by Mafelou C. Leagogo-Agriam
(CREAM March-April 2015)
For as long as Filipino love to celebrate fiestas and festivals yearly, the Fiesta! favorite souvenir shirts will never fail to boost the fun-filled and colorful festivities of the Philippines. The richness of the archipelago’s cultural diversity is echoed in bright and festive design like works of art on these shirts.
Over the years, this homegrown Ilonggo shirt brand has become a complementary part in the merry observance of the country’s biggest, annual, crowd-drawing events, namely the Sinulog Festival of Cebu City (held every January), Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City (also in January), the Penagbenga Festival of Baguio City (February), Kadayawan Festival of Davao City (August) and Masskara Festival of Bacolod City (October).
In the same vein, for so long as Filipinos cherish their ancestry, Fiesta! shirts will continue to present with respect the symbols, themes and properties that have a cultural and emotional connection to the local heritage of a certain place. It is not uncommon to find printed on the shirts such familiar visuals as the ubiquitous guitar and the Magellan Cross of Cebu, water-rafting in Cagayan de Oro, the durian and eagle of Davao, native coffee of Batangas, Burnham Park in Baguio, a lizard or gecko in Boracay, just to name a few, and not to discount patriotic designs like the national flag or map, and the jeepney or tricycle exemplifying the Filipino’s ingenuity.
Needless to say, there are many other statement shirts hereabout screaming for public attention. Comparatively, Fiesta! shirts carry more commercial and cultural significance and are certainly far more pleasing to the eyes. Created and mass-produced by iSUCCESS Corporation, an Iloilo City-based company run by CPA-lawyer Jobert Penaflorida and his lovely wife, the former Rhea Inocencio (Miss Dinagyang 1998), these locally-made shirts are displayed in 30 stores nationwide from Baguio to Davao. In particular, they are in the Kultura section of many SM malls in the country as well as in a number of Robinsons malls.
In touristy spots like the famed D’Mall of Boracay Island and in scenic Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay, the shirts make for excellent mementos to remember one’s wonderful vacation even many years later. Foreign tourists, balikbayans and local folks have preferred to bring home or give out Fiesta! shirts to friends and loved ones for over the past decades now. This brand was recently given the National Shoppers Choice Award as the number one souvenir shirt in the country. By all measures that speaks volumes of the business acumen of the people behind Fiesta! shirts’ resounding success.
“It is the top-selling festival shirt in SM,” Attorney Jobert says. Fiesta! shirts have evolved in multiple strides since 10 years ago when the local brand was first manufactured in his garage. Today, he swears by its top quality beside its many competitors, even surpassing in sales another locally-produced and equally well-known brand in its very own southern turf. “We don’t benchmark on what we see here and in foreign countries. We frequently innovate and come-up with fresh and unique concepts,” he continues.
Jobert is a very familiar face in local television with a strong following. Credibility and integrity account for his staying power as a respected TV broadcaster. For 10 years, he was a daily newscaster at ABS-CBN TV 9, not counting the three years spent in the same network — known then as ABS-CBN TV 4 — as pioneer host in the daily talk show entitled “The Morning Show”.
Dedication to and mastery of his craft reaped prestigious awards for himself and the network. To wit: the Catholic Mass Media Awards for TV News Program in the Philippines and the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) Golden Dove Award for Best TV News Program and Best TV News Anchor. No longer affiliated with this network, still local folks get to watch him deliver the latest local news with the same aplomb and dignity, but this time around in GMA TV 6 for 24 Oras Western Visayas since late last year.
On top of his television work and other pressing legal concerns is running iSUCCESS Corporation as president and general manager. Among his chief responsibilities beside overseeing operations are the reinvention and niching of its products in the broad market while Rhea runs the creative unit. Hardwork, prudent spending and nurturing their team of talented Ilonggo artists, oftentimes challenged to explore the widest range of their creativity, may very well comprise some of the essential factors to getting ahead in the competitive market.
Unbeknownst to many people, Jobert is half-Chinese, his father being a native of Xiamen, China. Although his mother is a Penaflorida from Pototan, she belongs to the less distinguished and least wealthy branch of that local political clan, Jobert claims. Obviously, frankness and modesty come naturally to him.
When mentioned that he is a deadringer for that good-looking, Cebu-based Filipino-Chinese actor in the longest running pinoy telenovela and a certified “crush ng bayan“, Richard “Sir Chief” Yap, all that our own Ilonggo chinoy could summon for the unexpected compliment was a shy embarrassed smile. It is not the first time someone noticed the striking resemblance, he says, but somehow he doesn’t dwell on it for long. The comparison apparently doesn’t get into his head.
