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What’s your next big dream?

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 19, 2023 5:00 am

Here, we ask some of the country's game changers about their "next big dream."

When Carlos Barrera was introduced to us at a press event, I asked: How can a guy so young (only 33) be CEO of a huge company, Lazada Philippines? The answer came when he started talking and answering questions. The guy is brilliant, passionate, driven. And incidentally, too handsome—good-looking enough to be a Spanish telenovela superstar.

But that was never one of his goals. This son of computer engineers was getting bored at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, so he decided to finish his bilingual course in just three years, “so I could start working earlier.”

He became a consultant at 20, entered the finance industry “because it was the sexy thing to do back then” and this no-nonsense guy worked from Europe to Latin America to Asia in e-commerce, Fintech, and technology, his passions. He joined Lazada in 2015. In the Philippines, he found his calling. He also found love—his beautiful wife, Samantha Hiranand.

"I have always been drawn to adventure and having the freedom of charting my own course. It would be awesome for me to get my pilot’s license and fly around the Philippines soon. I have been to many places across the islands over the years, but I think there are still so many new sights for me to discover," he said.

"I also get excited about building and growing things and look forward to having our own farm in the province someday. There's something so rewarding about creating with your own hands and connecting with people who view life the same way," he added.

"On my dream for Lazada this 2023, we will keep innovating to deliver the best online shopping experience and widest range of trendy products and brands to every Filipino, powered by fast and free shipping."

"Beyond having the greatest possible offerings with our unbeatable Cashback and Everyday Low Prices, we have also been listening to our consumers' changing needs, and continue to give them better access to quality and affordable fashion and beauty items through LazLook and LazBeauty. I am so excited for what's in store for us in the year ahead," he said.

The moment I saw the exquisite details in Puey Quiñones’ gowns worn by Tina Cuevas, I knew this guy was extraordinary.

Sure, he had his ups and downs before reaching the top, but with hard work, determination, and talent, how can you not shine?

Coming from a barrio in Samar, it has been a 20-year leap for this son of a police officer and biology teacher who wanted him to finish political science. Instead, Puey learned the art of couture from his hometown neighbor, the now-illustrious Dennis Lustico, and further honed his skills at Bergamo and under designer mentors.

Now based in Los Angeles with his husband Paul Martineau, a curator at the Getty Museum, Puey remains humble even as he can proudly count his measures of success: Manila’s beautiful women go to him for important occasions. And by the way, at my favorite LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Arts), there is a Puey Quiñones work of couture art.

"My dream is to show the world the fine expertise by Filipinos in bridal couture. I plan to expand my bridal line in Los Angeles and bring the business model to Manila," he said.

"I want to create three categories for my bridal line. First is the Red Label for ready-to-wear. The bride can come to my store, fit a dress, and if she likes it, she can buy off the rack with a price range of $800 to $1,500 (P44,000 to P83,000)."

"The next is called the Gold Label, a made-to-order concept. The bride can make an appointment to fit the samples and try our fitting shell sizes. Then we make the dress according to her size. The price range is $2,000 to $3,500 (P111,000 to P194,000)."

"The last is the Couture. The process is from sketch to actual product. Using premium materials such as silk and French laces. The price starts at $5,000 (P278,000)," he added.

"I would like to open more doors in Manila, the US, and other parts of the world."

I watched Eric Cheeno Dee grow up in a family that thinks food and breathes food. From Xavier, he was sent by parents Rikki Dee and Beng Dee to Menlo College in California to take up international business. “Though I wanted to pursue a culinary course,” Cheeno clarifies, “my dad was right: I had to study the business side.”

Since childhood, Cheeno had been learning what good food is all about, “starting from my grandma, my dear Ama,” to his parents who are now icons in the food industry. The Dees have built 200 stores with 15 brands.

Cheeno, the hardworking and creative president and COO of FooDee Global Concepts, still finds time to play games with his children Enzo Kinji, Ean Kedric and Elizsa Kidd, together with wife Kidd. Cooking contests, perhaps? They have many playgrounds—Mesa, Tim Ho Wan, Kam’s Roast, Pound, Llao LLao, Sunnies Cafe, Bench Cafe, Kai, Cerveseria, Isogi, Seoul Good, Kain, Chin’s Empress, Inihaw Express—and more.

"I want not just to put Filipino food on the map, but also to cement its place as one of the mainstream cuisines of the world. Lately, there’s been a positive shift in the world’s attitude towards food and culture in general—we’re now more open to exploring new tastes and experiences. So I think there’s no better time than now to put our cuisine out there," he began.

"The game plan is to start in Southeast Asia, because there’s some similarity in our food and some of these countries are probably familiar with the flavor profile already. From there, I’d like to gradually extend the reach to surrounding countries until—BAM!—I can say the whole world has tried Filipino food. I want them to find the same comfort in our dishes, and I’m confident in Filipino food’s potential to take the world by storm."

"I won’t rest until people put lumpia on the same level as a hamburger, or, like… pizza!"

"For our family’s FooDee Global Concepts, I’d like to double our resto count (especially Mesa) and hit 500 stores in the next five years," he concluded.

I met Small Laude through her sister, visionary builder Alice Eduardo. Both are beautiful and smart. But while Alice has a serene, deep-thinking personality, Small is the bubbly type who will bare her heart and soul with her exuberant laughter. With her vlog and TV show, she makes people laugh, and has millions of fans nationwide, coming from all classes.

But four years ago, Small was quietly working with her husband Philip at their brokerage securities business at the Philippine Stock Exchange. “During a family trip, I felt bored and posted a video which, to my surprise, got a huge response,” Small recalled. And the rest is big history.

“At first, my kids were upset and asked if I could just do this stuff after they graduate.” (Allison was at IS, and sons RJ, Michael and Tim at Ateneo). Now they are surely proud of their mom, who is chased by both students and adults for selfies. Now, banks, retail brands, and manufacturers want her to be their endorser."

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"I’m not so sure what my next big dream would be, as I didn’t even expect that where I am today would happen to me! I am already overwhelmed as it is, and very grateful. Making people laugh, making a difference in their lives, giving them momentary distraction and joy is already a dream come true. I am already very content with my life. As I always say, I can’t ask for anything more. So if I really had to think hard about what more there is to dream about, it is to be blessed with more endorsements so that I can continue to be a blessing to others. Also, to be the model of international brands like Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel—just kidding! But it’s free to dream right? So please, no bashing, okay?" she said.