Henry Sy

King of ‘Endo’

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By Miguel Raymundo

The country celebrates Labor Day this week to honor the working class. Sharing the labor front’s woes, OpinYon finds it fitting to tell how dishonored labor made Henry Sy the richest man in this country. This is the story of Ligaya Cruz.

As she walked past SM mall in Makati city, a bitter memory flashed through her mind.

Over a decade ago, Ligaya Cruz and other mall workers were brutally dispersed by the mall’s security guards aided by some baton-wielding policemen for picketing.

She later suffered a miscarriage.

Like their colleagues in other strike-plagued SM branches in Metro Manila then, they protested the so-called “555” – the insidious practice of mall owner, ethnic Chinese taipan Henry Sy, to renew workers’ contracts every five months or after so-called “end of contracts.”

Also referred to as “endo,” such scheme of hiring and firing workers has become alarming across many key industries, specifically in SM, the nation’s largest mall operator.

Ever shrewd that he is, Sy has been resorting to contractualization, obviously to skip labor laws which provide a six-month minimum contract to entitle the workers to certain monetary benefits, including leaves with pay, and the right to join unions.

In 2003 alone, SM employed 20,000 contract workers, the biggest on record by a single retail-based company. That number has since ballooned to over 30,000 now as the tycoon diversified his  money-spinning businesses — ranging from retail to property, banking and finance and tourism infrastructure.


Wealth Means Crime

The figures undoubtedly make Sy as the nation’s undisputed king of contractualization, lending credence to widely-held beliefs that for every great wealth, there’s a great crime behind.

Altogether, Sy –the nation’s richest businessman — personifies sheer capitalist greed coupled with a freeloading mindset, casting doubts on his often-told rags-to-riches story.

Not surprising why critics label Sy as the ethnic Chinese tycoon who built his mall empire on the blood and sweat of slave labor, particularly women.

More often than not and with impunity, their contracts are terminated without notice even during peak shopping seasons such as Christmas and school opening, thus the flurry of strikes hounding SM over the past years.

Job contractualization, which has turned the Philippines into a nation of cheap labor, began during the Marcos dictatorship of 1970s-mid-1980s when a decree was signed allowing companies to hire workers on contract for special work.


Tenure Versus Contractualization

Amid intense lobbying by profit-hungry business elites, the job contracting scheme has been institutionalized – and legalized — in the succeeding administrations as an integral part of the country’s Labor Code, allowing labor contracting and sub-contracting.

Despite the legal cover, contractualization is considered as labor’s greatest menace.

Paradoxically, while it fattens an employer’s income, it deprives those hired of job security, better pay, benefits and allowances and union rights.

After busting the militant employees’ union at SM in 2003, Sy has since banned labor activities across its malls and department stores. Any sign of union organizing effort among employees is immediately met with sanction or outright termination.


Amid rising restiveness in the labor sector, not a few lawmakers have proposed passage of House Bill 5110, or An Act Strengthening the Workers’ Security of Tenure. It noted that there are millions of skilled and talented Filipinos in the labor force today who don’t have regular jobs. They are forever trapped in the vicious cycle of grinding poverty.


Jobs Abroad

Daily, some 6,000 Filipinos leave at Manila’s ports to look for jobs abroad, no matter the slave-like working conditions awaiting them in foreign lands.

Attempts by labor leaders to muster political support for the bill fell on deaf ears.

Last year on the eve of Labor Day on May 1, they asked President Aquino to certify the long-stalled bill as urgent.

To their dismay, Aquino thumbed down the request, arguing that the bill—if approved – would pose more harm than good to his much-ballyhooed job-creation program.

“Companies might hesitate to hire because of certain provisions and therefore, deprive our workers of the opportunity to gain employment, “he argued.

To Aquino, he reckoned that should the bill become a law, only 1.8 million would benefit, while an estimated 10 million Filipinos could lose their jobs. His figures run counter to the faceless and countless multitudes of jobless Filipinos.


Aquino Pro-Capitalist

In reaction, labor leaders warned that as long as President Aquino sides with the capitalists at workers’ expense, this country will continue to wallow into the mire of poverty.

“Our already constrained wages have remained stagnated since Aquino came into power,” they said, adding that regular jobs have become very scarce.

