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Sulu native and Zamboanga City-based entrepreneur wins prestigious AWEN Award  

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Dennis Coffee Garden founder and owner Imelda Ahalul-Dagus received an award at the recently concluded 4th ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) Awards held in Bangkok, Thailand.

The AWEN Awards recognises women who have shown exemplary practices in their businesses and have been vetted by various bodies like Go Negosyo, ASIA CEO Awards and Philippine Retailers Association, among others.

Dennis Coffee Garden founder and owner Imelda Ahalul-Dagus receives her award during the 4th ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network Awards held recently in Bangkok, Thailand.


Dagus, the first Zamboanga City-based entrepreneur and Sulu native to be recognized by AWEN, is among the nine Filipina awardees this year. She was recognized for her advocacy and the role that her company, Dennis Coffee Garden, plays in empowering women, out-of-school youth and coffee farmers in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

“It was a historic moment, and I am thrilled to be a part of such highly esteemed event to represent the Philippines, to represent Sulu and the city of Zamboanga and most importantly, to represent my people,” Dagus said.

“While it was an honor to be considered for the nomination, winning an AWEN award was extraordinary, and I am very thankful to AWEN for giving us this platform to celebrate our unique stories.”

The recipients of this year’s ASEAN Women Entrepreneur Awards were hand-picked by the AWEN officials from a list of nominees from various outstanding women entrepreneurs in the country.

Besides Dagus, the awardees from the Philippines include: Jeannie Javelosa of GREAT Women and ECHOstore, Carlota Manalo-Tan, franchisee of Wendy’s Philippines, Olive Puentespina of Malagos Cheese in Davao City, Monette Itturalde-Hamlin of Team Asia, Edilee Omoyon of Milea Organics, Cherrie Atilano of AGREA, Octavia Hizon of Hizon’s Catering and Natividad Cheng of Uratex.

“Getting an award alongside these inspiring women is humbling,” said Dagus. “This is a colossal recognition for Dennis Coffee Garden, and I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to promote Zamboanga and Sulu, and the Tausug culture to the world.”

Before venturing into business, Dagus worked in the Middle East. Her decision to return home and start her own business in 2015 comes from her passion and commitment to champion Tausug heritage, to uplift the image of her hometown by promoting Sulu coffee, and to empower coffee farmers and their families in Patikul, a municipality in Sulu.

In 2017, Dagus’s story which is a source of inspiration for her community and for many OFWs aspiring to become entrepreneurs, earned her national recognition when she became an award recipient of Go Negosyo’s Insipiring Filipina Entrepreneur in the Micro-Small Enterprise Category.

Receiving the award motivated Dagus to engage more people in the community. She has started a project to revive and preserve the vanishing tradition of making Jaa — an heirloom delicacy — which she planned to be a sustainable livelihood program for women.

She also embarked on creating a “coffee buying station” in Patikul. This gave local coffee farmers a ready market and encouraged fair trade. By up-valuing coffee, Dagus is on a mission to open more doors towards developing the coffee industry and providing renewed hope for Patikul coffee farmers.

Dagus said: “We are committed to our role as enablers of community empowerment, and I believe that this has become more important in the backdrop of ASEAN integration, and more attainable because of the support that we receive from organizations like AWEN.”

She remains to be an inspiration for women entrepreneurs and overseas Filipino workers alike, and she has already embarked on another project that aims to uplift legacy and culture.

Dennis Coffee Garden is a café based in Zamboanga City which started operations in August 2015. The coffee shop offers high-quality Robusta brew – Sulu Coffee/Kahawa Sug – and Tausug heirloom delicacies and cuisine. Its rich history can be traced as far back as 1962 in Jolo, the capital town of Sulu. Dennis Coffee Garden is built on legacy, culture, community, passion and advocacy. (Earl Bumotad)


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