Wednesday, May 27, 2015


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 24, 2015 issue

You cannot catch up with this man. Either he is always travelling the world to promote a Filipino pride to world- class status or he is in his farm to personally oversee the crafting of his ‘baby’, bottle by bottle.

Tony Manguiat is a corporate lawyer but the other side of him wants to see the Philippine “Lambanog” (coconut drink) elevated among the ranks of vodka, tequila, brandy, cognac, rum, among others, as one of the world’s most desirable drinks.

Humble enough to call himself a farmer and a “probinsyano”, Manguiat abhors the Edsa traffic and oftentimes escapes to his farm. In his beautiful Lipa hideaway, Manguiat is a different person altogether, a craft distiller of “Lambanog” and has upgraded it into haute liquor.

Manguiat wants to see a Filipino brand shine like a warrior beyond Philippine shores and accepted by global wine connoiseurs. He yearns to see a bigger market for local coconut farmers. Young, focused and unstoppable, he seems to have taken the cudgels for the dying coconut industry and is getting a headway.

At the 53rd World Selection of Spirits and Liqueurs by the prestigious Monde Selection International Institute, his extra-premium Philippine “Lambanog”, Lakan (named after a pre-Spanish title of nobility), stood out and was conferred with a Gold Award.
Why not? It is unique to the Philippines, made from fresh young coconut flower nectar and handcrafted by master artisans.

To create this pure, clean and natural liquor, it takes tens of coconut trees and meticulous multi-stage distillation process to make one bottle. Practically, all human senses are used to create this exceptional product at every level, produced in limited quantities of peerless, exquisite quality.

“Lakan’s victory is victory for the local coconut industry,” Manguiat says. He is set to travel to Lisbon to personally receive the award.

Lakan was tested and approved by a totally independent professional jury of more than 80 professionals: Michelin-starred chefs, members of the French Culinary Academy, brewing engineers, university lecturers, nutrition and health consultants, chemical engineers, famous oenologists and master sommeliers.

A brief background on “Lambanog” and the coconut industry:

The Philippines is the world’s second largest coconut producer, ranking behind Indonesia, as of the latest statistics by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Of the country’s approximately 12 million hectares of farmland, 3.56 million hectares are planted to coconut trees. Throughout the country, coconut is consumed and utilized in variety of ways.

An export-oriented sector, the coconut industry is under threat today. Though it contributes an annual average of 5.97% to the country’s gross value added (GVA) and 1.14% to gross domestic product (GDP), the country’s coconut regions that host it have the largest number of rural poor. Around 60% of farmers in these areas live below the poverty line.

From coconut comes the well-known “Lambanog”, created during pre-colonial times and mostly produced in Quezon province. It is neither wine nor gin, nor vodka but in a class of its own, handed down through generations of coconut plantation farmers.

The process includes collecting the sap from the coconut flower, like to rubber tree tapping. The sap is then fermented to turn into “Tuba.” It is then distilled to make “Lambanog”.
Global mindset

Four years ago, Manguiat was introduced to Lawrence Lim, a farmer considered by many as “Lambanog King” of Lipa and a walking coconut encyclopedia. The latter was so good at it that just by sniffing, he can tell a good “Lambanog” from a bad one.

Manguiat and Lim preferred the countryside than the hustle and bustle of the city. They would rather sip coffee and work at the farm, becoming the best of friends. “Lawrence is 67 years old and I am 47. He is an environmentalist and I am in charge of making sure that the “Lambanog” that we are introducing to the industry is done properly, mindful that we are doing it for the Filipino,” Manguiat says.

He values Lim’s advice who tirelessly reminds him that, “we are farmers first before we are businessmen.” Which means, he has to first take care of their agricultural resource in order to grow their business.

Farmers-at-heart, the two would often meet and discuss coconut farming that would last for hours. Their chats about the “Tree of Life” would result in producing the best “Lambanog” in the Philippines.

“We believed that “Lambanog” can yield the true Filipino spirit, steadfast and unyielding, one that is distinctly Filipino, a product and tradition that you will never find elsewhere in the world,” Manguiat says.

Manguiat and Lim eventually fell in love with “Lambanog” making and their passion is making local coconut nectar gatherers happy. From the early morning "tree crawl" of the “mangangarits” (nectar collectors) to harvesting coconut nectar from trees that run up to 30 feet high, he and Lim would exchange pleasantries like children, narrating to their amusement the prospect of making “Lambanog” famous the world over.
Modernizing “Lambanog”

The Lakan distillery is nestled in a rustic farm where liters of coconut nectar are collected fresh on a regular basis.
Here, Lambanog’s purity is never compromised nor adulterated, it is meant to be romanced, distilled lovingly, and unhurriedly, not mass-produced like what industrial distillers do. Most importantly, it strictly follows the most hygienic standards set by the Food and Drugs Administration.

