Matteo’s Siomai – From the Newsroom to the Kitchen

When Journalist Herbie Gomez had to start working from home because of the Covid-19 lockdown early this year, he started looking for ways to constructively use all the time he now had in his hands.

Then the family thought of offering their family recipe for siomai,  first offering it to friends of their kids in the neighborhood,  friends in media, councilors, then strangers who saw their FB posts.

Bili na kayo! Tag P300 lang ang tub! Pinaghirapan ito talaga ng Lolo Herbie ko!

“We were overwhelmed by positive feedbacks from friends, and people we didn’t know started ordering. Home-based lang. Family was surprised kay usual man lang na sa amo ang taste kay naanad na mi.”

“But not to many who ordered who said it was the best siomai they ever tasted so far. Since March, daily ang orders namo. But we limit daily orders kay dili namo kaya kung sobra pod kadaghan. Besides, the secret is the freshness of the siomai. Ang among i-prepare based lang sa orders.

Dubbed Matteo’s Siomai after their first (and so far only) apo from their eldest daughter Bujie, their product sells for P300 per tub with 33 pieces of pork-shrimp siomai or 30 pieces of beef-shrimp siomai. However, these can also be ordered sans the shrimp for those who are allergic to it. Orders can be personally delivered to your home or office in the morning or afternoon up to 4PM. However, orders have to be placed a day before to enable Herbie to plan his delivery route.

Matteo’s Siomai is available in two flavors Pork-Shrimp Siomai with 33 pieces a P300 per tub_ and Beef-Shrimp Siomai with 30 pieces atP300 per tub. They can also be ordered without the shrimp.

Now Gomez, who cut and sharpened his teeth as one of Cagayan de Oro’s leading journalists, is learning a new trade in the kitchen.

“Di man ko anad sa kitchen. Di gani ko kabalo luto. But my wife (who provided the fundamentals) and my son (who enhanced the formula) taught me. Karon, akoy ga mix, galuto, ga package. Pati hugas plato, ako! Hehehe”

So far, production is limited to 10 tubs daily, it being a home-based enterprise.

Ito si Matteo. Invite niya kayo bumili ng masarap na Matteo’s siomai na luto ng Lolo Herbie niya.

“Basta sobra sa 10 tubs in a day, mo agay na ko, mobalibad na ko.”

The new enterprise has helped the tidy the family a lot with all the constraints on their usual income from the quarantine measurer as a result of the pandemic.

Libre na din ang toyo at calamansi pang sawsawan!

“Just enough for me not to touch my hard-earned savings. We did not save for covid baya. At least malibre na akong car and kitchen fuel, and daily needs,” Herbie admits.

However, the encouraging response to their initial efforts has got the family thinking.

“Kung mahuman ning covid, mag tukod na tingali ko tindahan,” the newsman turned kusinero mulls.


Oro Biz lauds CDO as 7th Most Competitive HUC

Local business leaders have praised the performance of Cagayan de Oro City for maintaining its status within the Top 10 Most Competitive Cities in the Philippines in the Department of Trade and Industries Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index for 2020.

Cagayan de Oro City retained its ranking as the 7th Overall Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City (HUC) in the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index as disclosed by the DTI Competitiveness Bureau during the 8th Regional Competitiveness Summit on16 December 2020, via Facebook Live.

“I am not surprised because Cagayan de Oro truly deserves to be among the top 10 most highly urbanized cities in the Philippines,” said Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, president of Promote Normin and former president of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber).

“We are fortunate business is almost normal given our present MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) status which allows us to continue albeit on a controlled level. We are also lucky our local government is doing an excellent work in managing the pandemic in our area which allows us to do this,” he added.

Oro Chamber President Ruben A. Vegafria shares the same sentiment.

“Cagayan de Oro today is already better off than other cities simply because of our MGCQ status. Mobility and business activity are reasonably seen although not at full capacity. The expected arrival of vaccines hopefully during the 2nd quarter brings a ray of hope towards full recovery of the local economy in 2021,” Vegafria said.

However, he cautioned that stakeholders should not be complacent and throw caution to the winds especially during the Christmas season.

“We cannot let our guard down especially during this Yuletide season. Following strictly the health protocols is still the best way to survive and prevail against the pandemic,” Vegafria stressed.

Misamis Oriental Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (MOFCCCII) President Antonio Uy agrees.

“All’s worth it. Well deserved. 2021 will be, as expected, a trying year economically, cuts across the public and private sectors. Maintain lang resiliency. Effective traffic management is wanting,” Uy commented.

Jaime Rafael U. Paguio, Oro Chamber Chairman of the Board of Trustees, foresees a tough road ahead as the world and the region seeks to get back on its feet from the debilitating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our task for 2021 is to help restart the economy by providing enough business incentives, financial support and leeway through the extension of payments of financial obligations including financial support to viable but severely affected businesses. In short, pump prime the economy for it to restart,” Paguio stressed.

“In so doing, we achieve several ends: the reduction of unemployment levels, increased business activity resulting to the generation of revenues for government through taxes, reviving customer confidence, and relieving government’s amelioration spending.”

“Yet the irony is, for us to survive this pandemic, we still need to implement physical curtailment measures which inhibits and curtails business activity. That is why our health authorities and government officials are delicately trying to balance the economy and health protocols which is similar to walking in a tightrope,” he cautioned.

