Eric Paolo Smith wants a livable city and does something about it
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
ERIC Paolo Smith wants something that you wouldn’t find in the wish lists of most 26 year olds: a “livable city.”
And how badly does he want a livable metropolis? Bad enough that he co-founded the Youth for Livable Cebu (YLC), a gathering of young professionals who share the same desire to make a difference.
“We want to showcase the good and simple things that can be done, and to move fellow Cebuanos in helping make Cebu beautiful, vibrant and livable,” he said of YLC.
Launched last year as the youth arm of Movement for Livable Cebu, YLC envisions a livable city that’s rooted in culture and prosperity, minus the harshness that usually comes along with urbanization, Smith explained.
To Cebuanos his age, that’s already a mouthful. But Smith is determined to see his vision through, one that he works on one step at a time, beginning with himself.
Right now, Smith is pursuing his masters in business administration at the University of the Philippines while helping run the family business Handuraw Pizza, an events café that was started by his mom, sister and cousins in 2004.
As managing director, Eric has spearheaded an aggressive branding of Handuraw, which, from its humble beginnings along M.J. Cuenco Ave., now has seven branches, four of which are franchised in Metro Manila and Roxas City.
Yet despite these rapid changes, Eric has made it a point to ensure one of Handuraw’s strongest features: an establishment that strongly supports local talent.
Eric said he got his entrepreneurial drive from his mom, Becky Pestaño Smith, who introduced the ins and outs of the biz to him at an early age.
“My mom was the one who exposed me to business. When I was in elementary school, she gave me responsibilities in our internet café as one of the troubleshooters,” said Eric, who eventually studied communications technology at the Ateneo de Manila University, worked briefly as a web designer and systems analyst, before returning to Cebu in 2010.
Widowed when Eric was only a toddler, Becky raised him and his sisters on her own, and worked hard to provide them a comfortable life. She has also been Eric’s number one cheerleader, constantly pushing him out of his shell to excel.
“Up to now, she would always guide me back when (our business) was becoming a stressor,” he added, “reminding me of the realities of it and the higher purpose we are here for, which is to provide jobs and be a positive influence and a responsible stakeholder in the community.”
Aside from Handuraw, Eric is helping his mom with her beach resort in Moalboal, Hale Manna. True enough, both establishments are reflective of the kind of sustainable environment that he has been propagating through involvement in YLC. Handuraw, for instance, is home to bike racks and basil sky farms (a highly used ingredient in their pizzas) while Hale Manna has integrated pipelines for rain water.
Cebu is a long way from becoming a livable metropolis with a sustainable environment, but with YLC, Eric hopes to see the gradual fulfillment of a vision, first, by actually doing something about it. To date, YLC has led vertical farm projects, environmental lobbying, clean-up drives and educational summits, among others.
“When you say livable, this varies from person to person with his own interpretation,” Eric said. “So, we identified five pillars of livability that we feel encapsulate the term and would guide us in our projects.”
These five pillars are heritage and culture preservation, socially responsible wealth creation, urban revitalization, personal and community well-being, and good governance. In achieving these pillars, one doesn’t necessarily have to be part of an organization, Eric said. Even simple steps at home, such as what he and his family have done in their business, can already cause a ripple effect and hopefully motivate others to follow.
“Gone must be the days when we turn a blind eye to anything other than what we like doing. Many have an allergic reaction when it comes to politics or larger societal issues that do not impact them directly — but being a citizen means we have a role to play in crafting a better future for ourselves,” Eric said.
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he continued, “There are a lot of people and organizations with noble endeavors that improve life’s livability. Identify the one that would appeal to you, one whose vision and activities you share, and support it and participate in any way you can.”
How can Cebuanos help in building a livable city?
Support and buy local
“Help stimulate activity in the local community. There are a lot of homegrown products that have noble causes.”
Love your surroundings
“With surroundings, I mean our neighbors and environment. Let’s take care of them, and ensure happy and nurturing relationships.”
Find your voice and participate
“Being a citizen means we have a role to play in governance and crafting a better future for us and the next generations.”
Photography: Nawe Corvera
Locale: University of the Philippines – Cebu (COVER) and Handuraw Pizza Gorordo