Manguiat has even commissioned a French craftsman to make a simple but sophisticated bottle design. To capture the Filipino “warrior” and “nobility” spirit, he engaged modern Filipino packaging designers to give it local color but with a world-class look.

The bottle looks like a work of art, made of sparklingly white crystal and weighs almost one kilo. The premium black packaging pictures a pre-Spanish Filipino royalty – the Lakan. Put side by side with the best in the world, it either levels up or stands out from the rest.

Thinking of giving your friends abroad with something they will never ever find anywhere else in the world? Lakan is the perfect gift and is available in Duty-Free shops.

Manguiat is tickled no end with the idea of the world finally tasting the famous Philippine drink that has character, sweet pungent scent, smooth and long finish.
“Most Filipinos know “Lambanog” but very few realize its huge potential. That is what we want to share with them, including the endless possibilities of the coconut tree,” he says with so much intensity.
His vision is to make the Philippine “Lambanog” acknowledged by the world as a spirit category. He says the Philippines’ Lakan will be its answer to Japan’s Sake, Korea’s Soju, Mexico’s Tequila and Brazil’s Cachaca.

No one believed Manguiat when he first introduced Lakan to his friends. His drinking colleagues who’ve already disowned “Lambanog” could not be even convinced. One said: "I won’t ever go near a “Lambanog” again for the three days of hangover it gave me!”

The guy would eat his words. After enjoying Lakan, he would call Manguiat at 7 in the morning the next day saying: "You have to tell me: Why was there no hangover? And how the hell did I get home?" He replied: “There wasn’t any because you enjoyed one of the best drinks in the world and you were having the time of your life that we had to call your wife to bring you home."

During Lakan’s early development stage (when the bottle still had no label information nor government stamp), Manguiat had asked a French liquor expert to try it. After his fill, the guy asked Manguiat for its alcohol proof content. When he told him “90”, the guy asked his assistant to validate it.

Mr. Expert was astounded by the same result: 90 proof. He then jokingly asked Manguiat for Lakan’s formulation secret and seriously offered him to do a business venture.

For a guy who broke all rules in marketing (he had no market study whatsoever except intense belief in his product), Manguiat is a revolutionary brand warrior. When Lakan had its soft launch, guests couldn’t hide their excitement over the Philippine “Lambanog”, the drink that is on the cusp of being introduced to the world and served globally. “We are proud of the “Filipino Spirit” embodied in Lakan, resilient, strong and sturdy like the coconut tree,” Manguiat says.

Friday, May 22, 2015


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 23, 2015 issue
As they say, good things come to those who wait. But certainly, greater rewards come to people who improve themselves further while waiting.

You cannot argue with success, especially if they come in threes or by a hundredfold, and this may simply apply to the career life of a determined girl, who right after college already knew what she wanted.

Kathlene Gomez graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Business Economics. As soon as she stepped out of the Diliman campus, her exposure to economics, finance and marketing disciplines was formidable enough to face the corporate world.

As a management trainee exclusively chosen by one of the country’s biggest telecom companies from among the brightest of her batch, Gomez was immediately promoted as head of Customer Analytics and Strategy Unit of the company’s Customer Engagement Group only after two years.

Credit that to her perseverance and focused attitude, amply enriched by her knowledge on corporate, brand, trade marketing, market research and analytics.

While market research was very challenging for her, she wanted more. The truth of the matter was, she yearned to do actual program implementation and set her eyes on the exciting world of marketing.

What made her move? “The complexities of promoting different types of products, the challenge to one’s creativity and strategic thinking,” Gomez says matter-of-factly.

Gomez evolved from assistant brand manager to marketing director of one of the country’s most innovative poultry product companies, Bounty Agro-Ventures Incorporated (BAVI).

“The creative, analytical and strategic thinking processes that go with every consumer campaign, doing a commercial, whether a billboard design, or a piece of communication is what I like about marketing. For me, it is an ever-evolving field and I can therefore see myself dedicating my career to it,” she declares.

When she first joined Bounty Agro Ventures, Gomez’ first major challenge was to face the difficulty of promoting a “commodity product.”
In the Philippines, poultry companies are one of the lowest advertising spenders because they carry products that people will buy no matter what. However, the emergence of new and a growing number of competitors in the market has forced poultry companies to think of ways on how to protect their market share.

