Saturday, 17 October 2009

Finex does Cebu

I THOUGHT I had seen the end of it. Of Ondoy that is. The week after the storm hit Metro Manila, leaving in its wake hundreds of people dead, many families left to rue their losses in property and loved ones, not to mention the billions of pesos of damage wrought on our already ravaged economy,

I was glad to be out of the capital.

Yes, I was in Cebu of all places, to attend the annual convention of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), the country’s premier association of professionals in the field of finance. Held at the new Parklane Hotel across the sprawling Cebu Business Park, the event was very well attended, not only by the association’s movers and shakers in Manila, but also by the hardworking and loyal members of its satellite and affiliate organizations in the provinces.

Sun.Star accepts donations for victims of Typhoon Ondoy

Dignitaries too were in full attendance. Cebu’s own Mike Rama delivered the opening address to the visiting financiers, exhorting them on their theme of “Transcending Global Challenges.” Then there was former energy secretary Vince Perez, engaging as usual, and in his element as he was talking about opportunities in the alternative energy sector. There was also Region 7’s own Gary Teves, whose job it was to explain to all gathered what the government was doing to fix its seemingly bottomless budget deficit, a task not made any easier by the ravages of Ondoy. And finally there was Cebu’s son Ace Durano, regaling the audience with his tales of endless possibilities for the country’s tourism sector.

All in all, the Finex convention was a resounding success, showcasing the province and city’s progress in the process.

In addition to the parade of dignitaries, the event also featured notable Cebuano success stories in the field of business—a reminder to the ManileƱos that entrepreneurship was alive and well in places outside of the capital, and most especially in Cebu.

First on the list of the guest entrepreneurs was Kenneth Cobonpue, who at this stage is already considered one of the country’s top design gurus. His products have received worldwide acclaim, and his client list counts the likes of Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford among his loyal customers.

Hot on Ken’s heels was young Wharton-schooled businessman Butch Carungay, who spoke about his passion for design as inspiring his move away from investment banking to the fashion accessories business. Already holding shows in Paris, Milan and New York, Butch told an admiring audience how he raised the game in terms of the country’s fashion accessories exports, transforming the image of Philippine fashion accessories from cheap generic to expensive branded items.

The third but certainly not the least among the Cebuano entrepreneurs was Bunny Pages, owner of a number of business interests that span education and hospitality.

Displaying an uncanny ability to spot undervalued businesses and up and coming opportunities, he narrated his story, and how he has always been able to acquire businesses that were seemingly underdelivering on their promise, and how he was able to make them deliver their potential. With his life motto of always “moving forward,” he certainly wowed the audience with his keen sense of the possibilities of business opportunities out there.

It was Cebu’s turn to shine under the lights, and the island certainly did not disappoint. If there were any doubters among the country’s top financiers about Cebu’ s future growth prospects, all of them certainly left convinced about the island’s potential. More next week.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 17, 2009.

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