By Monsi A. Serrano
Not everyone knows the story of Mekeni. But certainly everybody knows and has tried the delicious Mekeni products.
Their 91 years old founder Tatay Felix Garcia who remains sharp and witty would always say, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”, a verse taken from the Holy Scriptures in the Book of Proverbs.
In my personal close encounter with Tatay Felix, every time I talk to him, he made me realize a lot of things and learned so much from our conversation. And every time he joyfully recalls on how Mekeni started, he would always highlight the simple reason known to the community why they started and continued the business even if it was time to throw the towel because there was a good and valid reason to do so.
The reason was, they want to help their community in midst of catastrophe.
In 1991, the dormant Mt. Pinatubo suddenly erupted and wreaked havoc in the various towns of Pampanga, and one of them was Porac, Pampanga, where MEKENI comes from. It was almost wiped out from the Philippine map because of the unimaginable devastation it has caused to the province..
It was inauspicious to provide job opportunities to the community or continue a business considering in the lahar-stricken town, because it was dubbed as ghost town by those who passed by the area, and everyone’s mind then was to be able to survive from their community’s greatest challenge.
But hopes springs eternal. As both Tatay Felix and Imang Meding Garcia realized that in their own little way, they would be able to give hope by beings catalysts and light to the community during their bleakest and duskiest moment of their lives. They become flickers that started the light and hope to their community in barrio Balubad, Porac, Pampanga as they were able to rebuild their community together with those who believed in them and their vision and transformed them to a vibrant community that it is today.
That was the story more than 30 years ago, and their goodness and mission is being perpetuated by their children and grandchildren.
MEKENI is known and recognized as a Filipino family-oriented company that offered job opportunities to the community and to the nation as they expand their business through distributors, dealers and other channels.
True to their commitment,MEKENI lives up to the very meaning of their name, literally and figuratively by being open and welcoming to both challenges and opportunities. Because they chose GOD to be the head of their business and their faith to their people make challenges easier to handle, and opportunities faster to nourish.
This is what makes MEKENI successful, they value their people and their contributions; showing them that they and their family are always part of MEKENI. In the same way, this is why the employees are happy to stay on, because they are all treated as valuable assets of the company.
Passing on the torch
While Tatay Felix is still very sharp and strong, playing “dama” or “checkers”, exercising in his stationary bike, and even strolling around with his children, children-in-laws and grand children, he let his children decide to continue what he and the late Imang Meding started, because he believed that they continue to live what they taught them, that they will not depart from how he trained them.
Now, the Garcia Brothers have their respective roles in MEKENI Food Corporation and there is no sibling rivalry because everyone gets same salary and share. When there are decisions made, even if others may have reservations, they all respect and agreed to what the majority has decided.
Currently, the President of MEKENI is Pruds Garcia who gladly shared the rollercoaster rise that MEKENI had to endure.
“As MEKENI was slowly taking our feet off the ground away from the wrath of Pinatubo, another set of challenges came to us, and these were the outbreak of “foot-and-mouth-disease” (FMD) and the 1997 Asian financial crisis.” the President of MEKENI said.
“This almost led to the closure of MEKENI. It was a big blow that seems endless. So we called all the people opened up to them and honestly relayed them that we are in a crisis. But the Bayanihan spirit prevailed and everyone committed to continue what we started amidst the crisis” Pruds continued.
“If one would experience this kind of trial in life and in business, it would be just normal to feel weary and eventually throw in the towel. But that was not the case with our family. We courageously accepted the challenge armed with their strong faith in God and coupled with consolidated action plans to bounce back again together with our community and move further to where we want to go,” Pruds said in closing.
Now MEKENI takes pride in continually providing employment, community service, quality products, exploring every opportunity that comes along in both local and international market. Because of this, MEKENI is proud to share to its valuable customers and to the country the honor of receiving awards from Europe being the first and only meat processing company in the Philippines to be awarded with International Quality Award Platinum (2013) and Gold (2012) Category in Frankfurt Germany and Geneva, Switzerland, respectively.
While there are so many honors and awards to mention, MEKENI President Pruds Garcia said, “MEKENI would not be successful without our parents’ vision and constant guidance. Wherever we are now is something we attribute from the legacy that was initiated by our parents. Indeed, we are privileged to have them as their parents and we will continue the legacy they started!”
From these various international and national awards and recognitions, it paved way for MEKENI to diversify by gallantly and successfully entering the Japan market by supplying pickled ginger from the Philippines. Japan, known for its stringent process in approving foods going inside Japan was impressed with MEKENI. With that Pruds said, “I am very bullish that with the entry of MEKENI’s pickled ginger in Japan, it would pave way for us to bring in their processed meat products and cater not only in the thousand Filipinos living in Japan, but also to the Japanese market as well.”
“We are very grateful to God for continually providing us with the opportunities and giving us the right people to support us. Indeed, only God can turn the ash into cash! But it is definitely not served in a silver platter for He also expects me and everyone in MEKENI to give his or her share to make MEKENI remain as not only provider of food, but to continue to inspire other people. There is always hope when we have faith in God, in ourselves and in the people who work with us because we believe that well-intended contribution of idea, support, sincerity and honesty would yield something positive for the growth and development of MEKENI”, Pruds gladly explained.
“We Filipinos are very steadfast, and there is no reason why others who are now aspiring to have their own business and eventually succeed. At MEKENI Foods Corporation, we have one compelling belief, that is, ‘We all learn from yesterday, but must live for today, and still hope for a better tomorrow'” the MEKENI Boss added.
“In short, the important thing is not to stop hoping and dreaming. When that opportunity to have the business comes, let God be the center of your business and in everything that you do. Then you will be amazed how He will reward you from turning the ash into cash. Because for every crisis, there is opportunity underneath it. All you have to do find it and make things happen better than before, better than others and not but not the least, for the betterment of other people’s lives. We take good care of our people, and this how we started, this is how it is today and in the years to come. As the saying goes, “If you want to get honey, do not kick the beehive”, Pruds said in closing.
To date, MEKENI’s founder and Garcia patriarch, Felix M. Garcia and the Garcia brothers Adrian, Pruds, Lito, Doods and Nards of MEKENI, continue to work happily and harmoniously together to immortalize the legacy of their parents and to always seek more opportunities that would provide more employment and sustenance to the every Filipino across the world; and to inspire people that persistence pays no matter how little the effort is or when the situation seems to be hopeless could still be turned into a glorious success with the help of GOD and the people who work with you.
When asked for the last time to describe in one line what makes MEKENI a successful company that is now, Pruds said with a smile, “Keep the FAITH!!