Former sales agents Mike Carlos and William Coloma took the plunge and pursued their long-cherished dream—starting their own business amid the pandemic.
Carlos and Coloma, now in their 40s, were armed with four decades of combined experience at Honda Cars Makati Inc., a business unit under Ayala-led AC Industrials. According to Carlos, it was their frequent visits to farming communities in Benguet, Nueva Ecija, and Bulacan that brought them to a lightbulb moment.
"Nakita naming maraming gulay ang nasisira. Kapag hindi na kayang kunin ng mga middlemen, natatambak nalang doon at nabubulok. Sayang, dahil marami dito sa Metro Manila ang nagugutom o hindi nakakatikim ng sariwa at masustansiyang pagkain," Carlos said.
"When we started this business, helping farmers talaga ang advocacy namin. We were never after huge profits. Kapag may konting kita, happy na kami basta makatulong ma-i-ahon ang farmers," Coloma said.
Carlos and Coloma source vegetables directly from farmers, eliminating the need for middlemen and enabling them to buy the produce at fair market price. Carlos said most farmers have had problems with middlemen who purchase their produce at a very low price.
"Kinukuha namin 'yong gulay nila sa tamang presyo, at pinapasa ko sa mga consumers sa presyong tama rin. Para at least, parehong nabibigyan natin ng value ang farmers and consumers," he said.
"Ang pangarap namin ni Mike ay maibalik 'yong dignidad ng farmers. Gusto naming kunin 'yong mga gulay sa tamang presyo—'yong sapat para mapag-aral ang mga anak, mabigyan ng desenteng tahanan ang pamilya, at ma-secure ang kinabukasan nila," Coloma said.
Carlos and Coloma are supplying fresh highland and lowland vegetables for #BrigadangAyalaKaakay, a 12-week food distribution program that aims to reach 10,000 families or about 500,000 individuals across Metro Manila. According to the National Economic and Development Authority (website post on Nov 3, 2021), Metro Manila is among the hardest-hit regions in the country due to the extended lockdowns that forced many businesses to close and let go of their employees.
Each #BrigadangAyalaKaakay beneficiary receives a weekly supply of rice, fresh vegetables, canned goods, and bread that will cover four square meals for a family of five. The food distribution program is scheduled weekly from November 2021 to February 2022.
"Noong binalita sa amin itong project, talagang overwhelmed kami. Siyempre napalaking honor ang mag-supply para sa Ayala, lalo na sa programang katulad ng Kaakay," Carlos said.
Carlos, who personally delivers the vegetables to the distribution sites, said he enjoys seeing the reactions of the beneficiaries when they see the fresh produce being offloaded from the vehicles. As such, in their own way, they try to help out by giving away extra bags of vegetables so Kaakay can give more to the beneficiaries.
"Malaki ang pasasalamat namin sa training namin sa Ayala. Lahat ng values na natutunan namin, na-a-apply namin ngayon sa sarili naming negosyo. 'Yon bang kapag kumita ka, you also give back sa employees, sa customers, at sa community," Coloma said.
On Tuesday, Ayala Corp. president and chief executive Fernando Zobel de Ayala led #BrigadangAyalaKaakay's food distribution at Sto. Rosario de Pasig Parish in Pasig City together with Senior Managing Director and Public Affairs Group Head Rene Almendras.
Zobel distributed Noche Buena packs to 300 heads of families, who are part of the 500,000 beneficiaries of Kaakay. "I am delighted to hear the stories of former Ayala colleagues Mike Carlos and William Coloma, and how they are helping farmers who have been struggling to sell their produce at a fair market price," Zobel said.
"We are happy to be able to help in our own way particularly those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. We thank our partners, suppliers, and beneficiaries for making Kaakay possible,” he added.
#BrigadangAyala serves as the banner under which social development and corporate social responsibility initiatives across the Ayala Group of Companies are implemented. The initiatives covered under #BrigadangAyala range from disaster relief and response, assistance for public education, championing of social enterprises, and public health advocacy, among others.