A golden family legacy

On 15 October 1973, a young couple, Marcelino M. Florete Jr. and Susan Caperonce-Florente, took a leap of faith in starting a business that was inspired by Susan’s mother Cristina Orian, an enterprising alahera (jeweler) from Bulacan. The couple named their own jewelry shop after the first letter of their respective surnames: F&C, and they set it up at #73 Guanco Street in their hometown Iloilo City.

Over the years, Marcelino and Susan managed to grow F&C Jewelry to become the largest fine jewelry retailer in Philippines with currently over 70 branches nationwide. Susan may have lost her husband along the way, but she has gained four business partners in their children Marissa, Marjorie, Marcellino III and Mary Christine.

Susan sits as the company’s president, with Marcellino III as the chief executive officer. Marissa (now surnamed Gorriceta) and Marjorie are both executive vice presidents and directors. Marissa is also the marketing director of the Business Development department. Mary Christine, who’s a lawyer, functions as legal manager on top of being a director in the company.

Small wonder then that the family members and company executives turned nostalgic looking back and excited moving forward at F&C Jewelry’s golden anniversary celebration held last 19 October at the Makati Shangri-La hotel in Makati City. They also introduced a new celebrity brand ambassador: Sofia Andres.

Family legacy

“As I came in, I’m really in awe,” Marjorie told DAILY TRIBUNE before the program started. “This is 50 years of a vision that has been started by my mom and my late father… It’s all the years of sacrifice, hard work and humility — all encapsulated in this event.”

“At the heart of it all, we’re a working family,” she added. “So growing up, my memory would always be, like over dinner or over lunch, we’d talk about business. My dad and my mom, they would always instill in us the value of hard work, the value of being reliable, having integrity.”

Looking back a bit more, Marjorie shared memories with her late father. “When we started, maliit pa lang kaming magkakapatid (my siblings and I were still young), he would say, ‘You have to know all the steps when working in the business.’” Such as: “Step number one is you clean the showcase. Step number two is you sweep the floor.”

She pointed out, “That’s how we were in the business. Later on, when we were a little older, we were behind the kaha na (cash register). When I was around in grade school, I was behind the pawnshop section until such  time I was called behind the desk na. It was part of our system growing up. Without knowing na training na pala.”

Marjorie, a graduate of Gemological Institute of America just like her sister Marissa, explained how she and her siblings divide the work at the family empire. She said she’s in charge of merchandising and Marissa, of marketing, while their only brother Marcellino III handles finance and Mary Christine into legal affairs. Their mother Susan, on the other hand, remains on top of production. Thus, “everybody has their own space to grow in the company.”

Marjorie made it clear, too, that their parents taught them more than just running the business. “They instilled in us the love of what we do and the difference it makes in the lives of people. We’re not just selling a piece of metal, not just selling gold, not just selling precious stones, but we’re actually part of people’s lives.

“We’re part of their milestones. We’re part of major moments. We take care of that, and the legacy and heritage of a good name. Because in jewelry, you have to be somebody that people trust. You’re buying the real thing. For special moments, you wanna have the right and real thing. Our parents instilled in us really that value.”

Her face lit up when asked about a piece of jewelry that she values the most. She said it’s a pair of solitaire diamond earrings she got as a grade school pupil from her late Lola Cristina, the original alahera in their clan. “So there’s that sentimental value. That’s how jewelry is also. That’s very special.”

She recalled, “When she gave it to me, I just said, ‘Okay, thank you.’ Now, realizing and looking back, I’m really blessed. Especially since my lola is a jeweler. It’s like passing on her legacy through that piece of diamond. Yes, something like [passing of the torch]. It’s very symbolic. I wear it on very special occasions. Sometimes I want to bring a piece of my lola.”

Jewelry as heirloom pieces is really special, she said with a smile. “It can be passed on from one generation to another generation. There are stories intertwined and shared with your heirs.”