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March 23, 2018


There is nothing like going to another warm country but feeling a little more cooler and a little greener than visiting Singapore. The city is so neat and clean you cannot imagine if they have mendicants or beggars around. And smoking, use of drugs and littering can be meted almost the same penalties as entering the ERP or restricted zone. That’s why they say it’s a “fine” city—there is a fine for almost everything illegal and unnatural.

There are more restaurants using the word “sustainable ingredients”, more establishments like hotels that are going green, and everywhere people are used to order and neatness.

It’s detoxing to visit Singapore where there is hardly any heavy traffic as compared to other ASEAN capitals. It’s detoxing to not worry about losing things because no one bothers to snatch your purse or take your phone. It’s detoxing to have order everywhere, for a change.

This is why I look forward to visiting Singapore every chance I get. And as part of the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network I do find reason to come and network with the women entrepreneurs as well as my colleagues in the ASEAN Coffee Federation (ACF) And sometimes, it is a mix or a cross-section of both networks—I meet ASEAN women in the coffee business.

At our recent ACF Annual General Meeting I met Ms. Yip Leong Sum of the Malaysian Specialty Coffee Association and Khun Varri of the Thai Coffee Association. Both powerful ladies who are board member of the ASEAN Coffee Federation. And I was fangirling when I met Linh Dung of the Cong Caphe fame in Vietnam. I was always so impressed with this coffee chain in Hanoi and what do you know? I met the founder and CEO and now I am engaging her to form the Vietnam chapter of International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA)—my other global network of women in the coffee value chain—farm to cup. And that includes people like Dung who founded the 49-store chain some ten years ago.

The author with Linh Dung of Cong Caphe


I told her how impressed I am with her brand, her concept and the nationalism she expresses through her merchandise and coffee products. She is an experimental singer/artist before going full blast into café operations. You can feel her artistry in the products and store merchandise of the original Vietcong concept. Everyone wants to get a souvenir notebook, t-shirt and enamel coffee cups.

The other ASEAN coffee lady is Khun Varri who works with farmers in the hinterlands of Thailand. She supports them through access to markets as Thailand’s local consumption has been steadily increasing. Now they may even have to import from other ASEAN coffee-producing countries.

And as if there is a hand guiding us women, Ms Yip of Malaysia is promoting Liberica or “Barako”—my first coffee advocacy, too as far back as year 2001. Now it has come full circle. My advocacies in women empowerment, coffee and more specifically, Liberica or Barako have found like-minded women who can support the cause.

Women in ACF Board

And  this is why Singapore holds a special place in my heart—it’s the melting pot of cultures, tastes and global movements for coffee, women empowerment and now also the green movement. After all, it may as well win as the greenest city in ASEAN.

And it happens to be the ASEAN host for 2018. We look forward to good, green and gender activities and hopefully find like-minded people who share our philosophy (like in and as ASEAN host, I know that Singapore will influence the rest of ASEAN to be as green as they can be and be as clean as it has always been.

Good, green and clean Singapore. I know we in ASEAN will learn from your journey towards sustainability.


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