Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Cristina Chan Lo: Combining business with compassion

ALONG Escario St. in Cebu City, there’s a building that is being finished, with work resuming every time there is a window to have workers there during the various lockdowns implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is going to be a boutique hotel — Goldberry — and one wonders why it is being finished as soon as possible with the tourism industry being in the doldrums.

“The hospitality industry has been decimated not only in Cebu City but the entire world. Prior to the pandemic, (Goldberry) was supposed to be the third of eight hotels the Coast Pacific group had in store but the pandemic made us review our plans. Even with the limitations and restrictions, we are doing our best to finish the construction to help the economy, the government and, most especially, our team members. We are happy to be able to create jobs to be able to help more families. Hopefully, this will inspire more businessmen and entrepreneurs to reopen their businesses to help the economy run again,” shared Cristina Chan Lo of Coast Pacific Manufacturing Corp. (CPMC).

Cristina hails from Vigan and landed in Cebu in 1984 when her husband, Philip Lo, was assigned to Cebu to help manage his family’s Manila-based furniture export business. In 1992, he left the family business and the couple established CPMC, of which Cristina is vice president and chief executive officer. The company is engaged in varied businesses, among them furniture manufacturing, furniture and furnishing retail stores; hotels; real estate both leasing and property development; automotive dealership; motorcycle import and assembly; shipping lines; food chain franchises; ice plant and cold storage; flour milling; trading; and commercial hydroponics.

Cristina is a licensed civil engineer, although not practicing. She also earned her MBA units from the Woodbury University in California. These have guided her well in running CPMC operations.

“My learnings and early training ingrained in me have guided me well. I was able to apply what I learned from my engineering studies like evaluating, assessing and calculating risk. And my technical and structural know-how guided me in building good furniture as well as in dealing with engineers, architects and contractors in our own buildings and projects,” she said.

The companies she founded under CPMC did not come all at once. The majority came after her children’s graduation from college.

“The children were eager to take part and we, parents, supported with investments in different industries where we saw opportunities. Decisions made were based not only on profit but also on the number of jobs a business can generate and the contribution it makes to the community for its sustainability.”

Among the businesses her children are in charge of are Toyota Mabolo, of which son Joseph is vice president for business development and executive vice president; Joseph’s wife, Elaine Marie, is vice president for Goldberry Hotels and Resorts; lawyer Justine Andrew is vice president for Coast Pacific Group Real Properties; Danielle Marie is vice president for food chain and Coast Pacific Group; and Jennily Cembrano Lo is vice president for residential development and construction.

Asked how she copes with all the businesses under her, she replied: “We have very good people who work with us to establish, grow and make our businesses sustainable.

A workaholic, Cristina is also with Sky-1 Marketing Corp. of Vigan City since 1988, and has found time to be a member/officer of several organizations: Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, Philexport, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce, Sacred Heart Parish Ladies Association, Sacred Heart Center and Association of Phil-China Understanding, Cebu Chapter.

“I needed something to pull me out of my work. Attending organization meetings is a reason for me to leave my office, wear a different cap and have a new perspective and responsibility. It’s always a two-way street because I get to learn as we share the things we know. I also meet and enjoy working with people in different lines of business, industries and sectors. As for my civic and religious groups, I think this is a simple way of offering to the Almighty for all the goodness and blessing He showered us with. I think it’s also about time management. There‘s no time wasted. You gain knowledge and experience as well as friends. We just have to know how to appreciate and enjoy every moment of what we do.”

During the pandemic, most CPMC companies were open.

“Our food chains as well as the ice plant business, which are all essentials, were open at 30 to 50 percent operations. Our manufacturing companies were at 80 percent operations. We provided shuttle services to all our people and also housed those living outside the city. The hotels were also partially operating. We opted to open and operate just so that our employees will continue to have work. Before the lockdown, we made sure that our employees were provided for with sacks of rice, canned goods and basic commodities good for a month’s time. We never expected that the situation would be prolonged so, we again sent relief goods to augment what they have.”

And which of her businesses does she likes the most?

“The furniture business. Even though it is not the best or most profitable, and most certainly not the easiest, but it is where we started. It is our pioneer business where we learned our knowledge, skills, patience, creativeness and diplomacy with people from different walks of life, locally and around the world.”

“It is very rewarding especially when we see our products in different places such as prestigious hotels, resorts, public areas and homes. These are products of hard work crafted by Filipino hands. It makes us proud every time our pieces are noticed. This is the reward that makes our heart beat with pride,” she added.

Cristina Chan Lo, the Ilocana, has certainly made herself a home and a business conglomerate with compassion in the city of Cebu.


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