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BIZ BUZZ: Hidilyn finds ways

/ 04:03 AM October 18, 2021

Long before Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz became a champion weightlifter, she had wanted to be a banker.

Born to a poor family from Zamboanga, Diaz helped her father sell vegetables and fish on the streets as a young girl. She had thought that working for a bank could be her family’s ticket out of poverty.

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“When I was a child, I told my mom that I want to work in a bank and count money to lessen her financial worries,” she said.

A cousin introduced her to sports at a young age. She dabbled in basketball, volleyball, badminton and eventually found her true calling in weightlifting. She started lifting weights at the age of 11 using a homemade concrete barbell, and the rest is history.

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But even as her trailblazing Olympic victory brought her a lot of rewards and opened up more opportunities—fulfilling her dream of uplifting her family—her dream of becoming a banker remained. But this has likewise become a reality, sort of, as she has become the new face of the country’s largest bank.

Seeking to inspire and teach other people how to manage their money, the 30-year-old, world-class athlete recently signed up to be the newest brand ambassador of BDO Unibank.

Diaz wants to help her fellow athletes learn how to save and grow their hard-earned money. “I once made an unwise decision with my money. I want to share what I learned with them,” she said.

Before she returned to Malaysia to resume her athletic training, Diaz met BDO’s big bosses, chair Tessie Sy-Coson and president Nestor Tan, as well as other BDO executives, to take on this new role.

Her focus as brand ambassador will be to support the financial literacy of BDO, whose tagline is “we find ways,” especially targeting the underserved. Her heart is set on inspiring all the Filipinos living or working here and abroad who are facing their own challenges to achieve their goals.

“There is no quick way to success. Hard work and determination are important. Remember to surround yourself with people who will help you fulfill your dreams,” she said.

So what’s next after winning the Olympic gold? She doesn’t see herself retiring in the foreseeable future. “As long as I’m able and my body still affords the training, I will carry on and do what I love to do.” As Diaz continues to lift weights, she has vowed to continue uplifting the spirit of Filipinos who may be losing sight of their goal amid the pandemic.

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“Kayang-kaya ‘yan, kabayan (We can do this, countrymen),” she said.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

[email protected]

Tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. is no longer around to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Universal Robina Corp. (URC), but thanks to the seeds that the late tycoon had sown decades ago, this company has become a multinational consumer powerhouse.

His own children, Robina and Lance, became endorsers of URC’s Presto chocolate when they were children, Robina recalled. “I don’t know if dad was saving money at that time or he just thought we would look nice on camera,” she said in a Facebook post as she commemorated URC’s 65th year milestone. Their talent fee then? Unlimited chocolate.

These days, URC’s brands have become mainstays on millions of shelves across the globe.

Fun-O biscuits and Tivoli wafers are market leaders in Thailand while C2 ready-to-drink brewed tea remains a top seller in Vietnam.

URC has been venturing into markets abroad since the early 1970s when it entered Hong Kong. In the 1980s, it put up its first overseas factory in Malaysia. In the same decade, it debuted in Singapore, where it now offers popular Filipino snacks such as Potato Chips, Roller Coaster, Dewberry, Cream-O and Magic.

Since entering Thailand in 1992, URC has since set up six production plants and research facilities there to sell biscuits, wafers, candies and snacks, both domestically and for export. In Southeast Asia’s most populous nation, Indonesia, it set up shop in 2002. It now has two factories and over 700 employees there.

URC gained a foothold in Vietnam in 2004, where it introduced C2 in 2006. URC Vietnam now has five manufacturing facilities with over 1,500 employees producing Dynamite candies and Cream-O cookies, among others.

Coming to the frontier market, URC set up operations in Myanmar in 2015, where it produces and sells cookies, crackers and wafers under the Fun-O and Magic brands.

URC is also present in China, where it sells cereals, oats, chips and coffee under the Aces brand. In Hong Kong, it offers snacks, chips, chocolate bars, cookies, coffee, biscuits and muesli bars.

URC’s products have been exported across the globe, with Piattos, Chippy, Roller Coaster, Mang Juan, C2, Great Taste and Magic faring well in the Americas, the European Union and the Middle East. The brands were of course supported by the large presence of overseas Filipinos.

URC’s products have even reached Mongolia, East Africa and the Pacific Islands.

While the prolonged pandemic has affected its markets across the globe, URC chief executive officer Irwin Lee said: “We’re happy to report that we’ve managed to adjust and cope with this new normal. We’ve minimized both disruptions to our operations and the impact the restrictions and the ensuing downturn have had on our workforce.”

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla INQ

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