Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Anvil Business Club. Adorned with an Academy Awards-themed motif, the organization's final major activity that marked the culmination of the year 2015 – and the grand finale of a dazzling two-year term for yours truly – had all the ostentatious trappings of Hollywood: the red carpet fashion, the klieg lights, the glitz and glamour, right down to the Oscar statuette.
This could very well be the most ambitious Christmas Party ever staged in the history of the
Sparing no expense to ensure a perfect performance, the star-studded affair was – quite simply – the most memorable spectacle ever orchestrated in recent memory.
Set against the amber-colored backdrop of modern cosmopolitan opulence which Buddha-Bar Manila is known for, members and their partners – most of whom arrived in their dapper, “black-tie” best flannel suits and sartorially-bewitching evening gowns – were individually ushered to their seats, after being accorded the “red carpet-style” registration at the corridor, upon which they were asked to fill up voting cards for several awards categories to be announced later in the evening.
The event’s celebratory mood began when Committee members were formally introduced via a specially-produced music video that played to the music of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” and thrilled the audience with a rousing “ANVILeivable” dance number, complete with Roaring Twenties-style flapper cocktail dresses and sequin paisley-fringe Gatsby costumes for the ladies; while pinstripe suits with suspenders and fedoras were donned by the men.
In-between performances by noted vocalist Katrina Escolar, crooner Jayson Alexander Kiong, as well as expressionist dance numbers by “Valerie and Angela,” lucky guests were awarded much-coveted prizes such as dental packs, coffeemakers, 3D pens, home cameras, and the grand prize: an “SYM" motorcycle.
Anvil members Edward Kirby Co, Jardin Wong, Kevin Ong Tai and Jayson Sze even threw in an impromptu F4 classic number “Jue Bu Neng Shi Qu Ni” (絕不能失去你) for good measure to the delight of the audience.
The highlight of the evening was, of course, the awards for the evening’s categories, which were based on the highest number of vote cards received by the title-holder. The night's winners were:
Ms. Congeniality: Melany Gale Sy, Lauren Chua, Erika Rellera, and Jenzel Chua
Mr. Congeniality: Jardin Wong, Yohan Sy, Harvey Uy, Richmond Co
Comedian of the Year: Chester So, Winny Yu, Alexander Martos
Ms. Anvil: Bettina Reyes, Ian Cheng, Jenzel Chua, Val Ang, Therese Pua
Mr. Anvil: Christopher Yae, Richmond Co, Eckhart Ang, Chester So, Johnny Uy
Belle of the Ball: Jaycel Shih
Dashing Gent of the Night: Yohann Sy
Best Dressed: Christine Dara Ko
Cutest Couple: Rudy Ngo and Antoinette Nisce
The evening also gave Mr. Reginald Yu the opportunity to recognize the efforts of all Project Committee Chairpersons whose leadership made a difference in raising the bar of excellence in their respective programs: Valerie Ang (Anvaya Team-Building Session), Chester So (Sportsfest), Therese Pua (Mooncake Festival Fellowship), Christopher Yae (Japan Goodwill Mission), Erika Rellera (Calumpit Relief Mission), Ian Cheng (Go Kart Competition), and YanFang Zhu (Shootfest).
In a break from tradition, yours truly also handed out a “Presidential Award for Leadership Excellence” to all his board members who served under his two-year term from the Fiscal Years 2014 to 2015, even recognizing Chairman Peter Mangasing and Chairman Emeritus George Siy for their invaluable mentorship and guidance.
Personally, the most memorable part was a surprise tribute video for yours truly, which was painstakingly prepared by Jim Chiu and Sheree Chua. Seeing the Yeoman efforts exerted by these two workhorses to make their President feel really special was especially moving.
And just when the last surprise was supposed to have been disclosed, the entire Committee suddenly brought out a special fruit-laden birthday cake on center-stage while the entire audience sang their most cheerful “Happy Birthday.” Not being used to THAT kind of attention, the emotional outpouring of love and support from the entire membership was simply overwhelming.
Indeed, the first “Anvil Awards Christmas Ball” in 2015 will go down in Club history as a monumentally impressive milestone and a profoundly meaningful affair for yours truly. What makes it doubly astonishing is that it was largely planned and executed by twentysomething Club upstarts who organized every detail of the event from scratch.
