Bluewater Maribago’s Alegrado family | Inquirer Business
ALL IN THE FAMILY

Bluewater Maribago’s Alegrado family

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort in Mactan, Cebu, turned 25 last July 2014. Given stiff competition, including foreign resort chains on the island, how was Maribago able to register a more-than-90-percent occupancy rate during the low season? Answer: Family.

In July 1989, Arcadio Castillo Alegrado, a gentle 80-year-old Cebuano who does not look a day over 60, and his Butuanon wife, Marle Montalban Alegrado (now deceased), established the Bluewater Resorts group, of which Maribago is the flagship.

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Through hard work and remarkable savvy, the couple managed to make Bluewater Maribago a household name and at the same time raise their three children.

June Alegrado Ugarte, 48, the eldest, runs gift shops in all their properties, which include Bluewater Sumilon near mainland Cebu and Bluewater Panglao in Bohol.

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Jovi Alegrado, 39, the youngest, was based abroad for years, but has been undergoing management training since his return.

At the helm

It is the middle child, Julie Alegrado Vergara, 44, who has taken the helm.

“I appointed myself president,” laughs Julie. “We did not have a formal structure before, and professionals were coming in, some as vice presidents, so I decided to name myself president.”

If only succession were this smooth for all family businesses!

Certainly there were no complaints from June and Jovi, both hands-on parents busy raising their families, and relieved at the turn of events.

“Who else would be the successor?” asks Arcadio rhetorically.

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With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Hotel Management in Austria, Julie also went for masteral studies in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management, graduating with distinction under the tutelage of experts such as Eduardo Morato, Jr. (now with the Ateneo Graduate School of Business).

Aside from possessing the educational requisites, Julie also has years of practical experience. She, together with her siblings, grew up in Maribago, and started working there in 1995, when she was 25 years old.

She knows the ropes, and indeed, was the one responsible for company expansion into other resorts, including Almont Inland Resort in Butuan and Almont Beach Resort in Surigao.

Togetherness

In the Alegrado Family Constitution can be found this declaration: “We value togetherness and enjoy each other’s company. We complement and bring out the best in each other. We seek to foster an environment of openness and transparency through acceptance of individual differences.”

Family members are open with each other. It helps that three generations live in the same residence, albeit in different wings.

“We see each other every day,” says Julie, “so we talk about things big and small, at mealtimes, or when we bump into each other.”

Instead of siblings who live far from each other and who need formal board meetings to thresh things out, it is convenient for the family to discuss issues the moment they arise.

Valuing family harmony does not mean that there is never any conflict.  All families face conflict, but the successful ones know how to deal with it.

The Alegrados were raised to not be aggressive with each other.

“We do not shout in the family,” says Arcadio.

“Instead, we give each other the silent treatment,” laughs Domiku Ugarte, 25, June’s eldest son, “but only for two to three days.”

Domiku, a finance major, works as duty manager in Bluewater Panglao.

“Then everything is all right again,” says Jovi. “We live in the same house. We cannot be mad at each other for long.”

“Afterwards, we discuss the problem,” says Julie. “So there is no resentment on anybody’s part.”

Food is also another family bond.

The adobo rice in the resort is delicious, as is the lechon. Every couple of hours, the family, led by the patriarch, would call for a break in our meetings so everyone could dine.

Accountability

“We are conscious of our roles and tasks, and we endeavor to maintain an awareness of the consequences of our actions,” reads the Family Constitution, “We value discipline and refrain from a sense of entitlement, keeping always in mind our responsibilities, not only in the stewardship of the family business, but also towards the community through philanthropic activities.”

Upon entry to the business, Domiku started like any other non-family employee: in the management training program.

“Domiku grew up in the resort, with the housekeeping staff doting over him,” says Julie.

But even so, under the eagle eye of housekeeping, as part of the training rotation, “I had to make the beds, clean the toilets, several times, for several days,” Domiku says.

In the kitchen, Domiku was exposed not only to the operations, but also to the “cutting, slicing duties.”

At present, though Jovi is Julie’s brother and part-owner of the resort, he is also undergoing a similar training program, to last for many months. No fast track to the boss’s chair for this family: the Alegrados want employees to prove themselves, both family and non-family.

Professionals

Trusted professionals are valued by the family.

Indeed, the long-lasting ones, such as vice president for finance Rhys Buac, are treated as family.

Upon my arrival at the airport, I was greeted by an elderly gentleman, Mang Tony, who insisted on helping me with my bag.

How long has Mang Tony been with Maribago?

He broke into a grin. “Matagal na! (For many years) I watched the children grow up. I remember Julie starting to work for us after college.”

I conversed with employees: about politics and traffic with drivers, exhaust fan mechanics with engineers, laugh-out-loud jokes with room service.

Workers treat guests like family.

No wonder Maribago has thrived for a quarter century.

Izarra Ugarte, 18, Domiku’s younger sister, is set to study hotel management abroad. What does she look for in a leader, a successor to be chosen among the third generation, someday?

Izarra says, “Someone with the education and the experience.”

Book-smart and street-smart, much like Julie.

With a close-knit family and solid values, the Alegrados can look forward with confidence to the next 25 years and beyond.

Visit www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph. Next Friday: When being frugal does not work.

(Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press [e-mail [email protected]]. E-mail the author at [email protected])

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