Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Article - Breaking the glass ceiling

Breaking the glass ceiling
From content sharing with and MoneySense

By Annabella Wisniewski
Last updated 01:11pm (Mla time) 10/29/2007
(As told to Lynda C. Corpuz)

I’VE always said that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. For me, everything’s an exposure to learn.

Both my parents have always been very enterprising. I grew up helping my mother, Honorata, in her dining and catering business. My mother encouraged me to take up hotel administration and suggested Cornell University at New York, an Ivy League recognized for its School of Hotel Administration. I was fortunate to be accepted and to be its first Filipina graduate. I also earned my postgraduate degree from the same university.

My mother thought that I should come home and join her business after graduation, but I didn’t want to. I was 23 and I wanted to thrive. I wanted to experience New York. The minute I got to New York, I got myself a job at the Waldorf Astoria.

I made up a lot of excuses not to come back but my mother didn’t believe them. She said, “If that’s what you want, then you’re on your own.” She probably expected me to say, “Okay, I’ll come back.” But I didn’t. It was not easy, but I survived.

Battling discrimination, fighting stereotypes
Since then, I worked in Hilton, Marriot, and Scotts, did international consulting for Horwath and HOSTS, and developed The Ascott (of then Scotts Holdings), the first successful luxury service apartment concept in Singapore. This made me the first Filipino and first woman on the board of directors of that company. I also helped my mother with her business.

I learned that not only are foreigners more competitive, but they’re also more exacting about standards. You have to make it on your own merits, and that makes you more professional.

Yes, there’s discrimination but I’m sure I never really felt it. I said then, “I’m not going to let anyone bring me down because I’m a Filipina. I’m going to use my uniqueness to my advantage.”

One time in San Francisco, we took over a property that was in bankruptcy. We could have evicted them but they were still running the restaurant. They were behind in payments. One of the partners of that property disliked me. That time, discrimination issues were really hot.

“That Annabella, I don’t like her already,” he badmouthed. He followed me to the garage. I stopped short and said, “Okay, you want to go on? Just remember, I’m female. I’m Asian. You want to go on? You want to harass me some more? It’s going to be big. Be my guest.” I outsmarted him.

And there’s the glass ceiling. Women in my industry then were mostly relegated to executive housekeepers or director of sales, PR, or marketing. They will never be managers unless they own a substantial chunk of the company. I figured, “I have to prove that I’m better. Gender doesn’t matter. Nationality doesn’t matter.”

It was never smooth sailing climbing to the top especially in the US corporate world. It all boils down to dollar and cents. They can be ruthless. When I was the general manager in a hotel, the management company did things that I didn’t think were correct. I quit to protect the mother company. They threatened me. It was an old boys’ club.

Another time, when we were going through takeover procedures, the previous owner came to my office and threatened me. He was implying that he was an Italian, so goes the mafia. “So what do you want to do? I hope you also heard of the ‘Asian mafia.’ We can also be ruthless, you know.” Two days before that, there was a shootout with the Vietnamese mafia. Of course I had nothing to do with that. I just used that to bluff him.

Coming home
Despite a career abroad, nothing beats the comforts of home. So my husband, Tom, and I came home here in 1968, initially for a few days and to help my mother expand the business. But that stay turned into 11 years, which was cut only when Martial Law was declared. For the following years in the US, we put up our own company, took over properties, and turned them from red to black. But we came back again, this time for good, because I like life here better. I belong here. I can influence people and have greater impact.

I was here already when the Asian financial crisis hit. Nothing deters me, even a crisis like that. There were niches that opened up during the crisis. I started with a three-man office: my secretary, my driver, and I, and we did all the work. But our consulting firm Raintree Partners, Inc. grew pretty rapidly from what we started with in 1998.