His parents, it is learned, worked in a local trading store in the city. The astounding feats Jobert earned as a young boy and long into his adult professional life reflect on how he and his two sisters, Vivian Uy de Ong and Evan Acap, were raised in the home. Steeped in a traditional value system that puts a high premium on self-discipline, self-sacrifice, frugality, honesty, industry and good education, these fundamentals in character-building ultimately led him to his chosen paths. Later in life, he also came to appreciate in greater measure his Chinese bloodline, more markedly when dealing business with chinoy traders where mutual trust is sacred.
To say the least, the young Jobert excelled as a student schooled in noted institutions of learning in Iloilo City, receiving top awards and Latin honors given his highly superior cerebral calibre. He graduated valedictorian in elementary and high school from Santa Maria Catholic School (now Ateneo de Iloilo-SMCS), earned a degree in BS Accountancy from the University of San Agustin, summa cum laude, and passed the CPA board with an SGV Gold Medal of Excellence for garnering the highest National Rating in Auditing.
Not surprisingly, on account of his impressive credentials, a number of the country’s top firms and companies in Manila lured him into their doors. His first accountancy job was in the premier accounting and auditing firm Sycip, Gorres and Velayo and Co. (SGV). In the succeeding years, he joined San Miguel Corporation; an offshore company in Guam; and Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez and Gatmaitan Law Firm as an aspiring lawyer.
Of the many legal counsels in this law office, Jobert was the only lawyer coming from a law school outside of Manila. Majority of his colleagues were products of the country’s A-list institutions like Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines Diliman and San Beda College. For three years, the Ilonggo lawyer pitted wits up to the mark alongside the country’s best barristers. He could have established a thriving legal career in the big city of Manila had not a family problem arisen.
In 2003, he returned to Iloilo City to take care of his ailing father out of filial obedience. A religious person like his wife — both devotees of the Sto. Nino and 2013 Hermano and Hermana Mayor for the Feast of the Sto. Nino of the San Jose Parish Church — he was unfazed at the prospect of starting a professional career all over again.
“In every direction to take in the future, I always submit to God’s will,” he firmly says. “Besides, fatherhood affected my ambition. It was tempered when my daughter was born.” Suffice to say by the grace of God, everything just fell into place in Iloilo with a flourishing business thrown-in and a wonderful family to complete his world.
Clearly, true is the saying that the fruit does not fall far from the tree. Twelve-year-old only child Ma. Abby Genevieve is her father’s mini-me in more ways than one. She has his gift of gab and brilliance of mind. Like her father in his not-so-distant past, she is also harvesting her own just rewards for outstanding academic performance this early. Selected recently as one of the city’s 10 Outstanding Students in elementary school, she is likewise Campus Journalist Awardee in the national level of the Department of Education, and the first Ilongga Junior Ambassador to Japan, along with five others based in Manila. Her future will certainly be an exciting and triumphant ride towards innumerable accomplishments with her happy and proud parents by her side in every way.
Traveling together as a family in the Philippines and abroad is an affair the Penafloridas anxiously await yearly. It is a most treasured moment away from a busy life. During this relaxing period, Jobert admits to being laid-back and simple in his chosen activities. His wife and daughter, on the other hand, prefer to rough it up.”They are empowered females!” the head of the family unabashedly proclaims. “They are daring and adventurous, unafraid to go water-rafting, mountain-climbing and spelunking.”
In a small city like Iloilo where everyone predicates an opinion especially if someone is often seen and heard, somehow Jobert must have received his kind of share. Important people about this time must have surely taken longer notice of this gentleman’s charisma and talents useful to a political career. Haven’t they invited him to throw his hat in that direction where his wisdom, profoundness and integrity could perchance influence? The question puts him in deep thought.
In several previous electoral exercises, he says, he managed to make himself less accessible. Here’s why: “The moment I talk to them, I may be enticed to enter politics. I know the time will come when I will have to respond to a higher calling to serve the community; but it is still an option that can open in the future.”
Jobert demurs for good reason for now. He has his hands full, entrepreneurial work claiming most of his precious time. Merchandising afterall is like a persistent mistress who demands singular attention and moving forward to get ahead of the pack. “Our quota in SM gets higher. The challenge is to be up front with everything that will put our product in the lead. Right now, we are considering the idea of venturing into sportswear and polo shirts.”
With Atty. Jobert Penaflorida firmly holding the rein, iSUCCESS Corporation and its flagship product Fiesta! Favorite Souvenir Shirts will continue to flood the country with worthwhile keepsakes anyone can be mighty proud of. Let us not also forget for a moment here that the festive and colorful iconic images expressed on the Fiesta! shirts amplify aloud how much fun and exciting it is in the Philippines. Bravo!