Sunday, December 4, 2016


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
Headline, December 4, 2016

A good product will sell by itself through sheer word-of-mouth. An even greater one, reinforced by great advertising, channeled strategically, as in “The Art Of War”, through innovative media is a winning combination.

A kick-ass product delivers an unmet need experientially, unforgettably. The market feels it, the core target experiences it, and almost everyone feels the love down to his spine.

An awesome product makes a promise that cannot be disputed. Aspirational or transformational, it lives up to what it is claiming in the marketplace. A truthful product does not overpromise because when it does, it easily loses its presence in the consumer’s radar.

An excellent product is not a clone of its competitor. It stands out and packs a wallop by delivering very relevant benefits. It is a product of long research and market study probing into the consumer’s wants and needs.

A great product does not lose its appeal to its audience. It continues to be desirable even in a sea of multiple brands in its category. It continues to innovate and improves its value to millions of consumers. When you have these, you also get these: Top-of-mind awareness, preference and enduring loyalty.

Having said that, it pays to check if the product is ready to take the advertising plunge. Have you done your homework, taken the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis? Did you scrutinize the competitive landscape?

If you have, then you are ripe. Like thousands of other brands that had been launched, you are ready to conquer the market. But it is not easy: You have to make your creative execution stand out. Don’t say what has already been said. Be refreshing. Use a slogan to boost brand retention and never be afraid to change it when market environment changes (Coke, the world’s most famous brand changed its slogan 46 times from 1896 to 2016).

But do know one important thing: Advertising cannot mask a product flaw. It will be uncovered. No amount of gimmickry, even digital razzle-dazzle can fool a smart consumer. As Bill Bernbach says, “No amount of advertising can sell a bad product. It will only hasten its demise.”

Inspite of advancement in technology, some marketers think advertising will do all the work for them. They concoct catchy lines, expecting them to deliver the results. They do not realize that advertising is just one aspect of the whole marketing mix.

“It is not mere sloganeering that sells a product. At the end of the day, it goes back to what you are selling. Something that is relevant and beneficial to the consumer, and how truthful you say it,” a prominent marketing man says.

Savvy marketer

A great marketer starts on the inside developing his product and works his way out to capture insights relevant to his consumers. He begins with his product and perfects it before making noise in the media universe.

Nowadays, we see a great deal of advertising that is much better developed than the product itself, a sad scenario that has put many reckless marketers out of business. We see advertisers that are more excited in developing their slogans rather than improving the product they are selling.

Here are a few of the biggest slogan mistakes in the history of international marketing as compiled by Mike Fromowitz, a long-time Asia-Pacific adman, a friend and currently Chief Creative Officer of Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing in Toronto:

Electrolux. A memorable Swedish campaign in the 1960s claiming 'Nothing sucks like an Electrolux'.
Pepsi. Pepsi's 'Come alive with the Pepsi Generation' in Taiwan meant 'Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead'.
KFC. The finger-licking good' slogan meant 'Eat your fingers off' in China.

Schweppes. It meant 'Toilet Water' in Italy, making its popularity in the country to dive.

Mercedes Benz. Launched under brand name 'Bensi' in China was a bad call as the name meant 'rush to die'.

Ford. Ford didn’t realize that 'Pinto', meant 'tiny male genitals' in Portuguese when it launched the brand in Brazil.

Parker. In Mexico, Parker Pens promise 'not to leak in your pocket and impregnate you'.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called “Cue”, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

In his “Book of Brand Blunders, author Robert Gray says, “Slogans that do not help the market understand what companies do or what makes them unique are largely ineffective and they can cause prospective buyers not to trust the company. Once trust is gone, sales and profits spiral downwards. The bottom line is, meaningless slogans are like a virus that is undermining the world of marketing.”

A slogan alone cannot sell a product, a service or a destination. In the Philippines, we refuse to change a slogan for tourism because it has won awards overseas. We keep a blind eye on real effectivity results done by a reputable research organization.

According to a study made by AGB Nielsen among foreign tourists from March to April this year, majority of the respondents liked the slogan “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” but only a few were interested to visit the country.

The study noted that 65 percent of European respondents liked the campaign but only 26 percent had the intent to visit the Philippines. Likewise, 72 percent of North American respondents liked the slogan but only 45 percent wanted to visit the country.

While 67 percent of respondents from Japan, Saudi Arabia, India and Australia thought the campaign was good, only 40 percent had plans to see the Philippines. In Southeast Asia, 59 percent of the respondents liked the campaign but only 36 percent wished to come to the country.

Is it time to create a more focused, better positioning, less generic and original slogan? Some people say yes. At the end of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, our tourist arrival number was 3,520,471 million. At the end of Benigno Aquino’s term over a six-year period, it jumped to 5,600,000 million, or an increase of 65%. Some say, the increase could have been bigger because DOT had a budget much bigger than the previous administration.
 Tourism slogans worldwide

There are many memorable slogans that have built great brands all over the world. A number of them still stick but a few proved disastrous to advertisers.

The iconic "I Heart New York", seduced millions to the city that never sleeps and kept hundreds of NYC T-shirt vendors in business for the past 30 years. In a recent article published by Time Magazine, it said that others were not so effective. Andalucia’s "There’s Only One" and New South Wales’ "There’s No Place Like It", could both be “easily applied to Changi Prison or a toxic rubbish dump in Nigeria.”

