver fresh produce within Metro Manila in less than 30 minutes through the use of their website, Zagana.com and the Zagana stores in marketplaces such as Grabmart, Lazada, and Shopee.

It is his dream to boost the country’s logistical chain for agriculture and make sure that farmers such as Nanay would have an avenue where they can sell their produce at fair market price.


Richard Lim: The ‘Xtreme’ Entrepreneur

By Art Samaniego

“Like in any business, the first few years were the hardest,” said Richard Lim, president and CEO of Sun Group of Companies. For him, the early stage of being an entrepreneur is about trial-and-error and survival.  It’s the phase of understanding the nature and risks of a business, and at the same time, investing in the right connections.

He recalled that finding a reliable supplier is a challenging task. He and his team had to fly back and forth to manufacturing companies abroad to inspect how the products are made. The other challenge for him is forming an effective team that will help the business expand and penetrate the Philippine market.

All these trials were surpassed by Richard with hard work and strategic actions. He created multiple ventures not only in the electronics sector but also in other industries.

Richard Lim, president and CEO of Sun Group of Companies

Being a new player in the market was never a hindrance for him to increase targets and get into bigger opportunities.  Richard, also known as RL, has built multiple hospitality establishments such as Red Hotel, Hotel 99, and Silere Restaurant. He also ventured in real estate, leasing, and construction by founding Sunland Building Solutions, Sunland Development Corporation, and Kiksland Development Corporation.  He also brought in the country cutting-edge and innovative devices through Sunmax Technology Corporation and Suntouch Technology Corporation, the parent company of XTREME Appliances.

Adrian Lim

With the help of Adrian Lim, president of XTREME Appliances, the brand has grown and continues to flourish in the country. It all started with an idea to consolidate appliances in one store as one brand. As a response, both of them decided to enter the consumer electronics industry. When it comes to business, his people are trained using Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” For him, it is a good starting guide for individuals who have or haven’t tried professional work. It also instills consistency in individuals and teams to achieve the perfect process of a sustainable corporation.

Dr. Far Shamsi: Fashion Smile Dental Health & Spa

By Lionelle Go-Macahilig

A proud member of the Philippine Dental Association (PDA) with a doctorate degree in dental medicine from Centro Escolar University (CEU), Filipino-Persian dental surgeon Dr. Farzaneh “Far” Shamsi is the CEO and one of the co-founders of Fashion Smile Dental Health & Spa in Makati City.

Along with her sister, Dr. Farahnaz “Farah” Shamsi, and Dr. Shahideh “Shideh” Nikbin, Far continues to bring the latest dental services and innovations to Filipinos in a country where concern about dental health remains a challenge, especially now amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Farzaneh “Far” Shamsi (center) CEO and one of the co-founders of Fashion Smile Dental Health & Spa with Dr. Farahnaz “Farah” Shamsi, and Dr. Shahideh “Shideh” Nikbin

“Many people do not understand that most of our systemic problems start with our mouth. We tend to neglect dental care, resulting in developing into something else,” Far said.

“Dental care is really significant. There are studies showing how periodontal problems can compromise your immune system. As we know, a compromised immune system right now is not favorable. The majority of COVID-19 infections had existing dental problems and higher percentage of developing complications,” she added.

Despite the pandemic, Far believes that the dental industry is strong. “The only change is more focus on how safe is the environment of the clinics. Safety right now is on top of everybody’s mind. Clinics must elevate sterilization techniques for their environment and equipment,” she stressed.

Innovating not only through technology, Fashion Smile has managed to stand out amid other clinics by also introducing Persian spa to consumers which makes the establishment exude a cozy ambiance.

“We have made our clinic as approachable as it is. We want it to be part of our clients’ routine and lifestyle, similar to going to a parlor to have a haircut. You don’t go here just because you are in pain, but because of your overall health,” Far explained.

Fashion Smile recently won the Best Cosmetic Dental Clinic Award in the 2020 South East Asia Business Awards, the latest addition to its list of accolades for being a trendsetter in the Philippine dental industry.

