Biz group fetes Ilonggo entrepreneurs

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Iloilo Chapter recognized various Ilonggo entrepreneurs during the maiden edition of the Ilonggo Entrepreneur Awards on Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022.

The Ilonggo Entrepreneur Awards had three categories – Aspiring Ilonggo Entrepreneur Award, the Young Ilonggo Entrepreneur Award, and the Ilonggo Entrepreneur of the Year.

The award aimed to “give due recognition to our Ilonggo entrepreneurs, whichever stage their business might be – from start-up to established business owners.”

PCCI-Iloilo said that the awards night is a way of paying tribute to the local entrepreneurs who showed resiliency, creativity, and inspiration amidst challenges brought by various circumstances, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Honorato “Tatoy” Espinosa, founder and owner of Tatoy’s Manokan & Seafoods, was recognized as the Ilonggo Entrepreneur of the Year for excellence in multiple facets of life such as business, enterprise, and community development.

Tatoy, who is already 91 years old, personally received the award as he shared how his business started from a small shanty on the coastline of Arevalo to becoming one of Iloilo’s iconic food businesses.

“Ang akon matugda lang sa akon kapareho nga negosyante, dapat mag-himakas, maging tampad sa pareho kag may kahadlok sa Diyos,” Tatoy said.

PCCI-Iloilo also said in a statement that Tatoy exemplifies hard work, kindness, and generosity as he is a philanthropist who helps schools, churches, and those who are in need.

“More than anything, Tatoy is a testament to the power of hard work and perseverance. His story serves as an inspiration to many Filipinos and a reminder that nothing is impossible when one acts on his dreams and stays true to his core,” PCCI-Iloilo said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Theodore “Ted” W. Valderrama Jr. of Angelina’s Bakeshop received the Young Ilonggo Entrepreneur Award for his innovation in their family business and for making its brand soar higher in the market.

Aside from Angelina’s Bakeshop, Valderrama also runs his own businesses today, such as Nicolette and Theo’s, which are all products of his creativity by injecting unconventional marketing strategies.

“When I was young, I always wanted to be successful, and success isn’t worth it unless I do something beyond the normal. As I look back, I appreciate how my parents were hard on me because I think they just wanted to teach us that we are as good as our best and we can do our best,” Valderrama said during his acceptance speech.

PCCI-Iloilo added that Valderrama will be the representative of Iloilo to the annual national search for Injap Sia Young Entrepreneur Awards as his “qualities and achievements is (sic) a cut above the rest.”


Aside from the seasoned and young businessmen, PCCI-Iloilo also recognized the aspiring entrepreneurs who are just starting to venture into the world of business.

PCCI-Iloilo admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting the economy, like the business sector, but one thing that the pandemic somehow positively contributed to is giving others the opportunity to venture into entrepreneurship.

This year, PCCI-Iloilo selected three nominees for the Aspiring Ilonggo Entrepreneur Awards, which include Rina Malones of Bok Ju; Christine Joy P. Sumpia of Maxs Pillow, and Paulyn Marie Valdez-Maseral of EllieCake, which all started their business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three nominees underwent a series of mentoring sessions from seasoned Ilonggo business personalities and attended business training sessions to further enhance their entrepreneurial skills.

Rina Malones, a registered nurse and owner of Bok Ju (Korean words that mean “blessed” and “week”), a Korean-inspired food business, was declared the winner of the said award as she showcased “entrepreneurial acumen and is committed to addressing the society’s issues and problems through their business.”

Malones shared that her food business started at the height of the pandemic as a cloud kitchen with only P2,000 capital and it now grows with already three branches.

“I started this business because during that time (pandemic), we are healthcare workers, and it is difficult for us to order food from restaurants. Now, I think a lot of people and professionals are afraid to take the risk, especially when you are already in a profession, but it’s okay to take risks, it’s okay to venture into another career, and it is okay to pursue your dreams,” Malones said.

Malones will have a free booth at the ILOBEX trade fair; mentorship with seasoned businessmen of PCCI; free PCCI membership; business training and seminars with government agencies and other topnotch private companies, and a cash prize.

All the awardees also received a certificate of recognition and a personalized trophy designed by Marzz Capanag, which is inspired by the endangered Visayan Hornbill or “tariktik”, which shows the qualities of Ilonggo entrepreneurs–resourceful, adaptive, and steadfast.

PCCI-Iloilo President Engr. Fulbert Woo also encouraged all entrepreneurs to continue generating creative ideas and to serve the community.

“Please continue to innovate as businessmen and women and having no fear in doing the good things in your community and in your business,” Woo said.