Tourism Australia had the infamous "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" campaign. It garnered a lot of publicity but was banned in England.

“The problem with many slogans is that regardless of whether they strike a chord or not, they’re not always accurate when describing the destination they’re promoting. Some bend the truth a little, while others just blatantly lie about their destination to get you to come,” Time said.

The magazine also cited London’s “See the world. Visit London” slogan. While it meant a city with cultural diversity and you can rub shoulders with people from all around the world, the problem is, “it is expensive and costs as much as travelling to some countries in the world.”

On France’s “Rendezvous en France”, Time said: “The problem with this is that if you don’t understand French, you’re not going to go. Worse still, the prospective tourist might think "rendezvous" is some kind of communicable disease, which is rampant in France and choose to go to Italy instead,” it said.

A few Asian countries seemed to have followed a two-word template: “Amazing Thailand”, “Incredible India”, “Wonderful Indonesia”, “Truly Asia”, “Your Singapore”. We could have belonged to the club had we stuck to “Wow, Philippines”.

Wait, the Top 5 most visited countries in the world don’t even flaunt their slogans. So when was the last time we saw commercials for Brand France, China, US, Spain? Nobody even remembers their current slogans nor people even care if they have one at all. Don’t we only remember beautiful experiences and memories?

To drive tourist traffic, US cities regularly create new logos, slogans and marketing campaigns. Time said, however, “Locals tend to view the efforts largely as nonsense, or worse, a big waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

It cited the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, which unveiled a new slogan for state tourism marketing, “Honest to Goodness Indiana” which was replacing the previous slogan, “Restart Your Engines.” It responded to criticism that the new “slogan doesn’t have anything to do with travel or tourism and reinforces stereotypes of Indiana residents as “unsophisticated bumpkins.”

It also highlighted the insights of tourism and community development expert Roger Brooks, who had said that people don’t decide to go somewhere just because of a slogan. “Do you go to Disneyland or Disney World because their slogan is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth?’ Of course not, we go there because of our perception of it,” he said.

Time also mentioned Colorado’s newly launched slogan (“It’s Our Nature”) and published a comment made by professor at a university: “It looks like something my students could have put together in five minutes. It’s very weak and has non-creative effort.”

Slogans come and go. Some will resonate and be successful, some will be remembered and some will be forgettable or worse, bashed. We asked some people about their comments on how to make the Philippines more attractive to foreign tourists. Here they are:

Suzette Defensor, Creative Director and Consultant for Expat Magazine: “Different tourists, different strokes. Backpapckers and beachbuds are ok with reasonably equipped lodgings. Upscale tourists are more demanding and exacting. The latter have purchasing power, including Chinese and Japanese, who come here for the casinos and golf. A tagline is just a tagline, DOT can splurge on roadshows but effect will not be significant if the basics are not in place. Peace and order, Internet, transportation problems should be addressed. We need to focus and own a specific
advertising proposition, “yung atin lang talaga, like Singapore girl of the airline, which became a symbol of the country. Bring back Manila International Airport. The world knows Manila. Sell the place, not a person the world is not familiar with.

Adrian Williams, Filipino-British entrepreneur: “Our infrastructure is not great. Efficiency and clarity needs to be improved to help people get around easily. We need to agree on and implement a global set of Filipino brand principles. We don't have one. We have everything China, Thailand, Japan have, yet we Americanize everything.”

Toti Soliongco, Veteran advertising man, Professor of Advertising at University of Asia-Pacific: “But for the attraction part, in a way, we are coming from a negative space- brought about by negative reports around the world about the issue of extra judicial killings, and all. This is something that may have to be neutralized. Take the conversation away from our political figures. That's why I think it needs to go back on a "charm offensive"- highlight the Filipino's natural asset, and that is hospitality.

Tell the world that we are sincerely desiring their presence. Pinoys are known as good people, people who care a lot, (that's why domestic helpers all over the world are known as indispensable members of their households). Bring the communication back to honest to goodness, sincere "come and visit us".

Feature our young people, young, good, people. I think we need a whole lot of "good citizenship" programs for all. Go back to reinforcing virtues and values among our people, the culture of self entitlement is such that it has affected all sectors of society. We need a strong campaign for this. It’s easier said than done. But I think people need to start seeing and believing that we have become a flawed and bad society in many aspects. We need to address this, and the private sector has to take the lead.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


by Roger Pe
November 3, 2016
Business Mirror

Ozamiz was one of the original four Mindanao cities, along with Davao, Zamboanga and Cotabato, when development of the country’s second biggest island was just starting to be felt. 
It was formerly a Spanish town called Misamis, a name people say came from the Subanon word "Kuyamis”, a coconut variety. It grew because of the presence of a Spanish garrison called Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion del Triunfo, constructed in the 17th century to control pirates from nearby Lanao province. 

It became a chartered city in 1948 and was subsequently renamed Ozamiz after its former governor, congressman and delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention, Jose Ozamiz, who was also a former Philippine Senator.

The tranquil city sits in the middle of Panquil Bay, an inlet body of water that seems to pierce through Zamboanga peninsula and part of Lanao del Norte. Its Cotta Fort, interestingly, a small version of Intramuros and as old as Zamboanga City’s Fort Del Pilar, testifies the major importance of the area in northern Mindanao. Historians say, the fort already existed long before the Spaniards came and was only finished with the combined effort of peace-loving Subanons and Spanish conquistadores.

