Philippine Daily Inquirer - - SUNDAY BIZ - By Daxim L. Lu­cas @daxINQ

Who would have thought that a sim­ple fish­ball-mak­ing busi­ness would earn a sim­ple en­tre­pre­neur top spot in the 2018 edi­tion of Citibank’s Mi­croen­trepreneur­ship Awards (CMA)?

Cer­tainly not Erwin Ramos of Bu­la­can, who turns “bid­bid” fish into fish­balls and other pro­cessed prod­ucts.

Last Fri­day, Ramos was pre­sented the CMA Mi­croen­trepreneur of the Year award in cer­e­monies held at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Manila, Bangko Sen­tral ng Pilip­inas Com­plex, Manila.

In 2011, Ramos, to­gether with his wife Lanie, ex­per­i­mented with the use of bid­bid fish—con­sid­ered a nui­sance in ban­gus fish­ponds—as base in­gre­di­ent for fish­balls.

In time, they ven­tured into dried fish pro­cess­ing and fish “chicharon” (crispy skin)-mak­ing. An ini­tial loan of P5,000 from Up­lift Philip­pines, Inc. helped Ramos launch their own brand, Erwin and Lanie’s Fish­ball.

His pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Paom­bong, Bu­la­can, churns out freshly made fish­balls ev­ery day.

No part of the bid­bid fish goes to waste; even the in­nards are used as feeds in prawn farms.

To this day, Ramos con­tin­ues to make prod­uct in­no­va­tions while re­lent­lessly mar­ket­ing his prod­ucts to clients in per­son.

Ramos was joined by other awardees: Maria Elena Es­ta­dola, nito hand­i­crafts busi­ness owner, re­gional awardee for Lu­zon; Rosario Amoroto, cala­mansi pro­cess­ing busi­ness owner, re­gional awardee for Visayas; Arnold Vi­ado, ba­lut pro­ducer, re­gional awardee for Min­danao; and Mary Grace Bay­alas, mid­wife and owner of a birthing home, youth mi­croen­trepreneur of the year.

The spe­cial award for agri mi­crobusi­ness was given to two equally de­serv­ing win­ners this year: Estrella Bal­nao, a cof­fee farmer and pro­ducer, and Romeo Po­nio, a corn and veg­etable farmer. The spe­cial award for com­mu­nity lead­er­ship went to Jes­sette Oquendo, owner of a “pasalubong” (sou­venir) cen­ter for Palawan crafts, while Marisa Gand­ing, a spa and well­ness cen­ter owner, re­ceived the spe­cial award for startup mi­crobusi­ness.

The CMA is a pro­gram funded by the Citi Foun­da­tion and hosted in part­ner­ship with the Bangko Sen­tral ng Pilip­inas ( BSP) and the Mi­cro­fi­nance Coun­cil of the Philip­pines

Inc. (MCPI).

The CMA is an 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.

Dur­ing the launch, BSP Deputy Gov­er­nor Chuchi Fonacier said “it is only ap­pro­pri­ate that we con­tinue to show­case truly in­spir­ing suc­cess sto­ries of our mi­croen­trepreneurs.”

“Since its cre­ation in 2002, the CMA pro­gram has served as a ve­hi­cle to en­cour­age other as­pir­ing mi­croen­trepreneurs na­tion­wide and to spread the mes­sage that through the value and no­bil­ity of hard work, any­thing is pos­si­ble,” she said.

The BSP of­fi­cial added that “our part­ner­ship with MCPI and Citi Foun­da­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the BSP’s Con­ti­nu­ity Plus-Plus Agenda— one as­pect of which is en­sur­ing that our fi­nan­cial sys­tem is in­clu­sive and leaves no one be­hind.”

For his part, Citi Philip­pines CEO Aftab Ahmed said the bank was “hon­ored to rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs whose per­se­ver­ance, de­ter­mi­na­tion and con­vic­tion to pur­sue their dreams serve as an in­spi­ra­tion to oth­ers.”

“These out­stand­ing en­trepreneurs have made a dif­fer­ence for their fam­i­lies and now serve as cat­a­lysts to en­cour­age and mo­ti­vate other en­trepreneurs to fol­low in their foot­steps,” he said. “Citi Philip­pines is ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion ini­tia­tives that help Filipinos achieve fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence and en­able them to make a con­tri­bu­tion to their com­mu­ni­ties.”

This year’s win­ners re­ceived close to P2 mil­lion in cash and non­cash prizes that in­clude life and health in­sur­ance cov­er­age for one year, lap­tops and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy train­ing, and grass­roots en­trepreneur­ship train­ing at the Citi Mi­croen­ter­prise Devel­op­ment Cen­ter, an­other Citi Foun­da­tion pro­gram in part­ner­ship with Bayan Academy. The win­ners will also be high­lighted dur­ing cel­e­bra­tory town halls in their re­spec­tive home­towns af­ter the award­ing cer­e­mony.

The Na­tional Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee that chose this year’s win­ners is com­posed of Gov. Espe­nilla and Mr. Ahmed as cochair, with mem­bers Mr. Jose Ma. Con­cep­cion III, pres­i­dent and CEO, RFM Cor­po­ra­tion; Ms. Tere­sita SyCo­son, vice chair­per­son, SM In­vest­ments Cor­po­ra­tion; Atty. Felipe Go­zon, chair and CEO, GMA Net­work, Inc.; Hon. Ra­mon Lopez, sec­re­tary, Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try; Ms. Mary Ann Mon­temayor, Min­danao pri­vate sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Na­tional MSME Devel­op­ment Coun­cil; Ms. Imelda Ni­co­las, pres­i­dent, Sama­han ng mga Pilip­ina para sa Re­porma at Kaun­laran; Ms. Mar­ixi Rufino-Pri­eto, for­mer chair, the Philip­pine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael Tan, chan­cel­lor, Univer­sity of the Philip­pines Dil­i­man; Mr. Or­lando B. Vea, pres­i­dent, Voy­ager In­no­va­tions, Inc.; and Mr. Fer­nando Zo­bel de Ay­ala, pres­i­dent, Ay­ala Cor­po­ra­tion.

CMA is now on its 16th year of rec­og­niz­ing out­stand­ing mi­croen­trepreneurs across the Philip­pines. Through the years, this awards pro­gram has high­lighted the ef­forts of mul­ti­ple stake­hold­ers work­ing to­gether to strengthen mi­cro­fi­nance and en­ter­prise devel­op­ment, and fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion in the coun­try. CMA has given recog­ni­tion to over one hun­dred mi­croen­trepreneurs across the coun­try, in­clud­ing youth mi­croen­trepreneurs and those with notable con­tri­bu­tions in com­mu­nity lead­er­ship, agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

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