Worse, the increase in contributions to the Social Security System and PhilHealth had added a financial burden to the lowly paid workers in the midst of surging poverty level.

Another adverse factor which could diminish the workers’ purchasing power is the impending hike in the price of liquefied petroleum gas and electricity and the transport fares of state-run Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit in Metro Manila.

“All these are detrimental to ordinary wage-earners as the government continues to sacrifice our welfare in the altar of corporate interests and has remained inutile to our most pressing concerns,” the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) said in a statement.


Political Will

Summing up, the militant labor group noted that “the past three and a half years have opened our eyes to the painful truth that the Aquino government is undeniably anti-worker to its very core.”

As contractualization persists, there’s no denying that overall, it only led to a sharp decline of the Filipino workers’ level of productivity, one of the lowest in the Asean region.

Added to a dehumanizing pay scale and the government’s neglect of their plight, no wonder why labor has increasingly turned to militancy, driving away potential investors.

This explains why job-creating foreign direct investments had shied away from the Philippines, not to mention its excessive tax rates, leading to a jobless economic growth.

These days, bureaucrats boast that the economy is one of Asia’s fastest-growing and yet inexplicably, jobs and other income-earning opportunities had become increasingly next to impossible to find.


The hard reality is that unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year.

The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent, the second-fastest after China’s, showing that the economic growth was not inclusive.

Three labor groups—Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Partido ng Manggagawa and Kilusang Mayo Uno — warned that “jobless economic growth” would continue unless the evil of contractualization is decisively addressed with political will.


The harder reality is, the likes of Henry Sy, mega-investors and rags-to-multi-billion American dollar wealthy, have taken control over government.They have the power to order Congress to craft laws intended to exploit labor and the natural wealth of the country.

Their likes can bend laws and corrupt people in the courts of justice and “rob” farmlands from poor peasants. Worst, they make even the President their puppet,while burying the Filipino in deeper poverty.


The Scourge of Labor

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Come May 1, the nation will mark Labor Day, but is it worth celebrating?

For as long as labor remains mired in a state of deprivation, no significance – either real or imagined – can be attached to what is supposed to be a day of tributes to the workers.

That the workers are exploited with impunity can hardly be disputed, given the rampant practice by big businesses such as SM of tycoon Henry Sy to resort to contractualization.

Bluntly, contractualization – other than the businesses’ subtle way to rake in more profits — appears to be the hidden cost underlying a struggling economy.

While providing relief to the ranks of the jobless, such measure is but only temporary, exposing indeed the government’s lack of long-term solutions to the nation’s job woes.

Broadly, the malpractice is not only revolting, but also immoral because it deprives workers of their human right to a life of respect and dignity.

Without any moment’s notice, those who entered into such lopsided arrangement can be terminated even in the absence of any justifiable cause.

How and why contractualization continued to thrive under the noses of labor officials defies logic.

The economy, as the government says, has been on a growth track over the past years, creating opportunities for employment.

And yet, based on official statistics, there’s still a growing number of Filipinos who are jobless.

It only buttressed the fact that while growth is welcome news, it can’t be equated by any stretch of imagination with the uplift of the workers’ quality of life. Understandably, we can’t find fault with those who opt to look for greener pastures abroad.

Desperation is just overwhelming, leaving them with no choice but to take their chances in faraway lands.

Capital Flight

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By Miguel Raymundo

NOT just ironic, but unpatriotic as well.

While the government has been hard put wooing foreigners to invest in the capital-starved Philippine economy, the country’s elites are doing the opposite—taking their money abroad. Mind boggling, the capital flight has gone unabated for decades, largely running to billions of pesos in foreign exchange which could have been used to create jobs in an impoverished nation.
Yet, the moneyed few had gone on a splurge as it were coming from a country where average daily wage is a paltry US$7-10 and poverty remains widespread. Based on the latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data, the few rich and famous took out nearly US$7 billion as of December 2012, a figure which has been rising over the past years. Meant for investments in the offshore capital market, the money found its way to the United States, China and other countries where returns are relatively higher than in the home front.

The Taipans

Equity-linked securities and other debt issues accounted for the bulk of the money placements by Filipinos abroad, many of them among the country’s richest such as ethnic Chinese taipans Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and John Gokongwei. The three tycoons, who all trace their roots to China, have sizeable investments in China, ranging from property to retail, banking and finance and manufacturing.