Three centuries later today, Ozamiz bids for its place in the sun, serious about building its great tourism potential and to add luster to its “Gem of Panquil Bay” title. It is out to correct the wrong impression unfairly given to a city that has been selflessly delivering services and uplifting the livelihood of its people. It wants to promote the real truth of its governance.

Some people may have heard about the city only recently from a media coverage gone mad, profuse with misinformation. It’s time to shake them off your mind. Unbeknownst to many, Ozamiz is also the cultural, historical, and educational capital of northern Mindanao. A number of institutions of higher learning, notably the prestigious De La Salle University Ozamiz, Misamis University, Misamis Institute of Technology among others, have been there for decades.

Refreshing news

Ozamiz is bound to be the Dragon Fruit basket of the Philippines and its delectable Dragon Fruit Ice Cream, a creamy delight created by local master chef and restaurateur Johann Dagandara, is destined to be a world sensation. The ingredients are fresh, the fruits homegrown in a plantation rich in volcanic soil. The fleshy pulp is pleasantly milky, not of the usual sour variety. The heavenly concoction seems to be the best thing that ever happened to the city. Have a cup and scoop for more.

Mindanao’s longest and largest bridge project will soon be a reality, spanning across the picturesque Panquil Bay. Construction begins on the third quarter of 2017 and it will connect Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental by 2020, also further connecting the emerging cities of Tangub and Tubod. Significantly, it will reduce travel time between the city to Oroquieta, Dipolog and Dapitan.

Ozamiz’ Panquil Bay is also home to a rare species of fish that thrives only in that part of the country. Called “Laya”, a snapper-looking grouper, it is one of its cuisine delights, perfectly sumptuous as “Kinilaw”. Downtown, the city has retained its old-world, undisturbed charm. The streets still resemble those in rustic towns, quaint and narrow, yet ocassionally, would surprise you with a colorful riot of colors from “Bandera Espanolas”, “Bougainvillas” and other multi-colored flowering plants as you move along. 

A few heritage houses are sprinkled around the city, withstanding the ravages of time and attracting culturally conscious visitors. Visit the ancestral mansion on Valconcha corner Ledesma streets. Though a paint store has ruined its façade, its soul remains intact. Once owned by a government official with an illustrious name, it transports you back to another era. From the stairways to the living room and bedroom interiors, you will see a microcosm of a culturally rich city and the illustrado realm of some of its genteel citizens.

While progress has enveloped the city, people still take time to look at you in the eye and smile at you. The symphony of “Habal-Habal” (tricycles) wakes you up as early as five o’clock in the morning, a sound that accelerates to higher crescendo once you step out of your hotel and start exploring the city.

You can get by with 100 pesos a day in Ozamiz, and with 5 pesos, you can see the city in its raw, unpretentious beauty. At the city hall, stands a statue of Jose Rizal, one of few anatomically correct monuments of the National Hero in the country. It is well maintained and has nothing of kitchiness you find in other cities. When we were there, Department of Tourism Regional Director (for northern Mindanao) Catalino Chan dropped by to assist local officials in laying a flower wreath to the statue of the hero.

By eight o’ clock in the evening, the city begins to lull its way to sleep. There are no nightclubs in the city. That probably explains why crime rate in the city is low. Inspite of the bad press being heaped on some of its officials, the city wants to promote its real story – that it is one of the most peaceful, livable and abundantly blessed cities in the country, an undisputable fact that has earned it with two Good Governance Recognition awards from the DILG in recent years.

“We want to tell the entire Philippines and the whole world the real news that people should believe. We are a city that takes care of its people and we don’t do it with words, we walk the talk. We want people to come to Ozamiz, to experience the real truth,” says charming but highly determined vice mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez. 

Parojinog-Echavez was former mayor of the city, becoming the second-youngest elected mayor in the Philippines in 2010. She started her political career by being observant and developing her innate desire to serve the people. Following her father’s footsteps, she ran first as a councilor, for which she emerged topnotcher. She proved her doubters wrong by fulfilling her mandated tasks, delivering and cascading social services to the people. She slid down to vice-mayorship to give way to his father Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who won in the last elections. The elder Parojinog has aligned himself with Duterte's tough war on drugs advocacy, saying, "I am serious in our drive against illegal drugs in the city."  Parojinog prioritized drug issues in his program when he was first elected as mayor in 2001. He laments how his name is now being dragged into the illegal drugs controversy and how his political opponents are twisting the story.

Why is Parojinog-Echavez very active in promoting Ozamiz tourism? “It is my advocacy and close to my heart. We’ve seen how tourism changed the lives of many people in Ozamiz. I want my people from all walks of life, from a lowly vendor to an investing entrepreneur benefit from tourism. We want to create opportunities for my constituents,” Parojinog-Echavez says with passion.

To do that, the lady vice mayor is focusing on infrastructure as priority. “Roads leading to many Ozamiz tourist destinations are being improved. We moved mountains and earth to have the city airport (unused for 13 years) reopened to spur tourism and business growth in the city. Now, it is capable of accommodating Airbus aircrafts. We hope to see night flights to the city soon,” she  excitedly says. 

Ozamiz Airport is scheduled to undergo a P300M expansion and development, with installation of runway lights, extension of runway from its current of length 1.9 km to 2.1 km and construction of a new passenger terminal building by next year.

