Ma. Flordeliza Cusi Leong: Advocacy on Nation Building Through Business & Beyond

October 23, 2019
Ma. Flordeliza Cusi Leong
Ma. Flordeliza Cusi Leong

NOW on Season 4, Business & Beyond has featured Cabinet officials, CEOs, leaders and entrepreneurs featuring trade, business and economic issues and insights grouped in themes.  Since 2016 when it started, the show has echoed stakeholder sentiments through the Ten Point Priorities of the Duterte Administration for Season 1; Market and Product Priorities for Development and Growth for Season 2; Roadmap for Sustaining a Growing Economy for Season 3; and Global Mega Trends this Season.

Anchor Ma. Flordeliza Cusi Leong explains that this is not like the daily news shows.  Running once a week for 30 minutes per episode, it is packed with discussions and information that can aid sound policymaking and implementation.  It also features products and events in a lifestyle format, providing lighter yet equally relevant stories.  Because of the balance in content, the show is able to address both business and consumer interests.

“Bringing our advocacy discussions outside the boardroom and conference rooms through mainstream television offers tremendous mileage for stakeholders,” Leong says.  “Through the years, we had won many small and major advocacies based on one agenda: to grow exports and the economy as part of nation building,” she adds.       

Advocacy and com-munications

This broadcast role was not “part even of her wildest dreams”, she notes.  But it seems that she was being prepared for this work even as a student where she has always won top honors.  She was the national champion in three categories on campus journalism in high school, a record which reportedly, no one else has matched to this day.  This led her to realize the “calling” to this profession.  A cum laude graduate of AB Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, Leong preferred to practice corporate communications, thinking she may not be able to keep up with the daily reporter grind.

Her two-year stint with the Department of Trade and Industry gave her the right perspective, network and skills for her job at the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) where she rose from the ranks to now Assistant Vice President for Advocacy and Communications.  As one, she is involved in technical and policy discussions and programs with stakeholders, including private sector, academe, media and the executive and legislative branches of government.  

As the umbrella organization of Philippine exporters, mostly micro, small and medium enterprises, PHILEXPORT is at the forefront of advocacy, programs and services towards a more sustainable and competitive export industry.  This is implemented with assistance from a network of government and private sector partners using multi-media channels.  It is in this context that Business & Beyond was conceived as a brainchild of its President, Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr.

Focus and strength

How is she coping with the additional load? “It is certainly very hectic.  We have a very lean team both for the show and at PHILEXPORT.  So a lot of times I have to work beyond office hours, during weekends and even holidays to keep up”, she confirms.  “I am involved all the way from identifying the theme and interviewees to marketing, script and production.  Then remember that I am also the host of the show while still doing PHILEXPORT work.”

What has helped a lot, according to her, has been her family and a positive outlook anchored on a strong faith nurtured through the years.  “I am definitely work in progress in many ways.  But for what and who I am now as a person, I owe first to my Catholic faith which has taught me, among others, who, what and how to prioritize”, Leong answers.  “Secondly, I am humbled and empowered because of the unconditional love and support of my family, especially my husband, Rene.  He readily and adequately fills the gaps whenever I need to attend to official duties,” says the soft-spoken Batanguena.  

Her husband is a Senior IT Manager at Healthway, Inc. and both of them are also active in Parish Church activities through their Family Renewal Community.  They have three daughters.  Tricia and Thea are already working, while Tasha, the youngest, is still in Grade 9, also a consistent honor student.

Asked about her youthful glow and beauty, she points to her faith and “good family genes”.  She also finds value in her upbringing as the eldest in a family of six, benefitting from the disciplines of her parents.

Meanwhile, she also expressed gratitude for her work and the people she works with.  “I had been with PHILEXPORT for over 25 years now and I still find joy and meaning in what I do,” she says.  “For most of who I am now professionally, I owe to lessons learned and inspirations from my bosses, most especially Mr. Ortiz,” says Leong.  “I look at this TV hosting as his big leap of faith in me.  This confidence, together with that from the PHILEXPORT Board and management, has given me wings to fly all these years.  Motivated by this and a very good staff support, I hope to continue to share my small contribution to fulfil PHILEXPORT and Business & Beyond’s vision to help in nation building,” she stresses.  

Produced by ACA Raise Productions, the show also takes pride in the Season-long enga-gements of many sponsors including International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), SB Corporation, Greenwich, Hotel 101, Obra ni Juan and the other minor sponsors which also support many of the business advocacies the show carries.