Back in the 70s, a homemaker and her husband took a leap of faith when they left their jobs to start a food business. Forty-five years later and the fruits of this venture are far greater than they have ever imagined.
Now recognized as one of the safest cities in the Philippines, Valenzuela City, is home to one of the country's biggest food corporations, CDO Foodsphere, Inc. Behind this success is one empowered woman who believed in herself, took risks, braved challenges, exceeded expectations, and then some. She is Corazon Dayro Ong – entrepreneur, mother, mentor, art lover, and hero.
With a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, Corazon Dayro Ong, or Ma'am Cora, as she is fondly called, had always taken a liking to cooking which prompted her to start making homemade meat products like skinless longganisa, tocino, and siopao, in their family home in Marulas, Valenzuela. While she did not have employees, she did have the full support of her husband, Jose ''Pepe'' Ong, who also helped deliver the products. Ma'am Cora could not have done everything alone. She found a dependable and supportive partner in her husband, Sir Pepe, throughout the years of growing their family and their company.
At the time, these products supplied hospitals, schools, and offices where Corazon's friends worked. It was through word of mouth that the small family business received a steady growth in orders. ''The business was picking up and our packaged meat products were becoming a well-known brand to consumers. I suddenly realized that this could really be a venture where I could earn good money. It was no longer just a hobby, but an enterprise with huge potential,'' Ma'am Cora shares.
It is no surprise that a big brand known to millions of Filipino families was built together by a family. On the road to the company's growing presence in the industry, her children got involved and helped in the establishment of the CDO Foodsphere, Inc. that now stands. Jerome Ong, eldest son and now CDO Foodsphere, Inc. President and CEO, explained how Corazon and her husband's work style is ''strict but not restrictive'' — allowing him to help mold the business into its current prosperity.
''They were strict in molding me to have the right values and in developing discipline. But they were not restrictive, because as long as they saw that I practiced the basic values they had taught me, particularly interacting and giving importance to the employees, they entrusted me enough to make the necessary changes within the organization.''
A success story would not incite as much inspiration if it did not exemplify acts of hope and defiance against tragedies; and surely enough, the Dayro Ong family has had a fair share of their own. In 1987, an unfortunate fire broke out in the factory one morning and spared nothing in its path – from the family's house on the second floor, down to the work area on the ground floor.
Despite this incident, the family came out stronger and better with a handful of employees who rallied side by side with them, drawing strength from one another. ''The employees put up a barricade to protect the property and to recover whatever could be saved. That was when we felt the love and concern of the people for us because they protected and thought of us first before themselves,'' Dr. Charmaine Ong-Castro, only daughter and CDO Foodsphere's Vice President for Corporate Purchasing and Treasury, recalls.
''They didn't show any sign of despair, especially Daddy. I remember what he told us, 'Don't worry, we'll help each other out and we will rise again','' Jerome repeats. ''And like the proverbial phoenix, we truly rose from the ashes. Within two days, we began to work again against a backdrop of electric wires hanging like clotheslines and the walls of the factory blackened by smoke. Mommy and Daddy had in mind the 80 or so families who relied their livelihood on our business. They thought, 'If we stop our operations, what will happen to them?'''
Instead of shrinking back and wallowing in their loss, the company found ways to survive by becoming resourceful and innovative.
As a nutritionist-dietitian, Ma'am Cora was keen on addressing the problem of malnutrition, especially in children. This was the primary thrust of Odyssey Foundation, Inc. (OFI) when it was launched in 2004 as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of CDO Foodsphere, Inc. This became the first pillar of the branded services that the foundation provides called Gabay Nutrisyon, which conducts supplemental feeding programs and partners with other humanitarian organizations to distribute food and medicine to undernourished children in impoverished areas of the country.
Ma'am Cora states, ''I believe that's how CDO truly nourishes lives — by empowering and touching the lives of others. We help people see way beyond themselves, to grow inspired, and change the world in their own ways. And that has become our purpose. Ang simpleng pangarap ay naging isang hangarin para makapagbigay ng mas makabuluhang ambag sa mundo.''
Soon after, this was expanded to cover education, environment, livelihood, and service to humanity, through Gabay Edukasyon, Gabay Kalikasan, Gabay Hanapbuhay, and Gabay Lingkod, respectively. Over the years, the foundation has grown and served over thousands of Filipino families and communities.
Forty-five years later, the brand is transforming into an all-encompassing food company, exemplified by its new and refreshed brand identity, and its continuing mission of uniting families over quality mealtimes. Recent campaigns launched by the company that advocates for this include CDO Funtastyk Young Pork Tocino's ''FuntastyKilig'' (2019), CDO Ulam Burger's ''UmaGana'' (2019), CDO Crispy Burger's ''Crispy Gana'' (2019), CDO Karne Norte's ''Para Laging Ganado'' (2019).
CDO's new look is intended to adapt its founding vision to the needs of people who prepare meals every day. It is a celebration of an intrinsic aspiration to bring home-style meals to the table. CDO's tagline, 'Food That Brings You Home,' is a testament to their mission of bringing these families home with the authentic taste of their home-style meals.
At the heart of its ever-growing and fast-paced business is the purpose to create meaningful mealtime connections. CDO was founded by a mother and it reflects in the brand's personality—welcoming everyone to the dining table, uniting and bringing people together through good and delicious food that is warm, vibrant, and open-hearted.
Through Ma'am Cora's remarkable and comprehensive journey of exploring, growing, and learning, Filipinos were able to witness how one can make the most of what they have and use it to touch lives. The story of how CDO Foodsphere was built goes to prove that success starts from small steps and big dreams.
''From a hobby and one simple dream of a mother like me, from my desire to share my knowledge in creating nutritious, quality, and affordable food, I did not expect that our company will grow big and become one of the most successful businesses in our country. Now that we are part of the everyday meals in a lot of Filipino households, this indeed fills my heart. All of this is because of my wholehearted dedication and love for what I do, and because of the support from the people I love and the people who have helped us build the company. Most importantly, we have reached this far because of the grace and guidance from God,'' says Ma'am Cora.
''My story can be anyone's story. My success can be anyone's success. One only has to start with a dream and find inspiration to make it a reality.''
For updates, follow CDO's official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CDO.Foodsphere.
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