She says, plans are also afoot in redeveloping many tourism programs for the city, like Sports Tourism even on a small scale. The city government has also embarked a comprehensive program in its anti-drug campaign and rehabilitation measures to make drug users productive. “We want to address the problem at the very roots. We want to turn around the problem by giving them hope - through Dragon fruit cultivation and livestock raising, for example,” she explains.

Heart-stopping adventure

“It is very inspiring to see how the local government and private sector in Ozamiz City work together to make the city a premier tourist destination. Ozamiz has much to offer - the warmth of the people, its rich heritage, fantastic shoreline, mountain range and outdoor activity are yours to enjoy,” says DOT Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre. Alegre was sent by Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo to personally look at the potentials of Ozamiz for tourism over the long weekend. He was right, a look at the list below shows the enormous possibilities of Ozamiz.

A spellbinding experience awaits the more adventurous to Hoyohoy Highland Adventure Park, Asia’s longest (1.225 kilometers (one way) and highest  (500 meters) Zipline. The daredevil ride gives one a drone-like panoramic view, including a jaw-dropping sight of a ravine 500 meters below. 

The highlight is when you reach midway - you see a gushing river snaking through the base of menacing but beautiful Malindang mountain range. Mountain-climbing enthusiasts will remember Malindang as the training base-camp of a group Filipinos before they challenged Mt. Everest a couple of years back.

Other places worth visiting: Bukagan Hill has a view of the city, Panguil Bay, the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. There are four iron bells at the top of Bukagan Hill, each weighing 7 tons. They were installed in Bukagan Hill and officially inaugurated on July 16, 1948.

Naomi's Botanical Garden and Tourists Inn sits on a 12-hectare property producing local and imported tropical flowers, plants and fruit seedlings. There are fully air-conditioned private rooms, function halls, a tennis court, golf range, ceramics factory, pottery and a bakery inside its sprawling garden. 

Mt. Malindang Golf and Country Club. This is a pre-war army facility converted into a golf course located in Bagakay at the foot of Mount Malindang.

Immaculate Conception Pipe Organ is found in the choir loft of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the only existing pipe organ in Mindanao and one among the few in the country. 

Helping hand from DOT

Public service in travel and tourism is a collaborative effort among different government agencies, according to Tito Umali, DOT, Chief Tourism Operations Officer-Public Affairs and Advocacy. “We extend assistance through publicity with national, and in some cases, foreign media, depending on how ready LGU's tourist destinations are for national and/or international standards,” he says.

In addition to publicity, Umali says, DOT promotes the destination by inviting LGU to participate in regional, national and international tourism events such as travel fairs, road shows and official missions. “We also extend assistance in tourism market research, relevant trainings on tourism services for the local people of the LGU, and infrastructure development related to accessibility and facilities,” he says.  

Conversation with Umali and Northern Mindanao Tourism Operations Officer Decius Esmedalla gave us many interesting views. Both stress the need for tourism sustainability. “We must not exceed our carrying capacity and we should have control mechanisms in preserving our tourist attractions for future generation. We should not only think about the business side like what is now happening to some Philippine destinations that are under threat because of overcapacity,” Esmedalla says.

Is Ozamis ready for the world? Rommel Natanauan, DOT Creative Specialist says, “Ozamiz City boasts of beautiful natural attractions, rich cultural heritage, properties primed for farm tourism, adventure and reacreational facilities, aside from being exempted from typhoons. The city’s tourism potentials, as well as the readiness of its people, together with the Subanon tribe, Ozamiz, indeed, like the Dragon fruit, is ripe for tourism.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 2, 2016 issue

Melanie Caabay lost her husband from a vehicular accident in the late 1990s. When two of her four children were about to go to college, she had no recourse but to accept a domestic helper job in Hongkong. She moved to Singapore after three years, stayed there for five years, and eventually made it to Europe when a foreign diplomat brought her to Italy. 

Compared to most Filipinas, Caabay is comely and makes an extra effort to look presentable, even if she does not need to go out of the house. For her, it is an important to look good because it makes her feel good. It was probably one of the reasons why her employer brought her to Rome.

Her earlier days as a domestic helper were tough. Because she was dark-skinned, she had to endure being discriminated upon, and often times, on the receiving end of conscious racial slurs. 

When she had extra money, she would stash away troves of skin beautifying creams from Manila. Not only she used them herself, she also resold them to a network of fellow Filipina workers with a few mark-ups. 

Today, she is far from the girl who first ventured in Hongkong, largely unsure of her future. She has learned how to parry insults and disarm those who are prone to making side remarks about her color. By investing on self-improvement and looking good, she has regained her self-esteem and built her confidence. And quite noticeably, she is fairer in the way she looks now.

On her day-offs and whenever she gets invited to Filipino gatherings, Caabay would share her past to her ‘kababayans’ for them to draw inspiration from. She knows for sure, countless of them have encountered or still experiencing varying degrees of racial remarks. 

Many casual interviews conducted among women OFWs reveal startling insights. Some of them have found refuge, not in friends’ sympathetic arms, but in skin whitening creams. Unbelievable to some, but here’s a quote from one of them: “The whiter I become, the less insults I’ll get.”

Bizarre as it may seem, a closer scrutiny at a local drugstore chain validates the fact – a proliferation of skin whitening brands sold in most their branches nationwide, from Glutathione to Papaine-laced soaps, creams or capsules. They are also present in big supermarkets, catering to all socio-economic groups, even men.

