My wife belongs to the third generation of the family who founded Victory Liner, one of the country’s largest provincial bus operators, 75 years ago. So when I was asked to join the local transport business in 1999, I did not hesitate to help the family business even though I was already Chief Operating Officer of a pioneering credit card company at the time.
Eventually, helping people reach their destinations became part of our corporate DNA. We established Victory Shuttle Service, which operated some 300 buses in Laguna and Batangas, mainly serving the employees of Laguna Technopark and other economic zones in the south. We had a good run for several years until cutthroat competition started and the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit the technopark locators so we had to streamline and focus on profitable routes.
Laguna Starbus became our first foray in Metro Manila operations. We ran 51 bus units plying the Malanday-NAIA, Malanday-Baclaran, and Malanday-Alabang routes. My sons and I would wake up at 2 a.m. every day to manage and check cash remittances against trip operation reports because we couldn’t afford hiring a cashier then. In 2007, I was invited to join Bataan Transit as President and General Manager and with sheer persistence and a bit of luck, we were able to establish First North Luzon Transit in 2009, both serving provinces in northern Luzon.
It was during our heyday in 2011 that we became a depositor of UCPB’s Malanday branch. As First North Luzon Transit grew, so did our banking relationship with UCPB. We now also use them for our payroll and they provide armored car pickup of our cash collections. They don’t just treat us as a client but also as a kapamilya (family member).
While we also deal with other banks, our relationship with UCPB stands out because I can still feel their personal touch without compromising their sense of professionalism. In fact, the Branch Manager and branch personnel have become a steady fixture in our company anniversary parties and they always remember my birthday. Whenever they have new products, they also make it a point to inform us and keep tabs on our needs.
For someone in this line of business, having that sense of malasakit (personal concern) is very valuable. In fact, we would not have been successful as a bus company if we didn’t look after our passengers the same way. This is why we make it a point to train our frontliners, drivers, and conductors to be always helpful, courteous, and professional to passengers at all times, whether onboard or outside. We put a premium on customer satisfaction and happiness so we provide free WiFi, TV sets, and entertainment onboard and in our bus terminals.
We also ensure that the safety of our passengers isn’t just lip service. We invest in top-of-the-line buses and security tools and measures. We take pride in being one of the first bus companies to install GPS in our buses even before this became a requirement of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in 2016. There has been a massive improvement in our system since we installed the GPS in our buses as we are able to properly monitor our drivers’ speed and location real-
time. Because this is a public utility business, we also constantly train our fleet of 300 to 350 drivers to comply with government regulations.
We have always been conscious of our role in public service. This is why we support government’s efforts to modernize and rationalize bus routes to enhance road safety and minimize accidents and fatalities. In my capacity as president of one of the Metro Manila bus consortiums and the vice president of the Provincial Bus Operators Associations of the Philippines (PBOAP), I also champion reforms that seek to uplift our service to the riding public such as providing bus drivers a regular salary instead of fighting for commissions based on passenger volume.
It’s not easy to remain competitive in an industry constantly beset by changes and challenges, but I put my faith in our people to maintain our market share in the transport sector. With solid partners like UCPB who knows how to take care of the fruits of our hard work, I am confident we can help people reach their destinations safely and happily for many more years to come.
Date published: January 29, 2019