[Photo shows Pres. Joseph “Erap” Estrada with Delfin Alcoriza when the latter visited the former President in his Tanay home sometime in 2006.]
In the late 80s and through the early 90s, my friend Delfin Alcoriza intensified his drive to make the business entity which he organized as a livestock distribution concern, operating under the name DEALCO FARMS INCORPORATED into a market leader. The business name DEALCO was an acronym for Delfin’s first and last names, actually, the first 2 letters of his first name and the first 4 letters of his last name, DELFIN and ALCORIZA. I became Delfin’s friend when I got employed with the World Bank-financed Tondo Foreshore Development Project in 1974. Eventually, Delfin became my kumpadre as he stood as godfather to my youngest daughter Alee, in 1999.
Prior to this trailblazing feat, Delfin organized and put up the first meat retailing business via a chain of shops that did away with the mud and dirt which usually are de rigueur in wet markets in the metropolis. Those air-conditioned meat shops which DEALCO pioneeringly introduced, operated under the business name NORA A’s MEAT SHOP. Those meat shops were actually named after Delfin’s comely and gracious wife, Nora Alcoriza. The store’s name carried some kind of an appeal nay, an allure, as it sort of intimated that the popular Philippine cinema’s Superstar then, named NORA AUNOR was behind the chain of these meat outlets.
Business fortune eventually shone in Delfin’s favor as a big and topnotch livestock enterprise in Australia which raises hordes of cattle awarded Delfin a very opportune arrangement known in business lingo as SELLER’S CREDIT. Delfin thus eventually became the number ONE (1) importer of cattle/ beef in the whole of the country and the number ONE (1) distributor of beef carcasses in the wet markets as well as in department stores in the metropolis.
It came to pass that DEALCO was virtually dominating the Australian cattle market. Thus, certain business interests in the Philippines who were also keen at availing of the attractive selling arrangements with the Australian firm have turned green in envy with DEALCO. Strangely, DEALCO’s import permits which previously flowed like a gush of river water turned into trickles. As it turned for the worse, the process to procure the import permits started to become as though a herculean task.
Looking back, Delfin neither acquired a college degree nor did he graduate from a high school education. But Delfin’s head is much filled with business acumen and pure sense of street-smart tack in earning money. Not only was Delfin smart in business, but that he also had splendid leadership skills which he started to evince at a very young age.
For the foregoing reasons, Delfin earned an amusing moniker and was eventually called by his childhood playmates most reverentially, as DELFIN ULO. The ULO moniker was practically a double entendre, as it had a dual meaning: Delfin Ulo was both business smart (i.e. “magaling ang ulo sa negosyo”- English translation: “possessed with brains for business”); and, also the leader of his gang of playmates and friends (i.e. “ang pangulo ng kanyang grupo” – English translation: “the head of his group”).
In the mid-1960s, the manager in a certain branch of a reputable bank of yesteryears in Divisoria got amazed to learn, as he was reviewing the accounts of the bank’s clients, that Delfin Ulo who was around NINE (9) years old then, had a credit balance of Php 7,000.00 in his account. During that time, as it is now, banks in the Philippines have started promoting the idea of bank accounts for kids, primarily to instill in the kids’ minds the great idea of SAVINGS.
Goaded by curiosity, the bank manager invited Delfin Ulo to a casual meeting in his office and from Delfin Ulo, the bank manager learned on how Delfin Ulo amassed the Php 7,000.00 bank deposit.
And Delfin recounted that with the connections of his mother who is a stall holder at the Divisoria wet market and his father who is butcher; Delfin was able to link up with transporters of livestock particularly cattle and carabaos. And these transporters regularly bring in livestock from all over the archipelago to Manila through the North Harbor.
As the Tondo Foreshore area which adjoins the North Harbor was a virtual grazing land then, the cattle and carabao which have yet to be fattened, to insure a hefty profit for the transporters; could not all be accommodated in the cramped feedlot of the nearby slaughterhouse facility.
Thus, Delfin organized a company of young teens, some of whom are even older than he was, mostly out of school youth, to take care of the cattle and carabaos for safekeeping and to bring them to pasture for daily grazing. The contracted fee between Delfin and the livestock transporters was about 25 centavos per day per cow/carabao. And from the fees, Delfin would share half of it among his troop of young pasturers.
