A âdeep benchâ of ideas to field in 2021
Ben Chan

A ‘deep bench’ of ideas to field in 2021

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2021 - 12:00am

As we welcome 2021, I wanted my very first column to be about a person who has led an inspiring life, who continues to do so as we start this new year with much hope, love, and positivity. Ben Chan has gone a long way, from his first job in the early ’80s working as assistant manager at a drive-in movie facility in San Francisco to successfully building  Bench, the Philippines’ largest clothing chain that has become part of every Filipino home.

With dozens of global franchises tucked under the trademark name Suyen Corp., Ben, like all retailers in the Philippines, had to contend with the indefinite closure of 1,046 stores of 47 brands for three months because of the lockdown in early 2020 that resulted in the temporary closure of business establishments, including malls around the country.

After this setback, the company re-emerged with a stronger foothold in the e-commerce business with its multi-platform channels, revamped store operations that reflect the changing consumer behaviors and safety protocols, and the opening of 12 new stores from Mindoro to Koronadal. To push things forward, the company is also gearing up with its launch of sustainably produced items through Better Made, a collaboration with creative force Secret Fresh, and new innovations in new-normal essentials.

I asked Ben Chan to share with us his thoughts on what he values most in life, most especially after going through the pandemic that made all of us stop, think and change our outlook — hopefully for the better.

Ben Chan with Park Seo Joon.

1. Time flew fast pre-pandemic. There was just never enough of it to squeeze in every appointment, show up and be present in important events, sleep for another hour or stay an extra day in one city. This year forced us to stop, not just to rethink our priorities and devote our time to things that truly matter to us, but also to remind us to use our time well in this world to make ourselves happy and to be of help to others. We are lucky to be alive.

2. Family and friends. In uncertain times, most especially, it is comforting to know that you have constants — people you know will be there for you in both happy times and times of crises. As 2020 has shown us, the world will run its own course but you can still make it a safe shelter if you surround yourself with the right people.

3. Pride in Philippine products. I’ve always believed in the wealth of our local talent. Our project tie-ups such as with the Katutubo Pop-Up Market, which provides a platform for local producers and artisans, has always been a showcase of this talent. I hope more people will rediscover the beauty of Philippine-made products and hope that social enterprises such as Katutubo can be our window to the world for good quality Philippine-made goods.

4. Good health for myself and for all.

5. Promoting our culture through our national dress, the terno. For me, the terno is not just a garment; it is a symbol of who we are. It is important for the soul of our nation. We have been advocating this for several years and we are committed to continue doing so.

Ben Chan with Virgilio and Nenita Lim, Margie Moran Floirendo and architect Miguel Pastor.

6. Education. Knowledge is crucial, especially now that there is so much information and misinformation. Our youth, and us too, need to have the tools for discernment so we can use it to choose better and make our lives better.

7. Travel. I appreciate how technology has kept us connected with each other even during lockdown, but I think there is nothing that can replace the experience of seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing the living heritage of a city. Invest in your life experience.

8. Home. My refuge. It’s been a place of both peace and quiet and lively gatherings in the past, a repository of memories with the books I’ve read, photos I’ve kept and mementos I’ve collected. The lockdown has allowed me time to enjoy it more.

9. The Filipino worker. From the medical frontliners who care for us, the farmers who till our land, the riders who deliver our goods, the staff who man our shops, and all other workers who keep our daily lives and our nation’s economy running.

10. Happiness. Make it your way of life.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at monsrt@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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