A foreigner to the eyes and perceptions of many, Nico Bolzico proves that he is more than just a few laughs as he reveals a side to him that will, if we’re being honest, make him more Filipino than most would like to admit.
Contrary to popular belief, or well, assumption, Nico Bolzico didn’t come to the Philippines for a vacation, which is a typical first-time interface of a foreigner to the geographical wonder and cultural gem that is the Philippines. In fact, having been stationed in the country for a professional corporate work opportunity for a time (armed with knowledge in math and economics, holding two master’s degrees, one in Global Banking and the other in Global Finance), he was already preparing to leave the country and move to the next one on his list some eight years ago.
“When I was ready to move to the next country, my dad came to visit me, and he said: ‘Why don’t you try to see if you can do something here,’” he recalls. You could say that this was one of those tender father-son moments where the patriarch would advice the descendant to sow his seeds and watch it take fruit. What he didn’t realize was that his father meant this literally, which makes sense, he says, recognizing the country’s potential in agriculture. This would also stand to be a full circle moment, as it took him back to his youth growing up as farm boy in gaúcho-populated Argentina.
“I was born in a farm. My dad is a farmer, I am a farmer, and my brother is a farmer. So, we grew up on that,” he shares. “So, okay, I said, let’s give it a try. We started with animal waste recycling, which was the first we tried to implement and turned out very well. And then, the opportunity to try to create a company was presented. I wasn’t thinking about creating my company at all. I was thinking about a career while I was working before. But then I thought of the possibilities and decided to do it, to at least try,” he offers. This was when LM10 was born, a company that intends to invest and elevate agri-business in the Philippines with innovative technologies, development of possibilities and prospects, further refining experiences in agriculture. With grit, tenacity, and an earnest desire to develop the potential in the Philippines, LM10 (an homage to his hero, Argentinian football deity, Lionel Messi) has grown and expanded into thriving ventures such as Bolzico Beef (importing protein from the family farm in Argentina), Vienovo Philippines (producing all natural animal feeds), Precision Agriculture (a subsidiary company that focuses on improving idle lands), and Genex Biotech Group (boosting dairy and beef production by bringing advanced livestock genetics to the country).
While this was more than enough to keep him rooted in the place he was starting to see a future in, something else sealed the deal for Nico Bolzico.“And then I met Solenn,” he says, pausing to let his ear-to-ear grin simmer, as he sank deeper and more comfortably in his seat on a particularly infernal Saturday afternoon in the heart of Manila. “That’s not the reason why I came, but probably the reason why I stayed so long.”
Ah, the many wonders of love. Swoon.
Despite its best and most valiant efforts, the air-conditioner in the suite we fashioned into our headquarters that day was proving to be of no match to the sweltering heat that was already way past teasing hyperactive sweat glands, moving quickly to causing delirious migraines. Where we trying to, but ultimately failing to subtly flick off the curtain of sweat threating to fall in one powerful swoop as if it were a waterfall, Nico Bolzico seemed unfazed by it all, tending to his fur baby, Pochola, an American Akita, who couldn’t be bothered on the relatively cooler tiled floor. “She’s such a diva,” he chides as he continues to shower her with a rub down and scratches. She must have heard him, because no sooner than a few blinks, she scurried away and burrowed into the bed adjacent to us. “Look, she really likes that, because she cannot do that at home.”
Home, as we have to learn, is never just an address, nor is it a pinned location meant to signify where you are. In essence, home is what and where you make of it, building on what is transient and fleeting, and turning into something warm and familiar. Take Nico for example, who despite having practically zero knowledge of the country less than a decade ago, other than it being a vacation destination famed for its beaches and food, now calls it home.
“Today, I consider myself a Filipino, this is my home. If I could, I would become a Filipino. If I could ask, it would be an honor,” he proudly states. “I always say the same thing; I think the Philippines is, if not the best, one of the best countries in the world on so many levels, starting with its people. But when you go outside in the world, people know less about the Philippines. They only hear about the bad news. I mean, this country is blessed with so many things, again starting with the people. Then there’s the beautiful country, growing with so much potential. I mean, it’s the country to be today. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else, and I learned how to love it. Every time Solenn and I go abroad, and they ask us where we are from, we both say that we are from the Philippines. I don’t answer Argentina anymore. It comes naturally to say that we are from the Philippines.”
