Overcoming the stigma of death

RENATO “Oly” Dychangco Jr., had second thoughts about taking over the family’s funeral home business.

Not that he wasn’t interested to help the family business grow. He said it was more of the stigma around death and its paraphernalia. Some people perceived working in this industry to be working in a grim environment.

“I was often teased by my classmates because of our business,” said Oly. He recalled a time he rode a hearse going to school.

Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes Inc. was established in Cebu in 1948 by Oly’s father, Renato Dychangco Sr.

According to Oly, the Dychangcos were already in the funeral business since 1914 led by his grandmother, Julita. They ran Punerarya Popular, which is based in Laguna.

The family, though, had difficulty continuing the business as some siblings of Oly’s father showed no interest in continuing it.

“My lola wanted to expand in Manila. That was her wish,” said Oly.

Of Julita’s 10 children, it was Oly’s father who continued the business. He came to Cebu in 1948 to start his own.

“I grew up in this business. I helped my father during summer breaks,” said Oly, adding that at that time, Cosmopolitan already had branches in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

When Oly’s father passed on the business to the second generation, he took up the challenge.

Today, Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes has 27 branches in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, General Santos, Tagum, Valencia (Bukidnon), and Iloilo.

Three years ago, the company returned to Manila. In partnership with Sta. Lucia Land, Cosmopolitan opened three branches located on Araneta Ave., Tandang Sora and Pasig.

“We went back, not to compete, but to realize my grandmother’s dream and continue the legacy,” he said.

Besides running a funeral home, Oly has also diversified the family’s business into eight subsidiaries in food, imports, manufacturing, wellness, interior design, training center and more.

“Reaching 70 years is no easy feat. I constantly remind my children to remain loyal to our promise, nurture the relationship with the clients and continue innovating,” he said.

Of Oly’s five children Kate, twins Sasa and Lala, Holly, and Crystel, it was the twins who took up courses related to the death care industry.

Sasa took up mortuary management dealing with makeup and embalming, among others. Lala, on the other hand, took up funeral management, which is the business side of the industry.

Oly is currently the president of the 400-member Philippine Mortuary Association.

What was your first job?

I finished a commerce degree in University of San Carlos. After college, I immediately went full-time in the family business. I helped my dad run it.

Who inspired you to get into business?

It was my parents’ hard work that motivated me to accept the challenge of continuing and taking care of the family business. Between me and my sibling, it was I who showed the interest to really run it. I saw how this business has given us the opportunity to provide the dearly departed with decent funeral services. Plus, this is an industry that also provides jobs.

When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?

My parents sent me to the United States for a five-month training, a continuing study on mortuary after college, and that’s where I saw a big difference between the industry there and here.

People who work in this kind of business in the US are respected in the community. They are proud of what they do. It is a dignified and respectable business. Unlike here, (because of the stigma) people tend to look down on you. Plus, the industry there does things the professional way. I wondered why couldn’t also do the same here.

So when I got back, I introduced to my parents the innovation I saw there and implemented them into our flagship branch, the one on Junquera St.

At first they were a bit hesitant. But when they saw how it has improved our services, they eventually entrusted to me the improvements of other branches. Using the businesses’ earnings, we initially bought air conditioned units for the chapel. We also made our office presentable. All these were favorably accepted by our clients.

It was the Nivel branch which benefited most from these new learning I got from the US. It was that time when my dad gave me the free hand to operate and implement improvements.

Why did you pick this type of business or industry?

Besides inheriting this business from my father, the death care industry will never die. This is one of the industries considered bullet-proof from any factors.

Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?

It was training in the US that inspired me to professionalize the business. I once told my dad that if we want to be a leader in this industry, we need to innovate.

We’ve also ventured into a mortuary learning center, Pacific Center for Advanced Studies that specializes in the mortuary profession. We aim to train more people and become professionals in this industry. Now, we have students from other countries who are eager to learn the global best practices in this industry.

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

Failures are always present in any endeavor. The most important thing to keep in mind is the purpose why we continue to be in business.

While my children also pursue their own individual interests, I constantly remind them to take care of the business that helped them grow. I told them to never neglect the business that feeds them otherwise, it will die.

Now we are in the process of completing our family constitution, especially that the business is now on its third generation. They say this is a crucial stage and while we cannot avoid all mistakes and conflicts, at least we have taken the steps.

I also remind my children, too, to always credit God for all these blessings. After all, we are only caretakers of the things we have.


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