CEBU CITY, Philippines - The busy world of downtown Cebu was a normal sight for Fernando ?Andoy? Dagoc in the 60s when he used to visit his late grandfather Pedro Abendan who ran a guitar shop on Manalili street.
At seven years old, the young Andoy was the loyal assistant of La Filipina Guitar. The store was established in 1919 and located in the old Lincoln District, downtown Cebu City.
His parents, Nelita and Primitivo, also put up their own guitar business, Custom Guitar in 1960. The store was still located on Manalili street.
As the eldest among four children, Dagoc helped manage the store. This was where his interest for guitar-making became his passion.
?Didto ko nakat-on unsaon pagdala og tawo, nga importante gyud ang tawo. Daghan kog nakat-unan didto nga wala sa libro (That is where I learned how to handle people... that taking care of your people is important. I learned a lot there that were not found in books),? he told Cebu Daily News.
His extensive exposure made him decide to take over the family business, as a third generation entrepreneur. This was after he finished his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of San Jose-Recoletos.
He opened Ferangeli Guitar Handcrafter in 1988 with only P2,000 in capital in 1988. The store was named after their first born. It is also a combination of his name, Fernando and his wife, Angelita.
From Cebu City, he moved his store to Barangay (village) Pajac, Lapu-Lapu City, which has been the production site of the family's guitar business.
Although Ferangeli was not the first guitar store in Lapu-Lapu when they moved in, the brand still became widely popular.
?I do research. I always seek for ways on how I can stay ahead of my competitors like what needs to be done and what needs to be improved on,? Dagoc said.
He first hired one person to do the guitar prototypes with him. Dagoc said he was careful because it was his first shot to build a name of his own.
In 1994, he decided to focus his efforts and time in opening a lumber business because he thought it would be more profitable. His guitar business was done on the side.
?I supplied wood to other guitar store owners, furniture companies, handicrafts. Twice, I went bankrupt but I did not stop. I borrowed money and paid my dues diligently,? he said in Cebuano.
When he observed that interest in Cebu-made guitars achieved unparalleled growth in the late 90s, Dagoc intensified his guitar production.
Because of his unique designs and attention to details, his guitars made a big hit in the local market. He supplied guitars to malls and major souvenir stores in Cebu and in other parts of the country.
While his lumber and guitar business maintained a steady growth, Dagoc then saw another opportunity to diversify his business. He opened handicraft shop in 2000.
?It was my handicraft products which were exported before the guitars. I decided to venture into handicrafts so there will be a variety. In case guitars will not sell well, at least, I have an alternative.?
As his handcrafted products made waves in the United States and in other parts of the world, Ferangeli guitars also carved its own international name in 2005.
His first international client was a guitar virtuoso and professor from Spain, who randomly visited guitar stores in Lapu-Lapu City.
The same client is also one of his loyal ?consultants,? who give him guitar books to serve as reference materials.
From there, export orders from Norway, Hawaii and Canada, among others, continue to pour in up to this date.
Dagoc said he learned to play in all market levels to battle fierce competition. This is also his formula for success in battling the economic crisis.
?Ang tawo mangita gyud na og ubos-ubos nga presyo pero maayo og quality. Naa mi ingon ana nga produkto diri (People will always look for affordable but good products. We sell these products),? he said.
Low-end guitars are sold at P600 each, while high-end and export quality guitars are sold at P40,000 each. Mid-end guitars, usually made of jackfruit wood, cost P3,000 per piece.
High-end guitars are mostly made of imported wood such as Canadian spruce top and red and white cedar. He said local wood that can be used as premium guitars, include kamagong, banuyo and bayong.
While the Cebuano name is known worldwide to produce world-class products, Dagoc said businesses in Cebu should not be complacent.
?It's best to research, innovate and never rest on producing good products. Things change, so you have to adopt. Never think that things will stay as they are.?
?It is also important not to lose hope on the business and your people. Trust your people. Make sure that you pay them well,? he said.