We were into development planning but there were no developers. So I had to find a business that will provide us daily income. Then we bagged the deal to establish FoodParks at The Enterprise in Makati. That’s a good business because people have to eat, crisis or not. From then on, we got into corporate food serving. Now we have four FoodParks. And within FoodParks, we opened our own outlets, which are now about 20, apart from independent outlets M CafĂ© and Chelsea. We also formed the management company to develop and position Discovery Suites. We’re also managing Discovery Country Suites Tagaytay and Discovery Shores. Now, we’re planning two major hotels. We’re now in processing an island resort in Albay and opening a retail and entertainment mall in Legaspi. We’re also renovating a boutique hotel over there.

Fulfilling roles
Now, I really act more of a CEO. I don’t micro manage but I think I’m approachable. My primary goal now is to develop second and third levels of key managers and handle the strategic planning for the company’s growth.

I also mentor very much. Our general managers are all males right now, but we have very competent female managers. Probably, in many ways, I’m motherly to my employees – they call me Mother Superior, by the way. I think that we’re a company with a heart. We’re organized. We have standards and goals. We have objectives and plans that we have to go by. But we have a lot of flexibility.

And despite what I achieved, being a wife and a mother are my greatest pride and the most important roles in life. What use is it if you have the career and all the money in the world if you’re a failure as a wife and a mother? Above all else, it should always be family first. And my family is always first to me.

From the September-October 2007 issue of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. Visit for more.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"Ground zero"

As of this posting, there were already nine who died (the first four who were pronounced dead were severely injured and hardly recognizable), and 119 injured, including Korean and Chinese nationals. The youngest of those injured and rushed to the hospital was reported to be 50, while the youngest was one-year-old.

The explosion-which, as per initial post blast investigation-came from the lobby, shattered establishments within into near pieces and blasted its way up to the three floors of the mall, that also sent debris outside.

It was first said to be caused by a fuel tank explosion, attributed from a Chinese fastfood restaurant-which caught fire last year.

"It was a bomb"
But as hours went on, the country's police chief said, as per preliminary data gathering, "it was a bomb."

What supposedly an ordinarily busy Friday at 1:30pm, in Glorietta mall complex in the financial district of Makati, turned into a shocked sea of mall-goers, a chaotic site for reporters, photographers, TV and radio crew who all want to get the news, while authorities tightened security and cordoned off the area, plus medical teams attentive in providing aids, bomb-sniffing dogs rounding the area, not to mention those who linger in the area, like paparazzis nosing for what happened.

As per late night news, Glorietta 1, 3, and 4 will still be open today starting 10am, and as per footage shown earlier, life goes on in the area, with bars and restaurants still open for those who want a break from a busy week-and an "explosive" week at that.

Why call it "ground zero"
And local media were quick to call it ground zero, which use became popular with the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center.

My brother, Linard, pointed out it should not be called like that, since the term was first used to describe the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing - a bombing of such magnitude - though he does not discount the lives lost and hundreds injured in the Glorietta blast. Ah huh, point taken, bro.

Asking "ifs"
While seeing the first flash report on this, my mother asked me if Robin and I stayed at Glorietta? And I got cold in realizing that - I told her that's our meeting place, where I asked Robin most of the time (when he got to stay here for two weeks) to meet me after coming from some events at that or from our magazine's office or coming here from our place.

And I told my fiance, when we were talking then about the first time he was coming here for a visit, that Makati, specifically Ayala Center district - with the Glorietta mall complex, Greenbelt malls, The Landmark, SM Makati, plus 5-star hotels (where most dignitaries, foreign dignitaries stay), train station plus terminals leading to North and South areas of Mega Manila, and the business and financial hub of the city - and the country at that - is safe since it "is" heavily secured.

I got him convinced at that so he stayed in a hotel in that area (both for his two visits, and another hotel in that area also, after he came from Kota Kinabalu for a weekend of work, before he went back to Singapore), and while waiting for me and killing time, he frequented Glorietta mall complex-he even got into sections of the mall that I've never been to, I found out, as he lead me to those areas when we where searching for engagement ring.

Looks like Makati is not as safe as I told you, Robin.

Then more "what ifs" hit me:

I was there at Glorietta Thursday afternoon. I asked around children's clothing shops for contact details since we need to pullout clothes for our Wednesday shoot this coming week. And I was planning Friday morning to go back to Glorietta, as in really hang out there, or even watch a movie, which is exclusively shown at that mall. So what if I pushed through with that plan?