As part of its campaign promoting dental health, Dr. Far and partner Dr. Shideh have launched a YouTube channel in 2018. An LGBT advocate, Far also wants to send the message that it doesn’t matter what or who you are as there is always a chance for you to be successful in any industry or profession.

Victor Rivera: Helping Filipinos become software engineers

By Robert “Bob” Reyes

In a country where corporations value a printed diploma over technical skills, one college dropout has established an online school that teaches Filipinos to become remote software engineers globally.

With their mission of helping build the local tech ecosystem and making education more accessible in the Philippines, Victor Rivera and John Young co-founded Avion School [avionschool.com]with a unique “Pay only when you’re hired” scheme last February 2020.

The school promises students to learn the fundamentals of writing code and the skills of the best software engineers. They will teach you how to build software and websites using the latest engineering stack and work with teams – just like in the real world – bootcamp style (fewer theories and more on actual projects). They will also mentor you on how to apply for top software jobs. If after the bootcamp and you, unfortunately, are not hired, you don’t need to pay them a cent.

“We believe in helping students achieve higher heights that allow them to dream more and be more. Avion is a word that describes that perfectly,” according to Rivera when asked the reason why the school was named as such.

Victor Rivera

At present, many take IT courses thinking that they will land in an IT-related job. But what happens in reality, most end up in call centers or take another field completely not related to Information Technology. Also, with schools in commercial partnership with software vendors, and with little or no incentives to train students how to work with tech companies, it has become very competitive to hire talented developers out of college.

“Regardless if you are talking to a local tech startup or a large publicly listed corporation, the same problem occurs – the (software) engineers that they have are not trained to integrate with APIs. Added to that, it is just so hard to hire good engineers and the Philippine market needed a lot more engineers. The only way to do that is to teach them yourself,” added Rivera.

Avion School wants to address these problems in the shortest time possible, as they cater to both students and career shifters who wish to pursue a career in software engineering. From the time they started taking in applicants, Avion School has inked partnerships with PayMongo and Quickwire – two of the big names in the local startup scene – to supply talents in the ever-growing demand for developers.

Henry Motte-Muñoz: Empowering the youth through technology


When Henry Motte-Muñoz launched Edukasyon.ph in 2015, he felt the need to provide a clear and easily accessible guidance to students regarding their education options.

Henry Motte-Muñoz

Edukasyon.ph is a social enterprise in the education technology sector that connects students to opportunities through an online platform and promotes career awareness among the youth. “We’ve always believed that technology can unlock opportunities for our 20 million young Filipinos,” Henry said.

Edukasyon.ph grew from a search-and-apply website into a holistic platform that guides students through day-to-day choices on education, career, and lifestyle. Today, Edukasyon.ph is considered as a leading education technology platform in the country. It enables students to access information on senior high schools, colleges, and universities, even scholarship programs, and internships. In 2016, it was included in the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Accelerator Program.

By providing education the digital platform that it deserves, Henry has been recognized for his work in education technology and social entrepreneurship by global and regional organizations such as the World Economic Forum (Young Global Leaders 2020), Asia CEO Awards (Young Leader of the Year 2019), Financial Times and International Finance Corporation (Transformational Business Award 2017) and National Youth Commission (ASEAN Youth Social Entrepreneurship Awards 2017). 

“We’re grateful for investors and partners who continue to support us in creating tech-driven solutions that empower our Filipino students to thrive no matter what path they choose,” he said.

As founder and executive chairman of Edukasyon.ph, Henry is aware of the challenges that lie ahead, especially as the health pandemic impacted the organization and the education sector.

“Although this new normal is challenging, it’s going to accelerate a lot of positive trends in our education space,” he said. “We look forward to growing our educational and institutional partnerships to help ensure that no student is left behind.” 

Looking forward, Henry believes that Edukasyon.ph is ready to face the challenges of the coming years. “While we believe 2021 will still be a challenging year with the continued impact of the pandemic and the disruption that it brings, it will also be one that would continue to open opportunities in education.”


Isabella Calixto: IMpatient platform delivers efficient healthcare services


Sitting at the lobby of her doctor’s clinic anxiously waiting for her turn, a couple of years ago, young professional Isabella Calixto thought of an idea that would take out the waiting process during visits to clinics.