Kudos to Project Chair Tin Reyes, as well as the Team composed of Erika Rellera, Melany Gale Sy, Richmond Co, Jim Chiu, Ian Cheng, Zel Chua, Eckhart Ang, Christine Dara Ko, Winny Grace Yu, Alexei Coseto, Hillary Ang and Charmaine Cobankiat. Special thanks go to Director for Fellowship Sheree Chua (who outdid herself by marshaling her sartorial talents in having no less than FOUR wardrobe changes during the program) and Yohann Matthew Sy for their excellent hosting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


The invitation was stark, simple and straightforward: “Philippine Daily Inquirer. 30th Anniversary. 6 PM. Manila Ballroom, The Marriott Hotel.” The drab, blue-colored card was certainly not indicative of the allurement one would expect from the nation’s leading English broadsheet which has enjoyed a colorful reputation of having “Balanced News, Fearless Views.”
And – despite the atrociously disreputable Metro South traffic that evening (even as guests and Inquirer employees endured record commute times; some at least two hours, others close to four, to reach the venue) – the people came. Solons and barons; justices and journalists; captains and consuls. After all, this is the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), one of the most influential dailies in the country today.
Accepting the invitation to represent the Anvil Business Club at such short notice – thanks to the Yeoman efforts of fellow Anvil member and good friend, Inquirer’s most-talked-about legal luminary, Atty. Oscar Franklin Tan – yours truly paid witness to a grandiosely august celebration of an institution’s key milestone. With the theme, “Courage Beyond Words,” the Filipinana-inspired ceremony celebrated its lead in the media industry and aroused a general sense of pride in what the country’s Number One daily has achieved over the course of three decades. “Thirty years may be short for companies who have already celebrated their hundredth year,” quipped PDI Chairperson Ms. Marixi Rufino-Prieto. “But believe me, thirty years of the Inquirer is like celebrating three hundred years.”
As if seeking some justification to their current celebration, the eminent Inquirer Chairperson voiced out the paper's raison d'être: “It gives poignant meaning to the very important role and responsibility that is expected from the men and women of the Inquirer,” she emotionally disclosed. “For 30 years, we mastered the courage to express the ills of society – courage to be the voice of the powerless; courage to stand our ground, no matter how unpopular it is. With our loyal readers, we have courage to endure pressure, and courage to ride the tides of change.”
The beloved newspaper owner then thanked the millions of Inquirer readers, advertisers, dealers, forwarders, school partners, advocacy believers (and even their detractors) who helped the paper grow into the unstoppable media behemoth that it is today. “Your unwavering support and encouragement became our pillar of strength,” she said. “Every constructive criticism that we received from you became our guiding light to serve you better. Your belief in us fueled that fire in our belly to continue our passion and commitment to journalistic integrity and responsibility. It is our gratitude that we marveled at how the Inquirer has grown: from one platform to ten, from one million readers to 18 million viewers.”
Featuring performances from the Philippines’ top artists, including the Manila Symphony Orchestra, black light dance group Zilent Overload, Joey Ayala, Gloc 9, Mitoy Yonting, Cookie Chua, Bayang Barrios, Jonalyn Viray, acapella group Pinopela, and Charice Pempengco, the momentous affair was also graced by some of the country’s most illustrious luminaries in government and business. Apart from Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, officials at the event included Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senator Grace Poe, and former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban. Top businessmen, longtime supporters of the Inquirer, also made it, despite the night’s unbelievably horrible traffic. They included San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang, business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, Robina Gokongwei-Pe of the Gokongwei group of companies, Teresita Sy-Coson of the SM Group and Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto Sobrepeña.
But the highlight of the evening’s affair was the official launch of its first coffee-table book, “The Inquirer Story: 30 Years of Shaping History.” The 312 page-anthology of the newspaper’s front pages, editorials and most riveting pieces from historical turning points which marked the history of the paper and the nation was a shining testament to the hard work of thirty-four people from the Inquirer’s different departments – editors, writers, researchers, designers, photographers and editorial production assistants – who labored from September till December in time for the occasion. “This is the biggest thing we’ve done so far. And we have a timeline that runs from 1985 to 2015 that can show you the Inquirer history,” said Ruel de Vera, publisher and editor of the new book.
The first copy of the book was formally received by University of the Philippines president Alfredo Pascual from Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez. To everyone’s surprise, every guest was given a complementary copy of the said tome.
The evening also saw the state-run Philippine Postal Corp. launch the Inquirer’s 30th anniversary commemorative postage stamp, the country’s first of such kind printed with a holographic design. “It’s the first of this kind in the country. It has a hologram. We had to print it abroad because our printers here in the Philippines cannot do it. It was printed in Bangkok,” said Postmaster-General Josefina dela Cruz. "The holographic feature is similar to security features on credit cards," she said. The stamp, available for Php30 and may be used to send mail within the country or regionally in Asia, carries the Inquirer’s anniversary mantra, “Courage Beyond Words.”
