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A Tub of ‘Hito’ and a Lesson in Persistence

I have always extolled the importance of entrepreneurship. For the most part, this unshakeable belief is anchored on my own experience as someone who built a business from the ground up, and to some extent, this is also due to my experience as a legislator for 21 years where I realized what it would take to win the war against poverty.



This is the reason why I believe that even as the Covid-19 pandemic had horrible effects on our people and our economy there is something good that came out of it. As employees were laid off due to the numerous lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the virus, many found themselves trying out entrepreneurship with the help of online and social media tools. It was an amazing phenomenon brought about by the need to survive. The pandemic created a new army of entrepreneurs.



When the economy reopened, many returned to their old jobs or found new jobs. But a good number of our people decided to remain entrepreneurs. I think this is because the pandemic gave them time to think about what they really want to do with their lives and many felt that being one’s own boss, someone in control of one’s destiny is something better than returning to their eight-to-five jobs.



But why aren’t there more Filipinos deciding to become entrepreneurs. Why are the majority of our people preferring to become employees rather than putting up their own businesses? There are many reasons for this but I think one of the major reasons is the risk of failure. It is devastating to lose your money in a business venture. I have always believed that entrepreneurs are a brave bunch. Kailangan matibay ang sikmura mo dito.



I remember my first business venture which was a bust. After working at accounting firm of Sycip, Gorres & Velayo, I decided to put up my first enterprise — delivering seafood to some establishments in Makati. Since I was just starting out, I did not have many employees so I did many of the tasks like actually delivering fish to our clients who are located in the business district of Makati.



One time I delivered a tub of hito (catfish). There were two of us but my companion had to park the jeep so I was left alone in the lobby of this Makati building pulling this tub filled with fish that smelled, well, fishy. Then suddenly the hito spilled out of the tub into the lobby of this Makati building. You cannot imagine the embarrassment I felt. I quickly picked up, one by one, the hito that lay there with tubes of ice we used to keep it fresh. When I recovered all of them, I pushed the tub inside the elevator and quickly closed the door. No one dared to join me in that smelly elevator. When the doors closed that was when I felt the embarrassment. I cannot believe that happened to me. It was humiliating.



I consider myself a shy, quiet person. In a room filled with people, I will not be that one with the towering voice who will dominate the discussion. I listen and speak only if I have something important and valuable to say. The strength of my character is not determined by the force of my voice but by the force of my will and spirit. And so when I look back at that embarrassing moment, I do not see it as a moment of weakness but a display of inner strength. I used that experience to learn and to be motivated to succeed. Years after that incident and the failure of my initial business venture, I borrowed some money from a bank and started and sand and gravel business that became an enterprise that built more than 500,000 homes for our kababayans.



When you decide to build your own business from the ground up, remember that many of the humiliating moments of failures are necessary for your success. Failures are essential building blocks of your eventual triumph. Taking risks entails difficulties and setbacks but never ever doubt yourself and your vision. Keep your eye on the prize — a better life for you and your family as you help others build their own future.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar