Wednesday, August 24, 2016


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
August 24, 2016 issue

When her family returned to the Philippines from years of staying in Los Angeles, Susan Garcia-Dalmacion thought of bringing a little bit of Cuba to Manila. By being a food entrepreneur, she thought it would just be perfect. Afterall, her family loves food and with years of experience of being a chef herself, it’s something she would be happy doing.

The idea that popped up from her head became a reality, and soon, people were lining up infront of a quaint, little deli on Gallardo Street, Legaspi Village in Makati she and her happy family put up. Pepi Cubano, was born.

Pepi Cubano, who? Pepi Cubano is an inspiration from Dalmacion’s favorite Cuban sandwich. Immensely popular in LA, she always brought it home when she was in California. The business is named after her son Toti’s eldest son. “Because it carries her oldest grandson’s name, it goes without saying that the brand will always be protected. We also want the name to be always equated with positive vibes down to employees whom we want to feel they are part of our family who have as much stake in the business,” she says.

Temptingly special, scrumptious and crunchy as always, Pepi Cubano is an explosion of Caribbean ingredients prepared the Cuban way -, down to the last authentic detail. “The fillings are always lovingly laid out inside the bun. Perhaps, that’s what makes it so deliciously irresistible,” Dalmacion proudly intimates of the way she personally supervises preparation of her now famous sandwich.

A few months into the business, reviews by foodies are flattering. Write-ups have been favorable, unsolicited endorsements are aplenty, franchising requests as well as clamor for more branches around metro Manila are becoming persistent. If you google the word, you will see a flood of positive remarks heaped on Manila’s newest food sensation.

Pepi Cubano has upped Manila’s international ranking on the food barometer. People who always look for new and interesting joints in the nooks and crannies of the city could not be wrong.

The simple way to describe a Pepi Cubano sandwich is it is deliciously substantial. The way to enjoy it is when the bun is crunchy and hot while the fillings burst with meaty goodness and all the Caribbean flavors delight your senses. If the brand would be served and sold in Havana, Cubans would probably hardly notice any difference.

“Years of enjoying these sandwiches in L.A., combined with my experience in culinary art enabled me to come up with the recipe for the Cuban sandwiches we now serve,” Dalmacion proudly says.

The look, the shape, the taste, Pepi Cubano is a must-try for people who want fast but truly satisfying meal with a Cuban beat titillating you on the side. Pepi is an elongated bun filled with a generous amount of pork and ham, succulent enough to seduce the gods in heaven, as one customer said. With special cheese, pickles, jalapenos and mustard lavishly smothered on top, and with premium butter pressed hard to make it look flat, the gustatory experience will make you crave for more.

You can choose a lot of fillings – from the buttery, melt-in-your mouth Paddy Bistek to Choripan, a chorizo and relish filled delight to Cubano Lechon, a Pinoy-Cubano fusion that continous to be a hit, and then, there’s a lot more in the menu.

Starting the business at home

When Dalmacion started her own small business from her kitchen, friends immediately fell in love with her baby. They knew what to expect because she is a connoisseur of good food and her standards are high. Many buns and Cuban sandwiches later, the stage was set. She was ready to fly and the ball started rolling, eventually spreading like wildfire among her circle of friends. Friends of friends endorsed it until she had to put Little Cuba in Manila at the very heart of Makati’s business district.

Lovers of Pepi Cubano admit Dalmacion’s sandwiches sold by themselves because they basically taste good. Dalmacion can reveal that she has perfected the recipe and use only the right ingredients. The warm welcome the product received was due to its consistent taste and quality - a priority in her kitchen that Dalmacion does not compromise.

Does she have a secret recipe? Dalmacion says her roast pork, for example, is marinated in a secret sauce. ”Even the way we arrange the fillings inside the bun is done with a whole lot of love. We treat it not as a fastfood but put our selves into our customers tastebuds, so what you get is a mouthwatering, deliciously prepared sandwich,” she says.

If anyone googles “How to make a Cuban sandwich”, it will be hard to capture the taste that Pepi Cubano offers, Dalmacion says. Why? It’s as unique as the name and the result of years of trying to perfect the recipe.

Dalmacion primarily targets office employees, entrepreneurs and condominium-dwellers - people who are always looking for a cozy place serving a quick but tasty meal. She wants to be able to put up with the demand and put more shops to cover key areas around Metro Manila in the next few years. She wants to continue what she has trailblazed and make Pepi Cubano accessible to even those who are too far away from her first branch in Makati.

What’s one thing that makes her smile? She is proud of the fact that from the time she opened her first shop, requests to put up a shop in the north, south, and other parts of Metro-Manila have not stopped.

Through the years, Dalmacion looks forward to seeing Pepi Cubano maintain its quality, to be known as a place with a warm welcoming atmosphere. She hopes to see her pet project become a favorite shop for people who love good food, with a presence not just in the metro but also in key cities all over the country, perhaps even the region.

100% positive response

“Pepi Cubano has been blessed to have gotten an almost perfect feedback from our customers. People who are familiar with Cuban sandwiches and had them in the US (particularly California and Florida) say they taste exactly the way they are served in the US,” Dalmacion says.

In Makati, she has made a steady following from Cuban and Latin American communities. Guests would come up to her and warmly tell her that her Cubano sandwiches reminded them of the taste they are so familiar with back home.

Then she mentions “Chef”, a movie that made many people try her Pepi Cubano. “We made good reviews because of that - on lifestyle websites, food blogs and magazines. They gave us exposure and kind words. Of course, I am also very thankful to people who endorsed us on social media,” she says.

Would she be open to franchising? Dalmacion says she hopes to expand quickly to make Pepi Cubano more accessible to more people around Metro-Manila. “But while we’ve had so many inquiries about franchising (even as far as Cebu), we do not want to rush into this. Maybe grow the business a little bit more and apply all the learnings from early stages of the business. So when we get into franchising, it will be a truly win-win situation for all. Five years from now, definitely more Pepi Cubano branches, I hope.”

