There are people who choose to be content with mediocrity, and there are people who strive to be more than who they already are. In spite of a different life path and dire circumstances, these two women beat the odds and took control of their lives. They serve as inspirations for many of us who are still on the road to discovering our passions and reaching our stars.

Xilca Alverez-Protacio
Laywer, Grassroots Entrepreneur, Amazing Filipina for 2015


Xilca Alvarez-Protacio's decision to turn her back on law to be a grassroots entrepreneur was brought about by the unending cycle of poverty that she usually found her clients in. “While I was a public defender… I found myself acting more like a social worker,” she said. “I’d be concerned when my former clients of probation or parole would be repeat offenders (usually they [would have] been convicted of petty theft for milk or bread) and would waste the chance given to them to reform. 

Tainted NBI records would make it hard for these people to find jobs. This would eventually push them to go back to a life of thievery. “It really bothered me that their kids would grow up fatherless, in the slums, and in all likelihood, would become criminals themselves, unless they found some form of sustainable livelihood.”

Xilca ended up as a Gawad Kalinga volunteer in a farm in Bulacan, where she realized that usually taken-for-granted crops such as tanglad and talbos ng kamote can be made into healthy and refreshing iced teas. She faced many hurdles (it was not easy to survive in a cut-throat beverage industry), but she and her partners managed to launch Bayani Brew.

“Our core mission is to make subsistence farmers' hand-to-mouth existence a thing of the past,” she explained. “This just doesn't include augmenting farmers' income, but [also] preparing the next generation of farmers who, with their present impoverished situation of an average annual income of P24,000, no longer aspire for their children to become farmers.”

Although Xilca noted that her venture was far from successful, Bayani Brew was chosen as one of the top five winners of BPI Sinag last year.  BPI Sinag, a yearly project of the BPI Foundation in partnership with the Ateneo Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Peace and Equity Foundation, aims to support both students and professionals who have big ideas that solve social and environmental problems and contribute to the growing culture of sustainability. BPI Sinag continues to mentor its past winners such as Xilca in continuing and expanding their ventures.

For Xilca, her ongoing Bayani Brew journey is both exhilarating and scary. “It’s indeed terrifying,” she shared, adding that in spite of it, it’s a very fulfilling path to follow. “If you’re worried about not being an expert in that field that you plan to enter, you shouldn’t be. Personally, I think expertise is overrated… You become the expert over time, since you study and immerse yourself in everything. While you shouldn’t be filled with hubris, you shouldn’t be consumed by self-doubt either, and you should seek advice from well-meaning mentors since there are many who will be willing to help."

At the end of the day, if you commit a mistake, you can own up to it [and] learn from it… Always, always stay sincere in your mission.”

2. Mea Gey Niñura
Record-breaking Runner, Brand Ambassador

At the tender age of 16, Mea already already knew how hard life could be. Born to a banana plantation farmer who didn't have much and his housewife, this Davaoeña knew she had to step up if she were to support her loved ones. When Coach Maylene Quimque saw her potential on the track and offered to take her under her wing, Mea agreed, even if it meant leaving her home to train.

Ako, mahirap talaga ako, kaya dito ko binuhos lahat,” she shared.

Hours of training seemed extra gruelling, especially during times when she would fall behind her competitors during track meets and fail to secure medals. Despite her many losses, Mea was never discouraged.

“Kailangan kong gawin kasi mahirap lang ako,” she said almost tearfully. “Gagawin ko ang lahat. Kailangan kong magpursigi, mag-training.”

During the Pambansang Palaro last April 2016, all her hard work finally paid off.

Mea won the gold medal for the 3000-meter run, shattering the 36-year record set by Rosalinda Catulong in the 1980 National Open by 5.6 seconds. Sports enthusiasts and experts believe that it may take decades before Mea’s record would be broken.

“Iniisip ko lang noon na kailangan gawin ko ‘to. Kailangan i-give ko yung best ko, kasi kung nag-training sila, nag-training din ako. Trust lang po ako sa sarili ko.” 

When she learned of her sweeping victory, her feet stayed on the ground and her eyes on the prize; everything that she did was for her family and for her education. “Ito kasi ang susi sa pagkokolehiyo ko.”

Now two international universities are after Mea – the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC). She also recently became one of Jollibee’s Yumbassadors. The future seems bright for this young woman, who continues to believe that accepting failures is the key to success.

“Gawin niyong inspirasion ang pag-fail niyo,” she advised. “Naniniawala po ako na…I failed over and over again, that’s why I succeeded. Kailangan magpursigi po kayo para makuha niyo ang goals niyo sa buhay.”


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