30 − ASIAN SEED Ramgo Seeds’ Mother DESTINED DETERMINATION Ramgo was founded in 1967 by Pamela’s father, Ramon A. Ong, a Chinese immigrant. The company’s initial focus was in fresh vegetables. A strong-minded person with Chinese ancestry, Pamela got straight into her intimate details: “My life completely changed overnight after my father passed away. I was 19 years old then.” Pamela was in firm control of her emotions as she recalled her father’s sudden demise in 1986. Ramon suffered a heart attack. He was only 47. “At that time, I was still a student, studying Business Administration at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. We were devastated. My mother was a bit distraught and could not continue the business on her own. I wanted my dad’s legacy to continue so I took this as my destiny to run the family compa- ny from then on.” And so it was, Pamela kept her head up and took the reins of the family company – and the family itself, as the eldest child with two younger sisters who were still young students when Ramon passed away. Many were surprised when a young lady took charge of the business and they had their doubts, Pamela recalls. Under her determined leadership, however, and with the support and dedication from family and associates, Ramgo went on to celebrate its 50-year anniversary in 2017. Ramgo today is the largest family-run seed company in the Philippines, supplying Filipino farmers quality inputs – seeds, fertilizers, plant protection products, garden supplies and organic fertilizers Asian Seed traveled to Ramgo Seeds International Corporation's head office in Pasig City, on the eastern flank of the Philippines’ capital to meet their president, Pamela Chan, a longstanding member of APSA who currently serves as treasurer of the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA). “I was fortunate to receive support from uncles, mom and other associates in the seed in- dustry to enable me to continue the business. Success wouldn’t have been possible without my two sisters, Candice and Karen, who were mutually determined to keep dad’s legacy alive.” Pamela elaborated further on her dad’s legacy and two- tiered business model encom- passing both traditional and modern aspects of the seed business: selling core seeds to farmers and developing the value chain to supply the com- mercial retail sector. CHALLENGE TO CATALYST Even though women are held in high regard in the Philippines, where there are many prominent female leaders in both the public and private sectors, Pamela explained that the seed industry there is still dominated by men, and gaining respect and trust from her colleagues and associ- ates was not automatic. “’You don’t have to join this conversation, it is technical in nature and just might bore you,” Pamela said, recalling the harsh sentiment she once faced from a senior male associate in the international seed business. “Just because I’m young and I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it,” Pamela added firmly. Rather than allow negativi- ty to bring her down, Pamela viewed such discrimination as an advantage – a catalyst that provided her with strong motiva- tion to prove herself in the seed business. “We cannot deny the fact that there will be challenges along the way in one’s career and one’s personal path in life but if we live by a personal philosophy, it can bring us far. Moving for- ward, being honest at all times is the best policy. Of course we cannot discount technical com- petence and financial acumen in one’s work ethic – these should always go hand in hand together with integrity.” This is why she finds the time to attend technical seminars and financial proficien- cy training to “sharpen the saw”. MULTITASKING MOM As if running a business were not demanding enough, Pamela is also the proud mother of three – two daughters and a son. When asked about how she views her role as a mother, Pa- mela said, “As a working mother, I am setting a bright example for my children, especially my two daughters, that marriages can be made more successful and happy when the woman is financially independent. A career doesn’t have to be a hurdle for women to have a happy mar- riage and family life.” “Dinner is a great opportunity to have ‘shop talk’ with my chil- dren. It’s an opportunity to bring an additional facet of education to them, letting them see how resilient and tenacious they can be, seeing that it’s possible to be a good parent and have a suc- cessful career at the same time. ASSOCIATION ROOTS She recalls attending her first Asian Seed Congress, the maid- en edition, 1994 in Chiang Mai. “At that time, USAID provided support, hosting several Filipinos to join the event. It was refresh- ing to meet and network with other key players from through- out the region.” Pamela strongly believes that the success and growth of the seed industry owes credit to the organization and work from national and regional seed associations. “Being a member of PSIA and APSA has provided valuable benefits. It has given seed or- ganizations a collective voice to effectively work with the Depart- ment of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry, which in turn has been very supportive with re- spect to policy and regulations. Pamela is optimistic about the seed industry's bright future. “There is still room to grow, especially these days as people are more mindful of health, and food consumption. I am confi- dent that the public and private sectors can continue to work together in ensuring sustainable food security in our country, and the region. We have the same goals and it is important that we constantly align and reinforce our efforts.” Pamela ends our discussion by revealing her greatest satisfaction in working in the seed industry: “When I see our farmers do well and prosper with the seeds they bought from Ramgo – to see their smiles when they talk about their abundant harvests, and hear their success stories of how they were able to finance their chil- dren’s higher education, or make improvements on their abodes, it brings me a sense of fulfillment that is unmatched by any other aspect." The full version of this article can be found on apsaseed.org omen In Seed