Pepi Cubano is very active on social media. It has also made a conscious effort to be visible outside Makati by participating in food bazaars. Marketing tie-ups with Makati Diamond Residences, Uber, Bayani Brew, the fitness app K-Fit, among others are also helping spread awareness for Pepi.

Loyal customers

Dalmacion loves the fact that she has built a following over the last six months, people who enjoy Pepi Cubano practically everyday. It warms her heart knowing that they already have a favorite from her menu every time they visit.

A customer who broke his leg had the same sandwich delivered to his house while recovering. “We’ve had a number of chefs who visited us and it was always gratifying to hear them give positive comments. The common reaction was “like in that movie Chef,” Dalmacion says.

Dalmacion gets a different crowd on weekends. They are mostly families brought to her shop by working moms and dads. “We value them because they have helped much in spreading the word by posting enjoyment moments on social media. “Other than our food, our guests also love taking photos of Pepi Cubano vintage delivery bikes, (which we actually use) and the “kombi” (which we intend to use as a “food truck”) – all of them part of the total Pepi Cubano experience we offer,” she says. Great food, Cuban ambience, music and decor make Pepi’s distinct personality the real deal.

Business philosophy

How is her business doing so far? Dalmacion says: “The one shop we have is doing well and we are expecting an even better performance at the end of the year. We have a number of marketing initiatives all lined-up. But given the number of players in the food business, especially in our area, we constantly think of creative ways to give our customers reason to choose us.”

If she were to make an ad for Pepi Cubano, what would her campaign look like?

“Based on our experience on social media, one gorgeous food shot can really bring in customers, our focus would still be on food, we will put in the sizzle, when the sandwiches are pressed, the crunch when you cut the sandwich, the mouth-watering layers that are revealed. But going beyond the food, we would want to capture the personality of the shop, the vibrant colors associated with Cuba, the Latin music that is always there, the total Pepi Cubano dining experience,” she excitedly tells us.

She would have Jon Favreau, the star and director of “Chef”* to endorse Pepi Cubano. “That would be perfect but an unrealistic choice,” she says.

*Chef is deliciously entertaining, comic as well as touching movie. Favreau contacted Roy Choi, a restaurateur who created the Kogi Korean Barbecue food truck to serve as a consultant on the film. He oversaw all of the menus prepared for the film and created the Cuban sandwiches that formed the central part of the movie.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 13, 2016 issue

When Philippine National Bank launched “Para kang nakasandal sa pader” (like leaning on a sturdy wall) advertising campaign in the early 80s, the line immediately created buzz. It had a word-of-mouth appeal that was cool to say, eventually spreading like wildfire. People mouthed it casually or deliberately, and the catchphrase would become almost a part of the Filipino colloquial language.

Talk about it, the slogan would immediately be associated with PNB. Calling it as a success was an understatement. The brand effected positive recall for the bank. No wonder, PNB then was named one of the best Filipino ads when the Philippine ad industry celebrated its silver anniversary.

Though millennials may not recall it now, the awareness it generated during its time was better than most noisy ads on air. The copywriter did a great job in crafting it - street-smart. How else would you respond to a creative brief wanting to communicate stability?

The bank celebrated its 100th year this year and is already looking forward to its next with many programs and services geared towards giving the Filipino many firsts.

One of the highlights of its centennial year was giving 100,000 Philippine Airlines (PAL) Mabuhay Miles to 100 lucky cardholders in a promotion called “100 Winners in 100 Days.”

Let’s travel back in time.

PNB was the de facto Central Bank of the Philippines as early as 1916 up to 1949. It established its first branch in Iloilo on July 24, 1916 and opened its doors to international banking when the New York branch was established in1917. It put up five more domestic branches and another overseas branch in Shanghai, China the following year. In 1955, it was authorized to operate as an investment bank with powers to own shares and to issue debentures.

It launched the first online Electronic Data Processing System in the entire Far East when it transferred its head office in Escolta in 1966. Between 1967 and 1979, PNB continued to expand its operations by opening offices in London, Singapore, Djakarta, Honolulu and Amsterdam. Its domestic network also expanded, opening 14 more provincial branches.

PNB became the first universal bank in the country in 1980. It encountered operational difficulties in the mid-80s as a result of the economic downturn triggered by the assassination of Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. It was privatized in 1989 and became the first Philippine bank to reach the P100-billion mark in assets in 1992.

Also the country’s first Universal Bank and one of the first banks in the country to introduce the ATM (Automated Teller Machine), PNB today continues to innovate and plans to introduce more banking “firsts” in the field of digital and mobile banking.

From a bank leader with a spectacular success, the bank suddenly had ‘fallen asleep’, stretching through the last three decades. Whatever positive advertising mileage it gained seemed to have dissipated. Hardly visible in the last 10 years, why the noise now?

“Following the successful merger of PNB and Allied Banking Corporation in 2013, PNB wants to continue to position itself as a major player in the banking industry, being one of the country’s biggest banks,” says Lela Regala-Teodoro, Assistant Vice-President, Marketing Services Division Head of PNB.

“For that reason, a need was seen for PNB to revitalize its image and appeal to younger generations. We launched a new campaign that aims to change public’s perception of the bank - from that of a government institution to that of a strong private bank that shows dynamism as well as provides products and services that address the financial needs of our customers of all generations,” she says.

Selling PNB to Filipinos

Teodoro says PNB wants to be a part of the Filipino’s lives, from teaching the Filipino youth about financial matters up to the time they start working and having a family. “We want to be there and be their financial partner throughout the different stages in their lives,” she stresses.

“To help achieve our customer’s financial objectives, a full range of these services are made available in our branches, which include consumer loans, life and non-life insurance, unit investment trust funds, business loans, credit cards, among others,” she explains. She reveals that while PNB branches continue to be their primary platform for sales and service, there’s more to PNB’s dynamic and engaging service through online (PNB website and social media) and mobile platforms.

She mentions that the bank’s communications thrust over the next few years is to make known that PNB aims to be the financial ally that Filipinos can lean on. “Our innovation and beliefs are all rooted upon a customer-centric philosophy, which has gained a sharper focus across the organizations,” she says.