Capital flight is the movement of capital from a resource-scarce developing country to other countries due to political and economic reasons. Statistics showed that capital flight from the Philippines began in the 1970s at the height of martial law which amounted to US$16 billion, rising to US$36 billion in the 1980s, and US$43 billion in the 1990s. Undoubtedly, these figures are significant amounts of lost resources that could have been utilized in the country to generate additional economic output and jobs.

Contingency Measures

Based on some technical studies, capital flight from the Philippines followed a revolving door process–that is, capital inflows were used to finance the capital outflows. This process became more pronounced with government’s adoption of financial liberalization in the 1990s. Thus, it may be argued that capital flight resulted obliquely in the hollowing out of the Philippine economy.
Alarmed by a capital plight that has sapped the economy of its financial strength, the BSP has warned it would enforce “contingency measures” to stem the rising outflow of money. In times of uncertainty, the BSP has standby powers to provide foreign exchange liquidity through the spot and swap markets as well as hedging facilities and granting temporary and limited regulatory forbearance to banks. Under its legal mandate, the BSP may also opt to relax the banks’ access to rediscounting facilities, or tweak reserve requirements, among others.

Tough Task

Overall, the BSP wants to minimize the impact of capital outflows and ensure that liquidity remains adequate to fuel the economy’s requirements. In its analysis, French bank Credit Agricole says the BSP is faced with “a tough task of managing the ripple effects” of the US Federal Reserve’s decision to withdraw its economic stimulus. “We anticipate significant outflows of portfolio capital from the Philippines, which will reduce the availability of funding needed for growth,” it said. Capital flight currently experienced by emerging markets such as the Philippines is due to the US Federal Reserve’s impending tapering of its massive bond buying as the US economy gains traction. The adverse effects of the recent developments abroad have already been felt in the Philippines: The peso depreciated, the stock market wiped out gains, and spreads on Philippine debt widened.

Asset Bubbles

Analysts say these asset market effects are largely temporary and may be viewed as a healthy correction that may have helped defuse the risk of an actual build-up in financial imbalances. However, the bigger concern with capital flows is the “excessive volatility” that could easily impact business activities and even the financial system. The BSP’s strategy has been geared toward increasing the economy’s resilience against the risks posed by both capital inflows and outflows anchored on promoting non-inflationary growth and safeguarding financial stability. It is also keeping an eye on capital inflows in case they might form asset price bubbles. But more revealing are data in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Investments’ World Investment Report 2013 showing the extent of capital fleeing from the Philippines.


In 2012, a whopping US$1,845 million was shipped out of the country, the biggest outflow since 2008. It was more than the US$1,816 million invested by foreigners in the country the previous year. This was despite that the economy chalked up an impressive 6.8 growth rate that prompted foreign credit rating agencies to give the Philippines an investment grade rank. The 2012 capital outflow raised the Filipinos’ stock of investments abroad to a whopping US$9 billion, equivalent to 29 percent of foreign investments in the country. Against that backdrop, one can’t avoid but speculate: Is the Philippines’ elite expecting a political or economic upheaval in the remaining two and a half years of President Aquino? Apparently, they feel that parking their funds abroad is safer than in their own country. Analysts recall two instances in recent history when Filipinos’ capital investments abroad breached the US$1 billion mark. In 1984, the Philippines suffered its worst political and economic crisis sparked by the global debt crisis and the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino in August of the previous year. There was also a US$579 million blip in 2004 due to the economic elite’s worry that the jailed Joseph Estrada’s proxy, Fernando Poe, Jr., would win the presidential elections that year.


The second was in 2007 when the Asian financial crisis set in, leading to an exodus of capital from the Philippines.
The UNCTAD data also show that while foreign direct investments (FDI) into the Philippines increased to US$2.8 billion in 2012 from US$1.8 billion the previous year, the country lags far behind its Asean neighbors. In that year, Indonesia got $20 billion; Malaysia, $10.1 billion; and Thailand, $8.6 billion. The Philippines’ key rival now as a preferred investment site is Myanmar which nearly had the same FDIs as the Philippines’ US$2.2 billion in 2012. Based on the UNCTAD’s survey of 159 global companies, the Philippines in 2012 was ranked 19th attractive site for investments, way below Indonesia, which is ranked 4th; Thailand, 8th; and Vietnam, 11th. After over three years of Aquino’s daang matuwid rhetoric, the Philippines finds itself sinking deeper in a financial quagmire exacerbated by political uncertainties in the years ahead.


