ECHO Store: Uplifting farmers by tapping into Diwa-Kapwa values

by Echo Store on June 13, 2024

Together with fisherfolk, children and individuals residing in rural areas, farmers belong to the poorest sectors of Philippine society according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest poverty incidence study (2021). Nearly one out of three fisherfolk and farmers, 30.6 and 30.0 percent, respectively, were ranked poorest. Evidently, the children and individuals residing in rural areas belong to fisherfolk and farmers’ families. 

I learned recently from Lin Mukhi, who served as President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) in 2021, about ECHO Store, a pioneering enterprise dedicated to uplifting marginalized farmers and countryside folk by establishing a channel for mainstreaming their products. 

ECHO stands for Environment, Community, Hope and Organization, “an e-commerce store in the Philippines that sells products respectful of the environment” that was founded by social entrepreneur Pacita ‘Chit’ Juan, who is heralded by the United Nations Council for Trade and Development as a member of the e-trade for women community ran by UNCTAD “to advance women economic empowerment by supporting women entrepreneurs in the digital economy.”

Lin Mukhi is a co-author of the Diwa-Kapwa Field Book, now in the pre-publication stage, a joint project among advocates of Spirit-led organization and humanistic management practices. She writes:
“Diwa-Kapwa as a strategy for success stems from the three pathways of Kapwa, namely, first, pagpapakatao or the self; second, pakikipag kapwa-tao or interpersonal relations; and third, pagkamakatao or social interaction. 


“For small farmers, ECHO Store gives them a pathway to realization of their human potential.  It uplifts their pagkatao, by giving them recognition, significance and pride in their work. By connecting farmers with consumers, we feel the intensification of mutual caring and support, reinforcing pakikipag kapwa-tao. With the success of the business model, we celebrate collective achievement and pagkamakatao.”

She shares her unique experience in shopping at an ECHO Store and how it touched the wellsprings of her inner self: 

“I love browsing through the shelves of ECHO Store and its online site.  It makes me proud of my Filipino heritage. As I share in the produce of my brother farmers, I grow in my pagpapakatao and pakikipag kapwa-tao, even without meeting the farmers face-to-face. When I buy, I feel that my purchase goes into a bigger objective and connects me to a consciousness that I am part of a shared humanity that aspires for a better life.”

She commends Chit Juan’s pragmatic approach, honed in the crucible of having launched the Figaro Coffee Company with six other friends in November 1993. As narrated in the Figaro website: “The seven friends managed the Coffee Store themselves, serving their customers personally, and teaching them how to brew and enjoy their own coffee at home. This kind of personalized service endeared Figaro to its customers, generating a devout following a deeply serious coffee drinkers.” 

The first ECHO Store was launched in the upscale community of Serendra in Bonifacio Global City. Lin narrates further: 

“Chit, with her business acumen and intuitive sense for Kapwa, knew the value of marketing to a segment that can, and will buy products at a price point that will deliver best value to the farmers, ignite a trend for appreciating our local products and create ripples for building a customer base that will sustain the advocacy.  Its website,, is attractive, easy-to-use for online shopping and showcases local products that speak to evolved lifestyles such as adlai rice from Bukidnon, brown rice from lowland Nueva Ecija, organic coconut by-products and a range of coffee blends to sample among many other exciting products for spa indulgences, interesting meals, and imaginative gifts. Its Facebook site now has 24,000 followers as of this writing.  

“ECHO Store gives small farmers and manufacturers a voice. Chit Juan gives them a face. The small farmers give to consumers in ways that go beyond the product. They give a message of resilience in the midst of adversity, pride in labor and a testimony for the greatness of the human spirit.  

Indeed, the nobility of the human spirit shines through among the impoverished. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” was declared by Christ in the Sermon of the Mount. Poverty in material goods does not imply poverty in spirit. Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Enlightened enterprise owners imbued with the Christian spirit propagate the Diwa-Kapwa ethos. They inspire and empower people to persevere through difficulties, overcome challenges and constantly aspire to seek self-improvement that propels organizational well-being.

Lin Mukhi has gleaned the major strands of Chit Juan’s management philosophy for ECHO Store.

“First: Communicate your bigger purpose to your target customers.  We are people who respond not just to product, pricing and place. We share in the human need for purpose. Connecting to a bigger philosophy that endures and goes beyond our selves propels action and inspires brand loyalty.”

Chit Juan shares that “In Bicol we have helped this group of women who make crab paste for over eight years now. They have been able to level up their products, purchase equipment and have a sustainable livelihood.”

“Second: Believe in your people who create your product.  ECHO Store champions the excellence of the products it sells and the people who grow the produce. Its messaging tells not only of the product, but also of the artisans whose labor and skills bore the fruits we enjoy.”

As Chit Juan says, “In one of the communities we have helped in Sulu, they now have children who can read and write because of the economic activity we have helped to generate, although not solely because of ECHO Store. For the last 10 years we have helped them learn weaving for young girls, sell their coffee produce for a regular market, taught the men to grow coffee instead of joining the siege or armed groups.”

Third: Shift strategy as needed, but don’t lose sight of purpose.   

Chit Juan narrates: “During the pandemic many of our employees chose to retire and be online entrepreneurs. Some now work in the ECHO Farms as tour guide or barista among other jobs. We expose our employees to our collaborations with NGOs involved in sustainability and we do pop ups in other companies who believe in ESG too,” says Chit.   

Indeed, as Lin Mukhi notes, “Chit Juan grows not just coffee, but people who will believe that they can also be entrepreneurs themselves. This is Diwa-Kapwa in business.”

This post first appeared on Manila Bulletin