Socorro Alejandro, A Family that "crafts" together... (August 19, 1998, Woman Today) by Linda de Leon


A lot of sociologists worldwide agree that the present decline in moral values and escalating number of children with problems may be attributed to weak family solidarity.  Despite which, Filipinos can be proud of a good number of families who are exemplars for both the country and the rest of the world.  We've got the famous Blanco family of Angono who excel in painting.  We also have families of doctors, lawyers, musicians and (11011 bytes)

    And here's one unique family doing the country proud - the Alejandros.  The family of seven, Corit and Benny; their children Patsy, Peggy, Meldy, Robert and Tina are behind the highly successful Papemelroti.  It's the twenty-two year old novelty shop that has become a household name synonymous with quality crafts.  It actually started as a small gift shop and then evolved into a novelty shop.

    But now, it has expanded its reach and collections, offering a wider and more exciting range of stuff from stationery, knickknacks, small furniture, decor mostly one-of-a-kind and handcrafted.  Mrs. Socorro Alejandro (Corit) is the driving force behind Papemelroti (taken from the first syllables of her children's names).   The lady from Cebu claims, "Business did not really cross my mind when I was in college.  I love the arts that's why I took up Architecture."

    A graduate of the Cebu Institute of Technology, Corit was determined to practice her profession when love walked in.  "Marriage to Benny brought me to different parts of the country where he was assigned.  When we came to Manila, I did not know anybody and I was compelled to stay at home.  Isa pa nga, the children were growing up, " confides the soft-spoken although bubbly entrepreneur.

    To keep herself busy, she recalls, "I started sewing the dresses of my children from the retasos, I would make stuffed toys."  Corit would then display them on the living room window and that started it all.   "Passers by would call and buy which encouraged me to continue.  At the start, I bought patterns, later, I made my own designs and my own patterns."

    Aside from stuffed toys, Corit started her own line of molded figurines made from clay and resin.  "My husband ordered molds as advertised in the crafts magazine.  I tried an when the first results came out, I was horrified - ang pangit, pangit talaga (they were really really ugly)," remarks Corit.  It did not stop her though she kept on experimenting.  Besides, there was a shop owner who got interested in her distorted figures and Corit adds, "In fact, she stopped buying when I did the figures correctly, kasi parang nawala ang character (it seemed like it the character got lost) , hindi na sila unique. (it ceased to be unique)"  Two decades ago, the clay figurines handcrafted by Corit were bought by store owners for only P2.50 per piece.  She notes, "One buyer resold them at P19.50 each and passed them off as made in Mexico."

    Also part of Corit's first heartaches was, "when my family was told to leave our house."  Looking back, she can now describe the incident as "a blessing in disguise because it made me and my husband resolve to get a house of our own."  The Alejandros built their first home, studio and showroom at Tomas Morato Avenue.  That's where Corit opened her boutique which people came to love as Korben Gift Shop and was well-known for its Mexican-styled pottery among other things.

    Up to now, Corit is amazed at what she and her family have achieved.   She explains, "We had no business background, I was shy and timid, I had no real capital to start with, I did most things instinctively."  But she knew what the market wants and in 1976, she summoned "all my strength with the help of my husband and children to open our first shop in a commercial center, Ali Mall.  Pero nandoon ako sa second floor (but we were in the 2nd floor) but the sales were good and so I was transferred to the ground floor."  Till now, she always requests for a ground floor space in any shopping mall.

    Corit only had her children to assist her initially, "my husband was working, he was with Procter and Gamble for eighteen years."  Today, with ten shops to cater to including one in Cebu, she has about a hundred workers plus the salesclerks.  "we have our subcontractors, aside from which, we have established our production house in Bulacan."  No matter what, she is not giving up her Roces avenue site which she describes as "My lucky charm" and now houses her main office/showroom.  Her next big dream is "to have a several story-high building in the same area."

    Success according to Corit is "having five children who do not give me headaches and a husband who understands me."  Each of her children (all UP graduates) have specific responsibilities.  Patsy (Interior Design) does most of the paperwork and designs the paper products; Peggy (Architecture) designs and at the same time, she takes care of the personnel; Meldy (Business Administration) takes care of the needs of the different outlets as in stocks, consistent service etc.; Robert has his own business (he designed Glico and Filipino Bookstore among others) although, he sets aside time to design for the family and Tina (Mass Comm) supervises the store's layout, display and she designs as well.

    According to Corit, coming out with new designs is a day-to-day task.  "I have little worry on that aspect because all my children are designing now, my husband who has a good eye for woodwork and carpentry handles the furniture."   Without hesitation, Corit attributes the total success of her entrepreneurship to the Lord who she says is "at the center of everything we do."  She is active with the Women for Christ group while her children are with the Ligaya ng Panginoon community.

    Papemelroti, Corit emphasizes, is a business venture but it is anchored on "love of God, love of family and love of country."  She adds, "Those ideals are reflected in all our products, we don't do anything that will go against those ideals."  For which reason, she dutifully pays her taxes even if others won't believe her or even give her suggestions as to how to circumvent the law.

    The gutsy entrepreneur merely shakes her head and quotes, "Work for the Lord.  The pay isn't much but the retirement plan is out of this world."


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