Del M. Agahan: The Evolving Entrepreneur

Article excerpt

A HUMBLE BEGINNING

Edelmira "Del" Agahan hails from Cavite, a province of the Philippines located just 30 kilometers south of the country's capital of Manila. Cavite is referred to as the historical capital of the Philippines because it is the cradle of the Philippine Revolution and the birthplace of Philippine Independence.

Being the oldest of seven children, Agahan had to assist her mother with running a small retail store and taking care of her siblings while her father served the Philippine Navy and traveled overseas until his retirement in 1972. Nonetheless, her father would send money to support the needs of the family. Agahan indeed took on a number of responsibilities at a young age. For instance, at the age of seven, she started visiting vendors at the public market and purchasing things that her mother needed, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods and housewares. She would also prepare food at home after school on a daily basis. Agahan's father earned only about US $250 a month, but it was already considered a good salary to especially support his children's education. Agahan attended a public elementary and high school in Cavite where she consistently obtained honors.

GROWING UP DURING THE POLITICAL DICTATOR ERA

Agahan grew up in the Marcos era. In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president of the Philippines and he defied the rules of the political game. He built a domestic power base among military officers, civilian technocrats [supporters of technocracy, or governmental, social and industrial management by technical experts], and a faction of the elite.

At the same time, he secured external support from the U.S. government, skillfully manipulating preoccupation with the military bases and personally investing in the electoral campaigns of key U.S. politicians. He ruled the Philippines for twenty years until he was driven into exile at last by the People Power Revolution of 1986.

In the two decades of President Ferdinand Marcos' rule, the Philippine economic development strategy was defined by a revolution in rice agriculture that successfully doubled production of the country's basic food staple, a reliance on export agriculture as a major source of income and foreign exchange earnings, and large-scale borrowing from foreign banks and official lenders.

Major economic sectors comprise the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The two largest sectors--services and agriculture--grew more slowly than total GDP, while manufacturing and construction grew more rapidly. Total employment grew at 3.3 percent per year from 1962 to 1986. Employment in agriculture and manufacturing grew more slowly at only 2.6 percent. In contrast, employment in the service sector grew at 4.7 percent, increasing that sector's share in total employment from 25 percent in 1962 to 37 percent in 1986. The service sector plays a leading role in the growth process; labor productivity in the service sector held fairly constant from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. Furthermore, labor force participation rates particularly increased among women.

The increase in female labor force participation could be attributed to factors, such as a decrease in gender-related employment constraints and the need to adopt a survival strategy amid tough economic conditions. Between 1962 and 1983, the U.S. government provided $3 billion in economic and military assistance. In the same period, the World Bank lent $4 billion to the Philippine government.

Income per person in the Philippines rose between 1962 and 1986. However, for the country's poor majority, this was not an era of rising income but of deepening impoverishment because they still could not afford to consume the minimum daily calorie requirement. Although per capita income in the Philippines rose between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s, the income of the country's poor majority declined.

Real wages fell in both rural and urban areas, even during periods when the country was experiencing rapid growth in average national income. …