In photo: Ms. Leonila Monedo in her footwear shop

An individual can play a lot of roles. Roles that were not chosen but performed. Being a breadwinner is hard work. Being a mother is tedious. It is a dedication and a lot more. Being a woman is toughAnd in our world full of challenges, staying motivated is rigid enough to do on a good day. But what really keeps a woman going? Is it dreams? Goals? Grit. That’s the word.

Ms. Leonila Monedo, often endearingly called as Ella or Boday, is a living example of what makes a woman. Meeting her for the first time you wouldn’t think this woman had faced many trials. Her warmth and cheerful demeanor will wane your attempts of being intimidated.

A petite lady born and raised from the province of Quezon, took on a role of being the breadwinner of her family when she was still in senior high school. With four siblings to feed and being the eldest she grabbed jobs that would sustain their everyday needs. She even worked as a nanny for her aunt to support her studies. She was a working student but chose to prioritize her job over her studies to put food on the table. Realizing this, she seized a job elsewhere on a wing and a prayer. She worked as a food attendant, flipping burgers at Franks Burger in their branch at Liliw, Laguna. And during that time love had found her. Ms. Boday was only nineteen years old when she met her future husband in Liliw. He was a proud farmer and after two years of dating, they got married in 1994 and she opted to move to Liliw to start a family.

As she was telling her life story, I can’t help but look at her with beady eyes. Life was tough as she recalls it. Even though she got married and trying to start a family, her duties as the eldest and breadwinner did not stop. She tried to provide and support her siblings’ education as best as she could. She then decided to try her luck in slipper making under the employment of her in-laws who owns a footwear store while her husband farm vegetables. Without any background or skills in slipper making she worked hard and took it seriously, learning patiently and honing her skills in craftsmanship.

After much thought and believed had learned the trade, she took a risk and put up her own footwear business on a shoestring budget. Her starting capital was only two thousand pesos and she would buy her materials from Biñan, Laguna. She would sell her creations to residents of Lucena, one of her potential markets, where she gained clients and had her first bulk order. Years went by and 2017 was the year that changed her pace. She got included as one of the beneficiaries in Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) livelihood assistance program granting her PHP 30,000 additional capital. This livelihood program was also in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and had prompted her to register her business under the name Monedo Footwear. Her first factory, a very small house which she converted into her workplace, was just beside their house (the land belonging to her husband’s grandfather).

In Photo: Monedo Footwear's product

She worked tirelessly to produce and sell. She did everything by herself. From purchasing of raw materials to producing and selling the slippers. She only uses quality grade Abaca for her products sourcing the material all the way from Bicol. That time the only help she could rely on was her nephew. But her determination did not falter. Learning is a continuous process for her and Ms. Boday worked extra hard under the guidance of the late Senior Trade and Industry Specialist Ms. Laura “Lory” Jaraplasan, and former Business Development Division Chief Ms. Lina Alcantara. In 2018, she joined her first Trade Fair in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro organized by the Local Government Unit of Liliw. She participated in multiple Trade Fairs in 2019, there’s the Kalakal CALABARZON at the SM Mega Mall and She Means Business in Tagaytay.

She enjoyed joining these fairs as this would give her exposure. It is safe to say that she took participating as a challenge, giving her courage and determination to do better and present quality products. She actively participated in Trade Fairs even if it means not earning much from it. She can’t even count the number of times she partook in these fairs but thankful that DTI Laguna is always there to include her. This also meant representing your town, she never thought of this kind of privilege not even in her wildest dreams. She remembers Ma’am Lory fondly, pushing her to her limits and guided her all throughout. This gave her added sense of purpose knowing that someone as meticulous as Ma’am Lory believed in her.

These trade fairs and other activities were halted when COVID-19 hit the country last 2020. It was a deep blow to others but fortunately to Ms. Boday it did not greatly affect her business. A miracle she would consider up to this day. But of course, there are a few bumps in the road. One of the challenges she had was competing against Korean made slippers. They cost much cheaper and a trend especially to Filipinos who are fans of anything Korean made. Again, this did not affect her. She stands by her decision not to skimp on materials for her products. She won’t let Korean products beat her slippers and her name. And if she did not perform well, I wouldn’t be talking about her success right now.

She continued to join trade fairs and also partaking in DTI Laguna webinars/seminars she could find about wearables, handicrafts and home styles. Last year she participated in OTOP Next Gen Laguna and received two sewing machines from DTI Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Liliw. Having added sewing machines increased her production and helped cater the demands of her patrons. Her slippers had caught the attention of celebrities including Ronnie Rickets and his wife Marissa, Marian Rivera, Angelica Jones, Leandro Baldemor and of course the one and only DTI Sec. Mon Lopez. 

Imagine from three dozen pairs, now she makes about two hundred five dozen pairs weekly. She was also able to employ 5 individuals and had put up a branch in Metro Central Mall in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. She said she doesn’t need to put up a lot of branches and believes in the power on the internet mainly doing transactions online. She believes that branches require a lot of your time, money and people, a route she would take in a few years’ time. Her business had helped her in ways she could not imagine. She was able to put her two children to school and both had their degrees in college; the eldest one in Arts and Communication while the youngest in Marine Transportation.

But it seems she won’t be slowing down as she plans to continue to do business until her son is married off. I quite laughed at this remark but seriously told me that she wants a woman to handle the business. She put so much love and care for this business to come into fruition. And believes only a woman of the same caliber as her could handle her footwear business.

I asked her what advice can she give to people aspiring to be an entrepreneur, she said “Pag nangarap, samahan ng dasal at sipag (when you dream, couple it with prayer and hard work)”. I will be forever in awe of this woman’s resiliency, pride and fortitude. A humble woman with a big heart and a kind soul. She never took anything, any help for granted. Meeting her was a privilege. ♦

Date of Release: 6 June 2022