In this particular company, the most senior employee happened to have an impressive service record of 58 years, which would definitely be uncommon in this country where people would rather look for jobs abroad as OFWs.
The firm is none other than Mighty Corp., which claims to be the country’s oldest tobacco manufacturer, celebrating its 70th anniversary this month, based on its press release.
One of the Wongchuking brothers who now manage the company said the most senior employee in the company started when he was in his pre-teens at a time when child labor was not yet prohibited by law. It was then normal to see whole families employed in its factories.
Mighty also claims to be the largest independent family-owned business in the country, tracing its roots to the old La Campana Fabrica de Tabacos, founded in 1945 by the Wongchuking family patriarch, Wong Chu King.
From what I gathered, he was a Chinese immigrant who worked as a salesman in a cigarette company making local brands before he started La Campana. His first factory producing native cigarettes and cigars known as Cortos and Regaliz was located on Tayabas street in Manila. In a span of three years, the old man Wong Chu King built a second factory in Pasong Tamo, Makati, which he later expanded to another site that became the present day location of its head office on Sultana street in Makati.
Wong Chu King founded the Tobacco Industries of the Philippines (TIP) several years later in a 9-hectare property in Malolos, Bulacan to manufacture American blended cigarettes using the brand names Duke, Windsor and Tricycle.
The founder remained active in the management of the cigarette company until he passed away in August 1987. Its board is now headed by his widow, Nelia D. Wongchuking, now about 90 years old, a pure Filipina whom the old man Wong Chu King met in Batangas when he was still a traveling salesman of a cigarette company.
Anyway, the expansion of the company in the 1960s to 1980s was perhaps aided by the continuous growth of the old company La Campana, which at that time was able to corner the native cigarettes market, acquiring the brands and the trademarks from another familiar company called Alhambra, maker of La Dicha, Rosalina and Malaya brands of native cigarettes.
In 1985, it was it finally set to produce American blended Virginia cigarettes, but the diversification was somewhat stymied by the rising cost of labor in Metro Manila. This prompted the company to shift all its manufacturing operations to the Malolos factory.
In 2001, the company entered into a manufacturing agreement with Sterling Tobacco to produce the latter’s brands, which provided the impetus for its shift to American blended cigarettes with the establishment of its own filter rod production, the acquisition of its first modern machinery to boost production, including some heavy duty packing machines.
About eight years ago the company completed its fully integrated production and packing facility in Malolos.
Then and only then, after undertaking a modernization program, was the company ready