Luis Ablaza, Jr.

Visionary model of entrepreneurship

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When UST was relocated from Intramuros to Sampaloc in 1927, Thomasians had to tread on nameless streets and do away with landmarks and buildings inside the campus for directions. But 32 years later, one student’s initiative christened the 19 roads in the University. That student was Luis Ablaza Jr.

“UST is already like a city within a city,” Ablaza told the Varsitarian on what inspired him to come up with the idea.

And so the former president of the Central Board of Students submitted a resolution for this purpose in 1959, and more. The following year on March 7, campus streets finally got their formal identification after deliberations on a list of 100 names of exemplary alumni.

Today, the 71-year-old Ablaza is the consul of the Republic of Zambia and president of the Chamber of Pawnbrokers of the Philippines, Inc. (CPPI) where he now serving his 12th term.  He is also the man behind the L&R Corporation, the Ablaza Pawnshops and the Contemporary Hotel in Quezon City.

But on top of his wealth and accomplishments, the Banking and Finance alumnus’ desire to contribute and give back to the University didn’t stop from his college days. Just last year, the Luis I. Ablaza Jr. Distinguished Professorial Chair in Entrepreneurship was launched with a donation of P1 million during  the 76th anniversary of the College of Commerce and Business Administration.

“We [have] to encourage more students to go into entrepreneurship after graduation,” says Ablaza. “Most kids immediately look for a good job. But if you can have your own small business and have one or two employees, you are already helping.”

On his own

The eldest child of a contractor and a housewife, Ablaza owes his background on entrepreneurship to his great uncle, who was president of the old Monte de Piedad Savings Bank. This inspired Ablaza to set up his own pawnshop business.

The dream materialized when he established the first Ablaza Pawnshop in Sampaloc, Manila in 1967 together with his wife Mellie.

They didn’t hire employees at first. Instead, the couple worked together and helped each other learn the dynamics of business: from apparaising the valuables pawned to them, to the technical and managerial aspect of the pawnshop.

“We started out small,” says Ablaza. “I didn’t know anything about the business. It just so happened that my wife was a lawyer [and since we didn’t have any employees at the time] she was also the appraiser. We had our helpers to serve as clerks.”

The Ablazas eventually branched out a decade later and they now have 95 shops around the metro in their nearly 48 years in the business.

“Don’t be afraid to start small,” he says. “If I was afraid, I would just have been an employee or working like my father, a contractor. Instead of looking for jobs, create them.”

It was in 1980 that Ablaza joined CPPI.

“I wasn’t even the largest pawnbroker,” Ablaza says. “Some had a nationwide operation, but in my case, I only operated in Metro Manila.”

Ablaza has contributed much to the industry with the establishment of policies such as the conversion from the 10-percent value added tax to 5-percent gross receipt tax for all pawnshops and close coordination with the Philippine National Police to thwart pawnshop robbers.

As if this wasn’t enough, Ablaza and his wife are also involved in foreign service. Mellie is the consul of Guatemala. From his end, Ablaza has hosted dinners and parties for various dignitaries such as Jorge Skinner-klee, Deputy Minister of Foreign Afffairs of Guatemala and Zambian Ambassador Godfey Simasiku.

 

Lift to leadership

His road to the top started due to an incident in college, the effects of which no one could not have predicted.

The young Ablaza, then a freshman, was on his way to class and had to take the stairs since his classroom was on the third floor. Wanting to take the elevator instead, he was stopped by the operator since only faculty members and titled students were allowed to take the lift. This sentiment ignited the leadership fire in him to take charge and maximize the students’ privileges.

Thus, on his senior year in 1958, he became the board’s president. He took a Special Course in Tariff and Taxation at the Graduate School the following year.

Ablaza also reaped accolades in the Jaycee Foundation such as the Most Outstanding Jaycee of Quezon City in 1966 and 1968, Ulirang Ama Awardee for Business in 1999, and awarded Most Outstanding Alumnus by the College of Commerce in 1977, among others.

Ablaza has gone far from being a student leader into a business magnate with big corporations under his belt. But unlike his pawnshop business, Ablaza’s success can never be appraised by achievements alone, but by the innovations and gret ideas he has given to society.

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