by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – WE all receive letters from people, but when a Filipina receives letters from US President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, praising her for her contribution to the United States, then she’s certainly one great Filipina. She’s Faith Bautista, founder of the non-profit organization in San Diego, Mabuhay Alliance.
Here’s what President Bush wrote Faith on the occasion of Mabuhay Alliance’s Annual Economic Development Conference last year. “I appreciate the Mabuhay Alliance (MA) for its commitment to promoting and enhancing minority businesses. Your efforts advance prosperity for all our citizens and help make our Nation stronger,” wrote the President.
Meanwhile, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent his own message to Faith saying, “Your organi zation’s work with Pacific American Islanders and Filipino Americans expand their knowledge on home-buying and financial planning, improving their abilities to successfully support their children and families. I thank Mabuhay Alliance for its tremendous contributions to building a brighter future for the people of the State of California. Your continued work helps keep California’s economy strong and productive”.
Faith Bautista, owner of the 20-yearold San Diego Advertising Specialties, is an outstanding businesswoman. She is the recipient of many awards for her business success in San Diego, namely; Outstanding Business in the Filipino Community (Handog Award 1990); Excellence Award given by Congressmen Bob Filner and Duke Cunningham and Mayor Susan Golding (1990), Business Woman of the Year Finalist (2001-Greater San Diego Supplier Development Council), Outstanding Business Person of the Year (TOBY -1998), Nawbo Award (Asian Business Association (1996-1998), Subcontractor of the Year (GDE Systems -1995), Most Enterprising Award Finalist (Bank of America -1995), Quality and Excellence Award (San Diego Gas & Electric 1993-1994), Top Businesswoman (California Legislative Assembly 1993), Working Mother Leadership Award (Filipino American Chamber of Commerce San Diego 1993), and Minority Woman-Owned Business Awardee (1992 -voted by major corporations in San Diego).
Despite her excellent business acumen, Faith Bautista’s main claim to fame is for the other company she founded in San Diego, Mabuhay Alliance. A non-profit organization founded with the purpose of enhancing the quality of life of Filipino-Americans, Mabuhay Alliance has provided thousands of FilAms and other Asian Pacific community members with networking opportunities and access to resources that are not attainable as a single entity. Since 2004, Mabuhay Alliance has worked towards greater representation of minority groups, provision of stable funding, and the development of great relationships with corporate partners and good alliances by providing programs that empower them.
A marketing graduate of the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA), Faith was born and raised in Manila. She immigrated to San Francisco in the 1980s where she worked in the software administration division of Hewlett Packard. In 1986, Faith moved from San Francisco to San Diego and that’s when she decided it was time to start her own company.
Faith related what led to her decision. “When I was in 4th grade in the Philippines, I sold yema candies. By selling to classmates and schoolmates, I was able to buy things for our house – like curtains for our living and dining rooms. So, even at that early age, I knew I had talent in sales. Since that time, I’ve always wanted to have my own business,” Faith said.
Faith set up San Diego Advertising Specialties in 1987, selling different promotional products. “In the first year, I went knocking from door to door,” admitted Faith. “It was very, very difficult – walking in the heat and carrying the heavy catalogues. The rejections were frustrating. But I was determined. I paced myself. I had good self-esteem so I never took the rejections personally. I believed I was good and I could do it,” she said.
The breakthrough came when Faith got her first corporate client, Goodrich, which ordered $500,000 worth of promo products. Other corporate clients soon followed and in a few years, Faith’s client list consisted of top American companies.
Having her own business, Faith saw the need to network. She joined Filipino clubs, the local chamber of commerce, business associations, and attended trade shows. Faith’s excellent personality and leadership qualities quickly got her elected to key positions in many organizations in San Diego.
She was elected President of the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County (1993-1996); Vice President of the Coalition of Filipino American Chambers of Commerce of California (1995-1997); Board of Director of Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce (1995-1997), United Way of San Diego (1995-1997), Asian Business Association (1996-2000), and Southwest Center for Asian Pacific American Law (2001-2003);Vice President of the Philippine American Chambers of Commerce of US (1996-1998); Chairperson of the Philippine Tourism Advisory Council (1996-2001); and President of the Asian Business Association, San Diego (2000-2001).
In her various key positions in the Filipino American community, she saw the need to empower the Filipino Americans and enhance their quality of life, which inspired her to put up Mabuhay Alliance.
“I started Mabuhay because I realized the value of the Filipino community and I wanted to help improve their life and their businesses. I know the resources that I have access to. I was working with many Fortune 500 corporations and I wanted to take advantage of what’s in front of me. I saw the opportunities that are before me. It was up to me to make the most of it, so I rose up to the challenge and established Mabuhay Alliance,” explained the woman of faith.
Mabuhay Alliance programs include Micro-Business Technical Assistance, Business and Social Networking, Alternative Micro-Lending, Supplier Diversity, Financial Literacy Seminars, Volunteer Income Tax Preparation, Foreclosure Prevention, First-Time Home-buying Program, and many more programs designed to help low- to moderate-income minority communities, specially Filipino American families.
“I wanted mainstream America to be familiar with a Tagalog word so I called it Mabuhay. Now, we’re recognized by the top management of big companies and financial institutions. Politicians not only know about us; they are impressed with the programs of the organization and we enjoy their support,” she said.
For her contributions to the minority community, Faith has been awarded by the Council for Supplier Diversity and the National Association of Women Business Owners as the Advocate of the Year (2007), and the Community Leader of the Year for 2006 in the Asian Heritage Awards and very recently, the Big Heart Award for 2008 by the Greenlining Institute.
“Mabuhay is a faith-based organization, meaning, I initially work with Christian organizations like churches. Since I am born again, it’s so easy for me to work with pastors,” Faith said. Her company offers the programs to churches and the information spreads from there to other communities.
Faith stresses that it is her faith in God that gave her success. “If you believe in your dream, God will give you the passion and all the help you need. You shouldn’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Many people told me there’s no way to unite the Filipino American community, but we were able to do it, with God’s help,” she said.
“Filipinos are awesome. Everyone is great; no one is mediocre. We all have our own strengths. If we all do the best we can in whatever our strength is, we will conquer,” Faith added.