Proudly Kagayanon: Engr. Elpidio M. Paras

This month, Tsadagyud features the life of one of the most influential persons in Cagayan de Oro. He has been a successful businessman who has brought a lot of firsts in the City of Golden Friendship. He is none other than the man behind Parasat Cable TV… Engr. Elpidio M. Paras.

Regarded as one of the business magnates in Cagayan de Oro, Engr. Elpidio M. Paras was born on May 23, 1952. His friends fondly call him Elpie. He is the eldest son of Pablo Paras and Victorina Magbag who are both Kapampangans. His father was a mechanic who came to Mindanao because he wanted to establish his own family elsewhere other than Luzon. Initially, Sir Elpie’s father worked in a small garage in Mabini Street and eventually built his own in Licoan, the Paras Machinery Works.

Of scraps and tires

Sir Elpie was not born with a silver spoon. He grew up in a house with a bamboo floor. As a child, he did not have the luxury of toys. Instead, he spent most of his carefree years in their machine shop. He played with scraps and tires, made toys out of those. That is why he became adept in building things. At the same time, that small machine shop was his early exposure to entrepreneurial livelihood.

Academic Achiever

 An Atenean and a La Sallian, Sir Elpie graduated as the class valedictorian in both grade school (class 1965) and high school (class 1969) at Xavier University. He earned a scholarship from Del Monte Philippines that sent him to De La Salle University where he earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering in the year 1974. Guess what? He graduated college as magna cum laude.

Family Man

“I would not be this successful if not of my wife who has been with me in my endeavors.” – Elpidio M. Paras

“In every man’s success is a woman behind.”Sir Elpie met his wife Rose in Manila who originally hails from Lanao. They have been married for 36 years. Sir Elpie describes his wife as his inspiration. “I would not be this successful if not of my wife who has been with me in my endeavours.” They are blessed with seven kids, five girls and two boys. Most of them have their own businesses already. Their oldest daughter Roxanne Paras Uy and her husband manage Great White Water Rafting. They also own Sprint Multisport Shop which is located in Corrales Avenue. Rina Paras Victorio, the second daughter is the Chief Financial Officer of Parasat Cable TV while her husband Ravi manages Dahilayan Operations. Sir Elpie’s oldest son Alex handles Arriba Telecontact Inc. and his wife manages Coffeworks’ branch at Xavier University Main Campus and helps managing the Restaurant at Pine Grove in Dahilayan. Third daughter Roselle owns Coffeeworks that has spread as far as Manila, Iligan, and Boracay. She also established Vanity Works. The fourth daughter is now a doctor in the United States while the youngest daughter owns Sweet Leaf Tea House. Their youngest son is still studying at Ateneo de Manila.

Food business

 Sir Elpie and his wife Rose have ventured into restaurant business throughout the decades and most of them became the firsts in the city. They established Sesame Sandwich in the 80s. It’s the forerunner of Jollibee and McDonalds here in Cagayan de Oro that offered burger, french-fries, spaghetti, and fried chicken. They also started the fad of lechon manok  in the 80s. Also in the 80s was Sugbahan Central which was located near City Central School in Velez, of what is now the De Leon Paza. In the 90s they put up Tia Nanangs Filipino Restaurant in Corrales Avenue which became the first of having a buffet service in CDO. Then, in the early 2000 they introduced PJoes Diner that became famous of its airplane inspired facade.

Electronic business

The restaurant business was more of the idea of Mrs. Rose Paras. As an engineer, Sir Elpie created his own which were in line of his profession. During the disco years, Sir Elpie was engaged in installing and fabricating sound system for disco techs in the late 70s and early 80s. They ran the disco at Alta Tierra Hotel now known as Pryce Plaza Hotel and the Salamin Disco in Mindanao Hotel. He was able to to put up disco techs all over the country. They also had Paras Video which was the first in the video tape rental business of VHS and Betamax in the 80s and 90s.

The birth of cable TV in Northern Mindanao

An American friend of Sir Elpie brought a satellite antenna here in Cagayan de Oro in 1983. He played around with it which served as his template for bigger and better antenna. Back in the EDSA Revolution, they were the only who were able to watch the event unfold because they were the only one who had satellite access in the city that time. Later on, widescreens which people watched NBA and fights of famous boxers back then like Mike Tyson became a fad using their satellite antennas. That was the forerunner of cable TV. One of the customers of Sir Elpie was Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. who is the father of cable television in the country. Senator Magsaysay used Sir Elpie’s antenna to receive signals for his cable business.

