Lea Mancera's (middle) win as the CMA 2019 Regional Awardee for Luzon was once again recognized in a celebratory town hall held in Las Piñas City. With her in photo are (from left) Aileen Paglinawan-Gardon, finance and admin manager for Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc. (MCPI), Jon Gonzales, assistant vice president for Citi Philippines - Regional Operations, Jackie Ampil, assistant vice president for corporate citizenship at Citi Philippines, and Noriel Tolentino, program officer at MCPI.
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Meet three women microentrepreneurs who empower others
(The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — When someone sets up a small business, the goal is almost always the same: to earn income for the family. But when that story evolves into something greater, and the business benefits others outside the family, it becomes a real-life inspiration worth sharing with the world.

This is what makes the stories of Lea Mancera, Merly Domingo and Lucrecia Neri stand out, earning them recognition as regional awardees for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, respectively, in the 2019 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA).

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 businesses, including access to networks, capital, tools and training; and enables individuals to create economic sustainability for themselves, their families and their communities.

The CMA program highlights the combined efforts of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Citi Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines Inc. (MCPI) to strengthen microfinance and enterprise development and financial inclusion in the country.

Lea Mancera: Livelihood for prison inmates

Metal crafting and abaca weaving entail intricate work, and it is with the same meticulousness that Lea Mancera built her business, Daniel’s Handicrafts.

Based in Las Piñas City, Metro Manila, her business supplies handwoven merchandise such as baskets, hampers, storage boxes, containers, bags, Christmas decor, and other made-to-order items to export companies and major shopping malls like SM and Robinsons.

It was her husband’s family who was initially engaged in metal crafting, but in 2000, the couple took over the business. They learned the ins and outs of basket weaving after creating a prototype for a client.

In order to ease cash flow, Mancera sought the help of Kabuhayan sa Ganap na Kasarinlan Savings and Credit Cooperative (Kasagana-ka) in 2013.

She sources raw materials in bulk from Bicol: abaca, wicker, and seagrass, among others. Her neighbors bring home raw materials and deliver the finished products to her once completed. To cope with increased production, she started employing over 100 inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa to do the basket weaving. They are paid immediately after their work is done.

“My husband taught weaving to the inmates, who went on to teach other inmates. They earn quite well, so when their families come to visit, they are able to give them some money,” Mancera explains.

For growing her business successfully and extending assistance to others in the process, Mancera was named CMA Regional Awardee for Luzon.

Merly Domingo: Beneficial management practices

Merly Domingo (middle) was honored as the 2019 CMA Regional Awardee for Visayas. With her in photo are (from left) Felipe Medalla, member of the Monetary Board, and Imelda Nicolas, president of the Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK).
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Merly Domingo is a former seamstress from Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, who started her business by teaching sewing to those who wanted to work at the Mactan Export Processing Zone Authority.

As competition increased, she decided to shift to garments manufacturing. This gave birth to Ebina Garment Manufacturing in 2016.

In the same year, she became a member of Taytay sa Kauswagan Inc., which she credited not only for financial loans but also for giving her added knowledge in managing the flow of her business.

She creates her own designs by searching the internet for inspiration and current trends, and continues to be hands-on with marketing and research and development. She also deals with suppliers and customers herself.

Today, she manages 20 employees, all of whom have social security benefits, with access to loans whenever needed.

Domingo makes it a point to listen to her employees and values their inputs when it comes to improving the business. In turn, they have shown their loyalty to Domingo, recently named CMA Regional Awardee for Visayas.

“In business, there will always be challenges. But you have to overcome them because your employees are depending on you. Just don’t give up,” Domingo said.

Lucrecia Neri: Organic supplements to promote health

Neri was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, but instead of losing hope, she used her second chance at life to share with others the “medicine” that helped her beat cancer. Turmeric or luyang dilaw from her own backyard in Midsayap, North Cotabato, proved to be the answer.

Starting with just a mortar and pestle and some turmeric, Neri started grinding and pulverizing turmeric for her own use. She herself was the very first customer. This eventually helped her beat cancer.

Now 67 years old, Neri is the proud owner of Manna’s Alternatives Herbal Products, and Ati Manna Organic Hub. She has ventured into mangosteen tea, rice coffee, and various health supplements—all sold as far north as Tuguegarao in Cagayan, and even Metro Manila. Her biggest achievement: being able to share with others the health benefits of these organic and herbal products.

In 2014, she sought the help of CARD Bank for additional capital and also to educate her employees, mostly from the underprivileged sector, on personal finance.

An advocate of organic farming, Lucrecia also holds positions in the local agriculture office and has been recognized for her contribution to agriculture and rural development in Midsayap. Her recognition as CMA Regional Awardee for Mindanao is another feather on her cap.

“I invested love and gratitude; the profit I earned is peace of mind,” Neri said.

With the heart to share with others her recipe for a healthy life, Lucrecia Neri offered her herbal products, such as mangosteen tea and turmeric tea.
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Rewarding outstanding microentrepreneurs

As CMA Regional Awardees, the three received a cash prize of P100,000 each as well as a laptop, basic IT training, life and health insurance coverage for one year, and access to grassroots entrepreneurship training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, another Citi Foundation program in partnership with Bayan Academy.

The regional awardees also shared their recognition with their employees and members of the community through celebrations held in their respective hometowns.

They, together with five other winners, were chosen by a National Selection Committee co-chaired by Dr. Benjamin Diokno, governor of Bangko Sentral ng PIlipinas, and Aftab Ahmed, chief executive officer of Citi Philippines.

The committee members are Jose Ma. Concepcion III, president and chief executive officer of RFM Corporation; Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairperson of SM Investments Corporation; Secretary Ramon Lopez of Department of Trade and Industry; Imelda Nicolas, president of the Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran; Marixi Rufino-Prieto, former chairperson of The Philippine Daily Inquirer; Dr. Michael Tan, former chancellor of University of the Philippines; and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president of Ayala Corporation.

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