Now a large-scale food processing business, with an expanding export market, Mekeni Food Corporation had relatively humble beginnings. In the late 60s, the Garcia family began a backyard business to augment their meagre income.
With a small loan, 100 chickens, and two piglets, husband and wife Felix Garcia and Medicia Santos, along with their five sons, embarked on a journey that would change not only their family, but also the lives of hundreds of others in the barrio.
All of the family members were involved in the enterprise, particularly the sons, and they established a routine of daily diligence. Even though still at school, the boys would be up at dawn cleaning pens, mixing pig and chicken feeds, and gathering eggs that they would deliver to the market on their way to school. The boys grew up with the business, enabling all of them to go to college and earn degrees in different aspects of business. Three of them ended up with well-paid jobs overseas, and the Garcia family was enjoying a relatively comfortable life until the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
The dynamic couple, who were both public school teachers, then felt the compulsion to be strong amid the catastrophe brought by Mount Pinatubo. Literally, Pampanga was turned into ash and, as inevitable, the Garcia’s small business was greatly affected and the community was left homeless and helpless. This became the springboard of the Garcia family; their innate tenacity and strong faith in God turned the ash into cash as Tatay Felix and Inang Meding gave a marching order to their children to come home and help them to rebuild the community. Imbued by their utmost respect for parents, the well-entrenched sons left their comfort zones and decided to take on the challenge together by helping their parents to make their vision happen for the community, which was then “to give hope to the people”.
Mekeni President and CEO, Pruds Garcia, gladly relates their whirlwind business experience: “As Mekeni was slowly taking our feet off the ground away from the wrath of Pinatubo, another set of challenges came to us, and these were the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 1996 and the Asian financial crisis in 1997. This almost led to the closure of Mekeni but by being open and honest to our people, the spirit of communal unity and cooperation thrived and everyone committed to continue what we started amidst the crisis. We courageously accepted the challenge, armed with our strong faith in God and a consolidated action plan, to bounce back again together with our community and move further towards where we want to go.”