Sir Elpie felt that the satellite antenna was something that only the rich can afford and he also saw that the era of giant antenna was disappearing. So, in the 1990s he launched another milestone for Cagayan de Oro… the Parasat Cable TV. It started with 12 channels and residents of Villa Ernesto Subdivision were the first one to avail of such service. More people got interested to subscribe that’s why it has grown to what it has become today. But of course, it was not a smooth ride. There were threats that came along the way. There was a time when the problem of piracy and illegal tapping of cable lines became rampant. To combat piracy, he was one of the firsts to introduce the analog set up box in early 2000. He was also one of the firsts to introduce pay per view especially for Manny Pacquiao fights. Three years ago they partially converted from analog to digital. Today Parasat Cable TV is on full digital and HD service.

Tourism business

 

 

Dubbed as the Adventure Capital of the Philippines, Cagayan de Oro is continuously attracting local and foreign tourists. And one of those that have drawn lots of tourists here in this once lonely part of the Philippines is the Dahilayan Zip Zone. Owned by Sir Elpie Paras and his family, Dahilayan Zip Zone was the home of the longest dual zip line in the Philippines. And they will continue to develop the area to draw more visitors.

Last 2012, they were about to launch Duck Tours which was supposedly the first in the Philippines. A duck tour is an amphibian truck or a tour bus that is also capable to cruise on river and sea. Unfortunately, the flood brought by Typhoon Sendong made Cagayan de Oro River too shallow for the duck tours to operate efficiently. So, they have temporarily postponed its launching while the DPWH and JICA are still working on the Cagayan de Oro River. But, Kagayanons have another reason to smile as Sir Elpie is cooking something in the western portion of Cagayan de Oro. This will complement Dahilayan Zip Zone. Initially, it’s a five hectare lot but bigger than Dahilayan in terms of capital expenditure. Yes, be excited. It will be another first.

A secret untold

 Many Kagayanons do not know that one tragic event almost took the life of Engr. Elpidio Paras. That American friend of him who brought a satellite antenna also brought an ultralight aircraft. Since the American guy was quite heavy, he could not test fly his plane. He chose Sir Elpie to test fly the plane. Despite the inexperience, Sir Elpie was able to fly the aircraft. On the 4th of July, 1984 his American friend wanted to celebrate U.S. Independence Day and suggested to have an air show at Lumbia Airport.  Sir Elpie had flown for several times using that aircraft but on that day his bravado was dampened by a mistake, largely due to his inexperience. He was taking off and was already a hundred feet high when a crosswind came. He didn’t have the right training to counter the situation. Consequently, the plane dived into the ground.  Sir Elpie had broken bones in the spine, pelvis, and arm. Luckily, he survived.

That horrible experience did not stop him from flying. Much later on, he was able to fly again as a student pilot. But in the past few years, his businesses have made him so busy that he no longer has the luxury of time to fly. He said that he might go back flying in the upcoming days or years. Currently, he has two airplanes waiting for him at the airport.

Titles and positions

 Engr. Elpidio M. Paras is a past president of Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce. He was also the past president of the Philippine Cable TV Association and a board member of the Cagayan de Oro International Trade and Convention Center Foundation, Inc.

At present, he is the president of UC-1 Corporation, the mother of all Paras business ventures. He is also the president of Arriba Telecontact and the Chairman of the Xavier University Board of Trustees. He is also an independent director of Southbank, a founding member of the Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders (PSOD), Director of Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital, Inc. (MRXUH), and a member of Philippine Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (PhilAAPA).

His thoughts of the business climate of CDO today

 According to Sir Elpie, Cagayan de Oro is one of the boom towns in the country even from the perception of businessmen outside the city. The location of CDO makes it the gateway of Mindanao and is fast developing into a logistics hub. The international container terminal in Tagoloan and the Cagayan de Oro Port have enough facilities to handle domestic and international cargoes. Lots of bodegas are being built from east to west. Traffic volume of cargo is going leaps and bounds. Big businessmen in the distribution business in Luzon are coming here and have put up their own, renting or building warehouses. CDO has become bullish. But he is saddened that this unrivaled growth is also creating opportunities for crime and for other things. He pointed out that if there is disorder in the way Cagayan de Oro is growing, the economy might just collapse.

