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HomeFocusDNX Focus: Of beers, prawns, and lechons

DNX Focus: Of beers, prawns, and lechons

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This story is a part of our DNX Focus series titled Rough roads, bumpy rides: The Ceres saga

Editor’s note: In trying to make sense of the intra-corporate dispute among members of the Yanson family that owns and operates what could be the biggest bus company in Asia, several questions have come to our minds. At least to those of the editors and staff of DNX.

Why is it that members of a family that had been so private in its business and personal affairs suddenly, it appears, bared themselves open to public scrutiny and risk ridicule?

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Why the display of batteries of lawyers that included one connected with Capitol? Why the open debate among lawyers that appeared, to some of us, almost circus-like?

Why the open confrontation between Roy and Leo Rey in public places under the full glare of press cameras and Facebook Live?

Most of all, why the sudden rush of publicity detailing intimate details including perceived unequal treatment by Olivia, the matriarch, of her sons? Especially her sons.

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Why are both sides shunning away from answering cold, hard questions, even basic details about their business?

And why, why the hiring of publicists and propagandists who now divulge internal details on FB pages that, our sources say, have been commissioned by the rival factions.

Money, lots of it, is flowing in Negros even during the tiempo muerto.

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What you will read today is one of those rarely reported, if not unreported event that begs the question: how can a week change brothers from rowdy, backslapping boys to gladiators in a corporate arena? How and why?

Is this feud more than meets the eye?

BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – In the last week of June 2019, two roasted pigs freshly-removed from bamboo spits were brought by land to a city several kilometers away from here.

Two of these golden-brown beauties reportedly helped to smooth ruffleed feathers, and smoothen strained relations among siblings of the Yanson clan. They failed. | image from mamasguiderecipes.com.
Two of these golden-brown beauties reportedly helped to smooth ruffled feathers, and smoothen strained relations among siblings of the Yanson clan. They failed. | Photo from mamasguiderecipes.com.

Their crispy, golden-brown skins glistening with fat, oil dripping from their snouts, the lechon pigs made their way by pumpboat to a semi-secluded resort off the coast of northern Negros Occidental.

In that resort, siblings of a wealthy clan were waiting for them in what could be, insiders suggest, a last-minute effort to smoothen strained family and intra-corporate relations.

These siblings were, after all, heirs to the Ceres bus brand, an empire on wheels built from scratch by Ricardo, a mechanic, and Olivia, a nurse.

He was from Valladolid, a sleepy town in Negros Occidental. She was from Bayawan, an equally sleepy town in Oriental Negros. The province was last made famous in the 80s by the Spaceship 2000 zoo of Father Tropa, a proclaimed prophet from Davao who foresaw the end of the world in the 90s.

The zoo is in Zamboanguita, several towns away from Bayawan.

That end did not happen.

Ricardo Sr. did not see that end, too. He died only four years ago.

“Tanan nga lalaki nga mag-utod ara, sir. Isa lang ka babaye nga Yanson ang ara (All the boys were there, sir. Only one Yanson female child came),” Tibo, a worker, told this reporter as he searched for the lone shrimp in the saucer of pansit gisado served to him in a carinderia.

That he and his companion, Tomas, knew they were the Yansons came as an after-thought.

It was about a month later that they knew who they were.

“Kita namon sa Facebook, sir kag sa TV nga sila gali ‘to. Nakibot kami (We saw them on Facebook, sir and on TV. We were surprised),” they said as we drank “nitib” coffee in a carinderia frequented by wet market workers in smelly wife beaters.

They knew I was a reporter. We usually have coffee together in the mornings. I asked if I can quote them. They said “yes” but requested that their names be withheld.

“Nakulbaan kami bi, sir basi madalahig kami bala (We are afraid to get involved, sir),” Tibo said as Tomas nodded repeatedly.

At least a thousand bottles of San Miguel Beer in 42 cases came with the lechon pigs. It was a mix of “lights” and the classic “pale pilsen.”

What these sources saw at the resort were those they have seen on press reports on Facebook Live and news articles.

“Si Sir Roy ara, si Sir Ricky kag si Sir Yorey,” Tomas said. He eventually found out that Yorey was Leo Rey, the company president ousted by his siblings in a board meeting weeks later, on July 7 to be exact.

“Yorey” slung a small leather bag almost all the time. “Puno sang kwarta, sir (It was full of money),” Tibo said.

(to be continued)

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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