Indeed, the Inquirer has come a long way from December 1985 when it started on a Php1 million budget and enjoyed an initial circulation of 30,000; with a daily average circulation of 250,000 and a Sunday circulation of 270,000, it is now the Number One newspaper in the country in terms of circulation and readership.
“We have witnessed the swift passing of time,” PDI Chairperson Rufino-Prieto concluded, filled with a sense of mission. “And many times we learned and have evolved; and times we are made aware that there’s still a lot more to do.”

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Anvil Business Club was yours truly and our birthday girl, the lovely Director for Fellowship, Sheree Chua, who accepted the invitation with strict instructions to keep the event arcane and adulatory.
Anvil's President Mr. Reginald Yu was invited as part of a very select group of distinguished ladies and gentlemen to an exclusive sit-down dinner, courtesy of Marco Polo Ortigas Hotel’s premier Chinese restaurant, Lung Hin (龍軒). Representing the
Strategically nestled at the 44th floor of Marco Polo Hotel overlooking the scenic Ortigas skyline, its premier Chinese restaurant offered a seven-course Imperial Set Menu which showcased its most superior Cantonese dishes; jointly prepared by two of the hotel’s finest chefs – Chinese Executive Chef Sunny Cheng (鄭陽坤) and Dim Sum Chef Pun Ka Ming (潘嘉明) – who were especially flown in from Guangdong Province (廣東省), home of the world’s best Cantonese cuisine (粤菜), for this special occasion.
“An authentic Cantonese chef's goal is to preserve the food's original flavor,” says Chef Cheng. “Unlike other Chinese styles of cooking such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, a Cantonese chef aims to bring out or highlight the original flavor of the vegetable, meat, or fruit. So little spice or sugar is used generally.”
The exclusive group of distinguished patrons – including some of high society’s most illustrious businessmen and professionals – were given the red carpet treatment, as they were personally welcomed by Frank Reichenbach, Marco Polo Ortigas Hotel’s general manager, who left no stone unturned in ensuring that this privileged crowd of VIPs would have an eventful gastronomic adventure.
In-between bite-sized dollops of “Beef Cubes with Sliced Garlic,” “Black Fungus in Vinegar,” and “Minced Shrimp in Toast,” the habitués were also treated to an overflowing array of exquisite spirits, including goblets of “2012 Sauvignon Blanc Cloudy Bay Marlborough” from New Zealand and “2010 Chardonnay Casa Lapostotle Casablanca Valley” from Chile.
By the time the second set of tasty samplers of “Braised Spike Sea Cucumber with Shrimp Roe” and “Whole Bird’s Nest with Fresh Crab Meat Sauce” arrived, the restaurant’s special visitors were already having a grand time devouring Uncle Johnny Litton’s proverbial pick-up lines and colorful stories. Indeed, living up to his legendary reputation as as Society’s Number One raconteur and perfect host, Uncle Johnny certainly did not disappoint. In fact, his mere presence alone was worth the price of braving the horrendous Friday Metro Manila traffic.
Of course, the set’s “pièce de résistance” was the “Braised Six-Heads South African Abalone with Goose Liver” complemented by bottles of “2013 Cabernet Blend Chateau Cap de Fer Bordeaux Supérieur” from France. Just as the diners were nodding their heads in earnest approval, the chefs brought out their specially-prepared “Baked Tiger Prawn in Cheddar Cheese” and the “Morel Wanton Soup” to cap off an unforgettable main course. The “Sweetened Longan Tea with Quail Egg” – complemented by a glass of “2012 Riesling Dr Loosen Bernkasteler Lay” from Germany – became the course’s fitting “finis” to an extraordinarily exquisite dining experience.
Great thanks are certainly in order to Uncle Johnny Litton for giving us the opportunity to be part of this culinary journey; to Marco Polo Ortigas’ Mr. Frank Reichenbach (General Manager) and Ms. Judith Los Baños (Director of Marketing Communications) for the excellent hospitality, as well as to the lovely Tara Litton of Jayelles Holdings for being grand-dad Johnny’s “secret weapon” in ensuring a wildly-appetizing tryst. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015


The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was once asked about the one thing that best defined the secret of his success. He said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Perhaps no other Filipino industry leader in the emerging technology industry has personified this adage more than Xurpas' Nico Jose Nolledo – more popularly known by his nickname, Nix – who is considered as one of the most successful pioneers in the Philippine Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry.
