Building the Filipino Brand

Alex Lacson
GK Hope Summit, Toronto, Canada
8-9 June 2012

For many years now, I have been a follower of Tony Meloto because I could feel in him a great spirit, the spirit of a great Filipino. I see in him a great hope for our people and our country.

I have disciplined myself to become a great believer in the Filipino. I believe that we as a people have, within us and around us, all the essentials we need to succeed and prosper as a nation. I believe that we Filipinos possess the same spirit of greatness that inspired the Japanese, the South Koreans and the Singaporeans 50 years ago for them to build the kind of countries they have today for their peoples. I believe that we as a people are no less great than all the prosperous and great peoples in the world today.

Having said that, I have decided not to talk about my new book today, entitled “12 Wonderful Things about the Filipino & our Motherland.” Instead, I will talk about Filipino brands, the topic that Tony Meloto asked me to speak about today.

Thirty years ago, in 1983, McDonalds, the burger chain, was already a dominant and leading brand in the Philippines. McDonalds is a multi-national brand and was a giant in the industry, and it was the only player in the field. No one wanted to fight and compete with the giant.

But in 1983, a David was born. He put up a small burger company called Jollibee. Tony Tan Caktiong, the founder of Jollibee, believed in a few things. First, he believed that the Filipino taste is unique and distinct from the rest of the world. He who can capture the Filipino taste can capture the Filipino market. He also believed that the Filipino patriotism, at that time, was on the rise, and that patriotism will spill into the business sector.

Today, almost 30 years later, while McDonalds has grown to more than 500 branches nationwide, Jollibee has grown to over 700 branches around the country, with more than 30 branches in 10 countries.

For many Filipinos, including myself, Jollibee became one of the clear indications that the Filipino can stand against foreign competition, that the Filipino brand can compete and even surpass foreign brands, that the Filipino talent is world-class.

Today, there are a number of Filipino brands emerging in the market, each one of them competing and fighting their respective wars against the dominant and more established foreign brands in the country.

But 2 of the best brands that have emerged recently from the Philippines are Gawad Kalinga and Human Nature. These are Filipino brands that are spreading successfully in different countries in the world today.

Let me talk first about Human Nature.

Human Nature is a company founded on a big heart, to support a noble cause. It was founded to help create and provide jobs to the GK communities in the Philippines. GK Communities were asked to plant lemon grass, citronella and aloe vera plants in their backyards. In turn, Human Nature bought these plants from them. Human nature processed these lemon grass, citronella, and aloe vera and made them into various kinds of body products – like shampoo, hand wash, feminine wash, among others. After 3 years in operation, Human Nature today is one of the most successful companies, not only in the Philippines, but in the world. Human Nature has become close to a billion peso business in the Philippines, and is providing jobs to thousands of families in the Philippines. As of today, Human Nature has around 40,000 sales agents all over the country and is aiming to have 100,000 sales agents in 2 years. Today, just after 3 years of operation in the market, Human Nature has already overtaken BodyShop, that world famous multi-national brand for all sorts of body products, for its sales volume in the Philippines.

But the best thing about Human Nature is this, it has committed 30% of its net profit every year to uplift the poorest of the poor in the country, to support Gawad kalinga and its communities nationwide. Human Nature is not only for profit. It is also for the poorest of the poor amongst us. Human Nature is true to the calling of Gawad Kalinga na “Walang Iwanan”. No one should be left behind.

Because of the nobility its spirit and the greatness of its heart, Human Nature has been recently awarded as “The Best Social Entrepreneur of the year award” by the Ernst & Young.

Human Nature is a Filipino Brand, founded by a Filipina who is married to a British who loves our Philippines more than many of us Filipinos. In essence, Human Nature is nothing but a great love story, a story of passionate love for the Filipino people and our Motherland.

Truly, there are many Filipino brands emerging in the Philippines today. But for me, the best brand that has ever come out from our land in all these years is Gawad Kalinga. It is the most trusted. It is the most credible. It has inspired the most number, and it has helped the greatest number of poor people. It has attracted the wealthy and the famous, leaders and celebrities, not only in the Philippines but also in many countries abroad. And it is the only Filipino brand that has given so much hope to so many poor in a country of 5 million homeless families and 25 million hungry mouths. It is the only brand that has come from the heart, fuelled by love, and sustained by love – that kind love that is considered as the greatest love of all, the love for the least, the last, the lost. And I am mighty proud that this brand came from the heart of a great Filipino, the heart of Tony Meloto.

Truly, there is an urgent need to encourage our people to put up companies and develop Filipino brands, to compete with the foreign brands in our country. The reason for this is not only to create or to boost the pride among our people, but to help build our nation’s economy.

According to one of my favourite economics professor in college, Prof Solita Monsod, on the average, 50% of the price we pay for an imported product in the Philippines will eventually go out of the country and will go to the country where that imported product was made. For instance, if you buy a box of colgate toothpaste for P100, half of that P100 will eventually go back to Thailand where it was manufactured. This means that if Colgate products generate P1 Billion a year in the Philippines, half of that amount will eventually go back to Thailand where the Colgate products in SEA are made. The Philippine market is flooded with imported products, from the smallest of things like safety pins and pencils, to the biggest of things like cars and buses. From there, we can only imagine the amount of money that goes out our country every year because of these imported goods and products.

