Manelene Gernale Handig has spent thousands of kilometers away from her family for 12 years as a breadwinner. As a hotel receptionist in Dubai, she worked hours to provide for her loved ones in Bulan, Sorsogon province.
In 2020, however, Manelene was among more than 800,000 Filipino Workers Abroad (OFW) forced to return home and start their lives over due to the severe economic impact of the health crisis. For the first time in decades, she found herself without a lifeline.
“Dahil sa pandemic, nawalan po ako ng trabaho. Nagdesisyon ako na umuwi na lang para makasama ko ang anak ko at sa Pinas naman itry an chance ko. Naghanap po ako ng trabaho dito, pero hindi po pinalad and medyo limited din and pwedeng applyan sa lugar namin, ”recalls Manelene.
(I lost my job due to the pandemic, and I chose to return home to reunite with my children. I wanted to try my luck here in the Philippines, but I couldn’t find a job because of the opportunities. were limited in our region)
“So nag-decide kami na magnégosyo na lang ako,” she said. A year after returning to the Philippines with no source of income, Manelene began retailing and wholesaling frozen foods in her hometown.
She came across Coca-Cola Philippines’ OFW RISE program, or reintegration through skills and entrepreneurship for returnee Balikbayans. Together with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the beverage company launched the online training program which aims to provide core entrepreneurship and business idea development. The online course also gives its graduates access to financial support and microfinance.
“Maicoconsider ko po ito na hindi lang occasional help; tulong po siya for life. Tinulungan po ako na mas makilala ang sarili ko, ang passion ko. Na-discover ko ang strengths and weaknesses ko na pwedeng makaapekto sa pagnenegosyo,” Manelene shared .
(I don’t see this as a one-off help; the OFW RISE program can help me a lifetime. The program has helped me recognize my passion, as well as my strengths and weaknesses that could affect the business.)
Start from scratch with Coca-Cola
For her perseverance in overcoming the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manelene was honored as one of 20 Outstanding Coca-Cola BalikBayani Laureates, who received P 30,000 in business support packages including Coca-Cola products. Cola.
More than providing drinks as a beverage business, Coca-Cola also creates opportunities for the modern day heroes of the Philippines – the OFWs who have contributed significantly to the nation’s national economy. The company’s partnership with OWWA, Tesda and the Philippine Trade Training Center has opened doors for repatriated Filipinos while giving them hope amid the global health crisis.
“We are delighted to have contributed to multi-stakeholder efforts to help overseas Filipino workers and microentrepreneurs on their journey to recover from adversity, especially at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with our government partners, we have started honoring them in 2020 through the BalikBayani Awards, ”said Tony del Rosario, president of Coca-Cola Philippines and vice president of franchise operations for the Asean and South Pacific unit. East Asia.
Help restart lives and livelihoods
Recipients of BalikBayani were given the opportunity to stay in their home country and continue to effectively support their families through their teachings from the OFW RISE program. Graduates of the program were able to apply the skills learned in micro-finance and purchase the supplies they needed to start their businesses.
After working as an electrical engineer in Saudi Arabia for 17 years, Ceazar Esquibal now owns a mini-grocery store and restaurant in San Mateo, Isabela province. This business owner has learned to change his lifestyle and adjust his cost of living to make room for a new opportunity.
“Thanks to the OFW RISE program, I now know of various strategies for running a business, especially during the pandemic. I knew I had to save money to have provision for any additional costs I might incur,” Ceazar said. .
Through a loan program offered by the Small Business Corporation, he was able to buy supplies and invest in a mini-grocery store where the shelves were stocked with Coca-Cola products, food and basic household items.
The award winners’ exemplary performance in training initiatives and online courses offered by Coca-Cola Philippines and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) gave them hope that they are now running their own businesses and in full control of their finances. .
“OFWs are severely affected by the global pandemic, and addressing the challenges posed by loss of income or employment is no small feat. It takes a lot of courage and tremendous effort to rise up and restore a source. income by creating micro and Coca-Cola Philippines, working with our partners OFW RISE, will continue to provide assistance for the successful and productive reintegration of OFWs through business models and livelihood opportunities, ”said Del Rosario.