Vegafria shares the same assessment.

“The road to full recovery is not going to be easy and quick, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change challenges, and the destabilizing winds of politics breezing our socio-economic order. But crisis after crisis has taught us to be more resilient, entrepreneurial and innovative,” he said.

Paras said he is optimistic 2021 will be much better than this year especially when the Covid-19 vaccines become available in the country as expected by the 2nd quarter of next year.

 “The primary objective then is to reduce the infection rate without unduly constricting business activity. Human life always takes precedence over financial well-being , but then in order to raise our capability to save lives we will need money. This is the dilemma of government, that is why the private sector and everybody else has to help out and share this burden otherwise business will slump further causing untold losses,” Paguio said.

“The challenge is not only to survive the pandemic but prosper under these adverse conditions. It might be a tall order but ingenious as we are, we will always adapt in this dire situation in order to survive because truly there is no other option.”

Cagayan de Oro City was one of only two (2) cities outside the National Capital Region (NCR) that made it into the top 10, with Davao City ranking 2nd to Metro Manila.

“2021 may be a game changer considering each LGU’s experience in the pandemic. As you can see, in the top 10, all are NCR cities, except Cagayan de Oro and Davao,” said Eileen E. San Juan, Cagayan de Oro Local Economy and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO).

“We have to see how the lockdowns in these cities impact on the different pillars of competitiveness. For government efficiency, many LGUs may have significant improvements due to the streamlining of business processes and implementation of the EODB (Ease of Doing Business) Law.

For the CMCI 2020 rankings, Cagayan de Oro ranked 5th among HUCs in Infrastructure, 6th in Resiliency, 9th in Government Efficiency, 12th in Economic Dynamism.

“ Lessons learned from the Spanish flu of the 1920s is valuable because it is almost an exact template of what is happening now, the only difference is now, we have the knowledge and better technology to combat the virus, but then, our intransigence has been the same hurdle,” Paguio said.

“However, I always have faith in the ingenuity of man, same as we have continuously disproven the Malthusian Theorem. We just need to persevere and rally together to get this economy going to its robust state prior to the pandemic or even eclipse it. Of course, nothing is impossible when our Lord is behind us. He probably just wants us to slow down a bit so we can put more value to family, friendship and be able to work more closely with each other.”


P7.09B backbone project to stabilize power transmission in Mindanao

NGCP recently energized the Toril-Bunawan 230kV transmission line, the final component of its Mindanao 230 kiloVolt (kV) backbone project. This will secure the reliability of power transmission services in the entire Mindanao.

NGCP recently energized the Toril-Bunawan 230kV transmission line, the final component of its Mindanao 230 kiloVolt (kV) backbone project. This will secure the reliability of power transmission services in the entire Mindanao.

As one of NGCP’s critical projects, the Mindanao backbone will connect bulk generation from the northern and southern parts of Mindanao and ensure stable and continuous power from Lanao del Norte, passing through Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon, all the way to Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental.

Among the generating facilities which will connect to the line are the GNPower Kauswagan Clean Coal-Fired Power Plant, Therma South Incorporated Power Plant, and San Miguel Consolidated Power Corporation, with a total combined capacity of 1,440MW.

With an ERC-approved cost of PhP7.09 Billion, the project involves the construction of the Matanao-Toril 230kV and Toril-Bunawan 230kV transmission lines, the upgrade of the Balo-i-Villanueva-Maramag-Bunawan line from 138kV to 230kV, as well as the upgrade of its substations in Malita, Matanao, Toril, Bunawan, Balo-i, Villanueva, and Maramag. 

As one of NGCP’s critical projects, the Mindanao backbone will connect bulk generation from the northern and southern parts of Mindanao and ensure stable and continuous power from Lanao del Norte, passing through Agusan del Sur, all the way to Davao del Sur.

Energization of the project components started with the power transformer in Villanueva Substation and Maramag-Villanueva 230kV Line 2 in September 2019, while the Balo-i-Villanueva Lines 1 and 2 were energized in September and October of the same year. Transformers in Bunawan Substation and the Maramag-Bunawan 230kV lines were energized also in October 2019. This was followed by the energization of another new transformer in Villanueva Substation and the Maramag-Villanueva Line 1 in November 2019, while a power transformer in Toril Substation was energized shortly after in the same month.

The Matanao-Toril 230kV Lines 1 and 2 were energized in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively, while the Matanao-Culaman 230kV Lines 1 and 2 were energized in the same period. The final component, the Toril-Bunawan 230kV Lines 1 and 2, were energized in November 2020, despite the difficulties posed by the varying lockdown protocols implemented across the country.

“With this completion, the line will supplement the existing Davao-Toril-Matanao 138kV transmission line in transmitting any and all available and incoming generation, ensuring transmission service reliability for the entire region,” said NGCP.

With an ERC-approved cost of P7.09 Billion, the project involves the construction of the Matanao-Toril 230kV and Toril-Bunawan 230kV transmission lines, the upgrade of the Balo-i-Villanueva-Maramag-Bunawan line from 138kV to 230kV, as well as the upgrade of its substations in Malita, Matanao, Toril, Bunawan, Balo-i, Villanueva, and Maramag. 

