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Woman Today

August 24, 1994

How I Became My Own Boss
Linda de Leon

A Truly Sweet Success

The neat, well-pressed, white cap and uniform of nurses held a strong attraction for the former Lydia Veneracion (nee Tecson). She took up Nursing without second thoughts and followed it up with Midwifery. "I really wanted to make good as a nurse and midwife and for 10 years, I was with the hospital staff of Sta. Teresita Hospital," reveals the soft-spoken Lydia.

However, marriage to Judge Lorenzo Veneracion (not with the Regional Trial Court of Manila) changed Lydia's career plans. "When the children came, I thought it was wiser to be with them during their formative years so I put my Nursing cap on the shelf." Accustomed to a busy life, she looked for a hobby to occupy herself when "the children were asleep or in school."

That was when she rediscovered her passion for cooking. Lydia credits her grandmother, Lola Excolastica Carlos, and her mother Eufrocina Vida, "for the wonderful and valuable exposure they gave me in the culinary arts." As a little girl, Lydia remembers that her Lola would ask her to observe how to make leche flan and her famous halayang ube. "since we come from San Miguel, Bulacan, learning how to make sweets is second nature to the old folks. Naabutan ko pa ang tradisyong yoon pero ngayon, hindi na gaanong nahihiligan ng mga kabataan na ituloy ang tradisyon na paggawa ng matatmis," observes Lydia with a hint of sadness.

The town of San Miguel de Mayumo is well-known for its sweets like yema, tocino del cielo, turron and preserved, candied fruits (kamias, dayap, santol, sampalok, etc.). But it's the pastillas de leche made of pure, fresh carabao's milk and flavored with dayap that have become the most sought-after among all the sweets.

"Kaya noong mag-isip ako kung ano ang gagawin ko sa bahay, isang tindahan ng matatamis ang desisyon ko," says Lydia. She did not have second thoughts about it, just like when she took up Nursing in college. "I called the small shop Bulacan Sweets and Delicacies Center in honor of my home province where I learned everything about sweets-making."

Lydia started her shop "at the silong of the family house along Retiro Street, Quezon City" which has remained shop since 1970. Lydia reveals, "The first two years were difficult, maraming natitira not because the quality of the goods was poor but rather due to the lack of awareness among the public. Ano ba ang laban ko sa mga imported candies which are available anywhere and at times, cheaper?"

Two of the country's top writers, Gilda Cordero-Fernando and Doreen G. Fernandez, noticed the little sweet shop. "They wrote about it and I was surprised when all of a sudden, dumagsa ang bumibili," Lydia enthuses. Her immediate bestsellers were pastillas de leche and the candied guyabano, langka, santol, kamias and sampalok.

"The increased demand also increased my workers from three to sixty. During peak seasons like Christmas, puwede pang dumami ang trabahador," happily notes Lydia. For the last 24 years, she has always taken charge of production and declares, "I still follow the slow-cooking principle of my Lola. Ngayon nga lang, we use custom-made gas stoves instead of uling." All the Bulacan Sweets products come from the main shop and are distributed to all the 13 branches regularly.

Lydia has been attending seminars and taking up culinary courses continuously. In 1992, she joined a program set up for food manufacturers by the United Nation's Labor Organization and the government of Japan. "From the two programs I attended in Japan and Thailand, I learned how to use less sugar, improve the quality, shelf life and packaging, and instill total sanitation among all workers. Ito naman naibabahagi din namin sa ibang Filipino entrepreneurs." The foreigners, Lydia observes, are amazed at the way "Filipinos have turned fresh fruits into appetizing candies."

From the Japanese, Lydia learned and is sharing the five S's of working harmoniously and productively: seiri - sort, to take out unnecessary items and dispose; seiton - systematize, after sorting, arrange all items in good order; seiso - sweep, the place of work must always be clean; seiketsu - standardization, maintain neatness, discipline and organization, and shitsuke - self-discipline; do things spontaneously, do not wait to be told or ordered.

For Lydia, providing regular employment to at least 60 persons, aside from creating the market for the sweet-makers of Bulacan and helping her people to develoop the correct work attitude, are her biggest achievements as an entrepreneur. We may add, thought, that helping Filipinos rediscover local sweets is another gratifying accomplishment.

Aside from the sweets, Lydia has added canned delicacies like paksiw na lechon, burong isda, taba ng talangka, among others. "Pasalubong ba for those who are going abroad. I can guarantee our items like the lechon - talagang lechon baboy at pagkatapos pinapaksiw in liver sauce."

It's a truly sweet success for Lydia and she looks forward to the day when her shop can also serve Filipino communities abroad.

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