Foreign investments in our country are good, but not all the time. Foreign investments create jobs. They bring in technology, science, talents and skills.

But after a certain period of time, and after learning from these foreign brands, we Filipinos should build our own companies and develop our own brands to compete with these foreign brands. If we build Filipino companies that can compete with the foreign companies and foreign brands in the Philippines, it would mean that more money would stay and circulate within the Philippines instead of it going to some other countries. It would mean more jobs for our people. It would mean more taxes for our government.

And when these Filipino brands become global, when more and more Filipino goods and products are sold in other countries, it would mean more wealth entering our country, more jobs for our people, and even more taxes for our government.

It will build and strengthen our economy.

In fact, if we truly want to build strong the foundations of our country’s economy, it should be our dream as a people to surpass all foreign brands in our country, either by acquiring them or by putting up Filipino companies that would eventually become better, bigger, and more dominant in our market.

I am really glad that GK has put its CSI and the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan. It is my prayer that the CSI and EF would become the wellspring of social enterprises and Filipino brands that would eventually change the economic landscape in our country.

But there is one brand that all of us Filipinos, wherever we maybe in our world, must help in building and developing. I refer to the name Filipino as a brand. We may not be aware of it, but every nationality is a brand. Every citizenship, every passport, carries a brand. American is a brand. French and Japanese are brands. Filipino is also a brand.

As a brand, what is the value, what is the standing of the Filipino in the eyes of the world today?

There is no doubt that the Filipinos today are among the most preferred in the Middle East and in Europe especially in the hospitality industry area, where talent and skills in customer relations are crucial.

There is no doubt also that the Filipino doctors, nurses and caregivers, along with Filipino engineers and architects, are among the most preferred in the world today.

Sixty percent of all the seafarers in the world today are Filipinos. There is no doubt that our Filipino seafarers are the most in-demand group in the international shipping and maritime industry.

Filipinos have been voted as the best communicators in the world, having been voted by ___ as best in business English in the whole world, beating even USA, UK and Canada. Philippines just recently surpassed India as the BPO capital of the world, even if the Philippine population of 100 million is only 1/10 of the Indian population of 1 Billion. My brothers and sisters, listen to this – the Filipino has become the pound-for-pound champion in the world as the best communicators in English all over the world.

Truly, the Filipino today is one of the most talented and skilful person in the world. Filipinos are among the best managers and best employees in the world.

According to the Expats Survey conducted by HSBC in 100 countries in 2011, the Filipinos were also considered among the most wonderful peoples in the world.

Truly, the Filipino is one of the best there is in the world today.

During World War II, Gen Douglas McArthur saw how the Filipino soldiers fought the Japanese, with very little food, with very limited weapons and ammunitions. McArthur said “If I have a million Filipino soldiers, I can conquer the whole world.” The Filipino was a world-class soldier 70 years ago, even with limited resources.

There is no doubt that the Filipino is truly world-class in the eyes of many in the world.

Sad to say, the Filipino is only not world-class in eyes of some of his own people, in the eyes of his fellow Filipinos.

One of our worst habits as a people is our tendency to bash each other, our inclination to speak negatively of the Filipino and our Motherland. We see this habit not only among Filipinos in the Philippines, but also among Filipinos overseas.

Tony Meloto is so correct in saying that we have become our own biggest enemy. By the words that we use and speak about ourselves, we have become the destroyers of the beauty and great potential of the Filipino and our Motherland.

The words that we call and describe ourselves could become our reality, as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So in this GK Summit of Hope, I join Tony Meloto in asking all Filipinos overseas, including all the Filipinos here in Canada, let us stop bashing ourselves. Let us stop bashing the Filipino. Let us make it a crime to speak ill and negatively of the Filipino and each other.

Instead, let us be the ambassadors of the Filipino and our Motherland.

Let us build our faith in ourselves as a people. Let us build our faith in the Filipino.

Let us speak of the beauty and all the wonderful things about the Filipino.

Let us speak of the blessings that we have received as a people and as a nation.

When we learn to do this, when we learn to appreciate the beauty and the greatness that God has endowed in us as a people, when we learn to be grateful for all the wonderful things given to us as a nation, when we learn to speak of blessings, I believe that God will give us more. He will grant us and bless us with so much more.

I believe that we will reach our highest potential as a people. We shall become the great and wonderful people that God truly wants us to be.

For I believe, it shall be done only according to our faith.

I thank the Lord for making Tony Meloto a Filipino.

I thank God for Gawad Kalinga.

And I thank the Lord for all of you, my brothers and sisters, all great dreamers for our people, all great believers of Gawad Kalinga.

The Filipino is so much better and greater because of all of you.

It is great to be a Filipino. God bless all of you.

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