Gomez’ creativity as a marketer was put to test: she has to protect her brands’ positioning and image across a country that is geographically difficult to manage with limited resources and budget, which was exactly what she loved about marketing. She further tells us her story:

“Becoming the youngest marketing group manager at age 26 in a male-dominated poultry industry did not come easy. I sat through management meetings filled with men many years my senior. Focused on my age and stiletto heels, they would send me those prying looks of doubt when I entered the room, investigating whether I had sufficient knowledge of marketing and the poultry business. I did not let age and gender box me in. Growing up, I got used to overcoming the difficult and using the difficult to prove the impossible.”

On her first year in BAVI, Gomez launched an economy brand of dressed chicken in 940 stores across the country. Everyone thought that her idea was not going to work because for years they had been marketing a premium brand. She, however, dared to challenge a set-up that was long regarded as effective.
When she was promoted to Marketing Head, the hallmark of her leadership was the formation of a strong team. She worked on teaching them how to have clear goals. She conducted performance evaluations and coaching, redefined their roles and empowered them to handle significant projects. In a year’s time, the group successfully launched 52 campaigns, organized 55 events and achieved a 100% report compliance rate.

“These instances demonstrate the constant challenge I face in my work—to go against the grain, to make things happen. My refusal to be lulled into a comfort zone of unchallenged assumptions and traditional approaches not only produced immense revenue but most importantly, served as a source of inspiration for our people, who for me are our company’s best assets,” Gomez proudly says.

After just a year as a Marketing Group Manager, Gomez was able to improve the Top of Mind Brand Awareness of the company’s fresh chicken brand from 11% to 46% and Brand Usage from 6% to 39%.

Likewise, she pioneered the first-ever online ordering website in the chicken rotisserie industry which resulted to a 49% increase in total delivery sales volume in less than two months after launch.

Gomez was also able to successfully launch three new brands in more than 900 retail stores throughout the country. Counting her marketing blitzkriegs were the aggressive marketing campaigns on social and digital media, making BAVI brands the most liked brands in their categories on Facebook.

In August 2011, Gomez received the Best Real-Life Marketing Plan Award during the 28th Strategic Marketing Course - a 6-weekend short course for young professionals conducted by the University of the Philippines.

In 2012, Gomez was chosen to be part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange Program in Florida, USA—a program for outstanding professionals geared at expanding knowledge of their professions and their industries in an international setup.
Moreover, she joined more than 20 marketing and advertising conferences and seminars the past years to help her gain deeper knowledge of her field.

She considers the following as her mentors and models for excellence and leadership: Ronald Mascariñas, President of Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc., Joven Dy, former Senior Vice President of BAVI and Tara and Dondi Alentajan, her former bosses in Globe Telecom and BAVI, respectively.

Her management style

Is there a Gomez touch that she wants to instill to her underlings?

“As the head of a department, I let my team members take ownership of projects and give them enough leeway to grow, learn and make mistakes. I see to it that my team members enjoy the recognition they deserve for a job well done or learn from mistakes made and move forward. Although I give my team members enough freedom to do things their own way, I still make sure that I proactively get involved in any situation that might compromise the team’s overall work productivity,” she proudly shares.

Gomez always encourages a healthy exchange of ideas among her team members. Always appreciative and welcoming of new ideas that can also challenge other’s ideas, she encourages a productive exchange and deeper understanding of ideas among her team members.

How does she manage and inspire people to become productive?

Gomez tries to ensure a healthy and upbeat working environment and relationship in her team. She always recognizes a good performance, giving away constructive and positive feedback that develops competence and high morale of the team.

“I make sure that I make it clear to them what the objective of each project is and what the results of their work can contribute to the total business and the company. Knowing how vital their roles and contributions are, makes my team members work harder and feel motivated to achieve the desired output of each project,” she says. “I believe that the only brand of leadership that can truly make a lasting difference is continuing to inspire and challenge people,” Gomez says.
Her family

Gomez’ family did not have a lot when she was growing up. She taught herself that for every opportunity that life would present to her, she would not just do good at it, she had to overcome and excel.

“I was going take my seat at the high table. I thrive in the firm belief that anyone can be a leader and achieve anything in life through hard work, determination, and sincerity,” she says. Her family has served as her number one inspiration and has constantly pushed her to never stop chasing her dreams.

