Cory Aquino



True People (Em) Power(ment)
by Jan Chavez Arceo
<>"Giving Back" column in the MMPI Girlfriend Magazine April 2008 issue

(Please take note dear readers that this article is being written while a major "Inter-Faith Prayer Rally" is being held in Makati as one of the many rallies, movements and cries for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the alleged corruption linked to the National Broadband Network-ZTE project. So, if by the time this article is published, and the political terrain is a bit altered already, I hope it's for the best and for the ultimate benefit of the greater majority of the Filipinos.)

I remember that fateful night of February 22 twenty-two years ago when in the middle of our high school prom (I was a Junior then) we were asked to go home even before we had our first dance because a military coup was brewing! That was to become the start of the end of a presidency that seemed to have been in place ever since my generation can remember. That night was the first of the four most memorable, inspiring and hopeful days in our nation's recent history – it was no doubt one of the Filipino's most shining and defining moment and still is begging to be duplicated or surpassed! The youth as well as every Filipino regardless of age, socio-economic class and gender, during those times shared a common sense of nationalism, pride in our heritage and a general feeling of confidence to forge forward into the future reassured in the thought that the nation is well on its way to economic recovery after years of supposed economic plunder. We were poised to take our rightful place among the great nations of this world and all the opportunities that notion seemed to promise!

That moment in history was led, together with a lot of heroes from various sectors of society, by what was then the binding figure – the widow in yellow. Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino after the assassination of her husband, main Marcos-oppositionist Benigno Aquino Jr. acted as the main catalyst that encouraged the Filipinos to come together as one to effect a common goal and that was to oust a supposed oppressive dictator in order for an oppressed nation to move forward. That communal action was to be known as the EDSA People Power Revolution or often also referred to as the Yellow Revolution. We showed the world then that a revolution can be non-violent & prayerful. We taught the world how a revolution can be won without bloodshed and the world stopped, applauded and took notice of this small country in Southeast Asia. We, as the youth during those times were so hopeful of how great this nation can become and in the process how WE as citizens can reap the fruits of the opportunities of an economically-recharged country can offer. During those times, anything and everything was possible!

Today, we see Mrs. Aquino leading similar mass actions reminiscent of those fateful days in February twenty-two years ago with goals similar to those two decades ago. Although, the local media seem to prefer to focus on these activities by the former President, unknown to many, this widow in yellow is actually leading another revolution. It is a revolution against poverty. But all these political noise seem to have overshadowed and drowned what might seem to be another yellow revolution -- a people power movement that may prove to be more definitive of the term and that is empowering people with higher purchasing power and higher sense of self through micro-entrepreneurship.

Last February 26th a day after the commemoration of the 22nd year anniversary of the People Power Revolution of 1986, former President Cory Aquino, in the presence of the distinguished members of the Makati Business Club formally launched, after a year of existence: PinoyME or Filipino Micro-Enterprise. It is a private sector, multi-stakeholder, social consortium that aims to contribute to reducing poverty in the country by providing 5 million poor people with financial and non-financial services and mobilizing P5 billion in new capital for microfinance in 5 years. It will achieve these goals through capacity building, resource mobilization, business development services, and knowledge management. Simplified, PinoyME will gather P5 billion pesos in order to distribute to key micro-finance institutions so that the regular people may be able to take out small loan amounts to finance their little enterprises. In the process these little enterprises like sari-sari stores, small piggery farms, vegetable farms among many others may be helped to grow bigger and hopefully the projected chain reaction of positive opportunities can and will be effected.

What is even more notable about this movement is that it allows not just big businesses or wealthy individuals to take part. But consistent with the principles of the original People Power Revolution in 1986, PinoyME also lets simple folks and groups to contribute in the movement's goals of alleviating poverty in the Philippines. In a speech given during the launch of PinoyME's Social Investment Fund (SIF), Philippine Business for Social Progress CEO and PinoyME's steering committee member Ramon del Rosario said that "anyone can be a social investor" and contribute any amount to the SIF. He cited that "the contributions are however preferred to be in the following denomination: P5,000 for a microfinance loan (average loan size availed of by one member of a poor family), P150,000 for a center (a group of 30 borrowers in a community), P2.5, million for a branch in an urban/semi-urban area (managing 15 centers with approximately 1,000 – 1,500 borrowers) or P5 million for a branch in a hard-to-reach rural area."

According to PinoyMe's Chief Executive Officer, Danilo Songco, as of end 2007, 1.3 million micro-entrepreneurs have benefitted from small loans released by the ten biggest micro-finance institutions that are members of PinoyME. He projects further that the organization is expected to generate in the interim phase alone, roughly 3 million jobs for frontliner positions and more for supervisory and managerial posts consequently. Imagine if these numbers are realized in the next five years, there would have been a significant number of Filipinos who have been financially empowered as a direct result of efforts by PinoyME! In her own words, the former President and widow of a national hero shares her vision for the cause and says: "PinoyME harnesses people power by bringing various stakeholders together to eventually enable our marginalized countrymen to rise out of poverty through their own efforts."

It seems that this woman in yellow, Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino's legacy, aside from restoring democracy in the country and inspiring every Filipino during those four days in February twenty-two years ago, shall include restoring dignity among the masses by giving them not only higher purchasing power but also opportunities for self-actualization and higher sense of self-worth through micro-entrepreneurship. That's the kind of revolution we would rather see sweep our nation. The promises of EDSA twenty-two years ago are not lost. We can still reclaim them. Join the movement and do your share. The best time is always NOW.

PinoyME Social Investment Fund is now ready to accept your contributions through:
Equitable PCI Bank, Binondo Branch
Account Name: Philippine Business for Social Progress Social Investment Fund
Savings account No.: 1353062308

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