Last August 1, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) padlocked the G7 Bank, a hi-flying, prominent chain of rural banks in Bicol owned by Fidel “Totoy” Cu. This heralded the final collapse of the bank which was experiencing liquidity problems for over three months already.
I had been amazed by the rise of the G7 Bank. When it was renamed I was not able to connect that it was the former Rural Bank of Nabua, Inc. (RNBI). From the time Totoy Cu bought its solitary branch in 1979 it grew to 7 branches with a deposit base of P3.4 billion. It was able to open a branch in Ortigas and Totoy Cu and the bank were receiving award after award. I thought G7 Bank was already on the way.
In the past years I was a regular visitor to Naga and I was able to watch how the Magsaysay Avenue nightstrip developed. Nobody questions that the queen of the strip is Avenue Square with its hotel and shops. Suddenly, the old benchmarks of Naga were swept away. Avenue Square looked modern in every sense. I can say that in comparing it to other cities’ developments it does not look provincial!
Yes, I thought Totoy Cu was already in the way. I thought, at last, here’s another local who is big and brave enough to do battle with Manila real estate investors. Just like Bigg’s in the food business who fought Jollibee in more than even terms and New South Star Drug who is giving Mercury Drug a run for its money.
Do i have a bone against Manila chains or investors? Only if they rake in profits and move it out of the region because if that happens no real self-sustaining progress will happen in the region. And that is my fear in the coming of ShoeMart (SM). Mercury Drug has already been in Bicol for the last 30 years. Jollibee and McDonald’s has been around for more than 15 years. The three might have served the consumers better but did it help develop the region?
I had been hoping that the Bicol Region can produce its own champions in the mold of Bigg’s, New South Star Drug, Co Say, Candano, the bus makers of Tabaco, LCC. There is no sense in just waiting for outsiders to come. It might just be like waiting for rain on a summer day.
Then G7 Bank collapsed. I am not sure if the jeering is warranted.
I had been all over the Philippines. In other regions, people identify with its champions. Cebu identifies with Gaisano, Cagayan de Oro identifies with Limketkai, Davao with NCCC, Zamboanga with its fish canneries, Bacolod with Ceres Bus, etc.
In Bicol I have heard a lot of negatives about some of its leading businesses. I am aware that at times the business practices of some is not exactly above reproach. But do we wish them unwell? They could be our engine of growth. As they say, in business, like in politics, there are no saints.