On My Unexpected August 8 Night, an Inspirational Urvan, Edward Cullen, and Startups for Juan

I thought I’d be spending tonight hosting, chatting with entrepreneurs, and eating pizza at the Ayala-sponsored Juan Great Leap event at the UP Technohub. Instead, I found myself volunteering to help feed people in makeshift centers near Marikina River with some of my friends from my community.

As you would expect, the conditions were brutal. The first site we went to was a converted Church. The pews were arranged in squares, where each family would stay – a good number of them with their dogs. As a father of young children, my heart immediately went out to the small children and babies.

We then went to work.

I ended up with the porridge-distribution role. We had plastic cups ready, but it looked as if they’ve done this before – they lined up with their own containers. A few of them carried real cups and bowls, but most of them brought the makeshift-variety: empty yakisoba cups, or even used Mcdonald’s spaghetti-styros. While I poured the lugaw (it took 3-4 times with the ladel I had), I tried to engage in some small talk. Most of them smiled. Some kids wanted their cups full to the brim. Some made jokes with me. Some tried to help out.

We have a unique and resilient people. It’s easy to fall in love with them. 

If I had to evacuate my house, transfer my family to a crowded shelter, get all wet, and beg for food? I’d have thrown a hissy-fit, or go all Edward Cullen-emo and ask the heavens why?!.

The second site we went to, a converted basketball court, had harsher conditions. The people density was worse, and they were crammed in blue and yellow Pasig-City tents (which were not bad, it was just the density). Within minutes, the remainder of the food we brought was finished. (people, we have to continue to give and donate) There were some very heartening scenes though: a Manila Water truck pulling in to distribute free water, the most sincere thank-you’s you can ever imagine (highbrows who say giving people fish isn’t wise please find a rock and just go away), an individual Urvan coming in while we were leaving who brought even more food.

Manila Water truck arriving to offer free drinking water

That Urvan was especially inspirational for me. We came in a caravan of 5-6 cars. This was just one family, who probably said to  themselves: “Let’s go get some food, and then let’s go around and distribute it ourselves.” I found it amazing.

Even alone, you can make a difference. 

Upon arriving home and while taking probably the most guild-laden hot shower of my life, my thoughts were racing. 

What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? 

For starters, I couldn’t wait to write and share this story.

I can plead with you – the entrepreneur and the would-be-entrepreneur – to put JUAN in your motivation equation, to extend the concept of family to include, not merely your kin and friends, but Juan as well. The impoverished Juan who gets marginalized, neglected, and often taken advantage of.

Let’s endeavor to make our startups work, not merely to make money, but to create jobs. (and not those zombie-jobs too)

Let’s endeavor to make our startups work, not merely for our freedom, but to help facilitate freedom from poverty. It’s a big hairy, problem. And even from just writing that line, it feels a bit contrived (maybe because it sounds like something a politician would say). It’s certainly a problem worth sinking our collective entrepreneurial chops into.

I’m especially inviting (challenging!) the very best of you – the most talented, the most brilliant, the most capable – to make a true difference.

Juan dela Cruz is certainly worth it. 

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we sit down and talk about it? I was thinking a startup event, but one which solely focuses solely on social, nation-building, entrepreneurship. A Social Entrepreneurship Conference or Pitch Night perhaps? I have a lot of ideas on how to do it, but I want to share the experience of building on it and collaborate.


Then COMMENT below. Comment if you’re in. Comment if you’d love to help me arrange it. Comment if you know a venue. Comment if you can bring food or drinks. Comment if you’d want to sponsor it. Comment even on why you think it won’t work.

Comment. Act. Move. Leap. Just do.


  1. Alvin Derick Santos says:

    Nice. Our small group will be having relief operations as well tomorrow. As for the startup event that your suggesting, count me in 🙂

  2. Count me in Sir. I own a little restaurant in front of CSB AKIC it can accommodate 20-25 person, we can do it there if you want 🙂

  3. April Angela dela Cruz says:

    Count me in! I’ll be happy to help arrange it. I don’t own a large venue nor had lots of money but i do have a big heart for Juan dela Cruz. . Setting up a social enterprise is a dream of mine. And oh, I can bring friends too who would be more than willing to help.