The widely-celebrated CEO and co-founder of Xurpas – a company specializing in the creation of digital products and services for mobile end-users – graced the Anvil Business Club's 12th and final monthly Business Exchange Forum for the year with an incredibly informative, eye-opening peek behind the success of the USD500 million company he helped establish, as well as how today's new tech companies are leveraging new technology to change the world.
The dynamic recipient of 2015 Ernst and Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year" – the first winner coming from the consumer tech industry – generally thrilled his nearly 150-member audience as he talked about the technology industry "from the Lens of Disruption and Innovation." He commenced his presentation by narrating the story of the ice industry, where back in the 19th century, the business was originally dominated by ice harvesters, whose task it was to collect surface ice from lakes and rivers for storage in ice houses and sale as a pre-refrigeration cooling method. Because ice usually melts before it reaches homes, they were soon replaced by ice makers who produce chunks in factories. Of course, they were eventually rendered obsolete by refrigerator companies who were able to address the lingering problem of preserving the benefits of cold storage for various uses.
Mr. Nolledo used the story of the ice industry to illustrate how companies in the consumer tech space, like Xurpas, believe that their main product is innovation. "What we're selling today may not have anything to do with what we will be selling ten years from now," Nolledo explained. "The pace of innovation and the amount of capital that is pouring into this space is rapidly increasing, and the average lifespan of companies nestled in the dominant position has been going down."
Innovation, however is an ambiguous word, and Nolledo expounded this definition in much detail, from the perspective of tech companies, of course:
1. INNOVATION IS COLLABORATION. Harnessing the power of numbers, successful entrepreneurs have developed what they now call a "sharing economy" to drive businesses to the next level. Nolledo gave real-life examples like Brian Chesky, who went broke after the 2008 global financial crisis and decided to rent out a spare room in his apartment to make some cash. He soon went out to create AirBnB which now has ten million nights booked a month, using 1.7 million houses, spare rooms, apartments and villas. By comparison, the second biggest network is Hilton with 600,000 rooms. What is interesting about AirBnB is that they have not spent a single dollar in making a home. Not content being the largest hotelier, Air BnB now wants to become the biggest restaurant chain too, by turning homes into restaurants.
Another example is Uber, founded by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009, which has a financial forecast on pace for USD26 billion in revenue for 2016, a number that could outpace Facebook. Uber has 1.2 million people working for them, and is valued at more than USD50 billion in revenue. Interestingly, Uber does not have a single car of its own.
He cited other innovative start-ups that use the power of the Internet to leverage the wisdom of crowds, two of which include: Instacart, founded by Apoorva Mehta, a same-day grocery delivery startup offering delivery in as little as one hour, which is focused on delivering groceries and home essentials, where everyone can make money doing groceries for others, which is now valued at USD2 billion, adding to the grocery-delivery service's cash pile as it plans to expand to new U.S. cities.
And there's Kiva, founded in 2005 by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley, a non-profit organization which uses crowd funding to allow micro entrepreneurs around the world get access to capital from micro investors; Kiva gives anyone with an internet connection the opportunity to make a loan as small as USD25. It now has 1.3 million lenders operating in 83 different countries and deployed nearly a billion dollars worth of loans.
2. INNOVATION DRIVES COMMERCE. In the world of commerce, how you ship is as important as what you send. Today, shipping and logistics play an important role in how a company meets the ever-increasing requirements of its customers. Nolledo cited Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, for instance. Bezos looks at a competitor and says, "your margin is my opportunity." Today, Amazon.com has a USD315 billion market cap, with over USD90 billion in sales, whereas their competitors – the physical retailers in the US – are now having a difficult time surviving the Amazon onslaught. They are so inventive that they patented what they call "anticipatory shipping" – to start sending stuff to customers before they've bought it.
Nolledo didn't limit his success stories within the confines of the United States. In South Korea, for instance, Homeplus Virtual Supermarkets have e-shelves made out of ultra hi-res wallpaper that are rapidly outstripping traditional shelf spaces. In India, PayTM developed a prepaid virtual wallet app for users. Today, there are 100 million mobile wallets vs. 20 million credit card owners. In Kenya, Safari.com developed a mobile app called M-Pesa. Currently, 40% of its GDP is transacted via their phones. It is, by far, the most successful implementation of a mobile wallet in the world. In China, the WeChat app has progressed to just being a mere mobile messaging program to becoming a virtual one-stop app; they allow the users to control their appliances through the app, place on-line lottery bets, act as payment centers for web/offline purchases, and providing a virtual interface to the world. They later created a WeBank, a virtual bank service. Within the first 9 months of the year, USD80 billion were deposited in this bank.