Two years later, the 24-year-old Industrial Management Engineering graduate built a start-up healthcare service called IMpatient, a mobile application that caters to Filipinos’ healthcare needs. It was the realization of her plan to eliminate hours of waiting in clinics and other healthcare facilities, which usually lead to stress and anxiety.

Isabella Calixto

IMpatient is a web-based platform where patients can talk to doctors through messaging, audio, or video conferencing. Through the application, patients, once logged in, can also manage their schedule and book appointments in advance.

The establishment of IMpatient became the key to the delivery of outpatient healthcare services when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, where various lockdowns prevented face-to-face consultations.

Calixto, who built IMpatient with her cousin Patricia Yap, said they needed to adapt quickly to the situation, prompting them to apply enhancements and additional features to their service.

IMpatient has also a real-time queue monitoring feature to shorten waiting time by tracking the position of patients in queue.  Through the app, patients can also obtain electronic prescriptions, referrals, and lab tests requests.

The healthcare app also allows patients to access their medical records with ease anytime and anywhere. It also features a finance tracker.  

In a previous interview with the Manila Bulletin, Calixto said building IMpatient “was derived mainly from experience.”

“Two years ago, I was waiting outside my doctor’s clinic. I can vividly recall how frustrating it was to spend more time waiting than the actual consultation, not to mention being anxious about my condition worsening. At that moment, I thought to myself, ‘there has to be a more efficient way to do this,’” she said.

IMpatient, she added, is a play on words. It can read as “I am Patient” or state “our growing impatience when dealing with inefficiencies.”   


George Royeca and Angeline Tham:  Angkas and the motorcycle taxi service

By Art Samaniego

George Royeca and Angeline Tham established the pioneering app-based motorcycle taxi service Angkas in 2017 for one reason: giving power back to millions of Filipino commuters and motorcycle riders coping with Metro Manila’s congested roads and inadequate mass transport system.

Angeline Tham

It was five years ago when Manila-based entrepreneur Tham came up with the idea of Angkas after being stuck in a six-hour traffic jam. Since then, Tham and her partner Royeca have come against a series of regulatory roadblocks in a bid to reverse the negative stance on motorcycles as a form of public transportation. Royeca and Tham have eventually charted the course for a smart regulation that legitimizes motorcycle taxis, resulting in the formation of an inter-agency body studying the viability of a new transport category for two-wheeled vehicles.

Angkas then became the poster child for a disruptive nationwide movement of motorcycle taxis in the Philippines. Through Angkas, Royeca and Tham provided commuters a solution to the crippling traffic gridlock of Metro Manila and created a community of 30,000-strong professional motorcycle taxi riders. Angkas riders make an average of P1,500 per day, which is three times the minimum wage.

George Royeca

Invested in the professionalization of the formerly stigmatized motorcycle taxis, Angkas boasts an enviable near-perfect safety record and over 100,000 bikers who have graduated from its training school for free. Keeping the quality of service, Angkas has accepted and deployed only 30 percent of that number or 30,000 riders. Since its inception, Angkas has grown with four million app downloads, while maintaining a 99.997 pecent safety rate – a testament to the trust that Filipinos have placed on Angkas.

In the time of the pandemic, Royeca and Tham aided Angkas bikers who have ceased operations with alternative ways for them to deliver services to the people and retain their livelihoods during crisis.

With the core business of Angkas depending on putting a biker and passenger in close proximity, one of the first decisions Royeca and Tham made was to develop a safe design for the government-mandated protective shield for motorcycle back riding. Royeca and Tham consulted with Total Control, a US-based motorcycle safety firm of the US Army and Marine Corps. This prototype, then, became the standard of protective shield for all motorcycle taxi service providers.

Francis ‘Frankie’ C. Ang: Bolstered by the customers

By Iñigo S. Roces

As the pandemic took hold in 2020 and lockdowns were put into effect, the automotive industry waited with baited breath for restrictions to ease. Many restrictions have since been eased since then, but recovering continues to be a goal for many in the industry.

