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Filipino bamboo bike builder, 43; world entrepreneurs mourn loss

Manila (11 November) -- Prospective buyers in Holland were in awe of this Filipino's craftsmanship, with orders for his eco-friendly bamboo-framed bicycles reportedly running at U.S.$400 each in their vision of pedaling for cleaner air and reducing the world's carbon footprint.

But on Sunday, 7 November, the country lost a genius and Mother Earth lost a friend as entrepreneur Ronald Hector "Hecky" Villanueva succumbed to aneurysm of the brain at the age of 43.

As author of the Kawayan Tech Bamboo Bikes 2009 business plan, Hecky was able to compete in the Business in Development (BiD) Challenge International Marketplace in the Netherlands only last June together with three other Filipino winners.

With his bamboo bike frames, Hecky will best be remembered for his Philippine kawayan innovation of using the bicycle's inherent characteristics ? highly efficient, functional and affordable, easy to maintain, and environment-friendly.

Craig D. Calfee, an American consultant of Hecky and his partners, had initiated the building of bamboo bicycle frames at the Calfee Design studios in California since 2005.

In 2008, Calfee pioneered his Bamboosero initiative in Ghana in Western Africa, with Ghanian bamboo bike frame builders getting an average of $195 each for their bicycle craft and the finished product selling in the United States reportedly by as much as $950 each.

In his business plan, Hecky had stressed that there was a strong demand for bamboo bikes from various sectors of society that promote biking and strive in reducing their carbon footprint.

He had planned that his social enterprise project in the Philippines would develop bamboo into an ecologically friendly alternative transport option worldwide.

Kawayan Tech has been collaborating with biking enthusiasts, bamboo aficionados, and those wanting to reduce carbon emission in the world.

Hecky also had plans to network his innovation with environment friendly resorts and establishments, local governments and national agencies, bike rental firms, and communities with poor infrastructure and transportation.

His body cremated, Hecky's remains lie in state at the Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City until Thursday (11 Nov).

His fellow entrepreneurs at the 2009 BiD Challenge Phils. and friends at the Philippine Business and Social Progress (PBSP) have expressed their condolences to Hecky's family over his sudden demise.

The Dutch group BiD Network also contributed to a Facebook page in memory of Hecky and his share in the preservation of the ecology.

In the Friends of Ronald "Hecky" Villanueva Memorial Page on Facebook, members of the BiD Network team said they had "received the very sad news" of Hecky's loss.

"We met Ronald in the Netherlands as the entrepreneur of the bamboo bikes business," the BiD Network team said. "'We grow your bikes' is a slogan we won't forget."

The team added: "Ronald was making use creatively of what nature offers and was persistent to establish a profitable business with positive gains for his underprivileged fellow beings in the Philippines ? a true social entrepreneur."

The BiD Network said it wished "Ronald's colleagues and business partners a lot of success in continuing this admirable business venture. To all relatives and friends of Ronald: please accept our condolences and we wish you every strength in coming to terms with your loss." (PBSP/Mitchel Confessor) [top]

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