Apart from this, the Mindanao 230kV Backbone project is an integral part of NGCP’s Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP), which will link the Visayas and Mindanao islands and realize sharing of power within the entire country. “The Mindanao Backbone is critical to the MVIP because through this project, the new transmission line will accommodate the capacities needed to fully support and utilize the capabilities of the interconnection,” stated the company.

NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately owned company in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid, led by majority shareholders and Vice Chairman of the Board Henry Sy, Jr. and Co-Vice Chairman Robert Coyiuto, Jr.



Pastoral Statement

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) raises its alarm and concern over the deteriorating prospects for peace in our land. 

The advent season is upon us, yet unpeace reigns. Respect for human rights, which is a primary requisite for peace, is ignored, or worse, demonized as a barrier to “peace and order”. 

This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers, on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs.

Harmful rhetoric abounds, even coming from the President himself. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.  

This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace. 

Unfortunately, during this COVID-19 pandemic, the government rejected the results of the back channel talks, unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called “legal fronts”.  

The Anti-Terrorism Act was passed and substantial funds were also designated by the government for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC. Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. 

Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested.

This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace. It will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

 It is also very costly not to mention insensitive when the country is reeling from a serious socio-economic crisis brought about by the pandemic and the series of natural disasters that devastated the country recently.

As a significant portion of our country starts the traditional “simbang gabi” to mark the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to the people to continue to pray and work for peace. 

Let us usher in a new dawning of peace – a peace that is not for the silencing of critical voices but a peace that addresses the root causes of dissent.

  We call on the government to re-focus its efforts and funds for medical and socio-economic solutions to heal the nation rather than spending for counter-insurgency and all-out war. 

We also call on both parties to silence their guns during this season of hope and open their hearts to peace so that as the year ends, “…by the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79).    

Issued and signed on this day 15th day  of December,  2020.



Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro

Co-chairperson, PEPP



Co-chairperson, PEPP

Ecumenical Bishops Forum



General Secretary

National Council of Churches in the Philippines






Executive Director

Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission, PCEC



Head of the Secretariat, PEPP

Cagayan de Oro ranks 7th as PH Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City

The City of Cagayan de Oro retained its ranking this year as the 7th Overall Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City (HUC) in the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index.

 The DTI Competitiveness Bureau conducted the 8th Regional Competitiveness Summit  on16 December 2020, via Facebook Live.

“We had consistently been among the Top Ten Highly Urbanized Cities since the competition started 8 years ago. In spite of the many limiting conditions that we have had to bear, we managed to remain well afloat and emerge among the Top Ten Highly Urbanized Cities in the country. Another proud moment for Cagayan de Oro and for all of us!” exclaimed Mayor Oscar S. Moreno in a statement released for the occasion.

PCCI’s Special Citation for Most Business Friendly LGU 2020 to Cagayan de Oro LGU reflects its gov’t. efficiency

Manila was again ranked the Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City for 2020, leading seven other cities in Metro Manila in the Top Ten, including Pasay (3), Makati (4), Muntinlupa (5), Pasig (6), Valenzuela ( 8), Caloocan (9) and Parañaque (10).

Cagayan de Oro City was one of only two (2) cities outside the National Capital Region (NCR) that made it into the top 10, with Davao City ranking 2nd to Metro Manila.

“2021 may be a game changer considering each LGU’s experience in the pandemic. As you can see, in the top 10, all are NCR cities, except Cagayan de Oro and Davao,” said Eileen E. San Juan, Cagayan de Oro Local Economy and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO).

“We have to see how the lockdowns in these cities impact on the different pillars of competitiveness. For government efficiency, many LGUs may have significant improvements due to the streamlining of business processes and implementation of the EODB (Ease of Doing Business) Law.

The Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index is an annual ranking of Philippine cities and municipalities developed by the National Competitiveness Council through the Regional Competitiveness Committees (RCCs) with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development.

The ranking is based on overall competitiveness scores, the sum of scores on four (4) main pillars: economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructure, and resiliency.

Cagayan de Oro ranked fifth in Infrastructure among HUCs in 2020.

Cagayan de Oro ranked 5th among HUCs in Infrastructure, 6th in Resiliency, 9th in Government Efficiency, 12th in Economic Dynamism.

“I’d like to thank God Almighty for all His countless blessings. I’d also like to thank all the men and women of the City Government for your continued support and dedication. Also, I’d like to thank all our partners in serving the people of Cagayan de Oro, be they from the public sector or from the academe, business community, interfaith organizations, youth sector and aid organizations. May this new prestigious award continue to inspire us all in our quest for excellence. Congratulations, and God Bless!” Moreno’s statement concluded.

CDO Ginama OTOP-Hub is a showcase of the city’s economic dynamism.

The Awarding Ceremony for the Most Competitive Cities and Municipalities in the Philippines for 2020 capped a full program that included the presentation of the 2020 CMCI Academic Symposium 1st Place Best Research Paper by Ms. Rina Abner of Partido State University; Launching of the CMCI Data Analytics Platform by Usec. Rafaelita Aldaba; MOU signing between Liveable Cities Challenge PH, and DTI Philippines; and the Joint Memorandum Circular signing on the Mandatory Submission of the List of Businesses Establishments Registered in the City and Municipality between DILG Philippines and DTI Philippines.  (ORO-TIPC)


Mensahe sa Pasko sa Pagkatawo ni Kristo

Ni Most Rev. Jose Cabantan, D.D.

