Growing God’s talent

·3 min read

Leonora Bajao Salvane is a deeply religious person. Born in Bohol but raised in Cebu, she finished chemical engineering at the University of San Carlos (USC). After graduation in 1977, she worked for 15 years but stopped, as she and her husband Rogelio had dreamed of retiring not as employees but as entrepreneurs with their own business.

Her first attempt at owning a business was selling pneumatic products but this did not prosper. It seems every time they received money, the children would go to the hospital. There seemed to be no grace in that business. She said she was praying to God for a business which she could enjoy and practice her field of expertise at the same time. Unexpectedly, a person came to her office who asked her to go into cosmetics. Only later did she realize this was God answering her prayer.

She then attended a workshop on making soap. During her first year in college, she had to make soap but that was generic. This soap workshop was different, soap meant to be more than just a cleaning agent. With P500, she came up with her soap project using papaya and carrot extract which she gave to friends to try.

When it proved good and they wanted to buy, she decided to go into it more seriously, at first with packaging and labeling done with the help of her children. Eventually it became a company called GT Cosmetics (GT meaning “God’s Talent”) Manufacturing Company. Today, it is a million-peso industry employing close to 400 people, selling not just soap but other skin care products: creams, pressed powder, sunblock, lipsticks, toners, lotions and moisturizers. The products are available in local supermarkets and are also exported to the Middle East, Canada and the USA where they are sold in Asian stores.

In 2014, Engineer Salvane felt she had another mission: to come up with a school “to produce graduates who are morally upright, who will be good leaders.” She said the school, GT Northeastern Academy (GTNA) is partly subsidized by GT Cosmetics. The rooms are all air-conditioned and classes are limited to 25 students. She has a big chapel in the school premises with a chaplain who officiates at mass every Friday and teaches moral values. Despite the school being “pricey,” it is not a “for profit” school. To make the graduates of this school capable of handling their own business after they graduate, GT built GTNA Recreational and Events Center, a small 10-room hotel with a restaurant and a meandering freeform swimming pool for its guests, as well as a Jacuzzi/kiddie pool. The idea is to give students an experience in actual business operations in the hospitality industry.

Incidentally, also for the students, GT built a half-size Olympic swimming pool (half in width but not in length) where students can learn to swim, practice and be encouraged to aim for the Olympics, if they are particularly good at swimming.

These days, the Salvanes are preparing for a “changing of the guard.” Rogelio V. Salvane Sr., who is chairman of the board of directors of GT Cosmetics Manufacturing (GTCM) Company is turning over his post to Rogelio Jr., who is now president and chief executive officer of GTMC, Jellie Marie S. Villamor is now GT vice president.

Rogelio Sr. will eventually turn over the school to son Jonathan. Janice Michelle Tiro is already with GT as chief finance officer and Niña May Jasmine is GTNA finance and administration officer. Another daughter, January Anna Go, is currently based in Canada and is a board member of both GTNA and GTCM.

It has been an interesting journey the elder Salvanes have had, using the talent God had given them and multiplying that talent a thousand and more times: now it is time, with the grace of God, for the younger ones to do the same.

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