In Pinoy video game, superheroes teach players money skills | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

In Pinoy video game, superheroes teach players money skills
Ramon Rodrigo Kalaw Cuenca with his works: manga art of a Chinese woman against a background of logos (L) and a portrait of Natalia Garcia Santos
In Pinoy video game, superheroes teach players money skills
Ramon Rodrigo Kalaw Cuenca with his works: manga art of a Chinese woman against a background of logos (L) and a portrait of Natalia Garcia Santos

He left a well-paid job as equity research analyst in a private bank in Singapore to become an entrepreneur in his own country.

It was a big risk but, Ramon Rodrigo Kalaw Cuenca says, “I saw an opportunity to combine my passions: finance and art.”

In this part of the world, his career path is unique.

He remembers observing corporations crossing over to entertainment enterprises, including Amazon and Apple— technology trailblazers that launched streaming services and produced original movies. Mattel, which started as a toy company, has made windfall profits both as producer of “Barbie” movies since 2001, and as owner of the Barbie intellectual property (IP) rights. Its latest coproduction with Warner Bros. took the box office by storm, earning upward of $1.38 billion worldwide, to become last year’s largest film release.

Cuenca is dreaming in that direction. He created an entertainment franchise, Business Samurai, which he describes as a “manga-based entertainment intellectual property.” In its initial stage, he produced a manga e-newsletter also named Business Samurai, which is found in his app, Cross Platform. He hopes to publish not only his creations but also those of others who similarly want to build entertainment franchises.

“All told, Business Samurai is a tech startup,” he says. “The goal is to teach financial literacy via a casual video game. The characters and story are priority elements—think superheroes in a business context. Readers learn about profit and revenue but in a subtle way that is deeply woven into the plot. The content is based on my experiences both as entrepreneur and finance analyst.”

Pedigreed creative

This pedigreed creative is the son of the late real estate developer Ma. Eva “Chingbee” Kalaw and renewable energy executive Roberto “Bobby” Cuenca. His maternal grandmother, Eva Estrada Kalaw, was a prominent senator, while his paternal grandfather, Rodolfo Cuenca, was a businessman and contractor who built huge infrastructure projects in the Marcos years.

Ramon Rodrigo graduated with honors in BA International Studies from the University of Chicago in 2006. He worked for the Bank of Singapore, advising people on investments. While in Singapore, he studied manga art at TKG Comic Circle and arts basics at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

He returned to the Philippines in 2013, spent the next four years in Japan learning from manga artists, and developed his artistic portfolio.

Cuenca feels deeply indebted to his parents. “They supported me in the pursuit of my dreams even if they did not fully understand what it was about. I owe them so much for taking a chance on me and on this path that I took instead of a more traditional one.”

In 2017, Cuenca launched his manga art at the Cube Gallery in Makati, and has since dabbled in several related platforms—a YouTube channel, a podcast, and a website/media vehicle.

Business Samurai was launched in 2020 with an overarching story about a conglomerate in Japan that is about to shut down. Instead, it hires new people to save the company and lead it on the road to new industries.


Through his network and by word of mouth, Cuenca steadily engaged subscribers. Fifty percent of his audience are women, mostly millennials and Gen Zs from the United States and other countries.

“From the beginning,” he says, “I wanted to create an IP that was broadly appealing, and develop a product that would showcase my writing and my art.”

Cuenca is unapologetically ambitious. He wants to expand his startup by attracting more investors, maybe more collaborators and, ultimately, more followers. “The key is to show that my manga and its audience continue to grow.”

At present, he is deep at work on investor rounds and incorporating his business in the United States. “That’s my main target market, where half of my subscribers are.”

To help finance his operations in the meantime, he is engaged in portraiture work, with clients mostly from Manila’s high society. He points out, “The manga and portraiture serve the same two goals—to shore up my venture and get the validation that comes with people’s willingness to spend for my art.”

His manga and portrait arts initially tapped his family’s circle of friends. After seven years, he continues to straddle the two businesses, with an unblinking eye on the prize: “To be an IP creator like George Lucas.”

He cites the American filmmaker and philanthropist’s “Star Wars” franchise, which started with one movie in 1977. Lucas has retained the rights to the brand, raking in billions in profits from the franchises of “Star Wars” toys and other merchandise. That’s what Cuenca hopes to achieve.

Where he is at is a place well understood by his globally celebrated role model, who is known to have advised admirers and followers: “You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ

Email [email protected].


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