SOMETIMES change can have the biggest impact in the community like a redesigned crosswalk, established green parkway or bike lanes and parking, or a quiet street transformed into a brisk thoroughfare.
This was what businessman Rogaciano “Roger” L. Oropeza did.
He not only changed the horizons of Davao City but also restored the vitality of Claveria Street (now known as CM Avenue) in Davao City, which is now one of Davao City’s main Central Business Districts (CBDs).
His mantra “Ibalik ang sigla ng Claveria”, reinvented the street from being a lonely space into a vibrant place and made the old Claveria into one of the commercial hubs in Davao City— far from being almost a “ghost town” as most businesses were relocated to the malls and foot and vehicular traffic re-routed due to developments.
Oropeza together with his family started a “street revolution” that eventually saw the rise of ingenious concepts on two Davao City Investment and Promotions Center (DCIPC)-approved structures – the medical tourism-inspired OroDERM Clinic with its hotel arm the Blue Velvet Hotel; and OroDERM City Strip Mall, in the heart of Davao City.
Under Roger’s chairmanship, OroDERM Corporation expanded the homegrown beauty industry to major cities in the Philippines and fostered hundreds of employed individuals combined.
In the middle of 2005 and to prepare the pipeline for the company’s plans, Roger pursued the acquisition of a long foreclosed structure near a marketplace along A. Pichon St. in Davao City and converted it to the future OroDERM Hotel.
Roger and his family also acquired an 8,000 sqm. property in San Pedro, Laguna, and established a two-building cosmetic manufacturing facility that employed the locals. Initially, the cosmetic plant was planned to be set up in Davao City but due to numerous government licenses and regulations, it was decided to first set it up in Manila then expand it eventually in Davao City.
Several mall-based OroDERM branches were set up in key cities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with a total of 41 branches in 2009.
Despite the expansion and the opportunities that awaited them in Metro Manila, Roger retained OroDERM’s headquarters and main clinic facility in Davao City. A visionary in the aesthetic tourism industry, Roger’s transformed the family’s Davao City main center into a world-class hub with brand new and state-of-the-art million-dollar laser and robotic machines only found in major clinics in countries all over the world.
“Dad never asks for anything. It was never about the money. It has always been about the dream, the challenge of making it tangible.’ Dad always stresses that in every disappointment, there is always an opportunity,” his son Dr. Neil S. Oropeza, a dermatologic surgeon, said.
Education as the key
Rogaciano or Roger as he is fondly called was born on October 26, 1937, to Joaquin Oropeza and Soledad Lorbes in Legaspi City, Albay. His childhood days were mostly spent in the hinterlands of Albay to escape the atrocities of war brought by the Japanese occupation.
He knew well from a young age that if he were to escape poverty, education was the key. In fact, after graduating from high school, and setting aside his dream of becoming a doctor due to financial constraints, he took up and graduated Bachelor of Business Administration Major in Accounting at the University of the East and eventually passed the CPA board exam at a time when the national passing percentage was only 8 percent.
At the age of 23, Roger started his career by working with the founder of Radiowealth, Domingo M. Guevarra, or DMG. Eager to succeed, he took up the challenge of Guevarra by setting foot in Davao City in 1961 as internal auditor of Radiowealth, a fully Filipino-owned company.
In 1964, he was promoted as the company’s regional comptroller and in 1967 he became a franchised dealer of the company. Roger managed 18 branches of Radiowealth all over Southern Mindanao.
Roger had admirable leadership skills. He was elected as president of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) Davao Chapter in 1971.
A disorganized group with only a handful of 30 active members way back in 1971, Roger tirelessly instituted reforms and fostered camaraderie amongst members. His actions were appreciated and recognized and is not long since more and more CPAs became members and actively participated in the organization.
Roger was the kind of leader who dared to step up to the plate, think on his feet and take action even when things are difficult and this was the reason why he continued to lead the institute: became the vice president for Mindanao in 1976 and was awarded “the Outstanding CPA in Special Achievement.” As vice-president for Mindanao, he organized five provincial chapters and activated five existing chapters of PICPA.
In 1977, he co-chaired the PICPA Annual National Convention held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao.
It was also through the efforts of Roger and the other past PICPA presidents that the very first CPA board examination was held in Davao City in the early ’80s. This was a big help financially for the Mindanaons and Dabawenyos who did not need to travel and spend more in Metro Manila just to take the CPA board exams.
His critical skill was also tested when he and other past presidents founded the financially-constrained PICPA-Davao Foundation in 1982. Roger and the rest of the founding members worked tirelessly to raise funds and were able to acquire the lot where the PICPA House now stands along Araullo Street, Davao City.
“Without Roger’s dedication, the PICPA Foundation and the PICPA building would not have been what it is now. Roger was very instrumental in the establishment of the PICPA building which eventually led for the PICPA Davao Chapter to win multiple Katipunan awards with future PICPA Davao Presidents. A Katipunan award is an award bestowed to a PICPA chapter who wins three-consecutive outstanding Chapter awards” said Sally Leuenberger, a Datu Bago awardee and Roger’s esteemed colleague.
Roger also actively participated with the collaboration of the previous PICPA presidents in the campaign for Continuing Profession Education (CPE), especially to the new certified public accountants.
For Roger’s loving wife, Amy, his dedication and love for PICPA were as big as his love for her.
Wearing different hats
Roger also portrayed different roles and holds many positions in different affiliations: a 33rd degree Mason, a Past Venerable Master, a Past Worshipful Master, a life member of the Sarangani Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, an active member of Rotary Club of Davao since 1976 and was past president of the club in 1992.
Outside the organizations he participated in, Roger personally and without fanfare supported the education of almost 200 scholars in Banganga Elementary School in Cabantian, Davao City for 10 years.
He also received numerous awards and recognitions such as the 1977 Convention Chairman, 31st Annual National Convention (PICPA), Honorary Life Member in 1993, Honorary life member of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., (DCCCII).
According to Dr. Neil, Roger who just turned 85 years old last October 2021, always has a mindset that “age is just a number.”
“Dad is intelligent. His mind is still sharp and he’s still very good with numbers and names of persons even at his age,” Dr. Neil said.
Despite numerous achievements and awards, Roger remained humble and shared his blessings to the poorest of the poor and used his businesses to contribute and help improve the city where he lived, without asking anything in return.
“Dad wears the same pair of shoes for more than 10 years and wears the same collection of pants for over 30 years now. When dad was still able to do so, he’d rather walk or ride a taxi instead of stressing himself to find a parking space to where he’s heading. He never wanted to be recognized as who he was and as who he’d become. He always put the recognition to his colleagues and pushed to elevate the word ‘teamwork’,” Dr. Neil said.
Roger, known for getting results in the community and helpful to those in need, gave life to the term “pillar of the community.”