3. INNOVATION IS GLOBAL. The rise of technology conglomerates now have a global reach which operates much larger than entire governments. Apple's cash hoard, for instance, is 10 percent of all the cash held by US companies combined. At one point, at USD733 billion, Apple was worth more than the whole of Switzerland. Google's Android now dominates mobile operating systems in emerging markets. Not stopping there, they created balloons to go to places around the world which are not covered by Internet and beam cyberspace down using laser technology. They also launched a company called Titan Aerospace which is developing solar-powered drones designed to stay up in the atmosphere for five years. They later bought a company called Skybox that produces ultra high-res video imaging from kilometers away. Combining the technology developed from the mini solar-powered drones, coupled with Skybox, Google is looking to track the entire world in real time.
Dispelling notions that the Philippines is devoid of such technological initiatives, Nolledo cited companies like Rappler (online 24-hour news network); Salt (which developed a lamp powered by saltwater with 90 lumens, equivalent to 7 candlepower for more than eight hours); PawnHero (an online pawnshop which turns every cellphone into a pawnshop. Since there are no physical shops, it offers services at half the cost of a traditional pawnshop with the lowest interest rates, no hidden costs, no penalties); and Coins.ph (which uses an app to efficiently transfer cash, pay bills and make phone loads without the need for credit cards and bank accounts. It is a virtual ATM machine, which moves money without having to deal with a bank. It is the only company where Eric Schmidt – Google co-founder – is an investor).
The tech titan then posed a serious question to Anvil members: "As business builders, how do we drive innovation?" He explained that, for tech entrepreneurs, an idea is generated when they "combine two things previously known into something new." To this end, he shared some key take-home lessons, such as:
1. Every time you come across an opportunity, ask yourself: "Am I solving a pain or am I just making something slightly better?" "Am I a vitamin or am I a pain killer?"
2. Build something people will jump hoops for... then take out the hoop.
3. Don't just build a product; build a platform. Remember, the most valuable tech companies in the world make money from other people's content (i.e. Facebook, WeChat, AirBnb, TaoBao, Instagram).
Curiously, the Xurpas CEO book-ended his talk by sharing his company's key to success. "Many already know that we started our business with just Php62,500, with a 40-square meter space in Legazpi Village, and never raised venture capital," Nolledo asserted. "With zero loans, and no funds to buy lunch money, how were we able to build the kind of company that is now bigger than all consumer tech companies in the Philippines combined?"
His answer was so simple that it left most of the audience dumb-founded.
"Typically, in an FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company," he declared, "they go through four steps of a consumer journey: Discover (promote the product through advertising); Buy (purchase the product); Consume (use the product); and Share (tell friends about the product). Normally, each step can happen at a different place and time, which may take several weeks or months. In Xurpas, all four steps can exist in a single device. Transaction can happen in moments."
Indeed, Xurpas has engineered itself as an emerging market superstore, with 100 million branches (i.e. those who own smartphones) nationwide, open 24/7, with a virtual endless supply. "I've always wondered why advertisers do ads and they drive you to find the product elsewhere," Nolledo mused. "Why can't you complete the transaction right here in your phone? Why is there a gap between discovery and purchase?"
Nolledo then revealed Xurpas' four-step entrepreneurial process:
1. Move quickly, don't waste time. When we have an idea, we implement it as soon as possible by budgeting quick tests;
2. Implement in smaller controlled environments;
3. Assess quickly and abandon if it isn't working. Measure, measure, measure. Data is better than opinions.
4. Roll-out something that works; and invest in rapid development. Minimize failures and maximize our successes.
He ended his talk with a food for thought: "The fundamental mistake most businessmen make about the Internet is that they see it merely as a medium, and not as an economy."
Certainly, while the name Nix Nolledo may not ring a familiar bell as soundly as our “traditional” taipans – like the Tans, Sys and Gokongweis, his story is one that has already inspired countless millennials of this generation to try and make it big in the burgeoning information technology sector. We are supremely confident that the name Nix Nolledo will be mentioned in the same breath as those industrialists who came before him and more: he has already left his mark as the “taipan of tomorrow” who will build communities that have no boundaries.
The potentials are limitless.
Kudos to Anvil member Kristoffer Ngo for facilitating the invitation to Mr. Nolledo, to the alluring Tin Reyes for a superb hosting, and to Vice-President for Programs Patrick Cua and Director for Meetings Lorina Tanfor capping the year's final Business Exchange Forum with a "BANG!"