Teodoro takes pride in PNB’s unique bank services. “We pioneered a series of banking “firsts” in the industry,” she says. “We launched the “Bank on Wheels” in the 70s to serve far-flung towns. We also did the “Bank on Wings”, a program that featured PNB employees journeying to the province on Toyota Land Rovers and helicopters to provide service to the bank’s client-farmers,” she beams with pride.

By the end of 2015, the bank introduced an all-new and revamped “Bank on Wheels” for Filipinos – to provide banking services when and where they need them most.

PNB also engineered the ATMSafe, the first insurance product for PNB ATM cardholders that replaces cash stolen from ATM skimming or robbery. Similarly, it launched the first end-to-end online facility that offers clients the convenience of investing in and redeeming from their UITFs (Unit Investment Trust Funds) online.

PNB also recently introduced UITF ATM Facility, a service that enables clients to invest their money through PNB’s 954 ATMs nationwide. Another retail product that the bank first introduced was the HKP (“Healthy Ka Pinoy”) Medical Card, a low-cost health insurance program that caters to people who usually cannot afford this protection.

Image problems

When the bank conducted focused group discussions and research, the summary findings revealed unsettling answers. Some of them referred to it as “Ang bangko ng Lolo ko”, associated with an octogenarian senator, etc. This gave Teodoro and PNB Chief Marketing Officer Martin Reyes impetus to work on short and long-term goals.

Reyes expressed the need for a strong branding visibility across all media platforms. He emphasized the need to make the bank more appealing to the younger audience. To make a lasting impact, he mentioned a conscious effort to align all the bank’s business units in drumming up a singular effort in cascading the bank’s “You First” campaign.

“We are Filipinos preaching to Filipinos,” he says. As such, we need to rebrand and rebuild awareness, accessibility to bank’s loyal depositors and amplify our greatest strength – service to bank customers,” he says.

Teodoro also wants to correct the notion that the bank is completely or partially-owned by the government. Contrary to the common belief, PNB is a private bank, she says. “PNB is the country’s 4th largest private commercial bank in terms of assets and deposits. It has been privatized since 2007,” she says matter-of-factly. 

In an environment where there are so many banks, why would Juan de la Cruz bank with PNB?

Teodoro says the bank offers stability, products and services that they need, matched with the bank’s own brand of Filipino service,” she takes pride in saying. In trying to make the bank relevant and more accessible to the Filipino, she says, “PNB wants to be there for our customers at every stage of their financial growth, from opening their first savings accounts – to helping them own their first home.”

“Having pioneered many industry innovations in its 100 years of service, PNB plans to introduce more banking first to benefit new account holders, specifically in the field of digital and mobile banking”, Teodoro says.

She also notes that electronic platforms for financial transactions are the future trend in the Philippine banking industry. “We look forward to providing more financial solutions for our customers through our Internet and mobile banking services,” she adds.

PNB banking difference

As the de facto Central Bank of the Philippines during its early days, Teodoro says PNB has always been the bank of the Filipino, surviving the challenges of growth and the ever-changing financial landscape.

“We have the most extensive international presence – 70 overseas branches and offices among Philippine banks. In addition, we have a distribution network of 669 branches and 954 strategically located ATMs nationwide,” she says.

With PNB customers at the forefront and backed by 100 years of stability as its foundation, the bank indeed is the bank that customers can always lean on. Serving them first unwaveringly for the next 100 years.

Teodoro wants to address the need for more PNB ATMs. If people don’t see that much PNB ATMs right now, that will soon be a thing of the past, she says. A major ATM expansion and upgrading program is currently underway. An order placement of 1,000 new machines to replace and augment the bank’s current inventory is in the works. Aside from a higher operating system, the new PNB modernized ATMs will be equipped with anti-skimming device and compliant with Europay, MasterCard/Visa and other money-matter protocols.

How are PNB offices abroad doing? Teodoro says, the bank capitalizes on its strong international presence, having the widest global reach among Philippine banks with 70 branches and offices in the US, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. “We continue to enhance our financial services for our global Filipinos and their families by introducing more campaigns and programs that address their evolving needs,” she answers.

How would you like to see PNB in 5 years time? Teodoro answers: “When the bank celebrated its 100th anniversary last July 22, 2016, that was a very meaningful milestone for us, knowing that we have served at the very least, two generations of Filipinos and a multitude of companies, of all sizes, that have shaped the economic history of the country.  While we consider that as our PNB badge an honor, it conversely demands from the Bank the sustained responsibility of being a positive force in nation building in the years ahead.” 

Teodoro adds that “past successes provide the springboard for our future vision of a more reinvigorated PNB: a Bank reaching out to serve the Filipinos first. We have been investing over time to improve the Bank and its brand, transforming it into a more agile, sales-driven, and customer-centric organization.”

Most recently, too, PNB launched a thematic tv advertising campaign with a new tagline, “You First”, a collaboration with advertising agency partner IXM, Southeast Asia’s Independent Agency of the Year last year. It was a means to articulate our long-standing message of stability to our customers, embodying the company values of “”Mapaglingkod (Service Orientation), “Mapagkakatiwalaan” (Trustworthiness), and “Mapagmalasakit” (Commitment), she explains.

“At the heart of the bank’s services, is our first and foremost instinct - to align our objectives to the customer’s needs. We adapt as necessary, with the aim of providing services that are not only effective, but are also caring and sincere. With this, the “You” in You First refers to PNB’s customers, making them the reason for service. “First” speaks about prioritizing the customer’s needs and making sure that the Bank continues to be part of their lives’ firsts and milestones,” Teodoro punctuates.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 25, 2016 issue
Business Mirror

From a little girl who peddled rice cakes in the streets, Erlinda Alli-Ganapin rose from her lowly beginning and survived many odds, some of them miraculously. How she beat them makes an interesting story.

Ganapin is a self-made woman, toughened by challenging experiences, molded by beautiful values, and time continues to make her a vintage wine. Once chosen as outstanding woman of the city of Puerto Princesa, you can liken her to many indigenous things Palawan is famous for, like lustrous sea pearls, brown and tough “Kamagong” tree, pungently sweet “Mampalang” (local mango) and many more.