Multinational brands, too, have joined the skin whitening bandwagon, spending huge money on advertising in promoting them. These do not count the countless beauty and facial rejuvenation salons that offer diamond peel and other skin whitening ‘magic’ to those who want to look as white as Snow White.

White Asia

Preference for lighter skin remains prevalent in Asia, according to many articles written on the subject. A most recent survey conducted by an independent research group, noted that 4 out of 10 women surveyed in Hongkong, Malaysia, Philippines and South Korea used a skin whitening cream.

A report made in Malaysia concluded that three quarters of Malaysian men thought their partners would be more attractive if they had lighter skin complexion, a beauty standard they call the “Eurasian” or the "Pan-Asian look".

History of skin whitening in Asia dates back to ancient China, India and Japan, according to the report. “In ancient dynastic times, those with fair skin implied wealth and nobility as opposed to servants who labored outside under the scorching sun.”

Just as the Grimms' fairy tales feature light-skinned princesses like Cinderella and Snow White, Asian culture equates fairer skin with feminine beauty, racial superiority, and power. Asians with ‘fairer’ skin enjoy strong influences on marital prospects, employment, status, and income,” the report says.

Andrew McDougall of www.cosmetics noted that skin lightening has long been a trend in Asia and is set to continue to boost the global market in the next five years.

He said that the global market for skin lighteners is “projected to reach $19.8 billion by 2018, driven by the growing desire for light-coloured skin among both men and women primarily from the Asian, African and Middle East regions.”

He said, skin whitening products represent one of the rapidly growing segments in the global beauty industry, with manufacturers capitalizing on consumers’ desire for fair skin in these regions.

The demand for male skin brightening and lightening products is on the rise, too, particularly in Asia, according to McDougall.

“Growth in the market is to be driven by strong demand in Asia-Pacific, as the popularity of skin whiteners grows in the region, particularly in India, Japan, and China, where fair skin is associated with youth, beauty, and prosperity,” according to him.

On Matador Network, beauty critic Matthew Kepnes noted that over the last few decades, Western nations have tried to become a “post racial society.” 

“From our birth we are taught that everyone is equal but when I traveled to Asia and lived in Thailand, I was shocked to see so much “racism.” They loved whiteness. The whiter your skin, the better you were,” he said.

In most of Asia, particularly Korea, Japan and Thailand, dark-skinned people are looked down upon, McDougall says. “Everyone strives to be white. Every skin product has whitening in it and everyone stays out of the sun. It was the complete opposite for us in the West, where coming back from a vacation with a tan was always expected,” he said.

According to McDougall, Asian countries look down on dark skin because they don’t want to be perceived as poor. Historically, dark skin was associated with people who worked in the fields. “The upper class stayed indoors and under the shade,” according to him.

He also observed that “it’s good to be white in Asia where TV stars are white and models are white. Everyone is airbrushed until they look like ghosts. In Asia, dark skin is poor, white skin is rich. They promote whiteness because no one wants to be perceived as poor,” he said.

What about the Philippines? Business Mirror interviews a Pharmacist-Entrepreneur who has built a career in distributing quality skin and beauty products in the Philippines. 

Imelda Tesalona, General Manager of a former start-up company, Fine Nutrition, Philippines, recently appointed affiliate of Fine Japan Co. Ltd, a company known as a “Collagen Expert” worldwide speaks about why Filipino women, just like their Asian sisters, are obsessed with having whiter skin:

Why do you think Filipino women want to have whiter skin? 

IT: Maybe it is a cultural thing. We were ruled by Spain for almost 400 years and Americans introduced Hollywood to us. White supremacy probably stuck and that became our standard for beauty. They also want to look presentable and be physically attractive just like our former colonizers.

Why is the skin whitening business big in the Philippines?

IT: That is because 49% of the 101.5 million of our population is female and 52% are working age. I should say there are 10 active brands and more brands are silently selling away without getting into advertising.

Will “white is beautiful” continue to be the norm? 

IT: Sadly, yes, this has been perceived and acknowledged even in the next 10 years.

Why do some women spend money to look whiter, fairer? 

IT: They belong to the rabidly beauty conscious group bordering on vanity. They are knowledgeable, risk-takers and have the money to burn and do regular beauty regimen daily.

What is your definition of a totally beautiful woman? 

IT: She is a woman with a brain, not only with good looks. She speaks with well-chosen words, finesse, and most of all, has a good heart, as Miss Universe would say.
What interesting insights on Filipino women have you found in recent years?

IT: They know what are they looking for and will meet their standards in health, beauty and wellness. They will spend, if they can afford to defy ageing. They know innovative products that have whitening and anti–ageing ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Collagen and Pearl Coix Extract.

Are men similarly obsessed with having whiter skin?

IT: In our foray into research, it has given us more insights about men using skin whitening and anti-aging ingestibles. While women are our target market, we found out that men are users, too, and their number are quite large - 50%.

What is your business like and some of the challenges you face?

IT: There is an opportunity to grow the business since consumers acknowledge that ingestibles are more effective compared to topical products. However, we need to educate consumers. There are many challenges and learnings in setting up this line of business. But there are also a lot of opportunities. The nutri-beauty industry in the Philippines is in a nascent category and is considered a niche market. 

What is your philosophy in this line of business?