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By Al Labita

NOTHING to crow about the Aquino government’s self-serving claim that under its watch, the economy has expanded at a rate faster than what its officials could imagine.

Reckoned with realities, however, the growth only perpetuated the perennial rich-poor gap, one of the world’s worst, despite Aquino’s much-ballyhooed reform agenda.

While statistics only tell half a story, they nonetheless betray the painful truths lurking behind a façade of lies and deceit.
The inclusive growth Aquino has been harping on has been largely inclusive only among the few moneyed elite to the exclusion of the vast majority – the poor.

As the economy grows, it also exponentially drives up the wealth of those in command and control of the lives of Filipinos.
The figures are grim — only 40 families such as the Ayalas, Sys and Tans account for nearly 80 percent of the economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), an OpinYon’s research shows.

In stark contrast, some Asian neighbors had managed to whittle down the rich-poor ratio as they gained headway in democratizing their economy over the past decades.

In Thailand, the same number of families account for only 33.7 per cent of the economy and in Malaysia, 5.6 per cent, indicating how the Philippines has lagged behind in addressing the urgency to spread out the nation’s wealth.

Ironically, the glaring disparity vis-à-vis sharing a nation’s wealth explains why the Philippines has more billionaires (in US dollar) than in more prosperous Thailand and Malaysia.


They are the same people who take advantage of lucrative contracts, including profit guarantees and tariff increases, under the government’s Public-Private Partnership program (PPP), Aquino’s centerpiece in pushing infrastructure projects.
“The regime has consistently favored the few billionaires while further marginalizing the poor. Aquino now wants to enrich them even more by giving them various perks for the PPP projects,” says the militant Bayan Muna in a statement.
Based on the account of US-based magazine Forbes, the combined net worth of the Philippines’ 50 richest totaled US$65.8 billion in 2012, more than a quarter of the nation’s GDP.

Mostly of Chinese origin, these families own companies which have grown—aided largely by generous government incentives—to become conglomerates with shares traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange and in some cases offshore, notably in cash-rich Hong Kong and Singapore.

Millionaires to Billionaires

Their vast and diverse corporate tentacles extend far and wide, catering to the lives of Filipinos, literally from womb to tomb, leaving them with no choice but to enslave themselves under the weight of an oppressive western-style economic system.
As shown in the list of Singapore-based UBS Billionaires Census 2013, the Philippines ranked 9th in Asia, with 13 billionaires with a combined net worth of US$35 billion.

In 10th place was Malaysia with 10 billionaires worth a combined US$37 billion, while Thailand ranked 11th with 10 billionaires worth US$25 billion.

As usual, ethnic Chinese taipans Henry Sy and Lucio Tan topped the list of the Philippines’ mega rich whose ranks had swelled as more of their kind continued to amass wealth at the expense of those marginalized by the government’s pro-rich, anti-poor economic policies.

Sy, who operates shopping malls, saw his assets surge 44 percent to US$7.2 billion in 2012 alone and remains the Philippines’ richest man.

Doubtful Data

According to the Forbes 2012 annual rich list, Sy and Tan whose businesses range from retail to property and other related ventures were worth a combined US$13.6 billion, equivalent to six per cent of the Philippine economy.
While GDP has undoubtedly risen over the past years, every Filipino’s share of it is unfortunately the lowest among Asean countries.

Based on the latest data of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Philippines’ per capita GDP) stood at only US$4,339 in 2012 compared with Singapore, $61,461; – Malaysia, $16,976; Thailand, $9,609; and – Indonesia. $4,971.
GDP is the amount of goods and services produced, while per capita is derived from dividing the population in relation to GDP.
While seemingly doubtful, the NSCB data hardly reconcile with Aquino government’s oft-repeated claims that GDP last year expanded by 6.8 percent and even bragged that it outpaced Singapore’s 1.3 percent, Malaysia’s 5.6 percent, Thailand’s 6.5 percent and Indonesia’s 6.2 percent.