The woman is proud of her teaching profession and always reminds people in her community that nothing is impossible when you dream about something and pursue it relentlessly. Listening to her as she dreamt of seeing Manila as a kid holds you spellbound. And you can tell, she is a woman of substance.

Born to be a storyteller 

When she was nine years old she could not contain her excitement the moment she stepped into MV General Luna, the big ship that sailed for three days and two nights to reach the city. To make the story short, it was a trip she would never forget for the rest of her life.

On their way back home, a series of unfortunate incidents greeted them as well as hundreds of passengers in the middle of the sea. An engine trouble had caused the ship to stall and passengers had to transfer to another ship. Packed like sardines on MV Fortuna, the rescue ship, Ganapin’s family slept on the floor and occasionally, on top of their luggage. Everything seemed fine until loud screams jolted them out of their sleep.

They heard a woman shout, “Huramentado, huramentado!” (Amok, everybody run!). Her mother then grabbed her hand and they sped upstairs. Halfway to safety, she remembered that her two other sisters were not with them. As they dashed back the dining area, passing through a narrow hallway, Ganapin saw a man approaching them with a bloodstained bolo. The man was going berserk.

And then the nightmare, the man swung his bolo hitting her mother’s scalp. At that instance, blood spurted out like a fountain from her head, terrifying her endlessly. Like a monster, the crazed man turned to her next. About to strike her, her mother had regained strength from half-consciousness and pushed him with brute force in the nick of time. All bloodied, she hurriedly put her inside a big box and covered it with a piece of luggage.

With one violent swing, the man had hit a luggage her mother had grabbed earlier to shield her. It had split into two, even causing a deep wound on her mother’s left hand. Without the luggage, her mother’s hand would have been cut off. Horrified, Ganapin cowered in fear. There was as if a mysterious hand that guided her mother to save her from near death. Then they heard loud gunshots. The man fell dead with many people wounded in his wicked wake.

Traumatized, Ganapin would later learn that her older sister almost jumped off the ship. The terrifying incident on that fateful night of June 1958 landed on national newspapers. Retelling the story to her teachers, classmates and friends would make her an effective storyteller later on.

To forget and put it behind them, her mother thought of a small business at home making rice cakes. She and her sisters knocked on people’s homes and sold them before going to school.
Ganapin sold the most because she had the loudest and charming voice. She even endeared herself to cabaret girls near the town’s popular Cosmos Bakery.

Born in a town where everybody knew everybody, Ganapin is grateful for all the learning experiences she faced during her growing up years. “I cherish the joy and laughter of my childhood. There were frustrations, pain and suffering, but as years went by, they’ve become part of a beautiful story worth sharing,” she intimates.

She remembers playing “patintero”, “luksong tinik”, “tumbang preso”, “tagu-taguan”, “piko”, “pitsao”, “maro” and “tatsing” under the sun and during full moons. She cherishes her boyish adventure of climbing fruit-bearing trees, gathering seashells, sea urchins and fiddler crabs at nearby “Parola”.

She remembers binging on ‘plywood’, a kind of hard baked bread, banana cue and “maruya”. “We drank water directly from the school’s artesian well if we didn’t have enough money to buy soft drinks. I was also bullied because of my dark brown skin and kinky hair,” she narrates.

With her father’s untimely death, Ganapin was compelled to become a working student. While tagging along with a friend who was auditioning for a broadcasting job, a man with a baritone voice yelled “Next!” referring to her. The man was the famous Jess Decolongon, a respected radio personality in the country. Ganapin reluctantly tried and to her surprise, she was taken in. The rest is history.

Ganapin learned the value of coming on time (as in this interview where she came in 30 minutes early), preparedness, continuous learning while on the job, objectivity in dealing with situations, presence of mind, reading and improving one’s craft and not to settle for anything less.

She sold mosquito nets, blankets, bed sheets and pillowcases sent by her brother to augment the family income and worked at the Office of the Auditing Examiner’s Office at Palawan National School, Provincial Assessor’s Office, Office of the Provincial School Superintendent while continuing part-time work at DYPR on weekends (with a salary of two pesos per hour).

She worked full-time during summer as disc jockey, hosted live shows, gave advice to people in love on air, was a newscaster, did field reporting, public service, and hosted musical programs.

Ganapin’s family instilled in her faith in God, honesty, respect for elders, concern for others, hardwork and perseverance. She helped her brother Artemio who took over her mother’s home business. Though half of his right leg was amputated because of a fatal accident, he strived hard. He now manages a family business in Antipolo market and lives in a big house with his family. Her older sister Aurora taught her multi-tasking and time management. “I should really be thankful for her efforts in making me learn how to survive in life,” she adds.

She read pocketbooks, newspapers, watched English movies, accepted English programs at DYPR (“Words and Music”), joined literary writing contests, wrote poems, short stories, scripts, memorized speeches, listened to good speakers to improve her English.

An active student leader, she won as a senator in college. She graduated at age 19 and became a full-pledged teacher. Her first teaching job was at a barrio high school in Quezon town southern Palawan. Here, she once walked a 7-kilometer muddy road from a sitio because the vehicle she took could not proceed further to the town proper.

“My first two-years of teaching was full of challenges and frustrations but that did not discourage me. I organized a fund-raising campaign for our school building. The local government funds were not sufficient to provide our needs in school. We had to wait for 5 months to claim salaries,” she relates.

Ganapin’s starting salary was Php 234.00 charged against local funds. “I initiated educational field trips to supplement theories taught in school. I recommended students for summer jobs in a mining company for them to earn extra income for their continuous schooling,” she adds.

She transferred to Palawan National School in 1971 as a full-time English teacher, resumed radio work during weekends and moved to the newly opened Palawan Teachers' College (predecessor of Palawan State University) in 1977. It was the start of a flourishing professional growth for her, paving the way towards her dreams.

