How Leyte entrepreneur got back on his feet after 'Yolanda'

Posted at 03/17/2014 12:39 PM | Updated as of 03/18/2014 9:04 AM
Cenon and Teresita Policarpio of Taps Handmade Products from Tanuan, Leyte. Photo by Cathy Rose A. Garcia, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines - When super typhoon "Yolanda" hit the Visayas last November, Cenon Policarpio was one of millions of Filipinos who lost not just their homes but also their businesses and livelihood.

Policarpio, whose company Taps Handmade Products manufactures handwoven bags, wallets and mats (banig) made of tikog (a kind of grass), found his materials and machines all destroyed by the floods in Tanauan, Leyte.

"Apektadong-apektado, kasi nawala lahat... Bumalik kami sa zero noong dinaan kami ng bagyong Yolanda," Policarpio told ABS-CBNnews.com at the sidelines of Manila FAME at SMX on Saturday.

The super typhoon battered the Visayas region last November 8, flattening many towns and barangays and affecting more than 12 million people in 44 provinces.

But thanks to the help of the private sector and some of his buyers, Policarpio was able to restart his business.

"Nakabangon kami ulit sa tulong ng private sector. Mga buyers namin na tumulong sa amin. Ang unang tulong binigay sa amin ang bubong. Kasi kung walang bubong, mai ay magkakasakit. Ang mga materyales namin ay nasira na, pati mga machines," he said.

"Ang ibang buyers namin, private sector, nagpadala ng cash... Sabi ko wag relief goods, dahil sa mga panahon na yun ang relief pag dumating sa airport kinukuha ng DSWD. Hindi makakarating sa lugar namin... Ang mga machines namin, may mga ibang buyers nag-donate. Binili kami ng mga motor ng makina na nastuck up dahil sa tubig."

His company was able to resume production in January, but Policarpio can't help but express his disappointment with the government's relief efforts.

"Sinabi nila sa releases daw na maswerte daw kami at makakatikim kami ng primera klaseng bigas, pero pagkinain mo may amoy tapos hahapdi ang sikmura. Imported daw mga delata, ang dumating sa amin, imported ba ang 555 at Ligo? Sabi nila bago mag-Pasko magkakaroon ng ng liwanag. Bakit hanggang ngayon ay kahit poste wala pa rin. Nag-uumpisa pa lang ngayon," he said.

'One step at a time'

Despite these challenges, Policarpio and his wife Teresita were were back at last weekend's Manila FAME, a bi-annual showcase of Philippine design and craftsmanship. They had a small space at the One Town, One Product (OTOP) marketplace showcase of products by micro, small and medium enterprises from various regions.

They are hoping to generate enough revenues from Manila FAME to keep their business running.

"Nakiusap kami sa CITEM, kung maari mabalik kami sa Manila FAME kasi ito ang pinaka-unang trade fair namin. Ang unang cash namin at maswerte na order-an, ito ang unang pera namin na mai-roll para maging negosyo namin. Naka-bangon na kami pero di pa nakaka-hakbang. Kailangan namin ulit na humakbang. Ito ang hope namin na makabalik ulit sa normal," Policarpio said.

There was a steady stream of buyers at their stall, which was filled with well-made woven backpacks and clutches, as well as colorful banig at reasonable prices.

"Maganda ang turnout ng mga buyers kaysa sa nakaraang show namin sa Manila FAME. Maganda ang resulta ngayon. Napaka-laking tulong ito," he said.

Seeking more help

Four months after Yolanda, more help is still needed for small and medium enterprises to fully recover, Policarpio said. He hopes the government will provide some financial assistance for the up-coming trade fair for entrepreneurs affected by "Yolanda" and the earthquake last year.

"May binabalak kami na trade fair sa April. Para makabangon ulit, mga exhibitor dito ay from Region 8 na pininsala ni Yolanda at Region 6 na pininsala naman ng lindol," he said.

The trade fair, tentatively titled "Bangon Negosyanteng Bisaya", is slated for April 2-6 at SM Megamall.

However, Policarpio said they need help with raising the money for the venue, estimated around P700,000.

He said his wife Teresita, who is the head of Philexport Region 8, had asked President Aquino for help during his Bohol visit last February.

"Sabi ng Presidente na sila ang magbabayad. Ngayon malapit na, tinalikuran kami ng Presidente, wala raw. Di namin alam kanino kami lalapit ulit. Pumunta rito si Secretary Domingo kanina, sabi niya wala raw pera ang DTI... Naghahanap kami ng private sector na tutulong sa amin," he said.

If the government helps entrepreneurs like himself, Policarpio said the effects will trickle down to the workers and their families.

"Gusto namin tulong for long-term... Kami ay producer. Ang impact pag natulungan nila kami may chain reaction sa mga trabahante namin at mga pamilya nila, times ten ang effect," he said.