By Nelly Favis-Villafuerte
Do you know that CITEM has been the talk of the town since last week? CITEM stands for Center for International Expositions and Missions (CITEM), an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Of all the attached agencies of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), CITEM is probably the most publicized in the past years. Until the Bureau of SMEs upstaged CITEM. CITEM’s primary mandate is to promote the exports of the country. Of its many projects and programs, F.A.M.E. International (CITEM’s bi-annual fairs) stands out as its most popular project for export promotion. For the past 34 years, Philippine-made home furnishings, houseware, holiday décor/gifts, and fashion accessories have been showcased by F.A.M.E. Thousands of international buyers visit Manila F.A.M.E to see new styles, new designs, new ideas, and new concepts by Philippine designers. And crafted by Filipinos too.
Let me share with you – why CITEM has been the talk of the town since last week. A new Executive Director assumed office last March 6, 2017 and guess what? The Executive Director of CITEM (Clayton Hipe Tugonon) belongs to the male gender. This is first time that a CITEM Executive Director is a “He” and not a “She.” This is indeed a welcome and exciting news to the export sector. A big challenge also to the male gender. Can the new male Executive Director do as good if not better than the past female CITEM executive directors?
Executive Director Clayton Tugonon comes from Cebu, where the most aggressive and successful exporters in the Mindanao and Visayas areas come from. Considering that Director Tugonon was a successful exporter for many years, we do not doubt his vast exposure in marketing, financing, organizational management as well as his skill in the art of dealing with people. Director Tugonon won awards in the field of designing when he was an exporter.
Let me share with you some of the awards that Director Tugonon won:
1)Winner of the Best Booth for the participation of the Movement 8 Elite Group of Furniture Designers of the Philippines; 2) Winner of the Best Booth in the New York ICFC, a religious organization; 3) Winner of Best Design in the Singapore Furniture Fair; 4) Presidential Awardee for Design during the Arroyo Administration; 5) International Awardee for furniture design in Slovakia, Singapore, and G-Mark Japan; 6) Maker of the “Una Car Cebu” made of our indigenous rattan core, palm twigs, shagreen, brown and black pen shells which was featured in local and international TV and magazines; 7) Maker of a 42-footer cabin cruiser using indigenous materials; 8) Designer of the biggest Cross, Altar, and Garden during the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City.
Executive Director Clayton Tugonon is a B.S. Biology graduate, an outstanding alumnus of the Cebu-based San Carlos College of Law, a Teacher, a Master Mason, and a well-known designer. Would you believe that the new Director of CITEM is a sports car driver and a member of the Sports Car Club of Cebu? He is also a Captain in the Cebu Coastguard Auxillary that upholds maritime safety, search and rescue, environment protection, and community relations. He is a sharp shooter and a member of the Kampilan Gun Club.
I asked Director Clayton Tugonon if he has time for humanitarian and civic activities. His automatic answer is “Yes.” According to him, he raises funds for indigent children with cancer in the Visayas and Mindanao; He was also the first Cebuano to reach Loon, Bohol twice over with a truck load of relief goods after the 8.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013 in spite being cautioned not to proceed for safety reasons; he has initiated with wife Joji the Bancart Project Cebu where he has distributed to date 350 colorful bancarts for the fishermen of San Remegio and neighboring islands; his homes in Tabogon and San Remegio Cebu are being used as drop-off centers for those who wish to donate goods to the Yolanda victims; he is a member of the Cebu-based Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation which now stands as one of the best emergency units in Southeast Asia.
“What is your vision for CITEM?” I asked. His spontaneous reply: “To promote the Philippines as a key sourcing destination for high-quality and cost-effective home, fashion, lifestyle, food, and other indigenous products and services; and to help elevate the micro industries to export-level capability and readiness.”
During my interview with Director Clayton Tugonon – his passion and enthusiasm for export was very evident. But more, he talks about the problems and prospects/potentials of CITEM with ease and confidence. No stammering or groping for words. Amazing indeed for one who has just been three (3) days in his job as executive director of CITEM.
Director Tugonon further said: “The biggest challenge I’m facing now is how to raise our budget so the salaries of staff of the CITEM will be upgraded; so that we can have more trade fairs/exhibits abroad with more participants-exhibitors; to promote our products abroad; and to have more small entrepreneurs participate in our projects – foremost of which is the Manila FAME.
Without doubt, the new CITEM executive director knows what he is talking about. His industry involvement includes being a Board of Trustee of the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation; a Board of Trustee of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and a mentor of the One Cebu Obra Negosyo Skuwela.
Finally, I posed a challenge to Executive Director Clayton Tugonon – “Director Tugonon, please bring us back the glory of CITEM.”
Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org).