She then pursued a master's degree in college teaching. A year after, she specialized as Trainor in English for the Decentralized Learning Resource Center, a school for school administrators of the Department of Education. Soon, she was designated Director of Information. 

Because of her media background, Ganapin was tasked to answer issues raised by faculty and students against school administration in local media and at Radio Veritas and Radyong Bayan in Manila. When Edsa Revolution was unfolding in 1986-1987, the then Palawan State College was also undergoing a student-faculty unrest.

Groups wanted the incumbent president to give way to a Palaweno educator. Unfolding events would make Ganapin principal of the Laboratory High School from 1987-1991, a tough task she handled after the transition of leadership.

In a state institution where designations are never permanent, Ganapin anchored a one-hour a week radio program aired to keep stakeholders informed about college activities. She was among those who prepared a position paper needed for a bill converting the state college into a state university.

Eventually finishing her doctorate degree in Education in 1998, she was designated Dean of College of Education the following year. She would hold the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs after three months, lasting for nine years.

In 2005, Ganapin became Executive Vice President of the university and served as member of the PSU Board of Regents as alumni representative (1999-2004). She worked on major curricular reforms and initiated additional extension centers in different municipalities of the province.

She was given a 5-day scholarship on Leadership and Management of Universities in the 21st Centuryat the United Nations University in Amman, Jordan in 2006 where she presented a paper on Solid Waste Management Program of Puerto Princesa City. When PSU was recognized as the first sustainable and eco-friendly university in the Philippines in 2009, she was appointed chair of the committee on environmental sanitation and beautification, organized by the DENR, CHED and DEPEd.

She presented the university’s best practices at the Ritsusmeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan on December 12, 2009 as a result. All of these milestones happened while attending to a sick daughter who battled leukemia for almost a year. 

She worked with the World Bank through PSU Knowledge for Development Center and led a university-wide anti-corruption drive, making the school recognized as member of Transparency International. This earned her a Governor's Award in Education in 2010 two weeks after her daughter’s death.

She was then appointed OIC-President of Palawan State University a year after, a position she worked hard to attain with very supportive constituents. She resigned after three months and applied for the presidency of PSU, an institution she served for more than three decades.

A few people worked against her and she eventually lost the battle, a well-orchestrated conspiracy done by people whom she says acted like God. “I thought it best to keep calm,” Ganapin says. More than a year after her retirement in service, Ganapin was invited as an external associate for PSU under the Atlas Scholarship Program in Gottenburg, Sweden in 2013. Together with a team of educators from University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo De Davao University and Angelicum College, she worked on a curriculum for selected elementary schools, integrating environmental sustainability. 

Ganapin believes in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), an advocacy she started in the late 80s when she co-authored Palawan’s first musical play "Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kailan?", with good friend Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek. 

In a city where women leaders are few, Ganapin was a reluctant city council candidate of the Liberal Party in the last elections supported by some business groups, partymates, family, friends, relatives, colleagues and former students, in her desire to help promote education for sustainable development and senior citizens concerns. 

At age 66, she is still an active Red Cross volunteer member of the Board of Directors) , a part-time volunteer teacher ( since 2013) at the Seminario De San Jose in Puerto Princesa City, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Palawan State University Multi-Purpose Cooperative (since 2015), manager of Palawan Prime  Movers Advocacy Cooperative and a part-time professor at the PSU Graduate School. She is looking forward to continue her services as an educator in her own simple ways.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 11, 2016 issue
Philippine Business Mirror
Full page

Passionate about emotional storytelling with cinematic visuals, two young German filmmakers, 
Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherzl created a story of two brothers journeying back to their younger days. In the Scottish highlands, the setting of the ad, the two seamlessly integrated Johnnie Walker and put a twist to its long time "Keep Walking" slogan at the end. 

The result was a viral history and their initiative work became talk-of-the-town. By the end of 2015, the haunting speculative television commercial caught the eyes of film watchers across the globe. And influential Advertising Age and Adweek gave them a toast.

Titz and Lebherzl are film students at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. They produced "Dear Brother", title of the ad, and are hoping to someday make it big in the ad industry. 

More than half of the Philippines’ 100 million Filipinos are young and creative. An equal number are also computer-savvy. Like Titz and Lebherzl, many are hoping to be given a break in tv commercial production.

The Philippines has time and again proven that it can excel and be on par with the best in the world. A real film school can develop their talent and make wonders. The only thing is, we have no school like what Titz and Lebherzl attended as far as technology is concerned. Our universities are not equipped for film and tv commercial production, even in its basic form. 

None also has the magnitude of Miami Advertising School, one of few schools in the world that puts the student at the intersection of education and real-world practice. Miami students learn from instructors who are practicing professionals from real advertising world, unlike some local schools with little or no knowledge of the industry and are there only because of politics or by accident. 

Founded in 1993, Miami allows students to develop ideas and advertising campaigns, videos, social media strategies, websites, apps, products and new business models – all from professionals of the industry. Through partnerships with dozens of advertising agencies and film production companies, students get an opportunity to intern and get real-world experience while they are still in school. 

“Imagine the good if only the best schools and teachers are available to these talented Filipinos. They can easily reach their dreams and help the production industry,” says Ross Misa, founder of prolific Abracadabra, a young film production company that has been turning out better-produced tv commercials recently.

Misa says Filipino talents have to train in local production houses after they graduate. They have to re-learn or even unlearn some theoretical lessons, specifically those from schools with no equipment to do the rigors of real film production.

Misa founded Abracadabra in 2006 out of sheer determination to start anew after twenty-two years of working as an executive producer in a high-profile production company. The name came when his business partner Mari Buencamino were playing music on his laptop. 

While they were at it, a Steve Miller Band song popped out. Dissecting the lyrics “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” and “We create as we speak”, they would be convinced that the word was fun and catchy. They then set up a one-room office space in Roadrunner, a production house owned by Dodie Lucas in Legaspi Village, Makati. The rest is history.

“Our growing up years were luckily, not as tough as those of other players in the industry. We were fortunate enough to have a pool of clients who supported us. This inspired us and we became even more aggressive in chasing for new directors to offer to our growing number of clients,” Misa recalls.

