An entrepreneur’s innate ability to fish deep for innovative ideas to propel his fishball-making business to success earned him the top spot in the 2018 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA), 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 a signature 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.
Erwin Ramos, who turns bidbid fish into fishballs and other processed products, was presented the CMA Microentrepreneur of the Year award in ceremonies held at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Manila.
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 Micro-business 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 Micro-business.
During the launch of the 2018 CMA, BSP governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. pointed out that “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.” He 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.”
“We are honored to recognize and celebrate successful entrepreneurs whose perseverance, determination and conviction to pursue their dreams serves 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. 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,” said Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed.
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 PhP5,000 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 and other products on a daily basis. 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.
This year’s winners received close to PhP2 million in cash and non-cash prizes that include life and health insurance coverage for one year; laptops and IT 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 (NSC) that chose this year’s winners is composed of Gov. Espenilla and Mr. Ahmed as co-chair; with members Mr. Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III, president and CEO, RFM Corporation; Ms. Teresita T. Sy-Coson, vice chairperson, SM Investments Corporation; Atty. Felipe L. Gozon, chairman and CEO, GMA Network, Inc.; Hon. Ramon M. Lopez, secretary, Department of Trade and Industry; Ms. Mary Ann M. Montemayor, Mindanao Private Sector representative, National MSME Development Council; Ms. Imelda M. Nicolas, president, Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran; Ms. Marixi Rufino-Prieto, former chair, the Philippine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael L. 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.