IT: I strongly believe in good quality that works. I have fundamental values towards health and beauty. Coupled with luck, we were chosen by Fine Japan as their vehicle to enter our country’s market. I find this as the highlight of my career.

How do you see the skin whitening business 10 years from now?

IT: Skin-whitening business will still be a trend 10 years from now. Consumers, in general, will want products that will make them feel good about themselves. If people feel good about themselves, we unleash their potential and they remain productive members of society. These insights tell us that it is important for our products to work and fulfill their consumer promise.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


By Roger Pe
Business Mirror
October 3, 2016

It was the first quarter storm, a time of many uncertainties. Student activism was raging. After completing his AB Humanities in Ateneo de Manila, Gabby Lopez boycotted his graduation with twenty other students. Then, he was accepted at the UP Institute of Planning (now the UP School of Urban and Regional Planning) as its first scholar and belonged to the third batch of graduate students.
Martial Law soon came after and the early period of that dark past in our history challenged his adventurous spirit. As young professionals then were being asked to serve the public sector, he took the plunge and got his first job - away from Manila.

He worked as Regional-Urban Planner in Davao City for the Mindanao Regional Development Study Project of UNDP and the Philippine Government Consortium (this included the Mindanao Development Authority, Department of Public Works, Transportation and Communications and University of the Philippines Institute of Planning.

When he got back to Manila, he would get enticed to work at NEDA as Regional Economist in the newly activated Regional Development Staff. Here, he was tasked to help Secretary Gerry Sicat and his senior team to organize and activate the Regional Development Offices, specifically in Bicol, Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Western Mindanao, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas. 
He also helped recruit graduates from UP, Ateneo, La Salle and leading provincial schools. 

He would then get invited to join the new Population Center Foundation of former First Lady Imelda Marcos where he worked with prominent population experts in promoting family planning and health development in rural areas. 

“I was happy to work with the likes of Dr. Clipper Lorenzo, Dr. Dodong Solon of the Nutrition Center of the Philippines, Mr. Mon Binamira of Green Revolution, Sen. Helen Benitez for the Environment, and Secretary Fanny Aldaba-Lim for Social Welfare,“ he remembers.

In his sorties to Bicol, he was fortunate to deal with Secretary Peter Prado, who was then managing the Bicol River Basin Project, funded by USAID. 

Lopez then ventured to study as a working student at the UP College of Public Administration in Padre Faura to pursue his doctoral studies, mentored by great minds, notably Dr. Raul de Guzman, Dr. Ledy Cariño, Dr. Caring Alfonso, Dr. Gabby Iglesias, Prof. Liling Briones, Prof. Romy Ocampo, Prof. Commissioner Albina Dans, and Dr. Nes Pilar. “It was a period of Martial Law that I found productive and very engaging,” he says.

He missed a scholarship program - “Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies” and a UNDP Travel Grant to Tennessee Valley Authority when he moved to the Cultural Center of the Philippines to head the Management Information Team of the First Lady, leading a young staff of professionals to undertake special studies for the projects of Imelda Marcos as Governor of Metro Manila. 

“The CCP General Manager, Chinese-American IT Expert, Joan Fang involved us in the organization of the World Festival of the Arts to happen during the 1976 Miss Universe Contest in Manila. We helped market the various shows at CCP featuring the Bolshoi and Australian Ballet, individual concert performances of Monserrat Caballe, Van Cliburn and other international artists. We helped Johannesburg-based Canadian painter Clarence Wilson organize an exhibit of world master paintings. “We were very happy to witness all these events as a young professionals. Those were my exciting mid-20s years,” he reminisces.
Today, Lopez likes teaching people to make them self-sustaining, responsible and involved citizens of the community. He is often ready to teach, even with little or no compensation at all.

By being an educator and an environmental planner, he has almost circumnavigated the world doing his calling. He always gave something in return, sharing his knowledge and experience back home, and to countries that hired him as a consultant.
Lopez does not regret being a former OFW. He, in fact, evolved into an author of a number of scholarly readings in urban planning and national security. Most recently, teachers and students of UP School of Urban and Regional Planning recognized his dissertation (Integrating National Security Into Philippine Regional Development Planning”) as well as four of his other publications. One student described them as “important part of our national development.”

In 1983, Lopez left the Philippines and lived in Washington DC for six years. He was hired as a senior management advisor for Coverdale Organization, a company started by the late Ralph Coverdale, an ex-Jesuit novice in Ateneo who served in the Royal Army and took organizational behaviour studies in Oxford University.

He was developed to become a management consultant-trainer specializing in team building, leadership development and conflict-resolution. The job brought him to the United Kingdom, Aruba and selected USAID projects in Nigeria and Ecuador.

With a working visa, he got to serve in projects with the International Monetary Fund, US Peace Corps, the World Bank and USAID, as well as with some US Corporate Clients, notably, Ryland Homes, Glen Gery Brick, and the Aruba Hotel Association.

In May 1986, he was assigned to do management and leadership training programs through USAID Enterprise Program (worldwide) in Lagos, Nigeria. In October of the same year, he was assigned to do management programs for the Family Planning National Groups of Brazil, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. During the late President Cory Aquino’s visit to Washington DC, he and his team were immediately engaged to do the same program.

There was no stopping after that. He flew in and out of London several times to work with his British colleagues, serving various Coverdale programs, which took a toll on his health.

