After clinching the top spot at a local pitch competition, these Marawi high school students eye livelihood for fellow siege victims

Published June 10, 2021, 4:23 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Wanting to spark hope for their besieged home, three high school students from Marawi City are planning to provide livelihood to the people in their community.

Students Anna Zaaquira Boloto and Shri Tahanie Macaumbao representing MSU-MSHS during the business and design pitch challenge of The Next Bright Idea via Zoom (Photo courtesy of Enderun Colleges)

Shri Tahanie Macaumbao, Anna Zaaquira Boloto, and Mohammad Ali Baruang who are all Senior High School (SHS) students of Mindanao State University—Marawi Senior High School (MSU-MSHS) recently bagged top spots in Enderun Colleges’ “The Next Bright Idea” which is a business and design pitch competition.

After experiencing the months-long armed conflict, these students have always wanted to build opportunities for their community who have been greatly affected. The pitch became the perfect avenue for them to make their dreams come true.

Amazing experience

The students’ business proposal “Green by Design” has impressed the judges because of the its viability and its potential in addressing existing and emerging problems within their community.

Green by Design is an alternative low-cost, plant-based, compostable packaging (Photo courtesy of Enderun Colleges)

“Green by Design” is a social enterprise that aims to address the proliferation of water hyacinth and waste pollution in Lake Lanao by converting these invasive species into an alternative low-cost, plant-based, compostable packaging.

The team from Marawi was declared the grand champion in the design pitch category. The team was first runner-up in the business pitch category during the two-day grand finals.

For Macaumbao, it was such an amazing experience. “We were so happy to share our story. Seeing other [students] who are passionately driven [creating business opportunities] inspires me to do better,” she added.

Giving up is not an option

Aside from the features of their product, what’s even more inspiring is the journey of the students and how they were able to overcome the challenges along the way.

Issues on limited connectivity and power interruption became major obstacles before the date of the finals. Thus, the students unexpectedly needed to transport themselves from Marawi to Iligan City.

“We [almost] lost hope,” Macaumbao recalled. “We thought we [wouldn’t] make it but because of our dedication and persistence, we tried our best to create a plan B,” she added.

After reaching out to the director and administration of MSU-MSHS, the students were able to travel to Iligan City to make it to the finals where they competed against 106 teams from 43 schools nationwide and emerged victorious.

Giving back

In this time of pandemic – where the struggle is utmost felt – the students wanted to contribute to positive transformation especially for their besieged home.

After their big win, the students plan to start implementing their business idea in Wato, Balindong.

“We wanted to implement this as early as possible and we’re also hoping to partner with [our local government unit, local fisherfolks, and other non-government and private sectors who can support us,” said Boloto.

After reflecting on the potential of their project, Macaumbao said that they realized that this initiative is realistic and has a purpose. “We should believe and invest in the potential of youth because they are the future of our nation,” she said.

Asked what was the greatest lesson learned during the competition, the students said that while more business ventures are needed, these should not only focus on producing profit but in “creating hope and opportunities” for others.

“If this is the new goal of enterprises then we will have a bright future for our country,” they added.