This isn’t to say he is leaving out his being a native Argentinian, which is of course, far from it. For Nico, it is a great deal of bridging two worlds together that aren’t necessarily too different from the other. “Filipinos are not that different from Latinos. There are a lot of commonalities: very loud, very funny. We’re pretty much the same, very food-oriented, [which is] most important. Cultural, very patriotic, very proud of what we have,” he says. Digging deeper into the cultural intricacies of the place he now calls home, he goes on to share how despite the odds stacked up against an ordinary citizen, the Filipinos will passionately persist with good humor and a smile. “You see, I know, there’s so many cases of people commuting two to three hours a day, to go for a salary that is not enough for a family. I mean, they commute two to three hours back home just to spend a couple of hours with the family and sleep, and do it all over again. And they don’t give up—they smile. Every single time and every single day,” he says. “So, that’s something I haven’t seen anywhere. It keeps surprising me, and we need to know how fortunate we are, that we have food in our plate, that we do not struggle much. These people keep doing it and with a smile on their face, and I think that’s one of the many reasons why this country is unstoppable.”
There is a swelling sense of admiration that inevitably builds when talking to Nico Bolzico. I mean, here is a man who is by technicalities a stranger in a strange land, but the moment he speaks up, he is arguably more Filipino than some—and that speaks volume of the kind of person he is. This isn’t just some lip service meant to exalt a country that has accorded him the life he lives now, but rather taking pride in a land that has taken him in as if one of our own.
Nico Bolzico isn’t hard to miss, sticking out with fine chiseled features that significantly cut through the norm, even easily towering over most. Other than that, however, it can be said that Nico has fully assimilated to the Filipino culture, especially when it comes to his humor. “Yeah, I am very kulit. And yes, I haven’t changed. I am the same until today, just maybe now, it’s just more out there. But yeah, I was always a clown to my friends. Pranking is probably one of my biggest passions, and you know, putting a smile on people’s faces,” he states. “Sometimes, trying to be funny gets me into trouble.” With Solenn, we dare to ask, as it has been the subject of his wildly popular and highly relatable social media content. “She gets mad at me, but if you make her smile, she loves it. So, when she’s upset, I keep trying to make her laugh, but the thing is gonna go two ways: I keep her super upset or I make her laugh. It’s always [a risk] to take,” he explains as the de facto leader of the Bullied Husband’s Club on Instagram. He continues, “You know, I’m learning how to be sweet also.”
But before you assume and relegate him to just fun and games, he is quick to add, just like most, it is only a fraction of his entire life that you see online. “I keep myself more like, 80% business and 20% social media. But, I’m also using a lot of social media for the business also. I raise awareness when it comes to environment, when it comes to agricultural sectors of the Philippines. I use my commitment to the Philippines to give back to our culture.” The commitment for him is more than just information and awareness, but tangible efforts to invigorate the most important sector in the country. Seeing great potential from it, Nico Bolzico wants to take care of it and make sure it thrives for the greater good of the nation. “I want to see the Philippines to stop importing food. We should be self-sufficient in terms of food. We have a lot of resources, we have the potential, and we have a lot of people. We should be able to self-sufficient. It makes the country more efficient,” he says of the Philippines he wants to see in the near future, hopefully. “Second, I want to see the Philippines as an agri-export country. We export mangoes and some coconuts, but I want to explore more. If everything goes well, I want to export feeds, because when you export in just raw material, there’s no added value there, but if you produce some in the Philippines and you can export it, like feeds, you need to get a lot of raw materials, and you have to have the formulation to know how to create it here, and then you export that.”
Speaking with so much earnestness and desire to make tangible change, he goes on to pinpoint where the country can make a necessary shift in perspective. “The Philippines has the potential to export anything, but I think we have this mentality that importing is better. It is wrong, we have to change this mentality,” he says. “That’s colonial mentality, which has to change. Importing is not better. A lot of local feeds, [for example], are much better than what we think. Automatically, that mind-set needs to change. I’m a strong believer of that, and I believe, that there’s so much quality, there’s so many more things that we do not see.”
This is actual influence, we believe. Once you get past the laughs and relatable content, you are taken in on what matters the most, and this is far more than the lot earmarking the title and using it to their own advantage. Also, where the rest would gnaw at the edges of dismay and disappointment, and would rather seek possibilities elsewhere, Nico Bolzico has decided to stay here and give back, in the land he calls home.
“This is my home, [and it] will be my home forever. Unless you wanna kick me out of the country, but I hope you won’t,” he laughs. “I think for those people who are seeking opportunities outside, it’s sad, because I think in our country, we have so much potential here. So many natural resources. It’s a country that needs so much to keep growing. I mean, I wouldn’t know where else to find the perfect scenario, perfect variables altogether in one place that makes it so attractive than the other. I think it’s a matter of marketing, of showing the potential of the country, and there are so many things that can be done here. As long as they keep on working and do not give up, there will be an opportunity for Filipinos to stay.”
It might sound a little too altruistic; especially for one who some will argue has it better than most. But this is where precisely where it becomes of the essence, because for someone perceived on the outside looking in, he sees where things have to change and acts upon it. Like, really does something about it sans grandstanding. Politicians and decision-makers should take a page of Nico Bolzico’s playbook because the man makes a darn good amount of sense.
And isn’t that what we need more of these days?