  4. Salamat sa pag volunteer! 🙂
    During these times, we need a lot. Calamities are a bitter truth for our country, but so is volunteerism and social action. I myself,am lying on our office floor while I’m writing this, late from planning for deployment and awaiting deployment this morning. My task up ahead is not on my JD, but nonetheless, for Juan I rode my bike to get to work. I share your sentiment. But I know that Social Entrepreneurship is a way way different beast to control and master since I’m quite familiar with Filipino community dynamics.
    Like you, I’d like to try myself.

  5. Lara Karisse Torres Olaes says:

    Hi Peter….uhm…my suggestion to you is really in connection with this. It’s very timely actually, if you need help. I’ll be glad too since I’m a volunteer by heart and a would be entrepreneur as well 🙂

  6. I and the Biz Whiz team are game as well 🙂 We’ll be there. Just let us know when and where!

  7. Would love to join your meet on social entrepreneurship. Just tell me when and where. (And let us pray that the weather will allow all interested individuals to get to the venue.)

  8. Noreen Bautista says:

    inspiring post! Good job! That’s exactly what our team behind http://www.entrepsbuild.ph wants to nurture— conversations about entrepreneurship that gives solutions to society! 🙂 Do keep me posted about the meetup!! 🙂

  9. Hi Peter! 🙂 This sounds great! Social entrepreneurship is <3. For me, personally, the tricky/challenging AND also exciting part is how to merge the social cause and the profitability of the business. What kind of business model will work.

    The support I can offer is linking up with existing social entreps and Gawad Kalinga (they started the Center for Social Innovations-CSI nights to talk about social entrepreneurship) 🙂 Let me know if ever.

    Just a wild idea: I'm familiar with many social entreprises addressing different issues in line with poverty – but what if there's a social entreprise addressing disaster management or how to help people rebuild their lives after these kinds of calamities. Thanks for this post!

  10. william chan says:

    count me in

  11. The FourPointZero team supports this. Just let us know where and when.

  12. Ruffa San Pedro says:

    Hi Peter,
    Our town is still heavily flooded (past Ondoy-flood levels), but its also because of this that I understand how important your cause is. These kinds of disasters only highlight the existing overwhelming social problems we have. I don’t have much resources, but I do events. Count me in! 🙂

  13. Truly man for others! I’m in! I don’t have much in terms of resources at the moment but would be glad to help out in arranging it. Cheers!

  14. I’d like to join as well

  15. yes count me in… I would really love to this, to develop new friendship, learn from others and be of help especially for our community. =)

  16. Dave Samorio says:

    Count me in. For me its a chance of a lifetime to help others in times like this. Can’t let this opportunity pass.

  17. People can react to this “controversial” statement of mine – but let’s stop qualifying enterprises, social or otherwise. We are all here to provide solutions to problems long afflicting the country. Let’s all bring our resources to the table and map things out.

    At the end of the day, we execute or employ a process/ product/ technology/ service which will address the struggles of every Filipino, who are not as fortunate as us in this group.

    Hopefully, with synced and synergized efforts, we can little by little provide employment to those seeking work, food on the table for those who eat less than three times a day, access to basic education and health based on their community context, etc.

    We can probably start with something existing or which has been shelved, refine or update it, (please let us not reinvent the wheel) and work, work, work until it is acceptable to everybody. Meaning, not only to us but also to our recipients or beneficiaries.

    Key here would be also establishing monitoring systems and accountabilities, and clearly presenting concrete, doable outcomes which a lot of people can buy-into.

    It is not easy as it sounds but hey, if we are serious about this, then we should prepare ourselves for some realities and just roll with the punches. Smile and laugh through it all.

  18. Peter, count me in as well as one warm body in helping you in the cause. I believe the recent calamity is a rude awakening to a lot of Filipinos. I encourage everyone who is willing to help put up the event to meet up and share ideas. To help JUAN is to embrace an advocacy – a cause that is timeless and can be relieved by the generations to come.

  19. I was looking for social entrepreneurship articles and I stumbled upon this one. I have an idea, which I know is not the first here in PH, but I’d love to know more how I can go about it. :3

    Btw, did your SE event took off?

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