Francis C. Ang, chief operating officer of Auto Nation Group (ANG) is well aware of this challenge. ANG is the Philippine distributor of prestigious brands like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Harley-Davidson.

Francis ‘Frankie’ Ang

Francis is the eldest son of its founder, Felix R. Ang, and is helping steer the company through this tumultuous time.

“We have always believed that the automotive industry is a key industrial sector and an economic pillar in many countries and over the last several months, the auto industry has shown great resilience,” Ang said.

Despite the difficulties, he believes it’s the opportune time to change and adapt.

“Automotive industry players can leverage the crisis to make long-overdue changes and create new opportunities going forward… We have embraced the new ways of doing things, and we have set strict health guidelines and protocols to ensure a safe and protected workplace and workforce. We took the opportunity to do strategic planning and refocus our attention to building resiliency to our business model.”

While the pandemic may be a new challenge, Ang notes that one of the most critical keys to resiliency, he already learned a long time ago.

“When I was younger, I would visit my father at the office and observe the day-to-day operations… I learned the value of customer relationship and our core competency will always be the personal relationships we have built with our customers… The core of our strategy still revolves around the same principles that have made us successful all these years.

This focus on customer relationship has helped the company weather the storm.

“We’ve seen a quick pivot to digital technologies online and offline. Brands have started to invest significantly in various digital tools and platforms to align and improve the customer experience in the showrooms and online.”

This year may still pose many challenges, yet Ang is hardly daunted.

“I know that I have big shoes to fill, but I am confident that I’m primed for success. I have an efficient team behind me with the solid support and all the learnings I learned from my father, I feel confident about taking the business to greater heights.”

Benedicto T. Coyiuto: The boon of being prepared

By Iñigo S. Roces

Realizing the value of digitalization early on can be a boon, particularly when challenges surface with little warning. Such was the case with the Audi and Bentley luxury brands under PGA Cars, Inc. The two marques are helmed by Benedicto T. Coyiuto, who serves as the Audi Philippines Head and Bentley Philippines President.

Benedicto T. Coyiuto

Coyiuto is quick to point to their brands’ early preparations as key to weathering the pandemic.

“Credit here goes to Audi’s further expansion of its digitalization efforts, which allowed the brand to be flexible amid a changed business landscape.”

Though many would have seen little value of digitalization before 2020, he says it was par for the course when it comes to luxury brands.

“The same flexibility can be seen in a number of companies which also belong in the luxury sector. Their rethinking of established practices and adoption of a long-term vision for future challenges mean they were able to respond to market disruptions.”

As the country begins to recover from 2020’s effects, he is optimistic for what 2021 holds.

“We, in Audi Philippines and Bentley Philippines, are just as upbeat about our prospects this year. Corporate measures we have long put in place continue to optimize our operations and ensure our clients get the best premium experience always.”

They have much to be excited about as Audi is already poised to be among the first to lead the electric vehicle charge with a new line of vehicles.

“Among these is the Audi e-tron, a luxurious all-wheel drive SUV that is purely electric-powered. We are aware that the domestic adoption of EVs rests on numerous factors, and so we are building the necessary support systems to ensure that this happens.”

New tech like electric cars can be intimidating, but Audi believes its package will make the transition easier.

“The e-tron itself proposes a key component, and that is its capacity to be used as easily as any conventional car. Plus, it’s an SUV, so it appeals to a wide set of consumers, making it literally the perfect vehicle with which to make the local market embrace electromobility.”

While other companies are just beginning to adapt, Audi is already rolling out its strategy for the new normal.

“The e-tron SUV forms just a part of the e-tron range composed of other electric vehicles belonging in different segments.With the e-tron range, we are providing sustainable transport solutions and a more efficient way to move around. More than that, we present a new attitude in the manner we interact with the environment and society.”

Daniel Miranda: This love for racing

By Iñigo S. Roces

Racing may have taken a back seat last year, however many eyes are still trained on one of the Philippines’ current top racing talents, Daniel Miranda.

Grandson of Philippe Lhuillier, behind the Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshop chain, Daniel has decided to carve out his own path as a race car driver. He inherited his love of racing from his father, Martin Miranda, a karter, motocross rider, and drag racer.

