When Corazon Dayro-Ong turned 60 in 2004, her son Jerome Ong, then 37, was anointed president of CDO Foodsphere, an enterprise she started in their living room. He knew he had big shoes to fill. He saw the many sacrifices his mother and his father Jose had to make to grow the business and nurture it to become one of the nation’s leading processed food manufacturers. He never assumed he had a birth right to the company, that either he or his siblings Charmaine and Jason could just take over and be derisively referred to as COO (child of owner). “We had to prove to ourselves and to our parents that we could be their best option,“ he said. Competition in food manufacturing has always been fierce and Jerome’s challenge was for CDO to slug it out with industry giants. Corazon first sold siopao (meat-filled buns) and tocino (cured meats) as a hobby. She had quit her job as a dietitian and hospital nutritionist to become a full-time mom to care for Jerome and his sister Charmaine. But as the kids grew, Corazon found time to enrol in short food-processing courses at the now-defunct National Cottage Industry Development Authority. By the mid-1970s, she started peddling her products to her neighbors and friends – fellow hospital nutritionists. Later, she would be supplying the hospitals themselves. But two tragedies would spark the enterprise. One was an accident with a meat grinder that left her husband partially handicapped, thus forcing him to quit his professional job at Ateneo de Manila University. Then a fire razed their home in 1987. “It was a turning point in the business when the factory burned down. We had virtually nothing, no other business,” Jerome narrates. But his parents lost no time lamenting their loss and in two days, their home factory was up and running again. It was his father who thought of building a separate plant, one that...
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