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Rising from the ashes

Posted on September 26, 2011

Prudencio S. Garcia
Mekeni Food Corporation


The 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption was one of the country’s most devastating natural disasters, affecting more than two million people and damaging buildings and public infrastructure in Central Luzon. While a number of companies closed shop or pulled out, one decided to stick it out and help rebuild its community in Porac, Pampanga. That firm was Mekeni Meat Products (MMP).

MMP, a chicharon and tocino making company, was established by Prudencio S. Garcia’s parents in Balubad, Porac, Pampanga. Mr. Garcia took over in 2005 and can be credited for expanding and modernizing the company’s operations.

The second of five sons, Mr. Garcia, 51, graduated from the University of the East with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. After graduating and passing the Certified Public Accountancy board exam in 1981, he joined SGV & Co. for three years before moving to the Saudi Kuwait Cement Manufacturing Co. in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. In 1993, his father requested that he return home to help with the company in the aftermath of the eruption. He was designated finance officer/treasurer and planning officer in which he was able to architect strategic moves for the company to prosper.

Mr. Garcia’s family used their savings to expand MMP with the goal of providing employment for people affected by the disaster.

Lahar flows isolated Porac and frequently closed the Porac-Mancatian Road and the Olongapo-Gapan Road. MMP hired Pinatubo evacuees to transport the products in crates by crossing the Mancatian River. A delivery truck would be waiting on the other side of the river.

The company also concentrated on selling its products to adjacent towns and provinces that were also cut off by lahar -- the provinces of Bataan and Zambales, and the towns of Sta. Rita, Lubao, Guagua and Floridablanca in Pampanga.

The company weathered the crisis, but other incidents soon followed. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 1996, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and stiff market competition highlighted the need to modernize operations and facilities, and introduce new products.

Recognizing that most meat companies in Pampanga manufactured tocino, MMP decided to introduce its Picnic hotdogs. These were priced lower than other brands and helped establish a market for the Mekeni brand.

The success of the Picnic hotdogs paved the way for the launch of a multi-million peso plant in 2003 and the company was renamed Mekeni Food Corporation (MFC). The plant is situated on a 14.8-hectare lot, still in Balubad, Porac, Pampanga. In the same year it opened, the plant was accredited with the Department of Agriculture-National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) as a class “AAA” meat plant.

MFC’s major product lines are hotdog, tocino, longganisa, ham and bacon. Its distribution network spans Northern Luzon, from Metro Manila down to the Bicol region. Recently, it entered the Visayas and Mindanao markets.

In 2005, Mr. Garcia assumed the presidency of MFC and he worked immediately on streamlining operations and enhancing quality. Under his leadership, MFC has grown to more than 1,000 employees, 70% of whom are from the barrio. It has also earned an ISO 22000:2005 certification (Food Safety Management System) making MFC the first ISO 22000-certified meat processing plant in the Philippines and in Asia, and the second in the world.

He also plans to continue upgrading the company’s food safety programs through its Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, ISO 22000 re-certification, and by focusing research & development on product quality improvement.

For the last 25 years, the company has focused on the local market. In 2012, Mr. Garcia aims to export regionally starting with the Middle East and has already started developing products for the halal market. Once these products are fully developed, the company will put up separate processing facilities to quality for halal certification.

On top of providing jobs to their community, MFC is involved in various corporate social responsibility projects. It will be starting the “Suporta Para Sa Mag-aaral Program” -- a project with the Balubad Elementary School to provide books to elementary school students.

The company has been previously involved in outreach programs for orphanages, depressed communities and homes for the elderly. It also invested in a wastewater plant facility to reduce impact of its operations on the environment.

MFC has been recognized as the 2004 Outstanding Meat-Processed Food Brand during the 21st Annual Year-ended Excellence Award given by the National Consumer Affairs Foundation and Media Power, Inc. It has been honored by various regional organizations, and was also recognized as the 2004 Most Environmentally Responsive Corporation by the Development Bank of the Philippines.

From 2004-2006, it was recognized as the National Winner -- Best “AAA” Meat Plant by the NMIS. In 2007, it received the Grand Slam Award -- Best “AAA” Meat Plant from the NMIS. The company was given an Eco Watch Award, Double Silver category, by the DENR-EMB in 2010.

Having lived and grown in the same community where MMP began and continues to thrive, Mr. Garcia’s commitment to the Pampanga community is clear.

“We would do it all over again as long as it will help people because that’s the reason why we went into business,” he shares.

“The right reason to go into business is not just for you, but when you think of others. When you know that it will make a difference in their lives, you will never stop. When challenges come, you will have the guts to overcome them -- not just to survive, but to grow.”

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2011 will be announced on October 12, 2011 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2012. The Entrepreneur Of The Year is produced globally by Ernst & Young.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2011 has concluded its 2011 search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. It is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of co-presenters De La Salle University, Department of Trade and Industry, Development Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Philippine Stock Exchange and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. BusinessWorld is featuring each of this year’s finalists.