Yet, the Philippines’ per capital GDP has been the lowest–and slowest—among its peer group since 2005 despite official claims that it is Asia’s fastest-growing economy.

Poverty Level

In what could be an indicator of the country’s ever-widening rich-poor gap, NSCB data also showed that high-income households accounted for more than half, or 60 percent, of the GDP.

The balance of 40 percent of the economy’s income was shared by the bulk, or about 84 percent, of the country’s population.
To be poor meant earning less than 16,800 pesos a year or P1, 400 a month or P47 pesos a day which covers 26.5 per cent of the nearly 100 million Filipinos.

As gleaned from the official poverty data of NSCB, the proportion of poor Filipinos to the total population has been surging from 24.9 per cent in 2003 to 26.4 per cent in 2006, and 26.5 per cent in 2009, an issue Aquino promised to address under his “Daang Matuwid” program of government.

Inclusive Growth?

The Philippines has one of the highest poverty rates among emerging Asian economies. The poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent as of the first semester of 2012, almost unchanged from the 28.6 percent in 2009.

Aware of the magnitude of the problem, the government wants to bring down poverty incidence to 16.6 percent by 2015, an ambitious target difficult to achieve as the rich get richer and the poor poorer, given the economy’s bias for the affluent and the powerful.

In more ways than one, the economy is basically lopsided in structure allowing the oligarchs to gain too much control of the country’s resources and creating one of the worst income inequalities in Asia.

One wonders whatever happened to Aquino’s oft-repeated term “inclusive growth” which seeks to create jobs and reduce poverty by spreading the economy’s gains to trickle down to lower-income segments of society.

More importantly, the rich-poor disparity also draws attention to Aquino’s anti-poverty conditional cash transfer program which has a budget of more than P40 billion this year.

Capitalist vs. Socialist System

The program seeks to see 15 million of the nation’s poorest people receive money directly in exchange for their kids going to school and mothers and children getting proper healthcare.

In releasing its data, NSCB risked incurring anew the ire of Aquino who once bawled out the agency’s officials for portraying the economy in bad light contrary to his government’s rosy picture.

Sign of compassion for the disadvantaged sector of society may be gleaned from how the tycoons responded to the clamor for aid of the hapless typhoon victims in the Eastern Visayas region.

While some, particularly Sy and Tan, handed out P100 million each, others were hardly in the news, apparently opting to work behind the scene with less fanfare.

Billionaire port king Enrique Razon  deployed heavy equipment to repair the damaged piers in Tacloban city and Leyte, while the Ayalas and banker George Ty chipped in P10 million and P50 million, respectively, worth of relief supplies.

The cost of putting the typhoon-ravaged Eastern Visayas region back on its feet amounts to a whopping P250 billion, a window of opportunity for the tycoons to share their wealth with those they derived their profits from.

Overall, while there is evidence of progress in addressing the yawning rich-poor gap, it is too slow. One study says it would take dozens of decade for the bottom millions of the nation’s population to achieve 10 per cent of the national income under the current rate of change.

Similarly, it raises questions about the Philippines’ pro-capitalist economic model vis-à-vis the egalitarian-oriented socialist type.

LYDIA DE ROCA : From Sidewalk Peddler to Millionaire

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LYDIA’S Lechon is a household name here in the Philippines, But not many people know that its entrepreneur Lydia de Roca started her business by selling lechon in a small stall in Baclaran market.

In the late 60s, the family-owned lechon store—known as “Mang Turing and Aling Ingga’s Native Lechon”, was doing good business with a modest store located at the Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Baclaran. Lydia, helped out in the said store.

Benigno and Lydia de Roca

In 1969, after some courtship, Benigno de Roca (a son of another lechon business owner) and Lydia got married. The happy couple had a joyous occasion after their wedding and with PhP500 started their own lechon busiess–Lydia’s Lechon. In a television interview, Lydia related how she used to go with her father, who was a butcher, and how she started selling lechon in Baclaran at the age of 12. “Ito ang naituro sa akin ng tatay ko noong araw, hanggang sa nagtinda ako ng lechon. Twelve years old ako sa bangketa ng Baclaran,” she said. “Yung P500 na yon binibigay ko na sa tatay ko. Pinambili ko na ng baboy niya… Marami yun, P20 lang nun ang baboy eh,” she said. Aside from pigs, she used the money to buy charcoal and sauce for the lechon.