Daniel Miranda

Daniel has been enthralled by racing from a young age racing karts before moving up to touring car racing thanks to Toyota’s Vios Cup series. There, he secured podium places in the championship before finally taking the title in 2017. After conquering Vios Cup, Daniel quickly moved on to international races, joining the Formula Renault Asia series the year after. By 2019, Daniel had entered the TCR Asian series, a touring car series for Asia, pitting him against the best young drivers in racetracks around the region. Despite the challenging competition, Daniel secured the Asian Driver Champion title, his car, a Hyundai i30 N TCR, bearing the Philippine flag proudly.

While the pandemic may have put racing on hold, Daniel continues to keep his skills sharp and his body in shape.

“Staying physically and mentally fit, I have been spending a lot of time in my racing simulator at home practising different tracks with different cars just to make sure I don’t lose my drive,” he shared. “I’m fit and prepared to get on a race car anytime as soon as the opportunity is there.”

Relishing the challenge the discipline provides, he’s still hopeful racing will resume soon.

“Racing abroad will really make you a faster driver, quicker drivers and asides from that it’s the atmosphere and competition that really just pushes yourself to improve as a race car driver.”

Nonetheless, he’s also thankful for the extra time the current situation has provided, particularly now that he’s a father to baby girl.

“I now spend more time at home making sure I am with my daughter,” he said. “I manage my time wisely as well. She is making me a more mature person as well; gives me a smile on my face when I see her as soon as I get home.  Racing pushes me to my limits but fatherhood is the opposite. I have to stay calm and not just think about myself but also for my partner and daughter.”

Angie Mead King: Nothing slowing her down

By Iñigo S. Roces

Car customizing and racing are typically male-dominated fields, but Angie Mead King is hardly daunted. The proudly transgender proprietor of Car Porn Racing and part owner of the Victoria Court chain has been making waves in the car community because of her innovative custom creations, success in the field of racing, and championing causes of the LGBTQ community.

Angie Mead King

Angie started out like any car nut, taking her father’s car out for drives without permission, and getting into accidents. “I was driving like an idiot,” she fondly recalls.

Many of her early late night escapes have led to totaled cars and few other transportation options. As such, she began working at car shops to help bring her cars back to working order, all the while meeting fellow car enthusiasts and discovering the many sporting events happening at the time.

Keen to learn better car control to avoid any future accidents, and perhaps slide with more style by drifting (a fledgling sport at the time), she then pursued autocross and slalom racing to master the skills needed.

The thrill of drifting had also encouraged her to begin acquiring more vehicles to turn into potential drift cars. She soon discovered the excitement offered by European cars, and eventually supercars.

Angie also invested in her own skills, enrolling in racing schools and participating circuit racing with grassroots events like Run What You Brung, and Asian Formula 4.

By this time, the idea to race Ferraris was broached to her by Ferrari Philippines distributor, Marc Soong. It was a long endeavor, requiring racing in other disciplines first to acquire the racing license needed to join the Ferrari Challenge, an all-Ferrari racing series run across the globe.

Yet Angie persevered, eventually entering the series in 2017. She debuted in style, entering a purple Ferrari 488 Challenge with the pride flag on its wing.

“I had just come out a few months before. Being trans, I was very scared. Being Filipino was also very intimidating,” she shares.

“Being the first LGBT to join the Ferrari race series, I thought I might as well front, flex, and be proud… For me, it was huge to do that and represent in that industry with that demographic and that age group of people… They’ve never seen a trans person race and be competitive.”

Angie hadn’t only won the LGBTQ community’s support. She won the admiration of her peers as well, racking up several podium finishes on her debut season.

“I think I got lucky because my work ethic and my skill level was able to transcend who I was by appearance. I gained respect through that rather than being transgender. I commanded respect because I brought something to the table in terms of competitiveness to push everyone to be better.”

Atoy Llave: The big name in custom-made vehicles

By Iñigo S. Roces

When it comes to customizing your vehicle to become a palace on wheels, chances are, the shop, Atoy Customs, will come up. The custom shop and coachbuilder was founded by and is helmed by Atoy Llave.

