Today I write about a love story that’s a whole lot different from the usual Valentine’s Day fare. Today, I write about Mrs. Lolita Olalia Hizon, the successful Kapampangan entrepreneur who made the “Pampanga’s Best” food brand a household name with love and compassion as her guiding business philosophy.
I took note of Lolita Hizon’s unique success formula when she was featured by Ka Gerry Geronimo in his TV show “Ating Alamin”. Having had the pleasure of previously meeting Gerry and his son Dr. Miguel, I immediately sought the latter for the contact number of Mrs. Lolita Hizon. That was how I got to talk with her and learned more about her unconventional method in achieving business success.
Lolita’s food business took roots through a single act of kindness. She wanted to help a neighbor who was into pork vending and who one day failed to sell 5 kilos of pork. She suggested that they process the fresh leftovers into tocino, a Filipino recipe of cured pork marinated in sweet red sauce to preserve the meat and give it a whole new appeal. Like a good deed finding unexpected reward, the new concoction became a hit and those who bought the tocino came back for more. The spontaneous demand delivered the clear message that Lolita’s tocino recipe had a receptive market. That started Lolita’s venture into what is now a highly successful business enterprise.
In 1972, Lolita Hizon’s Pampanga’s Best started as a cottage industry which expanded as rapidly as happy mouths could say ‘sarap!’ Now Pampanga’s Best tocinos and other Filipino meat favorites are made on a 9.5 hectare processing facility but a steadily increasing demand continues to outpace its capacity. The business is now set to expand and transfer to a 22-hectare property. Considering that the last three years had wrought havoc on Philippine businesses, it is awe-inspiring indeed to witness the miracle of Lolita Hizon’s success.
At the core of Lolita’s business philosophy is her faith in her Maker, placing her Maker’s rules over and above the material laws of the market. Lolita does not concern herself too much with sophisticated formulas and jargon of the business world like objective-setting, strategy formulation or action plan. Instead, she is only guided by a singular priority which is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given you”. Lolita is less motivated by the average entrepreneur’s drive to expand her market share than she is driven to be an instrument of the Lord in helping others. Hers is not to accumulate and amass wealth for herself and her family. Rather, she sees herself as a channel for the upliftment and enrichment of others. Successful businessmen like to savor the sweet memories of their boom years. Lolita Hizon rejoices each time she makes a difference in easing the burdens of the downtrodden. To Lolita, success is more than just taking care of one’s own – more important to her is helping the least of her brethren. Lolita saw herself as a candle that the Lord lit for His own purpose.
A verse that Lolita was inspired to write one time when she was meditating about her intimate working relationship with God captures the essence of her sense of mission and total surrender to His bidding. Part of that verse that she wrote states:
“You light up my candle
To shine in the dark
That others may see
That others may find out
That thou art the Lord
The one and true God
From whence all life comes
To whom all life ends”
Lolita’s business clout is nowhere near that of taipans like Lucio Tan or John Gokongwei. But when lahar wiped out the homes and livelihood of her hometown of Cabalantian, Pampanga during Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in the early 1990s, she established the Ang Bagong (The New) Cabalantian Foundation and poured over P6 million to help rehabilitate and resettle the neediest of her despairing town mates.
Lolita was baptized a Roman Catholic, raised as a Roman Catholic and married under the matrimonial rites of the Roman Catholic faith. But her numerous encounters with her Lord through the many times she was instrumental in propagating His love go beyond the normal parameters of religion. Indeed it is true that one can have an abundance of religion but still be bare in spirituality. Lolita is a case in point for living out her spirituality. Hers is not the type of religion that many modern-day Pharisees like to fake and wear as some sort of coat-of-arms around their sleeves but a spirituality that bears fruit in her daily life.
Once, Lolita was about to be given an award by a business group who took cognizance of the success of Pampanga’s Best. She was constrained to forego the award because she refused to lie about the methods she employed in attaining business success. The award body wanted her to expound on the usual formulas for success such as working attitude, qualification standards, HRD, R and D and so forth. They simply could not reconcile themselves with the truth of how Lolita got to where she is.