Malipayong Pasko kaninyong tanan mga igsoon!

Archbishop Jose Cabantan, D.D. Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro

Ania pa kita karon ning panahon sa Adbiento, usa ka panahon sa pagpangandam alang sa pagsaulog sa pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos ug alang usab sa pagpaabot sa iyang ikaduhang pagbalik.

Samtang kita nagpaabot kaniya, atong huptan ang lawom nga paglaom diha sa Dios kay Siya lamang ang atong dangpan ug saligan ilabi na taliwala niining pandemiya nga atong nasinati ug nahiagoman karon.

Tin-aw kaayo nga ang atong kahimtang  karon usa gayod ka Adbiento. Nagpaabot kita nga malingkawas na kita niining maong pandemiya ug atong dangpan ug saligan ang atong makagagahom nga Dios.  

Sa atong kasaulogan sa Pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos atong ibutang ang atong kinabuhi diha kaniya, ang kahayag sa atong kinabuhi. Taliwala sa atong pagduhaduha, taliwala sa atong mga kalibog, taliwala sa atong mga kabugnaw karon, atong pangayoon ang grasya gikan sa atong mahigugmaon nga Dios nga nagpakatawo nga unta giyahan kita niya, dasigon kita Niya, lamdagan kita Niya, pinaagi sa iyang kahayag. 

This creche appeared in a Christmas exhibit at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga., in 2018 and is from a collection owned by Marcy Borkowski-Glass of St. Pius X Church in Covington. The exhibit showcased some 500 Nativity scenes from Glass’ personal collection and a select few from the monastery.
(CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Siya ang maghatag kanato ug katin-awan diha sa atong pagpanaw sa atong kinabuhi nga mawagtang na kining mga kahadlok batok sa virus nga atong giatubang karon ug Siya  gayod ang maghatag kanato sa tin-aw nga dalan nga atong pagadulngan sa atong kinabuhi, taliwala pa man sa mga pagsulay nga atong nahiaguman sa atong kinabuhi.

Siya gayud ang atong kahayag, Siya gayod ang Dios sa gugma ug Siya gayod ang atong paglaom. Mao man sa umabot nga Bag-ong Tuig, tuig 2021, atong ibutang gayod ang bug-os nga pagsalig Kaniya nga niining Bag-ong Tuig makabaton kita ug bag-ong kahayag, bag-ong kadasig, bag-ong kinabuhi. 

Busa mga igsoon manghinaut ako  nga magasaulog kita sa usa ka Malipayong Pasko sa Pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos ug Bulahang Bag-ong tuig kanatong tanan.


Early History of the Oro Chamber

Through the years, Oro Chamber has remained one of the leading local chambers of commerce in the Philippines.

It is the first “Hall of Fame Awardee” of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PCCI) and was the first to host the 1st Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON) in 1992, and again hosted it in 1994, 2003, 2010 and 2017.

The first iteration of the Oro Chamber was organized in December 1982 by a group of 25 firms convened by the late Dante P. Sarraga, then the Regional Governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), as an affiliate chamber of the PCCI.

This Group of 25 believed it was high time that Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental Province have an organization that could properly represent and articulate the problems and issues affecting business and businessmen in the area.

Elected as charter president was the late Dr. Virgilio Neri, Sr.

The following year, the Oro Chamber exhibited its pioneering spirit as it organized and hosted the 1st Conference on Cottage, Small and Medium Industries at the VIP Hotel.

However, the untimely demise of Dr. Neri later that year left a void in the leadership of this fledgling organization. But the dream refused to die and, on October 1984, a new Board of Directors was installed and elected Aldrico T. Manus as president.

The Oro Chamber as it is known today was formally later established on 29 March 1985 when it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Registry Certificate No. 12944, as the Cagayan De Oro Chamber Of Commerce And Industry Foundation, Inc.

In its first notable accomplishment, the Oro Chamber signed a partnership with Handwerskskammer, Kassel (Kassel Chamber of Small Crafts and Trades) and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry  for its inclusion to the Philippine-German Chamber Cooperation Program (PGCCP) on February 18, 1986.

Through the aegis of the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GmbH (GTZ, or German Agency for Technical Assistance) and the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the PGCCP  provided training, advisory, equipment and financial subsidies to both chambers.

Now known as the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) the GTZ is the German development agency that provides services in the field of international development cooperation.

On September of 1987, the first Secretary General of the Oro Chamber was hired in the person of Mr. Nestor J. Abanil.

What was originally designed to be a 3-year Assistance Program was extended to seven years with the Oro Chamber that we know today as its crowning achievement in Cagayan de Oro.

The first two presidents of Oro Chamber Al Manus and Guido Delgado (photo courtesy of GAAD)

Guido Alfredo A. Delgado was elected president in 1988, with Ramid P. Gualberto succeeding Abanil as Secretary General for two years. Pres. Delgado kept the chamber at the forefront of lobbying on the issues that affected the business community.

In May 1991, Marriz Manuel B. Agbon succeeded Gualberto as Secretary General and paved the way for further professionalizing the services of the chamber. Among its key accomplishments under Agbon’s tenure was the completion of the Master Plan for the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor (CIC) Special Development Project.

On August 1992, President Arsenio L. Sebastian III led the Oro Chamber in hosting the 1st Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON) in Cagayan de Oro. Close to 400 delegates attended with His Excellency President Fidel V. Ramos as the Keynote Speaker.

