Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 17, 2010) — IN EXPLORING CEBU CITY, ONE ENCOUNTERS a rich historic past, as well as a bustling metropolis, which serves as a focal point of growth and development in Southern Philippines.

Many national and global businesses have had their beginnings in Cebu, as we can see from the diverse businesses of the Aldeguer brothers, which range from tourism to fashion to sports. Here, Jay Aldeguer, president of the Islands Group; Michael Aldeguer, president of ALA Gym Promotions; and, Chris Aldeguer, president of the Loalde Group share with us their thoughts on booming Cebu and the spirit of entrepreneurship it inspires. This is their Cebu. This is their SM.

Many families who are into business usually focus on the one started by their fathers, but you have chosen to take different paths and have been successful in each of them. What inspired you to do so?

Jay: I started engaging in business during my college days in Ateneo when I would go around selling T-shirts and other stuff to my classmates to augment my allowance.

Right after college, I started backpacking around Europe and collected T-shirts and other mementos from the different places I would visit. I decided to do the same thing when I arrived back in the Philippines, but discovered that there weren’t many attractive souvenir items.

This served as an inspiration to put up a souvenir store to provide practical and fun souvenirs for both local and foreign tourists. Just a few months after thinking of the concept, I set up shop in Cebu with the Islands Souvenirs brand.

Now, the Islands Souvenirs Group is composed of different divisions—retail, adventure, design and media. The Retail Division carries the Islands Souvenirs, Pasalubong Center, and the new Islands and More brands.

Michael: I got into boxing through my father, Antonio, who is a boxing enthusiast. We started our training gym ALA Gym in 1984 and the promotions company, ALA Promotions in 1990. Here, we train and develop young boxers, some of the most famous of which are AJ Banal, Ray “Boom-Boom” Bautista and Z Gorres, who had to retire recently because of his injury.

We also do promotions and tie-ups with international promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy promotions for international events.

I also dabble in the garments industry with our Bisaya Ispisyal products, which have been carried in SM for quite sometime.

Chris: My parents, Antonio and Lou Aldeguer, have been in the garment business for the last 30 plus years. Loalde started as a production and manufacturing company, but as the retail industry boomed in the Philippines, we were able to adapt to the change and we now have 12 stores.

When we were growing up, we were exposed to the garment industry, so it was very natural for myself to manage such a business.
Why do you think Cebu has such a vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship?

Jay: The business environment in Cebu makes Cebuanos very forward-looking and bullish. I would consider Cebuanos visionaries, well-balanced and very well-grounded. We are also very resilient, as the past years have shown.

Michael: Cebu is the 8th most progressive city in Asia, and a lot of investors are coming in because of its potential.

Chris: Cebuanos are very talented, have good instincts and entrepreneurial skills. Being around this environment has inspired me to be more innovative and aggressive with new ideas, especially in the retail and fashion business.

What do you love most about Cebu?

Jay: It is very hard to leave Cebu, it is only there where you can have a progressive city life with the charm of the province. Here, you can do your business in the metro, and after a tiring day, drive within minutes to where the beaches and the mountains are. I particularly love Bantayan Island and Malapascua.

I also love the food here as well, especially the barbecue and the puso.

Michael: Cebu has both urban and rural settings—it has everything in one place. I like the versatile lifestyle here—you can be in the beaches in 30 minutes, then if you want to go malling, you can be there in another 30 minutes.

I also like Cebu’s mangoes and barbecues.

Chris: I love the beaches, which I consider the major attractions in Cebu.

What do you love about SM?

Jay: SM has made the Cebu business landscape even more exciting, providing us with a new place to do business in. In our store’s third year, Henry Sy loved the concept and immediately installed Islands Souvenirs stores in SM’s Manila mall.

I love going to SM to attend events, shop at ACE Hardware and take my kids to the movies.

Michael: SM has helped the Cebu economy, and our company as well. We have promotional tie-ups with SM City Cebu for our boxing matches, which have brought the sport closer to the people. We have done our awareness programs by doing public workouts, where boxers train, as well as the weigh ins in SM for the past three years.

We also had a recent tie-up with Smart and Manny Pangilinan for the Bakbakan sa Sinulog last Jan. 14 at SM.

Chris: SM has played a very significant role in our business, and most of our stores are located at SM malls nationwide. We have Loalde stores in SM supermalls in Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Davao in the Vismin area, as well as stores in SM City North EDSA and SM City Fairview in Metro Manila.

More than that, it’s a great place to shop, eat, and have fun with the family.