Eternal Gardens celebrates its 41st anniversary today, August 11, driven by the passion for success that was the hallmark of the life of its founder, Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua.
Fittingly, National Artist Nick Joaquin entitled the biography of the Founder as “Antonio L. Cabangon Chua: A Saga of Success.” The updated version by writers Jose F. Lacaba and Eric S. Caruncho echoed the same quality of his life by naming it “Antonio L. Cabangon Chua: The Continuing Saga of Success.”
The ALC saga continues to unfold today. The ALC Group of Companies that he founded, and is named after his initials, cover more than 20 corporations involved in a wide range of businesses such as financial services and insurance, banking, memorial care, hotels and restaurants, real property development, vehicle dealership, health care and education.
He established Eternal Gardens in a working class community in Baesa, Caloocan on August 11, 1976. Joining him in the venture were like-minded individuals who lent him their support and assistance. “My dream was to bring first-class memorial parks and services to our people to ease the pain and grief of losing a loved one. That was the vision that strengthened us, the pioneering leaders of Eternal Gardens, to persist and persevere,” he had once said in a message to Eternalites.
The humble first park in Baesa, Caloocan has grown into a stable and lucrative network of 10 memorial parks in key places nationwide. The Baesa park was followed by a second in Dagupan in 1983; Biñan, 1984; Barangay Balagtas, 1986, and later Barangay Concepcion, 2011, both in Batangas City; Lipa, its third in the Southern Tagalog province, 1992; Naga City, 2000; Cabanatuan City, 2004; City of Santa Rosa in Laguna, 2008, and the 10th park to date, Cagayan de Oro’s Greenhills Park which the company took over from former owners in 2014.
Joaquin, in his book, recounts that his love for his mother was behind the strong drive for success of the company’s founder. “He had vowed to himself when very young that he would not rest until he had become a success… not so much for himself as for his mother.” The young Antonio and his mother had only each other, his father having died during the Second World War, and he was aware that “she had suffered so much…. He was in a hurry to grow up and make his way in the world so he could provide her with the luxuries she deserved.”
His journey to success began with him and his mother as partners in various undertakings, starting with a small sari-sari store, followed by a pawnshop that is the cornerstone of what is now known today as the ALC Group of Companies.
Having embarked on the memorial business, he had the foresight to recognize that with the country’s rapidly growing population, the old-style municipal and church-run cemeteries were no longer sufficient to meet the people’s needs. He was also among the earliest proponents of the pre-need concept of preparing for the inevitable before life ends.
With the Eternal Gardens network of memorial parks and the wide acceptance by the people that it is good to acquire a memorial lot before it is needed, he had achieved his goals.
In still later years, the Ambassador was moved by altruistic considerations when he saw how his thriving businesses created employment for the people.
Asked once why he kept on putting up more and more new businesses, Ambassador Cabangon Chua replied: “It is not ambition. It’s more of a challenge to help my fellowmen…. We’re not talking about money anymore. You will live longer as long as you are happy with what you are doing. You are creating job opportunities. You are doing good.”
People in the communities where Eternal Gardens memorial parks are located benefit from the employment generating capability of the company. Park operations require a wide variety of workers drawn from the locality. These include field workers like interment crews, construction and maintenance personnel. There are also office-based support staff for backroom processes like accounting, administrative, human resource development and management and sales and marketing. Finally, there are the members of the sales force who bring the company’s products and services to the people.
In all, the Eternal Gardens chain accounts for the livelihood of hundreds of families through the company’s more than 1000 employees and sales agents.
The employment opportunities it has spawned has made the memorial industry an important economic sector. The opening up and development of memorial parks was seen to offer excellent business potentials, particularly in utilizing areas that are unfit for agriculture, commercial and other uses, generating revenues for self-reliance and nationbuilding.
Eternal Gardens, under the leadership of its founder Ambassador Cabangon Chua, and subsequent management teams, is among the institutions that transformed the memorial industry into a money-making segment of the economy. The modern memorial park meets a basic need that has to be met.
Having made all these accomplishments, Eternal Gardens is determined to continue its founder’s saga of success and keep growing in terms of market reach and product offerings under the leadership of his son, D. Edgard A. Cabangon, chairman of the board, Eternal Gardens.
While continuing to offer the best memorial products and services in its ten existing parks, it looks out for other places where it can open up other parks.
Eternal Gardens also pursues expansion in its existing parks by way of developing sections that can accommodate more burial lots, as in Biñan park. At Eternal Gardens Batangas and Santa Rosa, adjacent parcels of land were acquired to increase the area of existing parks.
Its expanded operation also includes the offering of cremation services in four of its parks. It has allowed Eternal Crematory Corporation, a sister company, to put up crematory facilities in the parks in Baesa, Caloocan; Biñan, Dagupan and barangay Balagtas in Batangas City. At its 10th park, Eternal Gardens Greenhills in Cagayan de Oro, it formally opened last July 29 Eternal Chapels Mortuary and Chapel Services.
Eternal Crematory and Eternal Chapels Mortuary and Chapel Services have beautiful air-conditioned chapels with complete facilities, including ample space for religious services.
The company also offers beautiful local and imported urns to hold cremated remains. These are made of wood, marble, bronze, steel and glass that come in different sizes. These can be placed in exquisite crypts in the park that can hold up to three urns each.
With all these offerings, Eternal Gardens stands unique today as a one-stop-shop for all the memorialization needs of the Filipino family for departed loved ones.