Maricen is Proud to Be! HS 83
Introduction by Ana de Villa Singson
It was at a recent batch reunion that I reconnected with Maricen. Before the pandemic, I would see her at reunions and joyfully hear her big voice and contagious laugh. But it was only while meeting with Mardi Mapa Suplido, Assumpta’s alumna in focus for the May edition, that I found out that Maricen heads the Base Bahay Foundation that pioneered a truly innovative product. BAMBOO CEMENT! Yes, cement bolstered by bamboo, with the resilience of bamboo that sways with the wind rather than reaching breaking point by defying it. The technology is foreign but was made respecting our Filipino culture and ways. It’s organic, it’s natural, it has 70% less carbon footprint than conventional houses…and it works! Homes built with it are still up after typhoons…a blessing and a gift in our country, ravaged by the 2nd highest number of typhoons in the world. More affordable, it also helps bridge the housing gap in the Philippines. Maricen never trumpeted her achievements and we were all surprised to find out that she is at the helm of the Base Bahay Foundation. And that, I think, is the sign of true altruism. Giving without expectation of recognition! Doing without fanfare! Serving without any agenda other than to transform lives and make them better…one bamboo cement house at a time!
A passion for service is a driving force that inspires people to positively impact society and contribute to the greater good. Maricen embodies this passion and is driven by a sense of purpose to bring about social change.
With over three decades of experience in executive management roles in sales, marketing, and operations across various industries such as consumer goods, banking, and real estate, Maricen decided to transition from her 15-year real estate stint in Megaworld Corporation to volunteer work. (She currently sits as a board of trustee of Megaworld Foundation.)
With enthusiasm, she immediately joined happy2help, a volunteer group that is focused on literacy, livelihood, and disaster relief projects. Maricen would spend two to three days a week in the Makati City Jail, teaching basic math to inmates who were preparing to take the Alternative Learning System (ALS) exam. Through her interactions with them, she learned about their lives and needs and progressed to advising them in their newly formed livelihood cooperative. Maricen’s inherent business acumen, crafting skills, attention to detail, and experience in managing operations were all deployed as she helped the inmates produce tote bags, toiletry cases, and other accessories which happy2help would sell in bazaars and to friends. The funds raised from these ventures not only generated income for the inmates but also provided continuous funding for other projects.
After two years of doing meaningful and fun-filled but unstructured outreach work, her family and friends challenged her to go back to the workplace and make a bigger impact. It was too early for her to retire as she also believed that there was still so much to do. This challenge is what led her to Base Bahay Foundation, an initiative of the Hilti Foundation, where her zeal for community work, coupled with her expertise and experience in construction and real estate, was harnessed to aid the marginalized.
Her passion for service has fueled her commitment to nation-building and shaping resilient communities. As the former General Manager and now President and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Base Bahay Foundation, Inc., as well as the Asia Liaison of the Hilti Foundation, Maricen is a charismatic leader who drives the foundation to fulfill its Vision and Mission of providing technology-based solutions for high-quality social housing with social, environmental, and economic impacts.
Through her work at BASE, Maricen collaborates with different organizations and advocates for sustainability. She and her dedicated team have helped build more than 1,200 homes in 14 communities in the Philippines, and around 300 homes in Nepal, sheltering over 5,000 individuals. The homes are built using a disaster resilient technology developed by Base through years of research and innovation and which uses Bamboo as it’s main structural component. Using a natural product like Bamboo provides for a greener building system that also supports farmers and offers employment and skills training to hundreds of workers.
The Cement-Bamboo Frame Technology ( CBFT) was developed by Base Bahay to offer a disaster resilient alternative building system to address the global housing gap most especially for those in the local income segment. It also helps create a circular economy that provides technical skills training and sustainable livelihood to farmers, workers and community members. CBFT is certifited by the Accreditation of Innovative Techonologies for Housing ( AITECH) of the National Housing Authority and uses load-bearing bamboo with metal connections and mortar cement plaster. To ensure disaster resilience, CBFT has undergone extensive research and sustained testing in the Base Innovation Center manned by technical experts here and abroad. Bamboo, when used properly and to its fullest potential can result in a beautiful, high quality home. Championing sustainability, the bamboo-centric technology has been determined by ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, to have a carbon footprint that is 70% less than that of regular houses.
In addition to providing a safe home for every family, Maricen leads economic empowerment efforts that create livelihood opportunities for communities, enabling them to become self-sufficient and eventually financially independent.
“Having a house is essential for every family. But beyond providing a safe and secure home and livelihood, we are giving the communities hope for a better tomorrow,” Maricen says.
Maricen’s initiatives are inspired by her experiences with communities, and her work is rooted in them. She has been able to inspire others to follow her lead and continue her initiatives, leading to a more significant and sustainable impact.
“My years in Assumption exposed me to all kinds of living conditions through its outreach programs and ingrained in me the importance of looking beyond myself. I continue to be motivated by how a simple action can have a greater impact on the lives of every person. It is a fulfilling journey of enabling people to help themselves while uplifting others as well. I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to serve,” she adds in closing.