Someone once told her: “Never do what is easy, but do what is right; because the right path is usually never the easy path.” This has always been her guiding principle in life. “A great leader is not afraid to take risks, is averse to mediocrity, works harder when challenged, and constantly identifies opportunities for growth and improvement,” she adds.

Her vision for the team

“The vision is to have a highly developed marketing culture in the company so we can be competitive, locally and internationally as well,” Gomez says.

She wants BAVI’s campaigns to be recognized as being the most innovative, not just in the poultry industry, but in the food retail industry, too. “It’s about constantly being the most dynamic and innovative,” she says.
How does she describe Chooks-To-Go’s rise over the last five years?

Gomez says, the growth was rapid and expansive, from pilot stores in Visayas to a thousand stores. “From that growth, the roles that the marketing team is taking on also had to change and evolve, and we are still evolving to-date,” she says.

Gomez perceives this as a positive motivator for her team, as she wants to continue to rise to every challenge and learn more about functional and technical skills, most especially their leadership styles.

The challenges she is foreseeing in terms of marketing a business with rapid expansion, such as Chooks-To-Go:

Gomez says: “It is important to plan, but in the heat of things, you also have to be brave in taking risks because the cost of missing that opportunity may far outweigh perceived risks.”

Where does she want to see the brand in the next 5 years “I dream of creating a strong international brand, one that will earn its place amongst Asian and international brands,” Gomez says.

On winning the Young Market Masters Award (YMMA)

“This is a testament to the hard work that I and my team have put to fruition. It wasn’t the goal to win the award; it was more of an affirmation of the team’s effort to constantly be the best at what we do,” she states.

For her, winning the YMMA puts Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. in the list of employers to consider by topnotch talent out there, especially those who are looking to be a part of a company that is poised for greater growth.

Moving Forward

“Finish my MBA studies and to practice international marketing. Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. has been generous in giving me a study grant to further pursue my studies abroad. The company treats its employees like business partners, with each person being a valuable stakeholder. This grant shows the willingness of BAVI to invest in its people, especially since we share the same goal and vision. It’s investing in my personal dream, as I am also invested in the company’s long-term goals,” she concludes.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


by Roger Pe
May 3, 2015 issue
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For this young man, there are 7,100 reasons to say great things about the Philippines in countries he visits thousands of miles away.

As sales and promotions officer of Department of Tourism, at the Philippine embassy in London, Richard De Villa works round-the-clock to promote the Philippines like as if he owns it.

He makes sure people in United Kingdom know exactly where Boracay, Banaue, Davao, Vigan, Albay, Siargao, Palawan and other interesting places in the country are. He leaves no stone unturned until Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, Austrians and other citizens of southern Europe get the most accurate information on what to see and what to enjoy in the Philippines.
He talks to journalists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and other northern European countries to help spread the word: it is more fun in the Philippines than any other place they’ve written about.

When the world’s most destructive typhoon in recent memory cut across central Philippines in 2013 and global media relentlessly broadcast its scale of damage, De Villa and his promotions team immediately rolled up their sleeves and came to the rescue. They launched PR blitzkriegs to neutralize the negative impact.

“It was vital for us to educate Europeans about Philippine geography, telling them that the affected areas were not main Philippine tourist sites and 97% of the country, including Metro-Manila, were doing business as usual,” he says. His message to the world: the Philippines was a safe destination and that the tourism industry, alive and kicking.

As part of the Philippines’ tourism office team in London, De Villa’s responsibility entails launching a number of promotions to cover that part of the world. He does public relations, marketing across multiple media platforms, doing sales, and other business developments.

His daily grind has no template and his responsibilities change from day-to-day in rapid fashion. You’ll find him organizing press trips for media one day and write about Philippine tourism attractions, the next day. He makes sure, for example, that 130 convention delegates from Manila enjoy their UK trip while attending tourism trade shows.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda and the false impression created by global media that the country was out of bounds, De Villa urged Europeans to visit the country, stressing that their visit will have immediate effect on helping people rebuild their lives and not lose their jobs.

While there were cancelled bookings during the initial weeks, groups of people slowly booked Philippine trips to help communities that were badly hit. That ‘typhoon tourism’, enabled them to turn a negative thing into a positive undertaking.

In his job, De Villa constantly builds new relationships and foster existing ones with media people of all kinds (bloggers, video bloggers, freelance journalists and editors working for specific magazines).

“These relationships allow us to disseminate positive messages and accurate news,” De Villa says. The following UK major travel media are among key partners: The Guardian, Telegraph, Conde Nast Traveller, Financial Times, Travel Trade Gazette, Travel Mole, Food & Travel Magazine, Wanderlust and Verifone Media.

