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Carrying on Joecon’s legacy in the Asean

Who knew a business meeting would elicit deep emotions? I’ve been to more business meetings and conferences than I can count, and each one demanded that I keep a razor-sharp focus on the topic at hand. I meet people, get to know them, see what I can do for them and hopefully we both walk away having benefited from the encounter. I just never expected to be overcome with nostalgia at one of these meetings.

The recent 100th meeting of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) in Malaysia held a special significance for me, as I had a multitude of items on my agenda. My responsibilities included presenting a report on the achievements of the ABAC Philippines’ legacy project, the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN), as well as introducing our latest initiative, the ASEAN Food Security Alliance. Accompanied by the leaders of the largest agriculture companies in the Philippines, we aimed to forge connections with Malaysian agriculture companies and explore collaborative efforts between our nations. The week was tightly scheduled, and I eagerly anticipated a productive trip.

The ABAC meeting marked the conclusion of the week, but I was unprepared for the surge of emotions I experienced when reconnecting with my late father’s old friends, who have now become stalwarts of the ASEAN private sector. My father, Joecon, passed away last March. He was a highly respected individual, both locally and internationally, and played a pivotal role in the formation of the very group to which I now belong – the ASEAN BAC.

As the ASEAN BAC’s 100th anniversary meeting came to an end, I invited dad’s old ASEAN friends to a dinner I hosted. They have now become my friends as well. There was Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Munir, ABAC Singapore’s Robert Yap and ASEAN BAC Malaysia’s Dato Ramesh Kodammal, and even former Malaysia trade Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed; they all knew him and they still speak fondly of him.

I told them I never thought I would be part of the ASEAN BAC. To be honest, I never went with dad on his ASEAN meetings; my sisters were his companions during these trips, and I find it now strange that it would be I who would be picking up from where he left off.

Another thing that reminded me of him during the meetings was the fact that one of the priority items on my agenda was agriculture; specifically, food security.

This served as a poignant reminder of my father. Dad possessed an immense passion for agriculture. He wasn’t merely a casual farmer; he held a degree in agriculture and even authored a research paper on the use of radio-isotopes in plants. I, on the other hand, believed that RFM could not excel in the livestock sector and consequently, despite some differences of opinion with my father, we divested from agriculture and ventured into branded food.

I don’t love agriculture as fervently as dad did, and never dreamt of bringing together the private sector of different countries to explore the use of technology or genomics in agriculture. I never thought I would be able to actively help alleviate poverty or immerse myself in the lives of small entrepreneurs week after week. These were all dad’s forte, and yet here I am, doing exactly that.

I believe that my father is guiding my journey. Perhaps the years spent learning at his feet, absorbing the conversations held at our dinner table or during his casual interactions with friends, have equipped me with an understanding and appreciation for the reasoning behind his decisions.

Truth be told, even I am occasionally surprised by the ideas that I can come up with for these projects involving MSMEs and agriculture. But I simply attribute them to the years I spent in the company of my father, attentively listening to his insights.

It also helps that I still have dad’s trusted friends and advisors around. And I am glad that I meet people who are cut from the same cloth, so to speak, advising me and helping me with the work of MSME development, job generation and food security. His good name also carries so strongly it becomes a big help as we push our projects.

The knowledge that I am guided by an angel, and that angel is my father, offers a comforting reassurance. The work ahead is not going to be easy. We plan to mentor more MSMEs not just here in the Philippines but across the ASEAN, as we scale up our entrepreneurship mentoring programs not just physically but also using digital platforms. We will soon be visiting the rest of the ASEAN member-states to forge the ASEAN Food Security Alliance and find ways to cooperate on agriculture.

We were debating within the family about the final resting place for dad’s ashes. Should it be at the church, or at home with the family? He loved both equally. These past few weeks, after talking to his old friends and hearing what people had to say about him, I realized that it didn’t matter where his ashes would be laid to rest. His spirit lives on in the people who knew and loved him, and in those who continue to live out his legacy in their daily lives. The good that he did will never be interred with his ashes; it will live on, inspiring and guiding us for generations to come.

Source: Go Negosyo -


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