Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin / S&T Media Service
‘YOUR skill is enough capital to start a business.” A religious brother from Don Bosco Mandaluyong Technical College said this to Christopher Pingol’s grandfather, Mamerto Pingol, when the latter was having apprehension over how to get started in metal craft that produces church items.
Thus, it motivated him to put up a metal craft business which manufacture censer that is used to contain incense, among which was the one used by Pope Francis in his Masses in Tacloban, Rizal Park and University of Santo Tomas in January.
The company also produced the trophies for the Philippine Football Peace Cup in 2014 that was participated in by the Azkals team and three other nations.
The elder Pingol was a production supervisor at a metal crafts shop at Don Bosco. But the shop closed in 1985.
Upon the encouragement of the Don Bosco brothers, Pingol ventured in metal crafts armed with the necessary know-how. His initial investment was P5,000 and he relied on payment deposits from customers, most of whom were referred to him by the brothers. He used to do the crafts at home by himself until he was able to encourage his brother and children to help him.
Christopher R. Pingol took over the business when his father passed away in 2000. Familiar with production having worked in Fujitsu Die-tech, he looked into using scrap materials. His grandfather used to throw or sell scraps, but Chris learned at Fujitsu that scrap materials should be recycled. The younger Pingol then searched the Internet, which led him to the Metals Industry Research and Technology Center (MIRDC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which provides casting services. The agency taught him how the scraps can be transformed into other products.
Casting is a common metal’s technique, which is also available in some private companies. But what sets MIRDC apart from them, Chris said, is that “private companies only do what you ask them to. In MIRDC, they go beyond what you ask, and would readily help improve your product further.”
Chris has been a client of MIRDC since 2000. He credits the center for making his products look “imported.” The family business is now capable of coming out with products that involve more intricate designs, with more aesthetic value.
“Before we came to know of the casting technology of MIRDC, our products were mostly hammer-finished,” Chris said. “Now our products have this 3-D look, unlike in the past when we’re doing things manually, we cannot get that sculpture-like finish.”
Chris also attended MIRDC’s training seminar on plating (noncyanide gold plating) and he has been using their library as well to research on other ways to improve their products.
From a small business manned by family members, Mamerto Pingol Metal Crafts now has about 40 employees. It has its manufacturing shop in Malabon and a display area in Santa Cruz, Manila. Peak seasons are during Holy Week, Christmas and feast seasons.
During lean months, the staff do the stocks. To his knowledge, there are only two others engaged in the same business in the country. Besides church items, they also manufactures plates, medals, trophies and interior-design items. They export to the US, Guam, China and Brazil and hope to get more orders from abroad. Chris believes that product expansion is a must in any business. Hence, they are now making urns to add to their portfolio of church items.
Government’s technical support
MIRDC’S metal-casting services began in 1975. It has helped several companies in product improvement. Besides Mamerto Pingol Metal Crafts Manufacturing, it has been assisting Shooters, Guns and Ammunition Inc.; Enrod Copper Decor; Seacom; and Mechapil. MIRDC has been servicing 10 to 15 customers a year, on average, in the last five years. It has 18 personnel handling casting services at the Process Research Section (PRS) of the Materials and Process Research Division, most of who have been with MIRDC for 20 to 35 years. This is a highly skilled group who share their skills with entrepreneurs needing their assistance in product development.
“While there are private outfits which provide the same kind of service as we do, especially in the area of conventional casting, a number of industries still prefer MIRDC because we have a track record in providing better service in terms of better surface finish, right dimension and almost zero defects,” said Engr. Florentino Lafuente, PRS supervisor. MIRDC now focuses on product development that involves contract or developmental research. Customers—such as artists, suppliers or middlemen—usually contract out the mass production of items.
Juanito “Boy” G. Mallari, a metals technologist at the MIRDC, said work at the foundry (conventional and investment casting) could be both difficult and hazardous. He said workers in this craft must wear safety apparel and must be fully trained. The challenge for Mallari is the variety of casting jobs they do, especially in investment casting, which encourages one to come up with his/her own idea or technique that does not require high-tech machines. “For me the reward is when my boss or customers appreciate and gain satisfaction from my work,” Mallari said.
Image credits: Photos by Henry De Leon