From plastic “supot” to Bag943 – the true story of Mindanao social entrepreneur Josh Mahinay PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 10:22

I am inspired by real good story especially when it is about Mindanao and its people. Today Pep Talk will feature the real story of a poor boy from Ipil, Sibugay, 29-years old Josh Mahinay, who gave up his flourishing 5-years career and comfortable life in the USA and went back to the Philippines in 2012 to give school bags to poor school kids so they will be inspired in life.

Josh is a auccessful social entrepreneur who founded Bag943 - a Philippine made high quality school bag being given to poor school children all over the country. The social concept of his business is to give one free Bag943 for every purchase. It’s a buy one, give one.

This aspiration came from Josh's own experience when someone gave him a school bag in place of a plastic bag which he used in elementary. The generosity made him happy and more determined to value education.   Here’s his inspirational story

“It was not easy to be the youngest in a family of nine siblings. Growing up in Mindanao, in a remote and mountainous barangay in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, I experienced at a young age the realities and complexities of life, I thought I was too fragile then to handle. But I did not hate being poor. In fact, now I realized it was necessary.

Perhaps the most astounding of all is not the fact that I climbed out of poverty but how I was able to beat the odds and escape from the shackles of virtual penury.

When I was in elementary, because my miner-parents moved from one location to another, some of my siblings and I had to live with relatives and even with families not related to us so we could keep going to school. When going to school meant skipping a meal and walking 10 kilometers a day, down a beaten path, where I saw mountains as border bullies placed between my limitations and my greatest potentials, I came home and found solace in a family, not my own but sheltered me.

In a culture revolving around “me, me and me,” I also found compassion in the hearts of beneficent people. They were my high school teachers and friends I met during my journey.

Today I consider myself a success in my own right. Though I am not wealthy, my life is way better than before, all because my faith and hard work were fueled by the support of my family and the generosity of other people.

I founded BAG943, a mission-driven business that sells good quality bags and incorporates social responsibility by adhering to a “Buy One Give One” promise through a social arm called Bag of Dreams Project. For every BAG943 purchased, another bag is given to an impoverished child from its pool of adopted public schools across the country.

While in Mindanao for a vacation in 2011, I saw a school kid walking in a rice paddy dike carrying a plastic bag with his school stuff inside. He walked toward me and suddenly my heart started to race against frozen time. A flashback of my life started playing. The past looked me in the eye.

The memory of the times when I had to ask for a free plastic bag from a nearby sari-sari (retail) store to put my things in became vivid. I had been a regular face in the store because the plastic bag ripped almost every day. Having a plastic bag for a school bag felt awkward for a little kid.

I was in 4th grade when I received my very first decent bag, a gift from a distant relative. It wasn’t new, but it made me see things in a brand new light. Receiving that bag made me realize that while I was in the midst of an almost forgotten village, someone was actually thinking about me. It made me feel like someone made an investment in me so it empowered me to do better in school.

We live in an age where there is not so much faith and hope felt around us. Where we seem to care less, or not care at all. Not because there is no hope but because we’ve given up on it. The problem about poverty in our country is the perception that it cannot be changed, that we can’t do something about it.

I figured that my story is not just a story about a poor kid overcoming obstacles in life. It’s a testament on how powerful an act of generosity is, on how far it can take someone and what values it can create.

What I am doing right now is a product of what people did for me. If I am able to give, it is because I had been given. It is the right thing to do.

Every act of generosity transforms a heart. And every time we die to ourselves in our giving, a seed of goodness blossoms in the hearts of others. To give back with what I have and with what I can is my sincerest way of thanking those people who invested in my life. And I hope I come across not as a person who succeeded but as a message that will inspire children to go for their dreams and as a challenge to many of us to care more for this generation and the generations to come.”
(Visit and see how you can help a poor kid go to school inspired.)

By Dante Corteza

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7