Atoy Llave

His creations ferry some of show business’s most elite, counting stars like Sam Milby, Kim Chiu, Toni Gonzaga, and Kris Aquino to name a few. Atoy has also created unique vehicles for the campaigns of Unionbank and Glade Car Freshener. He also has a number of car show trophies under his belt, winning the coveted “Best bodykit” accolade many years in a row.

Easily the key to Atoy’s continuous success is his restless head of ideas.

Nungbataako, malikotako mag-isip. Pag sabi ng tao, impossible, doon akona-cha-challenge. (When I was young, I’d always be thinking about projects. When people say something is impossible, I’m challenged to do it all the more).

Gaining popularity (and perhaps notoriety) for turning a humble 1991 Nissan Cefiro into a 2006 BMW M5 thanks to his creative bodywork, Atoy began looking into customizing vans after celebrity, Toni Gonzaga, asked him to modify her Ford E-150 van into a recreational vehicle (RV). Initially hesitant, he proceeded thanks to her encouragement. This led to a string of celebrity referrals that have made him the household name today.

Yet when the pandemic hit, Atoy’s, creative spirit found a way to keep innovating even during tough times.

Noticing the plight of many people g stuck at home, but with few options to go out and experience new things, Atoy is now working on a solution that still follows safety protocols.

“The trend now is, people are having customized vans made, with ‘van life’ as their peg,” he shares.“They want beds, refrigerators and all the ingredients to turn it into a motorhome.”

“Because of the pandemic, we’re making a trailer park in Tagaytay with bike paths, jogging paths, a bonfire, and other activities. The idea is to give families or couples an experience, but without the crowds.”

Atoy is now building several motorhomes to rent out, be it in the form of a van, truck, or a trailer that can be pulled by an SUV. This gives families a chance to experience camping safely without the high cost of acquiring a motorhome or RV.

“I’m excited about this new project because every night I have new ideas,” he shares.

“I hope it doesn’t stay this way. Without the pandemic, business would be better.”

Nonetheless, he’s more than happy to apply his creativity to come up with an innovative solution.

Raul Jay Manglapus III: Modernizing the tricycle

By Iñigo S. Roces

Jeepneys may be getting an overhaul through the government’s PUV Modernization Program, however another staple of Philippine transport, the tricycle, has been seemingly ignored. That is, at least, until Trimotors Technology Corp. arrived.

Raul Jay Manglapus III

Trimotors is the distributor of the Bajaj RE, a symmetrical three-wheeled vehicle or auto-rickshaw that has been slowly conquering rural roads. Serving as its COO is Raul Jay Manglapus III, grandson of the late statesman, Sen. Raul S. Manglapus

Through Trimotos, Manglapus hopes to provide Filipinos with a better kind of tricycle. Unlike the typical tricycle usually built from a motorcycle with a sidecar, the Bajaj is a purpose-built three-wheeler. It’s designed to carry up to four passengers, cargo, or a combination of both. Best of all, it offers the space, safety and speed of a car, but at the price and maintenance requirements of a motorcycle.

It’s been designed with tough jobs in mind like hauling more people and cargo and, as such, is better equipped to handle the usual jobs that conventional tricycles struggle to do.

The auto-rickshaw is already being used in many other countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. In fact, some may recognize it as Thailand’s famous tuktuk.

Trimotors has also embarked on a collective effort with JVR Foundation and local government units to donate numerous Bajaj RE three-wheelers equipped with Social Distancing Film (SDF) to the local government to serve as service vehicles for the frontliners.

Besides simply offering Filipinos a better way to get around and mobilize, Trimotors is convincing the government to see it differently, too.

Late last year, Trimotos lobbied the LTO to reclassify symmetrical three-wheelers like the Bajaj RE as a separate category from tricycles. The LTO’s new classification now puts this vehicle in a new segment, separate from tricycles. It’s hoped that this new ruling will allow operators of the Bajaj RE to travel on roads where tricycles were previously banned, opening up even more possibilities.

Today the Bajaj RE is already a familiar sight on Philippine roads, from the busy streets of Manila to far flung towns in Mindanao.