Jun Medrano grew up in a small town in La Paz, Tarlac (140 kms from Metro Manila), in whose brooks he would play with friends as a child. After he graduated from high school, he went with his uncle to Angeles, Pampanga to look for work. “Sa hirap ng buhay, walang ibang choice,” he explains. There, he worked as a machinist. The same job brought him to Baguio City in 1987. It was where he met his future wife, Gloria, who hails from Pangasinan.
That is just the beginning of Medrano’s story as an entrepreneur who, as a returning OFW (overseas Filipino worker), spent his hard-earned pesos into what was to become an affordable yet comfortable destination for travelers to Baguio City.
Building the business
In 1992, with an eye on saving up for the future, Medrano went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to work as a machinist. There, he labored under the hot desert sun until 1994. After he came home, Jun and Gloria wed, and decided to build a life in Baguio.
With capital of P30,000, they bought 10 kabans (a kaban is roughly equivalent to a sack) of rice to sell at the Baguio City public market. They rented a stall at the Rice Section whose rights were owned by Gloria’s mother, with a special arrangement: “Kung meron, bibigyan namin siya; kung wala, wala. (If we had some earnings, then we would give her some of it; if not, she let us be.)”
In 1995, they expanded to two stalls and also began selling eggs, starting with just six trays. In 1999, they bought store rights from Gloria’s brother, also in the public market. “Nandoon talaga kami sa mga puwesto namin, mula 6 a.m. hanggang 8 p.m., seven days a week. Araw-araw, walang pahinga. Tulungan kami ni misis.”
By then, they were dealing in large volumes that they no longer had to go through agents, but dealt with rice and egg dealers directly. In 1999, the Medranos became members of the Baguio Market Plaza Multi-Purpose Cooperative. They were granted loans from P50,000 until later, up to P500,000 to help the rice and egg business.
In 2003, the Medranos were looking to buy a house and lot in a residential area of Baguio, for which they had set aside P2.7 million. When a family friend, Liway Martonido, heard of this, she said: “Meron ka palang ganyang pera, bakit hindi ka magpatayo ng apartelle?” Martonido owns the long-established Brentwood Apartelle, near Teachers Camp, also in Baguio City.
Medrano entertained the idea, but did not jump at it. It took two months of thinking and discussing with his wife before they finally decided to enter a business they knew nothing about. “Wala naman kami talagang ganoon kalaking pera. Kailangan din namin mangutang.”
Much needed financing
Back in 1995, after they first got into business, Medrano opened savings and current accounts at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). When they decided to set their sights on the hospitality industry, they applied for a loan from DBP. To Medrano’s surprise, they were granted a term loan for P7 million. They combined this with money from several sources, and invested a total of P11 million to build Medrano’s Apartelle.
The inn opened in March 2004 with 29 bedrooms that can accommodate anywhere from 80 to 100 persons. There are units ranging from 1-bedroom to 4-bedroom, equipped with common dining area, a furnished kitchen, refrigerator, and cable TV. Only the 1-bedroom unit doesn’t have a cooking area. Rates range from P1,500 to P3,500.
Martonido helped them put a system in place. A niece of Gloria who has experience in the industry is the apartelle’s manager. When they first opened, it was a family affair with relatives and in-laws pitching in to help. Now, they have a staff of around 10.
Looking to the future
Comparing running the apartelle to his rice business, Medrano says: “Mas madali ang [magpatakbo ng] apartelle. Mas kaunti ang taong kausap mo, di gaya sa palengke na ang dami-dami sa araw-araw. Pero mas komportable pa rin ako sa market, kasi nakasanayan ko na ‘yun e.”
Medrano has not completely turned his back on his first profession. He has invested half a million pesos in a machine shop in Tarlac that opened in July 2009. It is being managed by his younger brother.
Medrano teaches his three children the value of a popular quoted Filipino saying: Ang di lumingon sa pinanggalingan, di makakarating sa paroroonan. “Sinasabi ko yun sa mga anak ko, na dati walang wala kami. Na hindi ako nakapagtapos ng college. Kaya mahalaga mahalaga na makatapos sila, mahalaga ang edukasyon.” Their aspirations are for their children to inherit the business someday, but also “ang gusto nga namin ay makapagtapos sila ng medicine. Madami kasi kaming mga kamag-anak na mahirap pa din. Para man lang makatulong sila, kahit sa pag-konsulta lang.”
After 15 years of being an entrepreneur, Medrano reveals the secrets to his success: “Importante talaga ang sipag at tiyaga, at disiplina.” His story can be an inspiration to other hardworking Filipinos everywhere.