It was an aspiration that started blossoming in 2011. We held the 1st OFW and Family Summit on Nov. 24 with the theme “Kabuhayan Para sa Kinabukasan” which encapsulated our vision for Filipinos working abroad — that they acquire the skills and knowledge of entrepreneurship so that the money they earned through hard work and a lot of sacrifice will not go to waste.
Fast forward to 2022 and we are still at it. It is amazing how that dream 11 years ago is still sustained until now. We recently held the 11th OFW and Family Summit with the theme “Bagong Simula sa Sariling Bansa.” The dream remains the same — empowering OFWs to become successful entrepreneurs. Underlying this dream is the idea that as much as our OFWs have helped our economy through their remittances, we want them to come back to their homeland, to their family. And I believe that the best way to do that is to help them put up their own businesses here.
From the first summit up to the 11th, we wanted to ensure that every aspect of the event — from the program to the exhibitors, is focused on our heroes. We want the summit to be really worthwhile, educational and inspirational for all of our OFWs and their families. We organized the summits so that it will truly empower OFWs. How many times have we heard sad stories of OFWs who returned to the country without any savings? We wanted to help them use and invest their money wisely so they can raise themselves out of poverty.
I still recall the inspiring stories of OFWs-turned-entrepreneurs during the 1st summit who shared their success stories. I particularly recall former Saudi Arabia-based OFW Prudencio Garcia who returned home to help out in their family business Mekeni, now one of the leading meat companies and Myrna Padilla, a former domestic helper, who is now the owner of a BPO company. These are inspiring stories that in turn energize us here at the Villar Sipag Foundation to organize these OFW summits every year. Even during the height of the pandemic that prevented us from holding the summit, we held a virtual summit so we can continue the work of empowering our kababayans.
One of the ways we help OFWs is by training them to identify investment opportunities. According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), about 66 percent of overseas Filipino workers saved less than 25 percent of their remittances. The summit provides a way for OFWs to look at real estate investment which is a type of investment that is relatively stable and will most likely survive an economic crisis.
The summit also provided a forum for OFWs to learn how to start and manage their own businesses. Most of our OFWs are essentially forced to work abroad because of their desire for a better life. For this year’s summit, we had a session on “Innovative Ways to Earn Money” with Vicky Mojica, founder of Angel’s Burger; Raffy Fragante, head of Customer Experience, AllEasy Go and Jennelle Pernia, owner, Cheese Rolls by Miss J as speakers.
I am so proud of our staff from the Villar Sipag Foundation and everyone else from our organization for their unending enthusiasm in helping OFWs. I hope our OFWs learned a lot and had fun during the event. Moreover, I hope they go back home ang apply whatever they learned from our speakers during the summit.
Thank you to Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Toots Ople who gave a short but meaningful message during the event. We are also very appreciative of the presence of DMW Usec. Atty. Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) Asst. Sec. Paul Raymund Cortes, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator, Arnaldo “Arnell” Ignacio, Department of Justice- Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT) Usec. Atty. Nicholas Felix Ty Undersecretary, and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Administrator Atty. Hernani N. Fabia for joining the dialogue with government agencies portion of the summit.
But most important of all, we are very thankful for the continued support of our OFWs. I am constantly amazed at the courage, vigor, and dedication of Filipino workers. They remain our inspiration, our heroes.