FAMILY BONDING IN BUKIDNON

MANILA, November 21, 2003 (STAR) By Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan - A five-day trip to Cagayan de Oro was everything I had imagined it to be. And Bukidnon is truly beautiful! A few years ago, after Anthonyís cousin Conchita Velez described to me their new home in the Del Monte compound in Bukidnon, I knew it was there that Iíd like to bring up my children. Since then, I prayed that Anthony would land a job in Del Monte and live a peaceful life in Cagayan de Oro. Little did I know that I would be asked to be an endorser for Del Monte Spaghetti and be a co-host of Kitchenomics on TV. It was only after a few years of working with Del Monte that I remembered my desire for Anthony to get hired by them. I realized, however, that God must want us to live in Manila because He has constantly opened doors for us business-wise. God works in mysterious ways and, instead of uprooting us from Manila and having us settled in Bukidnon, he brought Del Monte to me so I could still have the privilege of working with them.

Del Monte didnít commission me to write this article, but I felt the urge to write it because I want other people to know what itís like to be part of the DM company. For four years now, I have had the chance to represent a company that gives great importance to their people and churns out high quality and nutritious products. Iíve had the chance to speak to the people in the Del Monte test kitchen where every ingredient is carefully studied for different recipes, giving importance to taste, presentation and cost to the homemaker.

Hello CDO

It took us only one hour and 45 minutes by plane to go to Cagayan de Oro and we were welcomed by Mang Exjor who brought us to Cawayanon, Bukidnon. The scent of pine and the cool breeze reminded me of Baguio. Assigned to us was a huge bungalow with four bedrooms on a vast property that had, among others, pine, rambutan, and guava trees. There were no gates that divided the houses of DM management officials and guests. Inside the compound were a runway, an international school, a restaurant called The Lodge (where steak is a specialty), a tennis court, a swimming pool, a gym, a bowling alley, and a beautiful golf course with a lake. I was so overjoyed watching my kids enjoying the place and getting truly acquainted and intimate with nature while Anthony and I familiarized ourselves with the menu at The Lodge. After lunch, we headed to house No. 24. My kids, who were deprived of TV-watching for the past several months after out set broke down, happily watched the Disney and Nickolodeon channels. We capped the evening by joining DM owners Marco and Annie Lorenzo, plantation director Andre Jaranilla and Dr. Chesed Sison of the research department for a sumptuous dinner. It was inspiring to hear their stories about how they acquired DM from the Americans in 1996, making it a wholly Filipino-owned company. We found out that Marco actually wakes up at 1:30 a.m. every day. He starts his day with a workout at the gym, heads to the plantation at 2:30 a.m., and starts meeting with people at 3:30 a.m. When we asked why they have to start so early, he said it was necessary because it was better to meet people face to face than to simply issue management memos. They speak directly to the people to get their message across. Besides, their work requires planting and harvesting so better to start early. The people are off from work early as well. The workers end their day at 2:30 p.m. and the managers are off at 6:30 p.m.

Pineapples, Pineapples!

The next day, we headed to the plantation with Atty. Girlie Real as our tour guide. We were asked to view a video presentation about the history of Del Monte Philippines, its people and products. The pineapple plantation sits on 18,000 hectares of land. The company employs 3,000 workers and is able to yield an average of 2,500 tons of pineapples daily. Del Monte pineapples are different from other pineapples because they are planted and picked by hand. They are canned the same day theyíre harvested. After a harvest, the land is left to rest for six months. If it is not allowed to rest, the land will one day seize to be fertile. I guess itís the same with people. We can learn a lot from such a practice.

The pulp wastes (those not canned) are given to the 50,000 heads of cattle whose wastes are used as fertilizers in the plantation. Itís sustainable development at its best.

After a tour of the plantation, we were brought to see Camp Philips, the biggest of five camps in Bukidnon. All the employees are given shelter (with utilities covered as well) in the five camps. The DM property, by the way, is as big as five municipalities. They also enjoy benefits like free hospitalization and medicines. Each camp has a school and a church, as well as a big soccer field and other sports activities. People grow old with the company because all their needs are provided for.

How To Milk A Cow

Because they raise cattle, DM also has its own dairy plant that is for the employeesí consumption only. My kids were thrilled to see how to milk a cow manually and mechanically. Ella even tried to milk a cow herself.

Next, we visited the cannery. Another 3,000 plus people are employed here apart from the 3,000 already at the plantation! It took us about three hours to see the whole process of washing, cutting the pineapples, separating them from the pulp, canning, labeling and putting them in boxes. We had the chance to taste-test the ones they had canned for the day. The tasting of the canned fruits is done daily to check the quality of the pineapples put in every can.

A Happy Halloween

During our visit, the kids on the Cawayanon compound were in Halloween gear for the costume parade organized by Annie and Conchita. Ella won the "most unique costume" award for her "groovy witch" attire. The grownups, on the other hand, did trick or treating during the day.

Iím glad our children made new friends. They were thankful to have met their cousins whom they seldom see in Manila. They were blessed that we stayed next door to the Lorenzos. They simply clicked with the six Lorenzo kids with whom they played bahay kubo and would run up to the formerís giant tree house.

911 Bukidnon Style

On the day of our departure, Donny had an infection because of a nose wound he already had when we arrived and which he kept on scratching. At 4 a.m., Anthony sensed the need to have him checked. One call and an ambulance was in our driveway ready to take him to the DM "in-house hospital" for its employees. Donny was given special care by the resident doctor who immediately put him on antibiotics to stop the infection from spreading. It was a timely and critical move, as Donny had to be confined upon arrival in Manila for another two days. Hats off to 911, Bukidnon style!

Thanksgiving

If I would sum up our trip in Bukidnon, the words relationship and thanksgiving come to mind. Not only were we, as a family, able to connect with the people of Bukidnon and Del Monte, we also had memorable bonding times as a family, as a couple and as individuals (Anthony and I had our own moments of contemplation and meditation). It was truly a treat weíll never forget. Thank you all for making our visit to Cagayan de Oro a dream come true!


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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