Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FILROSE: a different blend of Business and Benevolence

by Marciano "m-16" A. Paroy Jr.

He wakes up at around 4 in the morning, goes to the kitchen where his wife would already be seated before the earthen stove on which a pot of water is about to boil, then sits himself at one of those benches whose one leg is already on the brink of giving way. As if on cue, his wife dips a plastic cup into the boiling water and gently brings it on the table. He reaches out for it as his wife takes out the containers for sugar and coffee. No creamer this time. This last one has not been a good week – thus prompting them to forego of some little pleasures which they can only afford from time to time.
His wife makes herself a cup of coffee too, and as they both face each other in that cold and dimly lit kitchen, they need not put into words what lies within their heads. Their eyes meet and the lifeless stare that emanate from them speak volumes already: here’s to another day of suffering and sacrifice. Here’s to another waking hour filled with a dying hope that by the end of the day, things shall have turned out for the better.
Thus goes the daily routine of Manong Benito and Manang Tina. The same is true with the family of Atong and Mabboy Wacas, also of Pacak. And perhaps it might relax them to know that millions of other people within this archipelago is undergoing exactly the same thing. But they have reached that stage where they simply do not care any longer care. Every single day is filled with the worry of having to put food on the table that giving a damn about fellow less fortunate ones would even be considered an unnecessary waste of time, a past time hobby for those who have more.
This is reality in Pacak, a sitio of barangay Agbannawag, and similar other barangays in Tabuk. A small community populated by farmers whose subsistence is determined by how bountiful or how poor the past cropping had been, Pacak is one of those small territories trying to extract wealth from the soil – in a back-breaking manner. Few people are aware of their plight – and for those who are even aware, they become helpless as they can only do so much.
Enter Filrose Foundation. Sounds new, doesn’t it? Instantly, it may be perceived by anyone as one of those foundations that litter the civic-spirited domain – specifically those posing as pro-poor just so they could generate funds which they would then allocate to meet the needs of the clients they have identified to serve, but, in the process, also dipping their fingers into such funds.
This is where Filrose begs to differ. Its official website shouts out that it is “a non-profit, non-political family organization serving the Filipinos, with a special focus to the residents of our hometown, Tabuk, Kalinga. Our social financing, educational programs, community outreach programs and youth initiatives are designed to help those in need. We do not require that you belong to any particular religious affiliation or ethnicity, nor do we require that you financially support our organization in any way. We do ask that you return one good deed with another and perform an act of kindness. This way, the cycle of compassion and goodwill continues indefinitely.”
This gives a picture of a family who struck gold and now wants to give back to the community within which they rose – simply out of their initiative to prosper. In fact, the Filrose ingredients to success are the time-tested combination of “Perseverance, Industriousness Humility, Ambition Respect Responsibility Self-Sacrifice” as the website proclaims.
But who exactly are the people behind Filrose?
Of course, everybody (at least in business and academic circles) remembers the Peralta family – that well-to-do brood produced by Filemon (may his soul rest in peace) and Rosario Peralta whose beginnings were not what we might exactly tag as wealthy, but eventually rose to prominence in the Tabuk society by way of their commitment to attaining their economic goals. Being among those parents who believe in the power of education, Filemon and Rose saw to it that each child should receive high-caliber formal training. And they did – complete with diplomas and training certificates from notable institutions.
It is this education that would further propel their family’s assets. Some of them chose to establish businesses here in the Philippines while others chose to land jobs in the other side of the globe. Now leading lives that can be rightfully assessed as being within the confines of contentment and comfort, Filemon and Rosario can look back at their tracks and be proud at the result of such journey.
The establishment of the foundation, therefore, is their way of sharing whatever they could within the scope of their financial capability – targeting small scale entrepreneurs and farmers whose goals are set on progress.
“In addition, the foundation has also an educational program that gives scholarship grants to students who are gifted but whose family may be financially crippled as to further education,” thus explained Annalyn Pullis, an employee of the Peralta group of businesses and who also helps out at the Foundation.
To see how far the Foundation has expanded its client base, I tagged along with Ms Pullis and this paper’s photographer, Elizabeth Busacay, during a recent seedling distribution to needy farming families in Pacak, Agbannawag. It was there where I envisioned that should the Foundation continue to grow and extend its services to needy but diligently working people, we may have within Tabuk its first-ever homegrown foundation which is result-oriented.
That would not be hard to attain – as the Peralta children all have a nose for business, management and planning, as can be attested by the degrees they have earned and the current work that they do. Throw in the element of humanitarianism and we have a winning formula where both sides – the source and the receiver – end up as winners.
Three friends in the beauty care industry, Jerry Ladrido, Jinky Safangan and Marlon Carbonel, are beneficiaries of the capital enhancement program of Filrose and they all confirm that the little interest levied upon their borrowed funds are so considerate that they have ceased borrowing from their usual five-six lenders. Parlor work requires stocks of the best hair treatment products – and even if these are expensive, our parlor owners all want to buy them by the bulk. Having borrowed from Filrose, these three friends of mine have replenished the contents of their glass cabinets.
Another client, Evangeline “Bunch” Torres (now married to Jonathan Mission), said that Filrose gives other money lenders a tough competition. This means though that the Foundation has to have a ready reserve of resources, or at least be ever-ready to link itself to other well-meaning organizations whose programs may likewise find beneficiaries in Tabuk.
Last time I tagged along with Ms.Pullis was when she did her rounds at the Tabuk Public Market. One market vendor expressed that she hopes to keep borrowing from Filrose – as long as the need arises and as long as the Foundation keeps its current rates. That, of course, would require her to maintain a good standing in the eyes of Filrose – something which the Foundation emphasizes, according to Ms. Pullis. Of course, in the business world, destroying your own reputation as to money-handling matters would result to a tarnished image. And when that happens, Filrose might simply withdraw its support.
That, however, is painting a bleak picture for prospective clients – for Filrose is still on the buildup stage, but given its present rate of growth, the list of recipients may soon become longer. With its future plans which include a Kids’ Center and the “Adopt-a-Farmer” Program (something I will have to look forward to, as rural development issues strike close to my area of prioritized issues), that expanded list is not hard to arrive at.
And I hope that before it happens, Manong Benito and Manang Tina would already be conversing about what to do with last cropping season’s profits – as they sip from their mugs of coffee, now laced with creamer.
(More about Filrose later. Check out its website at http://www.filroseperaltafoundation.org)

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