Robin and I met and stayed and searched for an engagement ring there at Glorietta mall. What if that explosion happened while he was waiting for me in one of those coffee shops while reading Iain Bank's latest book? Blessedly (and sorry to sound selfish of me), it did not happen when he was here, staying there in that area.

If that happened, or to any of his countrymen, sure his embassy will be upset, considering his country's former ambassador here was one of those who got trapped in that hotel (connecting to Glorietta) when that Oakwood mutiny happened.

And when I told Robin (who is now again in KK for work) via SMS earlier tonight about what happened, he said, "why would they (whoever responsible for this explosion) want to do that? And with you walking past (there) all the time, if I lost you, I don't know what I'd do!"

The US Embassy already issued a warning to its citizens not to frequent Glorietta for now. What maybe next is a travel advisory. And I'm kind of eerily anticipating for that from Robin's embassy here. If that happens, then he will not be able to visit for such a time the travel ban is up. Meaning, I just really have to take my turn to visit him - which I'm hoping soon.

Updates as of this posting
Aftershock events from that blast: It was reported the peso weakened following the Glorietta explosion; US and UK, two of the countries staunchest political and trade allies, expressed sympathies; malls in other city will have more heightened security; the police and army are on full alert, among other related news.

Investigation will be on for the next days-months or years. The explosion maybe is targeted to destabilize the present administration-which is shaky from the very beginning. Or maybe the administration plotted this to have an excuse to declare Martial Law (and there is still this contested Human Security Law). Whoever masterminded this, that should be known, and as what President Arroyo said, the government will leave "no stone unturned" regarding this explosion.

What more to say but let us be further safe-and vigilant.

More information on the Glorietta blast:
List of dead and injured (as of this posting)

A blogger's account of the blast-in pictures

More accounts of the blast, as compiled in Manuel Quezon III's blog

A timeline of "terror attacks"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Yes, officially engaged when we got the ring October 3.

Story to follow tonight.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Article - ‘Radical’ money advice from top lady entrepreneur

‘Radical’ money advice from top lady entrepreneur
From content sharing with and MoneySense

By Pacita U. Juan
Last updated 09:41am (Mla time) 10/08/2007
(As told to Lynda C. Corpuz)

Being an entrepreneur, I take risks – that’s why my advice might not go for everyone. And as I tell my nephews and nieces, “you’re married and have kids. I’m only responsible for myself. Huwag ninyo akong gayahin.” So, whenever people ask me what’s my secret, I say I don’t over-think it. With that, following are what I call my “radical” advice:

Stylishly travel on a budget
Reward yourself with travel. My mother, Remedios, was more of a housewife who took care of us eight children, while my father, dentist turned entrepreneur Maximino Dionisio Juan, who put up MD Juan Enterprises, Inc. (manufacturer of authentic civilian and military jeep bodies and replacement parts), was away almost every other month. I find myself doing that now. My dad seemed to be happy when he traveled. And traveling is his carrot for us.

Pack light and right. I think I was only 5 when he took me to Subic via a small plane. In my subconscious then, I already thought it was nice to fly. I was always packing for him – to a point I knew how to pack at a young age.

Learn from your trips. I can relate even with geography. At a young age, I knew what’s next in our travels – Hong Kong, Japan, US, and Europe. As we were planning our European trip, my father asked me to take a leave for a semester from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, where I took up Hotel and Restaurant Management. He said I would learn more from that travel – and I did.

Save portions of your pocket money. In that European trip, there were five of us – my dad, mom, and three of us children. Our guide was Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $10 a Day.” Dad decided to buy back from us at double the exchange rate any portion of our pocket money that we saved. So I spent half and I got half, since I wanted to have something to fall back on upon returning to the university. From what I saved, I also bought a tennis racket, since I was thinking if you’re not good in tennis, at least, maganda porma mo.

