Even in the late '50s when it was mostly swampland, Mandaluyong was already a dynamic center of light industry and the cradle of big ambitious ideas such as manufacturing a Filipino car and eventually exporting this to other countries.
More specifically, Domingo M. Guevara Street, formerly known as Libertad, was the home of Radiowealth,a brand of affordable Philippine-made radios, stereos and TV sets, among other appliances, that dominated the local market prior to the introduction of the Japanese brands. Radiowealth was the brainchild of the self-made industrialist after whom the Mandaluyong thoroughfare was named. At its height, the industrialist's Guevara Enterprises or GueventGroup, was engaged in manufacturing, electronics, communications, agriculture and industrial development, transportation, and its own financing company, Radiowealth Finance, which continues to serve the Philippines to this day with over 80 branches.
The late Guevara, who would have celebrated his 104th birthday last January, dreamt that the Philippines would one day takes its place alongside the industrialized countries and all his businesses appeared to support that singular vision. It is thus apt that one of Mandaluyong's main thoroughfares is named after this business genius. The "Tiger City," after all, can draw inspiration from people like him. The late National Artist Nick Joaquin in the book, "The D.M. Guevara Story," wrote: "Very few men (like Domingo Guevara) can combine practical expertise with practical business sense - or can actualize into work by their hands what they know in their heads..."
In the early 60s, the sprawling Libertad compound also hosted the assembly plant of Volkswagen and the first Filipino designed and fabricated vehicle called the Sakbayan. By the 70s, Volkswagen had outgrown its Mandaluyongsite and transferred to a bigger plant in Quezon City which was considered the most modern and the biggest in Southeast Asia with a capacity to turn out 500 cars a month.
The hardworking radio technician from Camarines Sur who got his training through a correspondence course built Radiowealth from a "one-man one-door affair" to a dynamic manufacturing concern. At the same time, he was quick to make available to the Philippine market a host of machines and equipment that would spur the growth of industries such as various tractor models, diesel trucks of various sizes, radio transceivers, and even the first digital communications set. He also introduced business models such as the Avis car rental franchise which has for the past 40 years provided invaluable service to various corporations, tourists and individuals.
Reynaldo Guevara, the first president of Avis and Chairman Emeritus of Guevent Investments Development Corporation, observes: "Avis was a natural extension of the Volkswagen business. We started off with Volkswagen cars but have evolved since then."
Alejandrino Ferreria, a former DMG executive and current chairman of Avis Philippines, recalls working with Guevent founder Domingo Guevara: "The industrialist's passion to excel and to succeed later drove him to undertake forward and backward integration. " In addition to pioneering in the manufacture of TV sets in the country, he also produced components like TV picture tubes and speakers. He audaciously sought to produce a Filipino car and to export this around the globe, an ambition founded on his experience from assembling and marketing Volkswagen cars.
In the early 60s, the car industry was then dominated by big American gas-guzzling cars. In a memoir, Guevara writes: "Before DMG Inc. (his motor firm that was formally called Diesel Motors Germany Inc.) came into the picture, nobody had foreseen that the Filipino motorist would go for the small car. And when the demand came, DMG was about the only one ready to serve it with the Volkswagen brand."
Guevara went as far as launching the Sakbayan "designed for endurance in the tropics rather than for elegance." The Sakbayan, which was derived from "Sasakyang Katutubong Bayan" and close to 70 percent manufactured in the Philippines, was born in 1969 and received good reviews from London car aficionados in a London-to-Manila car rally that proved the mettle of the homegrown vehicle. It was soon followed by the Trakbayan, a truck likewise made for the tropics. Both were well received by the market and Guevara aspired to introduce these to other countries making use of his Volkswagen network.
Unfortunately, martial law and theself-propagating Marcos administration waylaid Guevara's plans. Prior to the 1972 proclamation of military rule, Guevara had likewise been elected a delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention where he sought to promulgate programs that would lead to the industrialization of the Philippines. A man of principle, Guevara was one of only seven delegates that nixed the martial law constitution that was the output of the convention.
A few years after the declaration of martial law, Marcos emissaries were outrightly asking the businessman for a share of his companies - without the benefit of payment, according to Guevara's biography. Rather than go along with Marcos' economic programs that only favored the strongman's friends or cronies and proved detrimental to the majority, Guevara chose to withdraw from business and exile himself in the US.
Nick Joaquin sums up the place that the industrialist holds in the political economy of the Philippines in the era leading up to martial rule: "There is no question that at the start of the 1970s, the Philippines was poised (to become a Newly Industrialized Country)" and that Domingo M. Guevara blazed a trail to attain this lofty ambition. More than his business acumen, he had the entrepreneurial spirit and dogged persistence to turn challenges into opportunities and economic milestones.
Libertad Street in Mandaluyong has been renamed Domingo M. Guevara street after the self-made industrialist who blazed a trail towards Philippine industrialization in the '60s and early '70s through his automotive and other enterprises.
Like former President DiosdadoMacapagal, Guevara was a delegate of the 1971 constitutional convention. He dreamed of promulgating provisions what would pave the way for industrialization. He was one of seven candidates that nixed the martial law constitution.
Guevara dreamed of producing a Filipino car and exporting this around the globe through his Volkswagen network. The Sakbayan - short for "Sasakyang Katutubong Bayan," which was 70 percent manufactured in the Philippines, was a good start. It received good reviews from European car aficionados during a London-to-Manila car rally.
In the '60s, Guevara's compound along Libertad Street in Mandaluyong was the site of the Radiowealth factory, which manufactured affordable Philippine-made radios, stereos and TV sets, among other appliances, and the assembly plant of Volkswagen, which his company turned into a Filipino household name.