The Changing 80's

Davao and Southern Mindanao, Philippines

Excerpt from the Book, "My Incredible Life Journey"

[additional writings by Walden/Wilda/Fe Cabonce, to our best recollection]

A year after the opening of Datu Complex Inc., I became more and more involved in the cause of Lionism. By 1978, with the success measures achieved serving as the Lion's President in 1973-74, I decided to run for the Lion's District 301-E Governorship. It was during this time, that I entrusted the business to my second son, Walden.

[Walden -- I was then part-musician, part-student, enrolled with irregular subjects in Architecture at the University of the Philippines, in Manila. Although I was partly involved with the operation of Datu Complex, I never expected the major task turnover. I stood up, took the challenge, dropped out of school, and flew back to Davao to work full time in obedience. I remained the only one in the family to claim the title of a school dropout. Together with my mother, we carried on the day to day business affairs. I remember my mother's energy was limitless, I honestly had difficulties coping up.]

Upon the completing my Governorship, I rejoined the business and decided to continue what I have left off. On December 5, 1980, we opened our first branch, Datu Complex Marbel, 210 Kilometers south of Davao. The opening of Datu Marbel (I fondly called Marbel is Marvelous) excited the entire province of South Cotabato, It felt like the whole province were buying from the store. We literary run out of products to sell. Shelves 90% empty by each close of day. Datu Marbel sparked a whole new meaning to the retail world in the region.

With my just concluded term as Lions club governor of the district, I enjoyed the trust, confidence, respect and the support of the local businesses. As I always have, I tried my best to contribute back to the community where I am established. With the huge success of the Datu Marbel store, I have strongly set my sight to go one step further, to Dadiangas. Understanding my limitations and capacity, I needed help. In 1981, I flew to Manila and asked a former manager to join me. Aurea, was then a supervisor at one of the largest store in Carriedo. Without hesitation, Auring join me in Marbel.

With Auring filling my place in Marbel, I moved on to the bigger, aggressive city - Dadiangas. On May of 1982, we opened Datu Dadiangas (General Santos City), 155 Kilometers south of Davao, and 58 kilometers south of Marbel. I invited my former Lions Club executive secretary, Chuck Cuyugan to join me. Appointing Chuck as my manager. Unlike Marbel, General Santos is more of a melting pot. People from all walks of society converged in this city. It was more like Davao in the early 70s. I have to face challenges and obstacles one after the other. [Wilda -- During the summer of 1982, together with Wilhelmina, I was assigned in the Dadiangas store, while Wilma and a few times, Wyhnna were assigned to help at the new Bakery in Marbel. It was tiring or boring -- I was 17 then. Looking back I should say that it was well worth every minute, to be able to help in any whichever way I can with Papa.]

By 1983, we opened Datu Agdao. Like a loyal soldier, Fe Cabonce (who have been with me since 1970s) took the challenge as the manager. By 1984, we revisited and reopen the old Lima Store nicknamed "D6.", my brother-in-law Johnson (Juana's favorite brother) acted as the manager with much help from my son Wishing John.

In 1985, peace and order became a major issue in the country, kidnapping for ransom was rampant, mostly targeting  people of Chinese descent. Once again, I decided to leave. I entrusted the business to William and Walden. I asked them to manage the growing Datu enterprise. A year after, in 1986, Marcos was overthrown and a new government was installed. By 1987, William and Walden, and with the help of brother Wishing, continue what I left off. [Walden -- we opened Datu Complex, Digos in Sep-4, 1987, Datu Marbel II on Aug-8, 1988, Datu Tacurong in 1990, Datu Toril in 1991, Datu Bankerohan in 1992 and continue to acquire locations and leases in Kidapawan, and Cotabato. By then, we were 12 stores - one store short of the magic number 13.]

[Walden -- by 1992, as we start to travel more overseas and frequent visits to the USA, We (William and myself) start to see the decline if not demise of the middle of the road stores in the United States, Mays, Robinsons, Macys, Sears Roebuck were closing stores one after the other. They were gobbled alive by the Walmart chain. We (William and myself) decided that it was time to let go, at the peak (near peak) of the business enterprise, we announced and offered all the stores up for sale. We sold one store after the other, slowly but surely. And by the end of 1998, we have effectively moved out of the retail business and dipped heavily into the distribution business]

[Walden -- My greatest regret was that my father was not around when we (William and myself) decided to forego of the retail business and move on to the distribution business. Had we decided to stay on with the retail business then, the entire business would have been completely wiped out, cash, lock and barrel by the Philippines version of Walmart ! Many times, I heard my father saying he regretted not being able to help during those times . We always reminded him that his moved overseas was actually the best decision ever made, given the situation -- peace and order, opportunities and difficulties considered.]

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