During those days too, the fondness for hog entrails and pig’s blood was not then so keen, and Delfin using his charm as a cute and bright growing boy would be able to convince the co-market stall holders of his mom, Aling Maura, to part and give to Delfin gratis-et-amore, the pig’s blood and hog entrails. Actually, the entrails and pig’s blood are not expensive then, as they are being passed on, most of the times, as mere give-away by market vendors. But, whenever the stock of entrails and pig’s blood gets depleted, Delfin’s boys would then enjoy their heyday.
And Delfin’s gang of playmates who have no cattle to pasture would then be kept busy selling the hog’s entrails and pig’s blood at a makeshift stall in one of the nooks of the noisy and clattery marketplace or through a hawker’s handy hand cart along the street adjoining the market. And Delfin would share the proceeds among his playmates of off-time cattle pasturers and pig’s blood hawkers.
On top of these, Delfin financed the fabrication of shoe shine boxes which he distributed among his teen-friends so that one way or the other, these out-of-school teens would have the opportunity to eke out a living via shoe shining chores. And again, Delfin would have a share in the earnings.
During that time, Delfin was so well-loved by the community especially the parents of his gang of pasturers and hawkers, in their place in Tondo as not only Delfin was able to give a source of livelihood to his playmates but also of having kept them away from inimical vices.
It was in early 2000 when DEALCO felt the pinch of the trickling import permits until it was turned off as though a water spigot which was cut off from its supply line. The matter of the seeming persecution which DEALCO was experiencing then reached the ears of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and for over a week, a train of headline news got splashed all over the PDI ‘s front page and even spilling over unto the inside pages. The gist of the storyline suggested that a big business group allegedly wanted to slash down DEALCO’s market leadership.
As Delfin and my father-in-law, ANTEVA, which is an acronym for Antonio Evangelista (an acronym crafted by Anteva’s Ateneo High School Class of 1955 classmate, the creative Mr. Reli German) are friends too; Delfin sought Anteva’s succor.
Anteva thereafter sought an appointment with the hoi polloi’s well-loved leader and our nation’s President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who is also one of Anteva’s classmate in Ateneo High School. Thereafter, Anteva got notified by Pres. Erap’s social secretary that we will have an evening audience with Pres. Erap at the Boracay Mansion which is located in New Manila, Quezon City.
The meeting initial started as cold, starchy, solemn and decorous and afterwards, Pres. Erap started to ask questions from Delfin whom I sensed was somewhat nervous. Actually, Pres Erap did not relish the series of stories played up in the press. Indeed, Pres. Erap felt slighted by the PDI’s series which sort of talked about a supposed persecution of DEALCO. Pres. Erap felt that it has put his 2-year old administration which championed an advocacy for the liberation of the masses from poverty, in a bad light.
We, FOUR (4) of us, were all seated in a round table with glass topping, in a lanai which was fronting the swimming pool laced with powdery sand along its edges. Pres. Erap was seated to my left while Delfin was seated to my right. Anteva was seated close and adjacent to Pres. Erap (as Anteva would from time to time whisper something to Pres. Erap), who was seated in a high backrest chair to Anteva’s right. And from out of the blue, when Delfin revealed that he has been a cockfighting aficionado and a frequent habitué of the San Juan Cockfighting Arena, during Prez Erap’s mayorship, the conversation became a bit warm and amiable.
Thereafter, the conversation focused on a personality, also a cockfighting aficionado, who turned out to be a common friend of both Delfin and Pres. Erap. Pres. Erap said however that he has not seen the guy for a very long time up to that date of our Boracay Mansion meet. And when Pres. Erap, asked Delfin in the vernacular” “Nasaan na kaya yong taong yon Delfin?” [English translation: “Where is that guy now, Delfin?]
And this was how Delfin made a reply unto Pres. Erap, also in the vernacular: “Sa totoo po mahal na Pangulo, hindi ko na rin po alam kung saan napadpad yong taong iyon…pero ang nabalitaan ko po ay nalulong po siya sa pag-susugal, sa pag-iinom at sa pambabae po.” [English translation: “In all honesty, Mr. President Sir…I also do not know where that guy’s whereabouts now Sir…but what I learned Sir was that this guy got so obsessed in wining, gambling and womanizing Sir.”]
As Pres. Erap is known to be an oenophile, an avid mahjong enthusiast and a ladies’ man; wearing a mischievous smile on his face, Pres. Erap looked at Delfin straight into his eyes and said: “DELFIN, Pinatatamaan mo ba ako.” [English translation: “Delfin, are you taking a SWIPE at me?”]