A Bicolana entrepreneur who makes use of the pili nut and its byproducts bagged the top prize at the 15th Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA).
The Citi Foundation, Citi Philippines and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines presented Merle Paete as the CMA Microentrepreneur of the Year during ceremonies held at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Assembly Hall on Wednesday.
Hailing from Bacon, Sorsogon in Bicol, Paete started a small sari-sari store in 2002 and also went into the business of buying and selling pili nuts and woven mats.
Pili, which is associated with the Bicol region, has many uses and Paete began extracting lana or oil from the fruit’s pulp, selling it as a remedy for skin conditions, regulating cholesterol and helping in weight loss.
Her efforts allowed her to buy three hectares of land where she planted more pili trees and she expanded her business by tapping neighboring farms for additional pili fruit.
Also recognized were Reynante Manimtim, a siomai food cart owner who was named the Regional Awardee for Luzon; Mimosa Cortez, a fishing and crab picking business owner, the Regional Awardee for Visayas; Ivy Millare, a buko and egg pie manufacturer, the Regional Awardee for Mindanao; and Youth Microentrepreneur of the Year Keith Varias, an Internet café owner.
Special awards were also given to Rowena Manalo, a supplier of driftwood used in landscaping, for Green/Sustainable Business; Carmelita Dapanas, a semi-hydroponics farm owner, for Agri Micro-business; and Abdulia Austria, a lodging house and tour boat rentals business owner, for Community Leadership.
This year’s winners received close to P2 million in cash and non-cash prizes that include life and health insurance coverage for one year, entrepreneurship training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, laptops and information technology training.
Celebratory town hall meetings will also be held in their respective hometowns.
“Through the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, we are able to recognize and celebrate successful entrepreneurs who have made a difference for themselves, their families and their respective communities,” Citi Philippines Chief Executive Officer Aftab Ahmed said.
These entrepreneurs serve as an inspiration to others through their tenacity, perseverance, ingenuity and conviction to pursue their dreams, he added.
“Their stories are reminders of the value and nobility of our work… that is why we constantly apply creativity and conviction in creating a regulatory framework that encourages an ecosystem where the poor are granted increased access to and usage of financial services,” BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said in a statement.