PCCI Region X Governor Guido Delgado addresses the 1st Mindanao Business Conference held August 14-15, 1992 at Pryce Plaza
(photo courtesy of GAAD)

The succeeding years marked the unprecedented growth of the Oro Chamber as it improved its services to include the organization of business conferences, trade missions, management seminars and the conduct of market research studies. Prominent among these was the Agribusiness Systems Assistance Program (ASAP) which Oro Chamber implemented in 1992-1995 with the US Agency for International Development (USAID)

In 1993 and 1994, the Oro Chamber under the stewardship of Pres. Jesus Emmanuel M. Paras was recognized as the Most Outstanding Chamber In The Philippines by the PCCI.

During the incumbency of the next president Eduardo Pelaez in 1995, the Oro Chamber partnered with key government and multilateral aid agencies for the development of the agriculture sector in Northern Mindanao with key sectoral studies for the cattle and rice industries.

Oro Chamber Officials join Xavier Ateneo Pres Bobby Yap and city officials in inaugurating Xavier Ecoville Phase 1 on 25 Jan 2012 at Bgy Lumbia. (photo courtesy of Ghaye Alegrio)

It was also during Pelaez incumbency that the Oro Chamber was elevated to the PCCI Hall of Fame for Outstanding Chambers with its third consecutive recognition.

In 1996, President Roberto J. Togle, revived the chamber’s partnership with Handwerskskammer Kassel with the implementation of the Regional Chamber Development Program (RCDP) which sought to develop chambers in Iligan, Butuan, Ozamiz and Bukidnon.

Oro Chamber Officers and Members of the Board at a Planning Session at Dahilayan Adventure Park during the incumbency of Pres Dodong Donggay. (photo courtesy of Ghaye Alegrio)

By 1997, the late Pres. Arturo Mercader with Acting Secretary General Marilou Flores, continued its outreach program through the PEARL-CIDA dubbed as the Regional Chamber Strengthening Development Program. The chamber also acted as the secretariate for the Agro-Industry Sector of the  Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga) on 1997-1998.

When the late Pres. Jose M. Belen was elected president in 1999, the Oro Chamber revived the Oro Business Center in tandem with Secretary General Ma. Teresa A. Alegrio through the aegis of SWISSCONTACT. Through this project, over one thousand (1,000) SMEs underwent retooling and capability building programs.

During the same year, the Oro Chamber was selected as a public registration authority under the World Internet Secure Electronic Key (Wisekey) of Switzerland. Under this project, the Oro Chamber became the first Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines to issue digital signatures and certificates through eCommerce.


Marawi Veteran APC becomes a “Bridal Tank”

BALOI, LANAO DEL NORTE —– An armored vehicle of the Armed Forces of the Philippines which was a veteran of the Marawi Siege of 2017 was back in action for a very special mission:  to carry six white-dressed brides to their wedding with soldiers who fought during the Marawi siege.

The 4Mech APC that fought in the 2017 Marawi Siege becomes a “bridal tank” for six brides of soldiers from the unit.
(Photo courtesy of Algina Gilapay.)

The ‘bridal/wedding tank’ was a P39-million  M113A2 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) which played a significant role in the liberation of Marawi from the Dawlah Islamiya (DI).

Donated by the United States (US) government, it comes equipped with a remote-controlled weapon system that killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute leaders Omar Maute in October 16, 2017.

On Saturday, December 12, the tank became the center of attraction as it was decorated with white flowers and ferns and brought six ladies in white bridal gowns to the hall inside the Army camp where their respective partners were waiting to get married.

The groom

Six Army soldiers of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion decided to marry their respective partners in a Catholic wedding ceremony, dubbed “masked wedding”, after years of cohabitation as common law partners.

LtCol. Domingo Dulay, Jr., 4Mech commander, said the unit decided to conduct the wedding for the couples who have been living together with their partners and already had children without the benefit of marriage.

Six Army soldiers married their  partners on December 12 inside the camp of the 4th Mechanize Infantry Battalion in Barangay Nangka, Baloi, Lanao del Norte in a  ‘masked mass wedding’ because everyone wore face masks in compliance with minimum health protocols set by the IATF. (Divina M. Suson)

The weddings were deemed imperative to avoid problems between the unit and their families over the settlement of the soldiers’ benefits should they become casualties of war.

“Marami na kasing beses na namatay ang tropa or na-aksidente ang tropa dahil sa trabaho. May anak pero hindi kasal sa ina ng bata. Nag-aaway away na sila nung pamilya ng ina ng bata at pamilya ng tropa kasi nag-aagawan kung sino ang tatanggap ng mga benepisyo at kung sino ang mas may malaking share,” Dulay explained.

From siege to wedding

In his message to the couples, Dulay wished them a strong marriage that endures all kinds of temptations and challenges like the APC which successfully went through trying times during the Marawi siege.

“Naway ang pag-iibigan n’yo at pagsasamahan ay kasing tibay ng tangke de giyera na inyong sinakyan na galing sa Marawi siege. Nalampasan niya ang Marawi crisis. Sana malampasan n’yo rin ang lahat ng krisis at pagsubok na darating sa buhay n’yo bilang mag-asawa,” Dulay said.