He immediately put Italian Director Franco Marinelli on board. Marinelli was a most sought after tv commercial director who also gave Abracadabra its first regional tv commercial production assignment. 

Abracadabra debuted with an Anchor Beer tv commercial shot in China, in collaboration with ad agency Leo Burnett Guangzhou. They then worked on Qatar Fertilizer, in partnership with Spinifex Australia, afterwhich they produced three more tv ads for Walmart USA, all directed by Marinelli.

Over the years, Abracadabra would win gold awards from the local industry’s Oscars: Ad Congress, Kidlat Awards and in regional and international award shows like Spike Asia, Cannes, and One Show. It even made a full-length movie entry for Sundance Film Festival.

As it was becoming a hot innovative shop, it also meant investing in new equipment and technology. Abracadabra subscribed to the latest Steadicam series to meet the needs of the local film and video industry. 

Recently, it rounded up progressive Philippine directors, camera operators and producers to attend a Steadicam Bronze Workshop, in partnership with Big Brother Manila and Tiffen Steadicam, a global leader in film equipment supplies to address cost-efficiency in the new digital age and other challenging issues affecting the industry. The company also allied with the country’s biggest supplier of state-of-the-art equipment, HD cameras and Final Cut Pro editing facilities.

"We evolve with the times and equip Abracadabra with up-to-the-minute equipment to be competitive in the digital landscape. From content concepts to storyboard production to pre-production to the finished material, we put our years of experience and expertise on each of them,” Misa proudly says.

The company will celebrate its 10th year on July 27th this year. It is just as upbeat as when it started even with a number of production houses have closed down and old-timers in the industry have retired. 

Misa has no traces of slowing down. On the contrary, he continues to give something back, sharing part of Abracadabra to talented Filipino filmmakers by providing them valuable training ground they never experienced early on.

The next 10 years 

The ever forward-looking Misa has taken note of the evolving episodes in the industry. His plans are ambitious. “We all have to become lean and mean but very smart in the way we approach production,” he says. He believes that it is in the giving that “we receive. It is always the law of seedtime and harvest,” he says.

“I simply want to sustain and continue our services. I want to see Abracadabra become one of the best, if not the best ever creative communications company in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region,” Misa says on being asked how he wants to see his baby in the next ten years.

Misa is not talking empty. He is tireless, forward looking and surrounded by supporters, people with diverse experience, creative and industry people who are experts in traditional and emerging new media. 

He has long been ready even before the digitalization game became a buzzword. He has mapped out plans to face the competition. “Our first and foremost rule: “Adapt to the changing times and master the art of sustainability,” he says matter-of-factly. 

Misa started in tv commercial production when he was accompanying his younger sister for a production assistant interview in a production house called Media Circuit in Quezon City. The frenetic scene, his own curiosity and excitement tempted him to also try. He, too, applied and got hired.

“My first teacher in the industry was no less than Lorna Lopez-Tabuena, the owner and two other pillars of the company, Yayan Concepcion and Ina Lagman. I was trained to do all types of legwork: answer the phone, make copies of storyboards, run errands (food for shoots and interlock meetings, prepare artwork and set materials) and do all kinds of administrative tasks my production managers asked me to do,” he remembers. 

His training also involved technical matters. He was lucky to be able to work with Nelly Vidanes (Mang Nelly to many), Media Circuit’s technical supervisor for tv network engineering. 

He eventually became a Production Manager and worked with some of the best Filipino and foreign directors like Jin Urbano, Naning Padilla, Tony Herrera, Tony Smith, Jeric Soriano, Trevor Hone, Butch Perez, Dante Datu, Vitt Romero, Manolo Abaya, Peque Gallaga, Lorie Reyes, Stasch Radwanski, Franco Marinelli and Neil McDonald.

He remembers with fondness the tv commercials he produced during the early part of his career: Smart tv commercial with Dolphy as talent and produced by one of his mentors in the industry Nanette Ramirez, “Riles”, an advocacy ad for TBWA-Santiago, Mangada and Puno, “Dancing Inmates”, a tribute to Michael Jackson that was co-produced with Sony Pictures USA and the first Jollibee tv ad produced with the late Abby Jimenez.

He, too knocked on doors of advertising agencies, collaborated with in-house agency producers and presented demo reels of Filipino directors and cinematographers, selling his company’s production expertise and experience. 

His biggest break came with “Wok With Yan”, a grueling series of tv commercials created for three ad agencies in one day, a project he considered a turning point in his career. 

“I had to shoot three concepts within 24 hours. 
Here, I learned attention to detail, a “get-it- done” attitude, which I inherited from my boss, coupled with a good relationship with production setmen, otherwise, you’ll never what will happen. Here, we were supposed to simulate the show’s template, follow directions correctly and must deliver based on pre-production meeting agreements. We hurdled the test!” he proudly remembers.

How was the industry back then compared to now? “Ad agencies then demanded quality. Everything had to pass through rigid process and schedules were more reasonable. Production budgets were much higher. There was more leeway for us to use big-named local and foreign directors. Graphics and post-production facilities were mostly done overseas: Tokyo Japan, Hongkong, Sydney Australia, Los Angeles, USA, and Bangkok,” he says.

He laments that social media has changed the scenario and real-time media has become prevalent. “There are now more affordable technology (cameras and post facilities) and user-friendly applications/softwares that enhance executions and they have become readily available. We see these not as a threat but as tools for real talented Filipino artists,” he says.

People in the industry come and go but Misa has crossed over changing landscapes. What makes it so? “I would like to think that it is because of my passion to do my craft well and my willingness to reinvent myself,” he says.

For Misa, life is a constant learning journey. All these years, he has learned the value of team effort, a mantra that has become his principle in life. “I’ve learned to delegate and enjoy the contribution of each player in my organization,” he professes. 

How did he endear himself to a very critical industry? “I love my job and enjoy every minute of it with undying passion. I give back by doing personalized service in many ways than one. In the days that my former company did not invest much in technology and equipment, I developed a strategy unique to me,” he says.

