MARRIED to an heir of Lilang's Guitars, Fernando Alegre got most of his technical training on the making a good-sounding guitar as operations manager of the then well-known guitar shop in Mactan, Cebu.
But that's not the only thing that makes Alegre Guitars different from all its other counterparts.
Alegre said that he worked for the Lilang?s for 25 years and gained a reputation for being a good guitar maker in Mactan, which gave him an advantage when he finally opened his own guitar-making company in 1996.
?The investment is not that much. I only hired two people then whom I trained for my small-scale guitar-making business.?
A passionate music person who loves playing the guitar, Alegre finds it rather impressive that he makes money doing what he loves the most.
?My father was a guitar player and a maker, but he did not teach me the skills and techniques; and he said that my grandfather was a guitar maker, too. So it kind of runs in the blood already,? he said.
That passion drives Alegre to learn more each day.
?I'm not alone here but I know that I have my own market while the rest are sharing another market,? Alegre said.
Alegre says that as a guitar player, he can assess the guitars that his company makes or even the guitars made by other people, something which he says is another advantage that he has over the other guitar shop owners who only sell guitars made by others.
?I'm not only at the business level but also at the product level. I know my product well, and I know how these products were made and the engineering and art behind it,? he said.
Having the reputation of producing the best guitars in Mactan, they get endorsements from government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Tourism which bring them buyers.
?Tourists come here to see how the guitars are made and at the same time buy from us or refer friends to us,? he said.
Alegre said that they don't have a website because he is not totally sold on the idea of online selling, saying his pieces need to be held, played and heard to know their quality.
However, he said that because of their visitors' requests they are considering making a website but for information purposes only.
The business of selling guitars only comes after the art of making one, according to Alegre.
?It is a continuous learning process. What we have now will not be as good as what we'll have in the future and this is partly because of the high technologies now available to us,? he said.
Alegre Guitars is also not into direct exports because Alegre does not want to commit to big volumes and sacrifice the quality of his products.
?Until now, we only have tourists buyers who buy and some local traders in Manila who order in as much as a couple of dozens,? he said.
For a high-end guitar which can sell for as much as P60,000, a skilled maker will have to spend two months making and finishing everything, which includes allowing the wood, imported from cold-weather countries, to age.
?We buy the master grade quartered zone of the spruce tree, the one you use for Christmas trees, and then use it for the front part of the guitar while for the body we use rosewood,? he said.
Alegre said that after a guitar is made, it has to undergo a break-in period of not less than two years before it can achieve its best sound.
They also sell low-end products, which they make using backyard plywood and designed well so as to still achieve a good-sounding guitar.
?A skilled worker can make four guitars in a week for low-end ones which can start at P1,500 for starter ones,? he said.
The growth in terms of sales is directly relative to the increasing tourist market of Cebu according to Alegre.
?Over the past years, the inflow of tourists to Cebu is increasing and that's how I grew, too, because they are my main market,? he said.
To cater to the local high-end market, Alegre has local partners display his products in their music stores.
Thinking ahead, Alegre says that he has not stopped developing new designs for his products and has a long-term desire to be counted among world-class guitar producers but not through endorsements since he can't afford to pay a famous guitar player, which is what most world-famous guitar producers usually do to become known.
?I want to be known not that way, but simply because my craft is of world class standards.?
Alegre said that they were invited to join the 1st International Guitar Fest at PICC (Philippine International Convention Center) in Manila this year which he believes is one acknowledgement that they are at the roster of top guitar makers in the country.