Marilou Pelaez credits her resolve to hardships she endured in her life: peddling fish in the market as a young child to help provide for her family’s needs, unfavourable dealings with informal money lenders, and a failed marriage. They instilled in her a sense of determination and drive that became the backbone of her success. After remarrying in 1991, she and her husband worked as a team to create the life they dreamed of. It wasn’t easy. Their days would start at 2:00AM when her husband, Isabelo, would head out to sea to catch crab and by 4:00AM be sold in the market by Marilou. In 2002, she made her first loan of PhP5,000 with Project Dungganon to buy a modest fishing boat. The move gave them revenue to slowly expand. She purchased four pump boats with her subsequent Dungganon loans that catapulted their crab business to new heights. Marilou also took the time to enhance her entrepreneurial skills by attending Project Dungganon seminars and workshops on bookkeeping and business management. She invested in her business, practiced saving and concentrated on building a home for her family. They were able to expand and convert their fragile nipa (palm leaves) hut into a sturdy concrete home for their six growing children. Marilou and Isabelo continue to work towards providing their children with higher education; saving to purchase lots for each child to build their future homes so they need not worry and struggle as they did; and, remain committed to growing their crab business. In 2007, Citibank Philippines and Citi Foundation in partnership with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. nominated Marilou for the Citi Micro Entrepreneur of the Year Maunlad Award – an award given to micro entrepreneurs whose businesses generate employment for other people aside from household or family members.

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