Couple Private First Class (PFC) Monte Carlo Bueno and Geneveve Veloso are both from Luzon.

Newly-married couple, Private First Class (PFC) Monte Carlo Bueno and Geneveve Veloso, take off their face masks and face shields for a quick first kiss as a married couple (Divina M. Suson)

They met in 2010 through a common friend when both of them were still students and became a couple months later.

Seven months into their relationship, they broke up because “we did not have enough time for us together” according to them.

“But I kept on thinking of her and I was looking for her. In 2012, while I was working in our LGU (local government unit) I unexpectedly saw her in a mall. I did not waste my time, I asked for her contact number and we were back together,” Bueno said.

In 2012, Veloso got pregnant with their first child. They were planning their wedding when Bueno’s two siblings derailed their plans by also getting married.

“There is superstitious belief that it is not good to have two siblings get married in the same year. They call it “sukob”, Veloso said.

The wedding was shelved but Veloso got pregnant with  their second child in 2014.

Bueno was accepted into the Philippine Army in 2016 and was assigned to the operations section of the 4th Mechanized Battalion in Camp Pintoy in Barangay Suarez, Iligan City.

During the Marawi siege, he was assigned to receive reports from the battle area.When they were short of manpower, Bueno  joined a  team that brought supplies to troops inside the main battle area.

“Sobrang alala at halos hindi makatulog sa gabi dahil sa pangamba na baka may hindi magandang mangyari. Isa rin yung malaking pagsubok sa amin,” Veloso said.

In October, when Bueno learned of the free wedding to be organized by the unit inside the headquarters, he went home in Tarlac to process the documents needed.

He also had to bring Veloso to Mindanao for the wedding ceremony.

Their respective parents and their children were not present during the wedding due to travel restrictions.

“It was a very difficult journey. That time it was enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in our province. There was no transportation from Tarlac to Manila. We survived it just to be here for our wedding,” Bueno said.

“We do not let this chance to pass us by. Even if this is a‘mass wedding’, we still treasure it because this is what I want: to marry her (Veloso),” Bueno added.

With the sealing of their marriage on Saturday, Bueno and Veloso have only one promise: to trust each other always despite the distance.

“I will always pray you are safe especially during your operations,” Veloso told Bueno.

The M113A2 armored personnel carrier of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion as a “Bridal Tank” for the brides of six soldiers who were married in the unit’s camp at Bgy. Nangka, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. (Photo by Divina M. Suson) 

Aside from giving the couples hassle and expenses-free wedding, they were also gifted with a three-night accommodation at a hotel in Iligan City “courtesy of 4Mech friends” according to Dulay.


Philippines to Gain in Tech Power Shift from West to Asia

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 4

Two powerhouse panels on the fourth and penultimate day of the World Fintech Festival (WFF) – Philippines focused on two global trends that the Philippines needs to adopt on the road to post-COVID economic recovery. 

These are the tectonic shift of digital transformation from the West to Asia, and the swift integration of machine-learning tech into our industries, especially traditional or legacy companies.

Philippines to Gain in Tech Power Shift from West to Asia

The highly competitive world of tech has been pushed by the events of 2020 to more aggressively build bridges and push innovation as we see an increase in SMEs opting for digitalization.

Now, more than ever, securing funding for SMEs is a cornerstone in fortifying the Philippine economy, as investors turn their attention from the West to the major tech growth in Asia.

“There are three reactions that happen at the entry of changes: frustration, indifference, and innovation. Initially, you can expect a divide. It’s true for any industry. But eventually, if you are doing the right thing, everyone else will follow. Banks collaborating with fintech and embracing tech will be ahead of the game five to ten years from now,” said CEO Ron Hose.

Following the 722% transaction increase for InstaPay in the pandemic’s aftermath, finding a happy equilibrium between fintechs and banks is key to ensuring the longevity of this sector, which relies on interconnectivity and interoperability.

Christiaan Kaptein, Partner of Integra Partners, and Matthew Kolling, Chief Investment Officer of UBX, have been working together to create an open ecosystem that enables various industries to better transition into a tech-based economy.

Kaptein noted how the tech power shift has mostly been brought on by COVID-19 “pushing the agenda of digitization.” He showed how hardware, models, new data, and proxies dictate how tech shifts from the West to Asia. The biggest sector to look forward to is SAAS in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Kolling and TagCash Owner and Founder Mark Vernon noted another growth area that moved investors in North America and Europe to cast their eye on the Philippines: our young, tech-savvy population compared to the more mature and aging markets in their own regions.

Supporting this sentiment, Joan Yao, Kickstart Ventures Vice President of Investments, shared how its platform has been the Philippines’ largest corporate venture fund backed by major local players Ayala and Globe. As part of their optimistic approach to startups becoming more buildable over time, they’ve allocated US$180M into this fund.

WFF Philippines convener Amor Maclang notes that 30.7 million small businesses were recorded in the previous year, and of these, half will only survive for five years.

“To hurdle this challenge, ideators and entrepreneurs must ensure that, apart from being profitable, they should establish their story, impactability, and portfolio relevance,” she stressed.

Micropayments and consumption have been at the core of mass adoption, bearing the weight of investment considerations like each company’s ability to adapt to hypergrowth in tech, due to both new challenges and groundbreaking changes.

