Final goodbye: Yuchengco, Que

The country lost two Tsinoy industry titans recently with the passing of Mariano Que, 96, of Mercury Drug Corp. and Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco, 94, founding chairman of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and Malayan Insurance.

Que founded Mercury Drug Corp., through which he brought innovations to the drug retailing sector.  He repackaged bulk medicine into smaller or individual packs to make it more affordable for the average buyer, a practice he began in post-war Manila.

His company was the first to offer home delivery, 24-hour service and in-store pharmacy counseling. It was also reportedly first to use central computerized and temperature-controlled warehousing and refrigeration for storing medicine.  Today, the firm has over 1,000 branches across the country.

As a young man, he hawked medicine from a wooden kareton (cart) in Sta. Cruz, Manila after World War II. An often told story was that Que bought a bottle of powered sulfathiozone and sold the antibiotic by small packets to a war-ravaged, poverty-stricken community recovering from devastation. With earnings from this modest venture, Que opened his first Mercury Drug store on Bambang Street in downtown Manila in 1945. He had learned about the pharmaceutical business while employed in a Manila drugstore in prewar days.

His charity programs included Bantay Kalusugan (free medical consultation), Operation Bigay Lunas (free medical service and medicine), Gawad Talino (math and science awards to high school students), Sagip Talento (assistance to gifted children).

Yuchengco – accountant, banker, philanthropist, presidential adviser – also acquired a school, the Mapua Institute of Technology. He was actively engaged in philanthropy through the Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation, which he chaired, to address education and healthcare services for the poor.

He was former Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations and served as Philippine ambassador to China from 1986-1988, and to Japan from 1995-1998. At the completion of his mission as envoy to Japan, he received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, both from the emperor of Japan. He also received the Order of Sikatuna, with the rank of Datu, from the Philippine government.

A certified public accountant, Yuchengco was born in Binondo, Manila in 1923 to Enrique and Maria Hao Tay.  He was a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Commerce from Far Eastern University. He subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Columbia Business School, New York, in 1950. He later became a member of Columbia’s Board of Advisors.

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