He was off to Oranjestad, Aruba in 1989 three times to facilitate the strategic review and planning workshops of the Aruba Government and the Aruba Hotel Association - to transition from a predominantly oil-refining center (the largest in the Western Hemishpere, being only 8 nautical miles from oil-rich Venezuela) to a new tourist destination. Here, he befriended the Prime Minister and his cabinet while in Aruba and was even offered residency.

He describes himself as “buhay na buhay sa pagtuturo” (teaches animatedly), simple, calm, compassionate, cheerful, someone who loves God, classical music and his country.

The words in Galatians 6:9 (“Let us not tire of doing good, for at the proper time (Tamang Panahon) we will harvest if we do not give up.”) and Saint Ignatius of Loyola inspire him: (“In everything love and serve the Lord, for His greater glory.)

Lopez’ profession also took him to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, India, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland.
As a senior adviser to former First Lady Loi Ejercito, Lopez was also included in official trips to Malaysia, Brunei and South Korea, APEC meetings in New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Washington DC, New York, and during the beatification of Pedro Calungsod at the Vatican.

Thoughts on the Filipino diaspora: “Sadly, it is a reality most Filipino families face because economic opportunities are limited in our country,” Lopez says.

However, it is also good, according to him. “It has produced the Global Pinoy with his/her local characteristics. Now, we have Glocal Pinoys, who are globally responsive and updated, and still maintain their Filipino-ness wherever they are,” he adds.

He would like to see the Philippines one day as a first world nation, globally respected and responsive, with all citizens enjoying good quality and comfortable modern life, living in peace and prosperity, preserving our culture of goodness and greatness.

When he came home from his stints abroad, Lopez is most proud of the ones that he has done unselfishly, all of them too many to mention.

“Am happy to have introduced and propagated the concept of servant leadership in the early 1990s wherever I taught, but most especially in National Defense College of the Philippines,” he says.

He co-initiated the propagation of the Development and Security Paradigm in the national security sector, particularly at AFP Command and General Staff College via Development Academy of the Philippines, as well as the Department of Health’s “Doctors to the Barrios” program.

Together with “Stop Hunger Now” and “Poor Foundation” teams, he partnered with corporations to distribute relief goods to disaster-stricken communities and medical missions to poor children in public hospitals in Quezon City and Manila annually.

“I was involved in catechetical teaching as well as visiting poor communities. I was also politically challenged by the “oppressive system” so I became active in Ateneo History Club and campus activism of the late 60s and early 70s. I became a disciple of the late Ed Jopson,” he narrates.

He taught in Ateneo de Davao, Baltimore International Culinary Arts College, National Defense College of the Philippines, Philippine Air Force College, Philippine Army College, National Police College, AFP Command and General Staff College, Development Academy of the Philippines Graduate School of Management, Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Schools, John Gokongwei School of Management, School of Humanities, and Graduate School of Government.

Former Dean of Graduate School of Management at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Senior Fellow/Graduate Faculty at Development Academy of the Philippines and National Defense College of the Philippines, he is currently a visiting lecturer at Enderun Colleges.


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 1, 2016 issue

Moving to a new condominium building? Wait a minute. It could be beautiful outside but could give you hidden costs inside. The builders could pass on to you added burdens because it is unsustainable on many counts.

Simply put, a building that takes too much energy to cool or heat is like a car that guzzles up too much petrol. The analogy is simple. You accept a bad building design, you end up seeing your savings go down the drain because of the builder’s operational costs - and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Designing and building a structure should be within and beyond the green building norms,” says long time Philippine resident Italian architect Romolo Nati, a sensitive artist who professes to have a liking for the Filipino nipa hut. 

Nati has lived in the Philippines for quite some time. Having seen many climate upheavals in recent years, his work thus reflects solutions about environmental issues. They are creatively woven into his modern Italian designs and inspirations derive from things Filipino are always present, giving his clients a fusion with added value: Living with nature and learning to harmonize with the environment. 

A devout advocate of sustainability, Nati says a building design must always have a common denominator. While it must basically provide functionality to people, it must have a lower impact on the environment. 

“At the rate we are abusing the planet, it is simply not sustainable. We are bound to run out of natural resources needed to survive. That is why we need to focus on building green buildings,” he says.

And that’s what he exactly did. 

When he met Jose Leviste III, a young Filipino environmental lawyer in 2009, both of them immediately developed a liking to pursue real estate development, with focus on green architecture and sustainability. The encounter resulted in the establishment of ItalPinas, a real estate development company serious in designing eco-friendly and mixed-use buildings in the Philippines.

World-renowned Italian design

Nati brings with him a big chunk of Italy, a country recognized as a global fashion, architecture, automotive, and interior design trendsetter. Famous designer Pier Giacomo Castiglioni once said: "Quite simply, we are the best" and Nati always wants to come close to that standard.

After graduating summa cum laude with an Architecture degree in Italy, Nati travelled around the world. By stroke of fate, he ended up in the Philippines. Italy’s loss, Philippines’ gain, so to speak.

On its beautifully designed website, Nati points out the company’s mantra: “Ours is performance based. Our projects are developed with the use of parametric architecture. Our design process involves integrating important factors like weather conditions, financial considerationss and functional needs. Our primary goal: find the best possible combination in order to arrive at the final design that will ultimately give out the best solution.”

He explains that rather than elbow with existing developers in already well-developed areas, ItalPinas zeroes in on upcoming cities in naturally beautiful locations and safe areas. 