As digital reigns, Filipinos can skew more into digitizing their startups to run business smoothly and get past the setbacks that once might have plagued remote work, digital health, e-commerce, education, and entertainment.

Energy Legacy Biz Adopt Automation as 57% of Global Companies Increase AI-Tech Head Count

Legacy businesses, specifically those in enertech, telemedicine, and insurtech, are continuing their long-held tradition of being at the forefront of change by leading the charge into the adoption of automation using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies.

About 57% of global companies have increased their AI-tech workforce to respond to the needs of their customers, while simultaneously streamlining internal processes that can ultimately reduce up to at least six months’ worth of overtime work.

“The most important thing is to understand customers and know the pain points needed to be solved. For instance, FinTech is growing and blockchain is happening now,” said Vince Yamat, Managing Partner of 917Ventures. “917Ventures operates several companies like GCash. We used AI in GCash through GCredit by credit scoring. At Globe, we utilize AI by understanding how consumers use data. We are creating a lot of capabilities and platforms for different ventures. For KonsultaMD, which is telehealth, we use AI in triaging concerns.”

“Every industry will be touched by AI. Energy industry itself will be powered by AI. Using robotics resulted in so much savings in people’s time,” noted KPMG Philippines Vice-Chairman and COO Emmanuel Bonoan.

“I was very happy with the results so I mandated our tax division to use RPA. I will give you an example. Before we implemented RPA, each tax return per client would do around four hours. But after we implemented RPA, each tax return is now about 30 seconds. Within two months from the time we implemented RPA, we saved 6 months’ worth of man hours. That is such a huge savings in overtime. Morale of our people also increased because they are now put to tasks which allow them to use their critical thinking.”

Energy Development Corporation (EDC) Chief Transformation Officer Joy Santamarina detailed the company’s efforts in working on a digital twin of EDC’s power plants which enables them to analyze the data and provide customers valuable information that can help them be wise with their electricity consumption.

“What we’ve done so far is to look at the value chain of the whole ecosystem of our generation and put in necessary platforms in order to analyze data and predict certain outages and address them before they even occur.”

“Digitization plays a big part. From a seismic perspective, it is the analysis of waves. It allows us to clearly see what happens on the ground. To really understand the probability of your success. Exploration is low when it comes to business success – around 8% of success,” said Don Paulino, General Manager of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX).

“Digitization allows us to know where to do the seismic and how to do it. Sometimes it takes about 6 months, but with digitization, you can develop the field much quicker.”

“But in order to make digitalization more palatable even for the most old-fashioned of stakeholders, Meralco Vice President and Strategy and Business Development Office Head Raymond Ravelo advises to “leverage tech and innovation for good. We, in Meralco, are beginning this journey, and we are committed to do more to sustain energy, and sustain the future of our country, and a big factor in that is AI and digitalization.”

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Business Urged: Prioritize Data Security as Cyber Threats Skyrocket

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 3

The many ways by which tech can revolutionize industries, revive and strengthen ailing ones, and even protect businesses from dangerous threats were highlighted during the third day of the World Fintech Festival Philippines on Dec. 9.

Rural banks, coops, and startups can maximize financing relief to the critically-impacted sectors. Businesses were advised to use a customer-centric approach for their most agile solutions.  Fintechs are confronted by the realization that they have to embrace data privacy and security by design—or fall prey to cyber criminals.

Fintech Extends Lifeline to Struggling MSMEs

To jumpstarting the economy from the paralysis caused by multiple lockdowns, fintech-based companies established ways to help grassroot members of society by providing them access to loans, livelihood opportunities, and insurance that helped support their livelihood in the midst of the pandemic.

“We share the same sentiment towards providing for the SME sector’s needs through crowdfunding. By connecting businesses, we are able to address their needs. The group has funded over $200M for SMEs in Taiwan, Indonesia, Cambodia, among others. The segment that needs most help is SMEs. We are all here to help this segment which comprises more than 40% of employment,” said Edison Tsai, Executive Director of SeedIn Technology.

Esquire Financing Chairman and CEO Rajan Uttamchandani recommends viewing 2020 as a year of sacrifice, where provisions and risks are higher but provides stimulus for the SME segment.

“Our 5 Cs of credit have changed. We added a 6th C: New kind of business transformation is. We worked with Go Negosyo and DTI because demand for funding is very high for the SME sector. 49% unemployment rate really affects this sector and they don’t have the liquidity buffer large firms have. This is a sacrificial year to help the economy bounce back. It’s not about profitability but providing a helping hand to the segment that needs it most: SMEs and micros.”

Speaking of COOPs, Roy Miclat, 1 Cooperative Insurance President and CEO, said, “In this pandemic, we hastened the launching of digitization of COOPs. They are one of the most conservative organizations in the country as they are risk averse. But because of the pandemic, the appreciation of tech grew among COOPs. The COOPs thrive in crisis. It’s in their DNA. One of the initiatives next year is we’ll introduce climate risk disaster insurance.”

Another vulnerable sector that can help reinvigorate the economy are the currently underbanked motorcycle borrowers. “We had never released as many motorcycle loans as in this 3rd or 4th quarter of 2020,” noted Larry Ocampo, CitySavings Bank President and CEO. “We wanted to be part of the solution in jumpstarting the economy by providing Filipino workers a means to go back to work. The more people go back to work, the faster the economy grows.”

