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PIA Press Release

Feature: Tribute to a caring business woman

by Maria Nila O Argel, PH.D.

Vigan City (16 March) -- The Philippine Information Agency joins the world in celebrating International Women's Month which falls on March. We had as guest in our PIA hosted radio program at DZNS on March 12, a woman of strong values and outstanding characteristics, one who is leading a useful, productive and purposeful life.

Mrs. Maria Josefa 'Marjo' Villanueva Gasser, a resident of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur is accredited as one of the successful entrepreneurs in Ilocos Sur by the Department of Trade and Industry regional office at San Fernando City, La Union. By the way, an entrepreneur is a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.

Providentially we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary on March 19, who was a carpenter. Our guest's baptismal name is Maria Josefa Villanueva, named after Mary and Joseph. In the Roman Catholic Church, next to Mary, St. Joseph and St. Jude are the most popular patrons.

Founder and first president of Save Vigan Ancestral Homes Association (SVAHAI), Marjo has a showroom located at the Vigan Heritage Village, referred to as the Kamestizoan district, implying a mixed heritage It is one of the 260 ancestral houses located along the Crisologo Street, and Governor A. Reyes Street. Houses in these streets carry the varying influences of the Spanish, Mexican and Chinese architectural styles - ancient tile roof, carved roof eaves, massive hardwood floorings, balustrades and azoteas.

Visiting Marjo's Mira Furniture Factory in Barangay Mira in Bantay, Ilocos Sur with PIA Ilocos Sur staff, Imelda Rivero, I saw the vast factory site which is around 2 hectares shaded with full-grown mango trees. We marveled on how many things have been produced by man's hands. There are living room sets, dining room sets, bedroom sets and even statues conceptualized by an artist/designer, hand-carved by carvers, beautified by finishers, carefully packed by delivery staff. The financial operation is ensured by an accountant/bookkeeper.

Marjo, who was widowed in her early thirties left with a 3-year-old son, because of necessity, set-up the single proprietorship business in 1985 under the Kalakalan 20. She learned to be independent and made use of her education as a graduate of Bachelor of Science major in Business Administration and Masters in Business Administration in Chicago. With knowledge, passion and creativity, and most especially the support from the DTI that provided the machines for her business, she successfully carved her name in export-quality furnitures providing income for herself, son and local residents.

Marjo, a realist, knows that like any ride there are highs and lows in her furniture business. So, each day she entrusts her business to Divine Providence. Starting with five workers, it grew employing 50 to 60. But now she claims, her business is the first hit by the global economic crisis. Her exports to countries like Japan, Europe and America has decreased, and her manpower is down to 35. But with her endless passion and love in what she is doing she has carved the same attitude into her workers who keep in doing in what they believe is a good job, and a blessing.

Her membership in the Chamber of Furniture Industry Philippines (CFIP) and Vigan Furniture and Antique Association (VFAA), and her participation in meetings, workshops conducted by DTI and in cooperation with the Vigan City and Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur, she is confident that we, the Filipinos, most especially the hard working Ilocanos which we are known for, could surpass out the global economic crisis. Also, she participates in trade fairs in Manila where she gets orders but most of which are from Vigan.

Aside from the global economic crisis, the furniture industry is faced with the lack of raw materials. The CFIP and the VFAA, aware of the dangers of global warming due to the cutting of trees, are involved in tree planting and making use of alternative kinds of trees as raw materials. This is a business campaign for environmental sustainability.

Asked on her suggestions to improve the current situation of women entrepreneurs in the SME sector, she said that one must learn networking, attend training programs and have a goal.

Being in the business for around 23 years, these are the lessons she wants to share to other entrepreneurs. "Hardwork, patience, and integrity are the key factors for a successful endeavor. It's important to find the balance so you don't burnout. I start the day walking in going to mass, take some time off with my family and friends for I value good relationships."

What are her plans in the next 5 years in her business? Marjo, who belongs to the senior citizen group is thinking of slowly turning over the business to the employees. Some had been with her in the growth of her business and it is her motto that she share her blessings! Remember to visit the Mira Furniture Showroom of Marjo Villanueva Gasser at Vigan City or call telephone number (077) 722-2755, (077) 722-2756 and (077) 632-0363; fax number (077) 722-2914. You can also reach her through the email address is marjovg @ and mira@

We have learned a lot from Marjo and we must not forget to learn from St. Joseph. In those times, sons worked alongside their fathers, so Joseph taught carpentry (and possibly metalwork) to Jesus. So parents can teach their children their trade. But St. Joseph did not stand in Jesus' way when his foster son began a public life at age thirty. In the same way, if our children choose to do other things, then we should let them live their own lives, hat is, doing the things they know and love. In this way, they can glorify God through their work.

Saint Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters, manual workers, all workers, fatherhood and families, holy death, social justice. This saint has two feast days, March 19 and May 1, which was named the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker by Pope Pius Xll in 1955 to coincide with Labor Day that was instituted in 1889 to recognize the workers' basic rights.

The Bible teaches us to be aware of the dignity of daily labor. Sirach 33:28 advices "Force him to work that he be not idle, for idleness is an apt teacher of mischief. And in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, St. Paul said "For even when we were with you we gave you orders, saying, If any man does no work, let him not have food."

Every person must work to support himself and his family, and to cooperate in the creation of God. St. Benedict, gives us his famous motto: Ora et Labora - Pray and work. (PIA Vigan) [top]

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