He proudly mentions being part of a very important national event, the Expedia UK's "Day of Influence, Travel That Matters", a campaign that was launched on August 29, 2014. On this momentous day, all British national newspapers came together in support of the Philippines, donating more than £600,000-worth of free advertising space to encourage people to visit the country after Yolanda’s devastation. Expedia also donated £100.00 for every Philippine trip that was booked. As a result, 14 “Habitat for Humanity” homes were built.

Another De Villa’s role is to grow the number of tour operator partners in European cities. “We look after their evolving needs, we want them to drive tourist traffic to the Philippines,” he points out.

How does his team conduct it? “By training the frontliners so they can effectively position our country's attractions to travelers,” he say. His team also embarks on joint-promotional marketing activities to highlight tours and holidays on popular travel sites, newsletters and broadsheet publications.
De Villa’s group has assisted popular operators like Dive Worldwide, Ultimate Diving and Dive Safari Asia. These three have helped the Philippines become one of top two diving destinations in the world.

By seeking new partners that can feature the country in packaged portfolios, De Villa feels his work is halfway done. Earlier this month, he attended PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Exchange, a big tourism event where his team met over 17 tour operators to convince them to include the Philippines in their selling programs.

Manila life

De Villa lived most of his life in Manila and Makati, attended Collegio San Agustin, Manila Science High School and DLSU where he took up Computer Science major in Information Technology.

He was working for a small outfit (conducting team building and strategy management seminars for major companies) when he moved to the UK in early 2006. While taking up a short business management course, he was offered to work on a project by the Philippine Trade and Industry office in London. That was his bridge to the Tourism Department, and he has been there since.

“I was brought in by then Tourism Attaché Domingo Ramon Enerio to look after the embassy’s tourism online marketing, then an opportune time as the travel industry was taking on a more digital approach. Travellers and more travel companies were creating new digital business models then so the timing was perfect,” he relates.

Growing up, De Villa says he didn't get many chances to fully explore the Philippines and only truly found out about the country’s remarkable beauty after working for the tourism office in UK.

Today, he makes it a point to explore new Philippine destinations whenever he is back home. Travelling around the Philippines always gives him a deeper level of nationalism.

Over the past few years, he notes that there is a steady increase, not only in awareness but also a growing demand for Philippine tour packages in Europe. The UK is the highest source of tourism arrivals from Europe and last year, registered one of the highest growth rates.

Late in 2014, upon orders by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, De Villa’s team launched "Visit the Philippines Year 2015”, a massive outdoor campaign that was implemented on 25 London buses and 110 black taxis for the entire duration of 2015.

The branding featured multiple Philippine destinations: Vigan, Banaue, Siargao, Boracay, Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, Albay, Bohol and Davao. It was the largest outdoor advertising effort initiated by the country in London so far.
De Villa is grateful that technology has made information dissemination faster. “Gone are the days when tourism trade show visitors would ask me where the Philippines is located on the world map. I am happy that European travelers now have a better understanding of Philippine geography,” he proudly says. 

During his PR barnstormings, De Villa never fails to emphasize that travel time to the Philippines is only 12 and a half hours, which puts it even closer to Singapore and Thailand. He also stresses that there are more English speakers in the Philippines than Great Britain by virtue of of our country’s population size.   

Positive things Europeans say

De Villa says that apart from the expected mention of the country’s unique beauty and natural attractions, the common denominator is friendliness. Hospitality ranks next.

European travel respondents are also quick to single out the warm nature of the Filipino, an ingredient that always makes their travel experience distinct. This also extends to cruise ship travelers, according to De Villa. “Even though some of them haven't visited the country, they are compelled to go because of one reason: the Filipino crew on-board are very friendly.”

Helping sell the Philippines to the world gives De Villa an unexplainable high. “I love doing it and it never tires me, even after a long day, he declares.

Friday, May 1, 2015


From human beings doing "Vertical Football" (TBWA Tokyo 2003), we've seen so many interesting billboards or OOH (out-of-home) ads. They are a joy to watch, especially when they're out of the ordinary: Billboards that grow lettuces, made of plants, duct tapes, washed clothes, lit when you pass by under, gush beer, the list is endless and creative people are cracking their brains how to best exploit more ideas from the medium.
Euro RSCG Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Leo Burnett Chicago, USA

McCann WorldGroup Manila, Philippines

Y&R Sydney