With mobility efforts shining the spotlight on motorcycles as both private and public transport, Ocampo is confident that 2021 will see an acceleration in the motorcycle business. “Motorcycles as part of business transport are more and more relevant. I think in relation to other SEAsian countries, capital is much lower in the Philippines. We are bullish about 2021, and expect a triple digit growth next year.”

“We have to take the risk of helping next year. It’s about the 2020 swing and you have to start somewhere,” said Uttamchandani.

Business Urged to Prioritize Data Security as Cyber Threats Soar 41% in Stay-at-Home Economy

As businesses continue to migrate to online platforms with a 1,000% growth in the last 8 months, organizations are pivoting to prioritize cloud, AI, data regulations, and cybersecurity as cyberthreats increased by 41%.

There is significant acceleration to the cloud among organizations. Fintechs are all about digital business, flexible working arrangements. Cyber resources are scarce resources so we have to point out the most important things.

“For Globe, security and data privacy for Globe is centered on customer care. We have invested about $90 million in the past years. Cybersecurity is placed on top 5 of top-level priorities,” said Anton Bonifacio, Chief Information Security Officer at Globe. “We do proactive and reactive collabs to protect our customers. We don’t charge banks for this protection.”

 “We might start to see government agencies considering an overarching regulation on data sovereignty,” said Atty. JJ Disini, Managing Partner of Disini Law Office. “The conversation is starting and fintech is a large part of that because data is essential to growth. This data needs to be able to flow in terms of fintech and financial institutions because the Philippines has one of the strictest regulations in terms of this.”

Underscoring the importance of a data stream that’s heavily fortified, National Privacy Commission (NPC) Commissioner Raymund Liboro shared that their work with Fintech Alliance to create a Code of Practice that ensures the data rights of consumers is not overridden by data processing.

“NPC believes the critical point is having that balance of ensuring data protection for consumers is primordial and enabling companies. While progress and development are assured, it likewise presents risks to individuals availing such services. Last year, complaints claimed that there are companies practicing harassment, high interest in loans, and public shaming. NPC took down 20 lending companies which violated regulations,” said Liboro.

“Privacy is an enabler of trust. Fortunately, unlike typhoons, earthquakes, privacy risks are man- made and can be mitigated. Governments and businesses will be judged not only by their products and services, but also by how they protect data of consumers,” he added.

DX from Disaster: Crisis, COVID-19 Birthed Innovative Apps in 2020

The year 2020 was a turning-point in the campaign to digitalize the nation, as it finally convinced even the skeptics that tech could spell the difference between survival and success.  The COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed business and economic activity and highlighted the need for a more agile business landscape.

“For us, we are optimistic that what we went through in 2020 made people understand the benefits of going digital,” said Yves Gonzalez, Google Philippines Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy. “In 2021, all stakeholders will pivot their strategy. You need to be digital. One of the sharings I wanna do this year is, for the first time, even in legislation, everything is digital now. Previously those were all face to face meetings. Some of the old ways were shifted. We as a country will really embrace digitization further.”

As stated by moderator Good Tech Holdings President and CEO Jove Tapiador, “So when enterprises think of investments in ICT, they need to consider how tech capabilities can empower them and enable strong recovery,” he said.

 “Having a people-first mindset is important to be a resilient organization,” said KPMG CIO Jallain Manrique. “So I think it revolves around that area. Technology will just follow. Necessity is a mother of innovation. If there is a need then the tech will provide that.”

Having worked with the government since March, Yves Gonzalez has seen how tech that is created to answer a necessity is inarguably more sustainable and relevant. From edutech for 22 million students to plotting testing centers on GoogleMaps and Waze, tech initiatives that would normally take years to roll out were completed in months.

“The private sector can work with the government to do machine learning. We’re hoping that this experience teaches us the value of cloud. As we move forward, we can get things done quickly if we collaborate and if we are geared by a common mission,” he added.

While Google PH has focused on education and accessibility of testing sites, Globe has concentrated on fintech through GCash and telemedicine through KonsultaMD. The former of these recently recorded 1 trillion pesos worth of transactions. Globe Chief Information Officer Carlo Malana said, “It’s not just about the next 6 months. We always take care of our customers. At the end of the day, tech must be used by the people for the people. There’s always a mission behind tech.”

Multisys Founder and CEO David Almirol advises that we should be enablers of our partners. “It’s a learning process. It is everyone’s duty now to support each other. We all know no company, no big conglomerate is perfect. We should combine the skill sets and strengths we have.”

While working with the government to develop the Stay Safe App, Almirol said he too realized the need to always focus on relevance. “Last month, we were able to launch 3 new platforms for MSMEs that can’t afford expensive platforms. We were able to combine 15 courier groups in the Philippines, and we also launched a shopping platform which MSMEs can use where they can sell and operate with cashless payments.”

“We want to meet the customers where customers want to be met. We try to make it easy and convenient for customers to repay loans as possible. In PH, it is very popular to use Viber, so we integrate channels where they want to be met. COVID has pushed us to do this a lot faster,” said Collectius Founder and CEO Gustav Eriksson.

“Everybody is focusing on maintaining customer relationships. Winners out of this will be the guys with systems and processes that can maintain customer relationships in this difficult time,” Eriksson said. “When the economy starts growing again, you have customers that still want to deal with you.”

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