Hard Work

At that time, Benigno was a jeepney and bus driver, so they had to work hard to support their children. “Mahirap ang buhay namin. Pero nagtiyaga kami talaga. Pinagsumikapan namin… Naranasan ko pa yung bahay na nakatuntong sa ilog… Yun ang unang-unang inupahan ko, diyan sa may Tambo sa Paranaque, P35 ang upa sa isang buwan,” she said. Customer’s would flock to Lydia’s Lechon to sample the good food sold there. A big break for the couple’s business came along when one day when executives from the Hyatt Regency Hotel came along to buy some Lydia’s Lechon specialties. From that simple visit came daily lechon orders from the hotel.
“Maski nga di ko kinakaya kinakaya ko eh. Hindi pwedeng mahina ang loob mo. Sasabihin mo, ay ano kaya ang gagawin ko? Tatanggapin ko kaya? Mahirap kaya ito? Kaya ko kaya ito? Ako palaging yes,” she said.

The fame and praise for Lydia’s Lechon spread by word of mouth to many prospective clients, including other hotels and restaurants, and food caterers.

In the 1970′s, the Lydia’s Lechon boneless with paella recipe got the first prize in a competition for local chefs and it soon became one of the specialties of restaurant. It was a boost for the de Roca couple’s business.

One-Table Restaurant

After selling lechon from the market for 22 years, de Roca finally opened a restaurant–with a single table–along Roxas Boulevard in 1986.

“Talagang restaurant ang target ko. Kaya lang wala akong kapital pa eh. Hindi ko rin magagawang restaurant. Pero trying hard ako na maging restaurant, kaya naglagay ako ng isang lamesa at isang silya,” she recounted. Soon customers started coming to her restaurant and one of her frequent customers was mall tycoon Henry Sy, Sr., who always had lunch there on Sundays. “Nagkakwentuhan kami tapos meron daw siyang SM Food Court baka raw gusto kong magtayo ng ano… Sabi ko, oho gusto ko,” she said.

Lydia de Roca lechon

In April of 1989 the first branch of Lydia’s Lechon outside of the southern part of Metro Manila , in Timog Avenue, Quezon City was established. This was followed by other stores on the eastern part of the Metro. From there, fast food outlets of Lydia’s Lechon mushroomed within the popular malls of the metropolis. Although originally intended to be a close family corporation, the first franchise of Lydia’s Lechon was sold in 2005 for a fast food and retail outlet at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. Today, they are known as the biggest chain of lechon outlets in the country. Presently, there are 21 branches of Lydia’s Lechon located in the Greater Manila area and Cavite.

Hands On

Now, Lydia’s Lechon has some 15 branches in SM Food Courts, which account for some Php30,000 in daily sales.
The couple is now the proud owner of a 1,500 square-meter property in Baclaran, with a mansion and several luxury cars. It also houses the restaurant’s commissary and roasting area.

lydias lechon

The De Roca couple also have their own piggery in an 8-hectare property in Malvar, Batangas where they raise 800-1,000 pigs.
In 2011, De Roca was awarded by Go Negosyo as one of the most outstanding women entrepreneurs of the Philippines.
Despite her success, De Roca remains humble and thankful that her four children—who have all graduated from college—are not spoiled and have helped the business flourish.

“Seven years old pa lang sila dinadala ko sila sa bangketa, kaya ang pangaral ko sa kanila eh sinusunod naman nila ngayon,” she said.
Up to now, De Roca still wields a knife and deftly chops up a lechon at the restaurant.

“Dito nag-simula ang swerte ko sa buhay. Kung sa tingin mo di ako marunong mag-tadtad ng lechon, umasenso kaya ako,” she said.
The smallest lechon sells for PhP6,500, and the capital for each one is in the neighborhood of PhP3,000. Lydia’s Lechon is also famous for its signature sauce made using a special recipe, de Roca said, noting this is still something none of her employees know about. Lydia has kept her lechon naturally simple but with no short cuts. It’s slowly cooked for two hours over charcoal and flavored only with tanglad, pandan, and murang sibuyas.