WHAT does Cebu have that other places in the Philippines do not?
What does this island in the sun, with so few native resources to speak of, have that makes it stand out as a beehive of creative entrepreneurial activity?
Kenneth Cobonpue, Butch Carungay and Bunny Pages—guests during the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) Annual Convention in Cebu City at the beginning of this month—were all proof that there is indeed something unique among Cebuanos, and in Cebu’s ability to be the incubator of entrepreneurial ideas and ventures.
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Back in time there was Penshoppe, of course. From a little mom and pop shop in Cebu, it has become a national brand, a favorite among the young and energetic set.
And Julie’s Bakeshop? Who would now not have seen one somewhere in a bus stop anywhere in the Philippines? I remember in my younger days when it was still alone outlet in Fuente Osmeña, and how over time, with creativity and imagination, it has managed to franchise its way to national prominence.
And even among the country’s crème de la crème in business, it is Cebuanos who stand tall and proud above the rest. John Gokongwei, Henry Sy and Lucio Tan all trace their roots to Cebu. So do the Gotianuns, who have developed Alabang into a viable alternative to the Makati Business District.
So there is indeed a secret to Cebu. Maybe it is the sun and the sea. Or perhaps the steely drive and determination of a people descended from the blood of our first national hero, Lapu-lapu. Fiercely independent and tribal, Cebuanos love to help each other out in achieving fame and fortune. The strength of the island’s various chambers and trade associations, and the cooperation among its members attest to the fact that amid the healthy competition, there is also a lot of cooperative collaboration going on.
For instance, Kenneth Cobonpue, for all his busy schedule, takes time out to teach design courses at the UP Cebu’s Fine Arts Program. This is his way of giving back his skill and talent to the next generation of designers, so Cebu will always be blessed with talented artisans for the future.
It has been many years since I have been out of the place I like to call home. But every time I manage to make my way back there, I always come away feeling energized and recharged.
The energy, creativity and enthusiasm of the Cebuano are indeed contagious.
Outside of the Finex convention proper, I was also able to see the progress that the island has made in terms of its information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) sector—familiar to me because of the industry
I am now in. Even by the standards of Manila, the progress seems impressive.
I had a chance to make my way to the IT Park across the Waterfront Hotel, and the buzz and flurry of activity among the businesses there were palpable. All the recognizable names among the leading BPO organizations seem to be represented, a testament to their belief in the ability of the Cebuanos to be able to deliver world-class IT and BPO services to their demanding customers all over the world.
And on the way back to Manila, I found myself aboard one of Cebu Pacific’s brand new airbuses, amazed by the airline’s ability to depart and arrive on time, and even more amazed by its ability to offer fares at very competitive rates.
And little wonder that it can do all this, because it is owned by Mr. Gokongwei himself, one of Cebu’s favorite sons.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 23, 2009.