On a more personal note

 Tsadagyud asked Engr. Paras about his views and opinions on questions which may sound trivial, the rest are controversial and practical.

TSADAGYUD:  What is your favourite food?

SIR ELPIE: Favorite food? Actually, nothing in particular. My mom’s cooking, the Kapampangans cooking is perhaps one of the bests in the country. I remember when I was still young and my mom was also younger, she would cook all these Kapampangan dishes that to this day we still look for. That is why we still go to the ancestral home from time to time, on weekends, on Sundays because our mom would cook for us.

TSADAGYUD: Nakatry ba pod ka na mag kinamot in eating?

SIR ELPIE: I don’t mind. Our success has not changed our lifestyle. We are not as snobbish as other people who have already achieved something. For me, I am not ashamed to sweep the floor in front of other people if it’s necessary. I used to climb the poles when we were starting out the cable business. I used to climb the poles together with my people because I was the one who knew the technology.  Eventually, the technology was passed down to my people and the things that I’ve learned. I always, you know, share with them. Nothing has changed for me that’s why our regular working days start at 5am and ends at midnight. There are no holidays for us.

TSADAGYUD: Who is your best friend?

SIR ELPIE: I don’t have any in particular. Everyone is a friend. I do not have any barkadas. I never had any barkadas. I had some close friend but it never came to a point when we spent time almost together. As a businessman, everything is work, work, work, family, family, and family.

TSADAGYUD: What do you do during your spare time?

SIR ELPIE: Building just about anything that I could play in my hands. I can micromanage.

TSADAGYUD: Your daughter now owns Coffeeworks, do you still drink Starbucks?

SIR ELPIE: Hardly, if I’m out of town and I’m not a coffee drinker also.

TSADAGYUD: If you’re not a businessman and an engineer today, what are you?

SIR ELPIE: I would have been a priest if I didn’t get married. It crossed my mind because I want to serve other people. Or I could have been in the mountains if the only way to change is violence. I was in college during those tumultuous years of martial law. During the martial law, I experienced lots of friends went to jail or went to the mountains. If I studied at U.P. I would have been gone already. Buti nalang I went to La Salle.

TSADAGYUD: What is the most expensive stuff that you bought for yourself?

SIR ELPIE: Maybe my airplane, Cessna airplane. About the same price of a second hand Mercedes Benz.

TSADAGYUD: How rich are you now?

SIR ELPIE: I do not count the money. What I count are the blessings that God has given. We make use of these blessings to create opportunities. When we engage in business, I make sure that it affects everyone. Like Dahilayan, it gives extreme joy to some people. I am largely a risk taker but not a gambler. I make sure that all the businesses that I engage with have calculated risks.

TSADAGYUD: Are you in favour or against the entry of casino?

SIR ELPIE: I am not in favour of casino and I don’t think it would come because civil society would protest against it. Cagayan de Oro has been able to survive without casino and I don’t think it would grow because of it.

TSADAGYUD: What is the best city in Mindanao for business and investments?

SIR ELPIE: CDO is still the place. While Davao has a large population, it is already mature. Although there are still lots of real estate developments there because a lot of Davaoeños are working abroad and we don’t have as much, I think. What fuels us is the influx of investments coming to our city.

TSADAGYUD: What does it take to be a successful businessman?

SIR ELPIE: I think it takes persistence, perseverance, hard work, honest work, and the foresight to do better, to provide opportunity for people to have a decent job. Perhaps, a role to play in building a society.

 

It was an honor to have interviewed one of the Big Wigs in Cagayan de Oro. If there is something that I have observed, one of the common denominators of successful businessmen in the country is their rags to riches story. Most of them were not born with a silver spoon. They worked hard and motivated by their low economic status. In the case of Sir Elpie, his intelligence also helped him a lot in the realization of his dreams. His life story is a living testimony that perseverance and hard work are pre-requisites to a better life. Mind you, even with his status in the society today, he is not ashamed to sweep the floor in front of other people and he still eats with his bare hands. This reminds everyone that humility is a virtue. Even if you are somebody, you are nobody if you are hooked with your titles and positions. Humility makes someone happy and fulfilled.

Elpidio M. Paras… engineer… businessman… executive… leader… PROUDLY KAGAYANON.