More Than Just a Job: Real-Life Stories From This Business With a Heart

As of April 2023, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that employment increased to 48.83 million in February 2023, which is 3.32 million higher than that of last year. Moreover, the country’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.4% in February 2022 to 4.8% this year. 

As much as it brings joy to see the Philippine labor market recovering, challenges in terms of the quality of employment across different sectors still remain. In the midst of recovering from the pandemic, skyrocketing prices of goods, and trying to make ends meet, Filipinos willingly go through contractual employment opportunities with little to no job security. The current wages they get are not enough to withstand inflation, which prevents them from enjoying the fruits of their labor and improving their quality of life.

Employment scenarios like these are no strangers to Filipinos. Do they deserve it? Definitely not. In 2008, Human Nature began with a dream to uplift Filipino workers and vulnerable communities from poverty–and they are doing so until now. They deliberately hire people from low-skilled, marginalized sectors not because it’s cheaper to do so but because the company is set on providing dignified work and opportunities to those who need it the most. 

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Livable wage, not minimum wage

Research group IBON said that current petitions on wage hikes affirm the urgency of providing a family living wage for Filipinos. The proposed wage increase is at P750/day as per House Bill No. 7568 but it is yet to be approved. The group added that raising wages will not only benefit workers and their families but the economy as well.

For Human Nature, ever since its day one almost fifteen years ago, they have been hiring Gawad Kalinga residents and other base-of-pyramid workers and providing them with fair living wages, from 93% to 120% more than the minimum wage required by law and even more than that of the proposed wage increase for 2023. It is also closer to the recommended living wage of the IBON Foundation for a family of five. For Metro Manila based employees, Human Nature offers a minimum wage of P1,103/day versus the law-mandated P570/day. For those part of the operations in Laguna, they offer a minimum wage of P1,034.50/day compared to the required P470/day. When possible, they also source raw materials at above-market prices from rural communities and provide them with livelihood, training, and equipment.  

Bryan Manongtong, who was first hired as a warehouse staff, had the chance to explore being one of the first Merchandisers of Human Nature and eventually got promoted as a Merchandising Coordinator. He shared that this policy on living wage has helped him and his family enjoy things they did not have the opportunity to do in the past. “Dahil sa above minimum salary [ng Human Nature] nagkaroon kami ng dagdag panggastos [para] sa mga gustong kainin at puntahan. Nakakapag-ipon at napag-aaral ko rin ang aking mga anak sa private school,” said Bryan.

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In photo: Bryan Manongtong

This social enterprise has also been a positive force for breadwinners like Reymar Mendiola who works as a merchandising coordinator at Human Nature. “Bago ako sumali sa Human Nature, marami akong na-experience na trabaho na below minimum wage na sapat lang sa pagkain ng aking pamilya dahil isa po akong breadwinner. Napakahirap dahil lahat ng sahod ko ay napupunta lang sa pagtulong sa aking pamilya. Pero noong nakapagtrabaho ako sa Human Nature, aside sa daily needs, naipaayos ko ang aming bahay, napa-tiles ang lababo at sahig, nakapag-paaral ng dalawang kapatid, nakapagpundar ng sariling sasakyan, at nakapag-apply ng insurance,” shared Reymar.

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In photo: Reymar Mendiola

People and Family First Policies

Apart from providing above minimum wages, Human Nature veers away from the contractualization norm of companies for rank and file personnel instead provides regularization and its encompassing benefits that provide the path towards rising to middle class. This includes relocation assistance to defray the cost of moving to their operations in Laguna and even home assistance for access to dignified homes, financial stewardship that teaches financial management to optimize savings and debt, leaves and shortened hours for added family time and to give importance to rest, and no work on Sundays to allow workers to enjoy time with loved ones and worship.

“Tuwing Linggo ay bonding namin ng pamilya at chance ko na rin ito para makapagsimba. Pagdating sa shortened work hours, bukod sa iwas traffic, mas nagkakaroon ako ng oras sa aking mga anak at pamilya,” said Bryan. 

Rank and file employees can even relish impactful benefits such as private health insurance, and milestone benefits in the form of a wedding gift benefit worth P20,000 and P10,000 birth benefit per child to assist workers and celebrate with them during their major life events.

Bryan added, “Isa si Human Nature sa naging daan para sa aking dream wedding, nakapag-avail ako nito [wedding gift benefit] at sobrang nakatulong.”

Transforming lives for the better

Serving as a force for good for almost 15 years now, Human Nature paved the way for real, meaningful, and significant changes in the quality of life of Filipino workers. They not only get monetary benefits and family-friendly policies but also values formation, upskilling, and training opportunities that can help them break free from poverty cycles and advance in their careers. 

One example of this would be Dina Ocampo. Straight out of high school, Dina got hired as part of the first warehouse team. She made so many errors in the past but Human Nature worked with her to boost her performance and eventually granted her an opportunity to improve herself as a merchandiser. Through the years, she has grown in leadership, and she is now a coordinator for the first provincial team of 14 merchandisers. She was even able to purchase a second-hand car and move to her new home in San Mateo, Rizal.

There’s also Gloria Traballo, a warehouse staff, who never thought she would be able to fulfill her son’s dream to become a lawyer, much less finish college. Her son graduated Cum Laude from his pre-law course at one of the big four universities in the Philippines–University of Santo Tomas.

People, Compassion, and Faith

“We started Human Nature with only two things: faith in God and faith in the Filipino. So, since the beginning, Human Nature has always tried to do business based on our values and not compromise when it comes to living according to our faith,” states Human Nature Co-Founder and Chairman, Dylan Wilk. “We wanted to help change employment practices not just for our people but for the millions of Filipinos who wake up every day with no job security, minimum wage, and no chance at a better future.”

Choosing people over profit is no easy feat but Human Nature rose to the challenge every step of the way by holding on to their faith, practicing compassion, and putting their people first. 

It has not been an easy road and the growth has come with a lot of pain, but what has made it worth it are the stories of genuine transformation and real hope that we see in the lives of our people,” shared by Human Nature Founders–Anna Meloto-Wilk, Dylan Wilk, and Camille Meloto-Rodriguez.