PEOPLE and organizations who extend their help are rays of sunshine these days, sending light to those who need it most in these challenging times.

Social enterprises (SE) are one of them. These businesses do not just care about profits, but also, and more importantly, they care about the impact and benefits that they bring to society. They think about the people. They think about the planet. They think about our future.

But they need our help.

BPI Foundation, the social development arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), aims to do just that -- to empower these SEs by providing them the support they need to further promote their advocacies.

For seven years now, the BPI Foundation, through its BPI Sinag program, has nurtured, developed, and empowered the local SE sector. While it was initially conceived as a business challenge for SEs, it has now evolved into a growing ecosystem with over 180 SEs that continues to bring together not just the country's visionary entrepreneurs, but also mentors, investors, and other stakeholders who share the same goal of achieving inclusive and sustainable growth through social entrepreneurship.

A study published in 2017 by the British Council and Philippine Social Enterprise Network, with support from the European Union and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, found that there may be as many as 164,473 social enterprises operating in the Philippines.

Titled "Reaching the Farthest First, The State of Social Enterprise in the Philippines," the study affirmed that "social enterprises have played a pivotal role in generating employment, alleviating poverty, improving a local community, and empowering marginalized groups."

Given these socio-economic benefits, this year's BPI Sinag, dubbed "Sinag Spark," continues its partnerships with social impact organizations such as Bayan Academy for Social Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Development, Ateneo Graduate School of Business, Endeavor Philippines, Start-Up Village, and Villgro Philippines, as well as BPI Direct BanKo, the microfinance arm of BPI. For the first time since its conception in 2015, BPI Sinag has also partnered with Ayala Land, a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation, to help expand the market access of SEs.

"As part of our commitment, we aim to shed light and give hope -- give a Spark to our struggling social enterprises who, in spite of the pandemic, continue to pledge their cooperation by focusing not just on profit, but also on people and planet," said BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Spark hope

In the "Sinag Spark" business challenge, 40 SEs will be included in the shortlist, of which 20 will move on to the finals. Out of the Top 20, 10 social enterprises that are best able to showcase their business viability and social impact will be named the BPI Sinag Spark awardees. Aside from exclusive mentorship opportunities, the awardees will also receive cash grants amounting to P300,000 for the top five SEs and P100,000 for the rest.

In addition, Sinag SEs will experience an MBA-like atmosphere in the virtual mentoring sessions. They will cover business strategy and planning, marketing, operations, finance, organization and HR development, and social innovation, among others.

Best practices

Among the many exciting activities and initiatives lined up for this year's BPI Sinag program include the publication of a book on social entrepreneurship. The Foundation will publish its second BPI Sinag Book later this year to document and share more of the best practices and inspiring stories of growth from the BPI Sinag alumni.

While the future may still look dark given the ongoing pandemic, initiatives such as this give us a spark of hope. It gives us a glimpse of a brighter world with kind enterprising souls who are not only after growing their businesses, but who are driven more to pursue the common good and well-being of the people they serve.

So if you are a social entrepreneur, 18 years old and above and leading a registered social enterprise that has been operating for at least six months, this is your opportunity to shine. Unleash your spark and check the complete eligibility requirements via The application period will run until July 6.

MIRA and Other Essays

After much delay with the printer, my book MIRA and Other Essays, came out fortuitously in time for Mother's Day.

MIRA and Other Essays, my third book after "Central Banking for Every Juan and Maria" and "From Leyte to Bessang Pass," is a biographical compilation of notes, articles, speeches, lectures, Facebook posts, anecdotes and jokes written by me, or about me, my family, friends, associates and my work. It is also about other people who, in one way or the other, touched my life. It is part romance, part drama, and part action, spiced with a little humor.

My first work was distributed by PowerBooks. But given the current environment, you may conveniently place your orders online and I will have your copy or copies delivered to your doorstep via Lalamove or LBC. Just give me a shout at or PM me at Toting-Mira Bunye.

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