The ItalPinas, which Nati leads, together with Leviste, seeks to expand in selected cities in the next few years. Cities with significant demographic and economic growth potentials are on the radar. Similarly, the company invests in undeveloped natural areas to provide well-integrated eco-tourist developments. 

Here’s more of Nati on sustainable real estate development:

What is an eco-sustainable building?

RN: It’s a building low on environmental impact and has significant social value. It benefits everyone including the entire community. It minimizes use of water, raw materials, energy, and even the land where it sits on. More than ever, it reduces emissions, waste, polluting the environment and protects people’s health.

Why should anyone invest on an eco-sustainable building? 

RN: Because it is good for the community and the environment, aside from being solidly value-packed. 
Sustainable buildings do not deplete natural resources. Developers of sustainable structures consciously use less raw materials and more environmentally responsible renewable products.

What made you focus on this aspect of real estate business?

RN: I like the idea of producing products that create value to people and effect positively on our ecosystem. 

Can aesthetic design and eco-sustainability go together?

RN: Absolutely yes. San Miguel in Ortigas, Ateneo in Rockwell and my favorite, the Bahai Cubao are good examples. 

What is a great building design to you?

RN: A building that addresses the values I mentioned above and it is beautiful inside out. A great building is when it is good for the environment and costs less to operate. Primavera Residences is the perfect example of a sustainable architecture.

Who influenced much of your architectural advocacy in the Philippines?

RN: The beautiful natural environment (that should be preserved), the character of Filipino people (very friendly) and the not-balanced wealth situation (we need to create value that is affordable).

What advice can you give to future developers in the Philippines when it comes to constructing sustainable buildings?

RN: Sustainable buildings produce higher value for companies, their clients and the country. They have significant long-term effects, allowing businesses to play their part in protecting the environment on a daily basis.

Creating them benefit both local communities and society as a whole. The return on investment with a sustainable building also increases. Because it is energy efficient, the value of your property also helps improve the bottom line.

Can you tell if a building is sustainable or not?

RN: Yes. Physically, it is a building with a “green” roof, which can have significant economic benefits. Lowering roof temperature reduces the amount of cooling machinery needed, even lowering costs for neighboring buildings. 

It can reduce environmental impact by lowering pollution from the building’s power usage. The chain reaction ultimately leads to the community’s heat effect. Reduced storm water runoff is another environmental benefit. 

Is building a sustainable edifice expensive? Why and why not?

RN: It is not when you know how to design and focus on sustainability early on. It is not when you encourage sustainable design ideas to flourish, like retrofitting existing buildings rather than building a new one.

Tell us about yourself, what school did you study?

RN: I graduated from Rome’s University “La Sapienza” (it means knowledge). I had a thesis in Industrial Design and designed a car for Mitsubishi that was awarded in international competition. 

Do you think Filipinos appreciate good architectural design?

RN: Yes, they do.

Generally, what do you think of building designs in the country’s busiest cities? 

RN: As in every city, some are beautiful some are not. The most important places for me are those between buildings, and have big spaces for the public. 

What is your dream design if you have all the money to build it?

RN: Sustainable houses for the poor. 

What made IDC focus on developing emerging cities in the Philippines and how do you see it 10 years from now?

RN: Megacities are getting un-livable, congested, unhealthy, expensive, polluted, and stressful. It is better to go to a new growing city where quality of life is much better. I see it as a leader in accessible, sustainable real estate developments in ASEAN.

What inspires you? 

RN: Nature and my favorite quote from Fuller: “The best way to predict the future is to design it.” 

On-going projects

Primavera Residences. The “Twin Towers” located in the Pueblo de Oro Business Park, Cagayan de Oro. It offers convenience, style and all amenities of modern living, adjacent to SM City, schools, churches, a golf course, situated inside Pueblo de Oro Business Park, an export-zone registered with Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA). 

IDC established itself as the “first-mover” in introducing condominium style living in Cagayan de Oro for the middle-income segment. It won the Best Mixed-Use Development in the Philippines Award given by the International Property Awards in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. It was also highly commended as one of the Best Condo Developments in the Philippines at the 2011 Southeast Asia Property Awards held in Singapore in 2011.

Primavera City. Located at the heart of uptown Cagayan de Oro, near the multi-awarded Primavera Residences. A mixed-use living environment condominium, inspired by nature’s secrets, the project will be in three phases: Mixed-use condominium, a BPO and a host a branded hotel and luxury apartments. 

It will offer distinct Italian design and world-class construction standards, contemporary architectural aesthetics, attention to detail and elegant ambience. Envisioned to be a highlight in Philippine high-rise architecture.

Miramonti. Surrounded by green peaks and highlands south of Manila in Sto. Tomas (part of the Philippines’ new beltway of economic growth, along the expressway connecting the capital region with Batangas Port. Miramonti will soon become a landmark south of Manila, an essential point of reference for the expanding residential and commercial communities of southern Luzon. 

It is a mixed-use, commercial and residential development with contemporary Italian design – from the lobby to the green sky garden. It will feature modern and lifestyle and recreation options as well as harness natural principles to meet its cooling and energy needs.

Nati espouses sustainability like no other. He lives it, designs it and endorses it. You cannot expect him to veer away from it. For him, a green building is not a buzzword or a fashionable word to namedrop. It is a way of life.