I have had the privilege of knowing another trailblazing businesswoman who similarly operated through faith and founded one of the most profitable newspapers in the country. I refer of course to my dear friend, the late Betty Go-Belmonte, who bravely left the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she co-founded with our other friend Eggie Apostol to start the Philippine STAR. Betty read Bible verses daily and got her marching orders from her daily readings. On the interpretations of her readings, Betty left an Inquirer that was then number 1. Husband Sonny (and now Quezon City Mayor) could not believe it then that Betty would leave the Inquirer to found what would be the 22nd newspaper to be organized after the 1986 People Power Revolt. I don’t think Sonny regrets what Betty did – not now and not with all the profits the STAR makes today.
Betty and Lolita are two sides of the same coin. They did not aspire to be what they had become. They merely sought to follow the will of their Lord for them. They did not seek to simply provide for the needs of their families as parents but opted to be a wide river for the many around them who were in dire need. Lolita is soon to be 68 years of age and has 12 children. Surely one cannot take it against her if she now concentrates the rest of her productive years to securing the financial future of her children and grandchildren. Like Betty, Lolita believes that she is her brother’s keeper and her only aspiration now is solely to continue being an instrument in helping those in need. Having total faith that her Master will take care of the rest of her personal and parental needs, Lolita is not worried about the financial security of her family.
Lolita’s sense of mission brings to mind another dynamic woman who charted her life in accordance to God’s directions – Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement and one of the greatest women of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In the early 90s, Chiara Lubich’s plane was landing in Brazil and from the air she imagined seeing a crown of thorns out of the slums that surrounded rich folk’s enclaves. She wondered how those rich people in the villas could sleep well at night. It dawned on her that rather than wait for government to be able to address poverty, perhaps the rich people themselves can provide the mechanism to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots through a new business culture.
Lubich was then inspired to form the Economy of Communion (EoC). Further studied and developed by economists and academicians from all over the world, EoC posits that the shortcomings of capitalism lie not in the pursuit of profit but in the utilization of it. The EoC now has 800 working model companies that are viably competing in a vast range of industries in over 182 countries where the Focolare Movement is present – companies that have redefined and established new enlightened options for the utilization of profits (you may read more about the EoC on www.focolare.org). The strength of Lubich’s EoC is that it is founded on the generation of profit and does not rely on philanthropy. EoC is capitalism with all its vigorous pursuit of profits. Except that EoC is capitalism with a heart and a guiding spirituality (more insights on EoC are found on www.EDC-online.org) that extends the benefits of profits beyond the corporate boundaries.
What Lolita Hizon has been doing for her Cabalantian brethren, Lubich has accomplished through these 800 EoC companies in the Focolare communities. Chiara Lubich would have been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with such a businesswoman as Lolita whose openness of heart is the very model of enlightened capitalism that Lubich’s EoC seeks to propagate.
We then can imagine how much we can alleviate poverty nationwide and bridge the dangerous gap between our haves and have-nots if only the top 1,000 corporations would adopt similar attitudes in their utilization of profit. The proposition is not altogether simply a matter of faith or spirituality but more of common sense really. If we accept that there should be a limit to the cutting of trees or the harvesting of fish in order to maintain the natural balance, then we should also accept that there must be a cap on wealth accumulation or what is called an economy of enough. People can only accumulate so much wealth because when too much of the wealth is confined to the few who have the talent, skills and capital to produce it – imbalances as what we now suffer from happen. And as what history has shown us time and again, a society runs the risk of encountering the bitter pill of enforced change every time this socio-economic polarization exists. On the more positive side, the societies where there are hardly any economically needy persons are the more prosperous and secure ones.
In the Focolare “cities” all over the world that are sustained by the EoC, there are no economically needy persons. The EoC has developed into such a successful level that EoC industrial parks are now sprouting. Just imagine a Philippines that is almost on the scale of the EoC communities – over 80 million amply provided Filipinos will in turn provide greater purchasing power to support more industries that will pay more taxes which in turn will provide more schools with better paid teachers delivering a better kind of education to a more healthy population that is serviced by a better health program. But in our present conditions where over 80% of the wealth is in the hands of 3%, we are suffering from precisely the imbalances that threaten to detonate into a social explosion.
Gandhi summed it best when he said that the world has enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.