Survival of the fittest

HOW are you coping after more than one-and-a-half years of lockdown? How do you survive if your industry is among those hard hit ?   

Last week, the FINEX Women in Finance Committee chaired by Terrie Magleo and FINEX Director Tiffi Zulueta held a webinar “Survival of the Fittest” featuring three passionate ladies: Ryna Brito, CEO of Sunlight Express Airways, Nanette Medved-Po, chair and founder of Friends of Hope, and Tessa Prieto-Valdes, vice-president of Trezza Group. 

Their businesses — tourism, manufacturing and real estate, respectively — were badly affected by the pandemic.   How did these remarkable women leaders adapt to the needs of the challenging times and keep their companies afloat?

Ryna kept Sunlight Express Airways alive with her creativity and agility. Having been conceived to cater purely to passengers, the airline was quickly transformed to a passenger and cargo business. Ryna used the crisis to reboot and adapt to customer and industry needs by putting in place safe and seamless travel processes, such as a charter airline point-to-point travel. Her passion, dedication, perseverance and responsiveness to the constraints brought about by the pandemic cascaded to her people and resulted in a remarkable growth in the airline’s passenger and cargo sales, flights and destinations. Ryna, a young executive, is certainly a good role model for millennials for her creativity.

For Nanette Medved-Po, the current pandemic, which caused her company to lose as much as 90% of its business, taught her many lessons revolving around the value of resiliency and agility, a strong focus on employees, and the optimum use of technology.  She highlighted the value of communication, especially as the lockdown kept members of the organization widely dispersed. She founded Plastics Exchange to help the environment. She also reminded everybody not to lose sight of the big picture, which is the company’s responsibility to society. Nanette demonstrated her big heart with Hope donating 100% to education, environment and agriculture.

Tessa Prieto-Valdes said real estate has always been regarded as the safest long-term investment a person can make, and this has remained so even with the pandemic. She explained that the real estate industry has stayed resilient as developers were quick to pivot and address the challenges brought about by COVID-19. Despite market disruptions and changing lifestyles, a safe and secure space in a master-planned community has continued to be the top qualification of real estate buyers. Tessa exudes positivity with doable and practical strategies, much needed nowadays.

Innovation, agility, grit, not giving up easily, and the first-hand experiences highlighting business adaptability, being attuned to the needs of the customers and taking care of one’s employees, were the key takeaways from this very successful webinar with Multinational President Malou Cristobal as emcee and Danielle del Rosario of Phinma as moderator. And I’d like to add: prayer to the One who is the source of everything. “Certainly, a breath of fresh air and hope in the midst of so much uncertainty” says Terrie.

Also, congratulations to the very energetic Mar Bacani, Antipolo Department of Tourism Officer and a dedicated public servant, supported by Region 4A DoT Director Michael Palispis and Antipolo Mayor Andrea Ynares for the very successful 9th Antipolo Tourism Fair: A virtual promenade held from Sept. 21 to 24, which showcased the destinations, products and services in Antipolo. Tayo na sa Antipolo and keep domestic tourism alive!

(The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of these institutions.)


Ms. Flor G. Tarriela was the first chairwoman of the Philippine National Bank. She was the first and only independent director chairwoman in the commercial banking industry. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A.  She is a trustee of FINEX and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.  A gardener and an environmentalist, she established Flor’s Garden in Antipolo, an ATI Accredited National Extension Service Provider and a DoT Accredited Agri Tourism Site.