Looking forward

According to Misa, everybody has become a filmmaker with the rise of social media. One can create any form of communication and be seen on mobile phones and other media of the Internet. Competition in tv production industry has become stiffer. Viewership has changed. Users of tv, cable, and whatever satellite distribution, there is, have declined with the exception of news coverage, sports and live events.

People are now watching content on the mobile phones, laptops or ipads. Because of the openness of the system and the free platform that it gives, more and more competitors have become players in content creation – resulting in production budgets that have become thinner and thinner.

What would he advise students of mass communications and juniors in the profession to be successful in the industry? As in any other field of endeavor, Misa says, “one must just follow his heart. Practice makes perfect. Be ready for a more or less 24/7 scenario. Read as much as you can to get updated. Keep your mind open to new ideas. Learn the art of saying No. Think ten times ahead of your clients. Lastly, make things happen,” he advises like a true master.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


by Roger Pe
July 3, 2016 issue
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Full page

As of today, around 80 Liberal Party congressmen have reportedly joined the exodus to PDP-Laban, the party of President Rodrigo Duterte. Earlier on June 2, eleven from the same party took their oath under PDP Secretary-General Pantaleon Alvarez in a short ceremony in Makati.

In less than a month after the May 9 elections, PDP bragged that it was close to achieving its goal of creating one of the biggest alliances in Congress’ history by successfully recruiting other members from the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, National Unity Party, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the Party-List coalitions, including Gabriela to form what they call the ‘Super Majority Coalition’.

Politics in the Philippines swings like a pendulum and the ‘balimbing’ (turncoat) rides on the crest of a wave. Hide tide or low tide, would he or she be on your side? It depends where the wind blows.

Balimbings are in season. Their word-of mouth popularity can even make Macopas blush. Why, it is that time of the year when seats of power are up for grabs and everyone is jockeying for a position as the musical chair game begins.

Being referred to as one is tantamount to being addressed with disdain. Worse, the perfidious tag has stuck and most likely, cannot be undone, a term that has made the yellow-green Averrhoa Carambola (scientific name) the most reviled of all Filipino fruits, innocently synonymous to a person who is disloyal, traitor, “doble” or “muchas-caras” (double or multi-faced).

History is replete with ‘Balimbings’. We were made to believe that they began during the Spanish times and flourished when the Americans introduced their political way of life to the archipelago. No, not exactly.

Let’s antedate our thinking. There were biblical ‘Balimbings’ (Judas, Esau, King Saul), and up to the beginning of civilization, friends, Romans and countrymen lent their ears to Brutus and his ilk. And then the number grew, from the Dark Ages to the Middle Age and the Renaissance period.

Monarchs and Despots, Kings and Queens, Emperors and Tsars, Rulers and Tyrants fought wars because of treachery. Up to the modern era, from Wall Street to your tiny little corporate cubicle, a ‘Balimbing’ exists with a “we-live-in-a-disposable-society” mindset. Get hold of Arthur Redding’s “Turncoats, Traitors and Fellow Travelers” book and you are going to unearth more.

Every civilization or society has a turncoat. They come in different shapes, sizes and nom de guerre. When the last vote had been counted and all things had been said, they can only be summed up in either one of these two:

1. “Some people aren’t loyal to you. They are only loyal to their needs. Once their needs change, so does their loyalty.” 2. “My loyalty to my party ends when my loyalty to my country begins,” a line attributed to Manuel L. Quezon.

Famous Filipino ‘Balimbings’

Historian Ambeth Ocampo describes Pedro Paterno as the greatest turncoat in Philippine history. The “original” ‘Balimbing’, according to Ocampo, was “first on the Spanish side and then wormed his way to power to become President of Malolos Convention in 1899.”

Felipe Buencamino was a fine example of the Filipino “muchas caras” at the twilight of Spanish rule and dawn of American regime. When the Revolution broke out, he initially sided with the Spanish, reverted to the Filipino camp after being incarcerated by ‘revolucionarios’ in Cavite and ultimately sided with the Americans in the end.

General Antonio Luna once whacked him on the face for proposing to negotiate with the Americans during a heated debate. They would meet again in a violent confrontation on June 5, 1899, the day Luna was assassinated.

Had Teodoro Patiño shut his mouth and not thought of his own interests, Filipinos would have succeeded in their planned revolt against Spain. Squealing the existence of Katipunan because of a petty two-peso wage dispute, he led Spanish authorities in ransacking a printing shop. The operation yielded incriminating evidences against the Katipunan and doomed the fate of many revolutionaries.

Emilio Aguinaldo would not have been captured in the hinterlands of Isabela if not for Cecilio Segismundo. What made the latter reveal Aguinaldo’s hiding place? He was promised a commission in the Philippine Army and a $300 reward, allowing General Frederick Funston to bring him back to Manila.

From one party to another

Political “turncoatism” or politics without principles has been an integral part of our society. When self-interest mattered and egos are bruised, it is easy to set-up a faction or an entirely new party.

In 1922, a young Manuel Quezon organized the country’s “third” political party - Partido Nacionalista Collectivista with all members coming from the Nacionalista Party. They had accused NP president Sergio Osmena of being an autocrat.

Ramon Magsaysay was secretary of national defense when he bolted out of Elpidio Quirino’s camp and joined NP. He ran against the latter and won by a landslide.

When Ferdinand Marcos was Senate President, the late President Diosdado Macapagal promised to fully support him in 1965 presidential election. Macapagal reneged on his promise and decided to run for re-election prompting Marcos to switch to the NP camp. Marcos ran against Macapagal and won.

Political turncoats had a heyday when Marcos formed KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). Lakas-CMD (Christian Muslims Democrats) was a political party founded by Fidel Ramos in 1992. He ran because he had lost the LP presidential nomination early on.

Months before the 1992 elections, the House was controlled by members of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino allied with then Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. After Ramos won, virtually all LDP members jumped ship to Lakas.