Combine business with leisure. I try to see new places every year, which eventually becomes related to business. I want to see other coffee-growing countries and places with local coffee shops, in line with what we do in Figaro. Because of our business in China, I go to Shanghai often, and I discover a different facet of the culture each time. I have a natural curiosity about new places and finding out how people eat, speak, live.

Travel at the least possible cost but at the maximum benefit. You can’t travel without some money so traveling is one thing I always save for. Not to say that I pinch but I constantly consult Penny Pincher’s "Passport to Luxury Travel," "10,000 Places to See Before you Die," and the likes. I’m also a member of frequent flyer’s clubs like Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Miles and Asia Miles (which gets you to Cathay Pacific and British Airways), and the latter has taken me to Turkey, for free. Also, because of friends I make on my travels, I’m able to get special rates on luxurious hotels, and since I’m an HRM graduate, I know how to get my way through the hotel language, like understanding discounted, out of order room, and rack rates.

Money shouldn’t be idle
Be comfortable in handling money. Don’t be scared of money because it’s just a means to an end. It’s no use worrying about how things will be when you lose money because there are many ways to find it. And don’t resent yourself if you let some money slip away from your hands as there are other opportunities to earn it.

Don’t be fooled by short-term gain. I don’t believe in overnight success, like lotto. I believe that if it’s easy to gain, it’s easy to lose.

Negotiate without losing the shirt off your back. A friend asked me if she could sell her condo to me.

“Why me? Do I need it?” I asked.

“I don’t want it to sell to anyone,” she says.

But I told her, “You know, I have to make a loan from the bank for that.”

“I don’t care, just buy it from me,” she said.

“I’ll have the bank appraise it. I’ll pay you with whatever the bank gives and I’ll pay the balance in a year.”

She agreed. Now, I’m renting out the condo and paying the amortization with the rent so it’s self-liquidating. I paid my equity in one year, so it didn’t hurt as much. That’s the reward of knowing how to negotiate.

Tolerate risks. You can tolerate more risks, as your portfolio gets bigger. The risk you stake in gambling, in stock market, and in putting up a business (is the same), but in business, you can see if the struggle is even. My investment in our companies and real estate comprise my portfolio. I don’t want anything very volatile, maybe because what drives me is working on something. I want to get my hands dirty, and give myself some spanking when it’s time to stop.

Do business fairly
Grab the opportunity once it knocks. Some say there’s no such thing as luck. I believe there is. But what you do with it is your destiny. Sometimes you have this chance, staring at your face, but you didn’t pay attention since you were sluggish. As my father said, there’s always an opportunity in something. There’s always a need, and if you fill it, that’s business.

I remember apart from working in the family business during summers, I was also selling chocolates back in Grade 3, and my classmates said, “ang mahal naman ng chocolate mo, sa canteen mura.” “Eh, `di sa canteen kayo bumili. Dito hindi ka na pupunta sa canteen.”

I was selling them convenience. At that young age, I wasn’t shy or embarrassed to sell stuff. I don’t know if it was the money I enjoyed, or convincing people, which is also fulfilling. My father said it was up to us what we want to do with our money. He would not finance any of our whims though.

It’s not bad to borrow money. My father told me not to be ashamed of making a loan. For him, a loan is not a sign of being poor for it is a natural course of business. It comes with the entrepreneurial risks. Look at those with inheritance; some just waste it. Borrowing is part of doing business. If, for any reason, you’ll be delayed in your payment, don’t hide. Talk to her first before she looks for you. Be honest and sincere.

Build your name. My brother, Bienvenido, would come with me to the bank and explain to me how to do things until I knew already how to ask for a grace period, to restructure a loan, etc.

I learned that you don’t go to the bank only when you need to borrow money. Make an appearance there at different times of the year, to build your credibility. Time will come that your name alone will be your collateral. Everyday is a chance for you to build your name and legacy.

Get your feet wet. When you get a windfall or extra money, get a business or be part of one, like franchising. Through this, you’ll learn to improve your cash flow, and not wait for every 15th or 30th of the month for your paycheck. Investing in a small business can turn you from a full-time employee to a part-time employee and full-time entrepreneur.

From the July-August 2007 issue of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. Visit for more.