In her Philippine Daily Inquirer column, former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod, said “the sight of the Liberal Party, or most of its members immediately deserting what they thought was a sinking ship, should be denounced. The Liberals, thinking only of themselves (chairmanships bring a lot of perks, including monetary) and not of their constituents (after all, they were elected as Liberals), just abandoned ship,” she said.

What drives politicians to become turncoats?

Many perspectives and different opinions resulted in my interviews with some political watchers from the community. Political Analyst and UP Professor Clarita Carlos, for example says the political party system in the Philippines is broken.

“Political parties are supposed to aggregate interests, articulate issues and prepare a program of government based on a platform of basic principles. They are avenues for socialization of its young members as they hone their skills in governance,” she says.
She cites that UK's former Tony Blair of Labor and David Cameron of Conservative Party did not just come out from a bamboo, and voila, became Prime Minister. She says that “you cannot have somebody from outside, suddenly catapulted to national candidacy, as had happened here, without going through the gauntlet in his/her political party. That position is earned, not freely given.”

According to Carlos, political parties make decisions on the party line to support, who is running in what constituency, support for campaign radio/tv time, etc, and is required to toe the party line in any and all votes in the legislature. Crossing the “aisle" or changing political parties, she says is virtual political suicide.

She woes that it is not so in the Philippines, where so called political parties do not have distinguishing characteristics and platform. Why is turncoatism so rampant? Because it pays to change color, and yes, one even gets better political largesse when he/she switches political groups,” according to her. 

Where politicians are often driven by self-interest rather than ideology, switching allegiances is endemic in the country because the constitution is extremely lax on the ability of candidates to switch parties at a snap of a finger, Political Analyst and De La Salle University Assistant Professor Richard Javad Heydarian says.

Former Senior Research Assistant at UP College of Public Administration Romy Garcia says turncoatism is an inescapable reality in the Philippines. According to him, survival is primordial to these would-be-demagogues. It is ducking the winds of change and living another day to fight, a Middle Age mentality of the vassal system, a kind of pledging an allegiance to the new guy on the block. “Sabi nga ng Pinoy,” just go with the weather, insidious but very effective in insuring self-perpetuation,” he adds.

There are no mass defections in most modern democracies, like the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand when a political party loses in the polls, Miriam College instructor Kris Ablan says. “Members stay with their party and understand why they lost. Whatever the cause may be, members of the losing party take responsibility for their actions and accept the peoples’ mandate. Losing and sticking it out with each other is how political parties learn. That's how they become stronger. It sets a good example for the people,” according to him.

Adie Pena who is Institutional Communications Director at College of St. Benilde says the Starfruit Syndrome is not limited to politicians. It happens everywhere. “In the entertainment industry, actors and actresses move from one TV network to another. Creative and accounts people leave their ad agencies to handle a competitive brand in another shop. Even maids and drivers will say goodbye (at a moment's notice!) to move to another household. And it usually all boils down to a better deal. Welcome to Balimbing country!,” he says.

Political Turncoatism is an accepted practice among elected politicians in the Philippines,
Educator-Servant and Professional Urban Planner Gabby Lopez, says. “For very obvious reasons - survival politically and continuing access to valuable resources of the sitting President,” he says. While most declare their principles, one cannot but suspect self-interests as the basic motivation, according to Lopez of Filipino turncoats. He says, adherence to party principles is conveniently shed off when survival  and  demands of personal interests behoove.

“One reads many lamentations these days of former strong leaders who have been abandoned by their “close” followers who have switched to the winning leaders. I have no appreciation of their righteous protestations. They wrought it upon themselves by perpetuating a toxic culture of political dispensation,” he says.

Loyalty to the party seems to be a thing of the past if you ask Pinay Medy Beroy, an independent medical and legal contractor based in Georgia, USA. “Changing political affiliations is now as easy as changing a spouse or a partner. Some candidates would sometimes opt to run as independent, giving them a lot of freedom to campaign for themselves to ensure victory,” she says. She also adds that even one’s own party mate could junk a candidate if he/she hinders his/her chances of winning.

“Now that the post-election balimbing-bashing phase is on it last legs, I’d like to make some space in my psyche for the question: “What’s wrong with changing sides?” Butch Tan, a retired advertising man asks. “All the “que horrors,” the demand for integrity and delicadeza, self-righteous breast-beating, they simply mean that summary judgment is alive and well, the great national pastime,” he observes.

Apart from switching sides, there is no other “truth”, according to Citizen B. Changing sides does not necessarily make one a bad person or at par with murderers, swindlers and sundry scalawags. And yet the public reaction to balimbings ranges from resentment to abhorrence,” he laments.

He argues that, in the first place, political parties in this country, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) excepted, hews to a clear, well-defined ideology. They’re more like clubs and lodges whose purpose is built around protecting its members’ interests and benefiting from being in power.

He then puts in the punchline: “That last sentence is the key. Once a party is no longer in power, it ceases to be a source of power and protection, money. It’s called realpolitik. Being outside the kulambo means being in fiscal and political limbo, and being in limbo affects the good and the bad equally. It’s just the way things are, he says.

Good politicians, according to him, switch sides to make sure their constituents can get their fair share of the national budget. “Not doing so would actually be a disservice. So what about venal politicians who switch sides for self-serving reasons? I address the answer to the ones who vote them into office: Merese!”

Loyalty to country above self

In a news report, Senator Miriam Santiago said: “Most political parties in the Philippines are not composed of citizens advocating an ideology, platform, principles or policies. Traditional politicians who were not nominated by their original party to the position they desire easily changed political parties.”

The prohibition on turncoatism was removed in the 1986 Constitution during the time of the late former President Cory Aquino.

On the other hand, Cass Sunstein, in his Bloomberg “Societies Need Turncoats” article, gives us a mind-changing definition of the turncoat. He said: “Turncoats may be freedom fighters. In democracies suffering from a high degree of polarization, turncoats are indispensable,” he says.
“Turncoats are often independent thinkers and they promote independent thinking in other people. Turncoating can be an act of exceptional bravery. We shouldn’t celebrate those who abandon good causes for bad ones. To separate heroism from villainy, we need to specify the coat and the turn,” he said.

Anyone would like to dispute that?