No Storms Can Bring Me Down
Mrs. Evelyn Gonzales led a troubled but colorful life. In 1981, at the young age of 17, she fell in love with and married a college classmate named Wilfredo Gonzales. The sudden and unplanned union got in the way of Evelyn’s education, and it wasn’t until 1988 that she graduated from Palawan State University with a degree in business administration. With her diploma, Evelyn was able to land decent jobs in the government and private sectors of Palawan. Combined with Wilfredo’s earnings from his own job, the two had enough money to support their growing family, which soon came to include two sons and three daughters (two of whom were twins). Working and raising five children at the same time was no easy task, but those early days were the happy ones for Evelyn. For a few years, the Gonzaleses were almost the picture of the ideal family, until Wilfredo suffered a serious illness in the mid-1990s. The affliction left him partially paralyzed and unable to continue employment. With the kids entering school and growing bigger every day, Evelyn was left with the responsibility of providing for the whole family. Faced with this pressing burden, she quit her regular job in 1996.
With money that the family had saved, she set up a video rental business in Palawan’s capital of Puerto Princesa City. The enterprise coincided with the proliferation of home entertainment systems such as VHS and VCD, and was patronized by many movie-lovers in the city. Success was short-lived, however, as the entry of a Video City franchise in the same area took most of her customers away. Four years later, Evelyn was forced to close shop.
After shutting down her previous business, she found another job to keep the family afloat. When her last son, Wally, was born in 2001, her hardships made her more determined to start another business. Looking at the business prospects in Palawan, she discovered that there were a number of public utility vans plying the route from Puerto Princesa to the northern Palawan towns of Roxas, San Vicente, and Taytay. For locals and tourists alike, these air-conditioned vans were a popular alternative to the cheaper but less comfortable buses. The problem was that the vehicles only departed when at least 8 out of 12 seats were occupied, but there was no actual terminal for passengers to wait in. With the development of tourism in the province and the promise of more visitors entering Palawan through its gateway capital, Evelyn saw the establishment of a terminal as the perfect opportunity. With P70,000 scrounged up from savings and helpful relatives, Evelyn secured the necessary permits and put up the FortWally terminal along one of Puerto’s major avenues. At that time, the terminal consisted only of a covered garage and a waiting shed. Through her persuasiveness, she convinced the van operators to utilize her terminal because it would help them service more passengers – travelers could book their rides in advance with Evelyn, and the shed made waiting more bearable. In return, FortWally received a small commission from each operator. Evelyn did not volunteer much information about FortWally’s early stages, but evidently, her second attempt at entrepreneurship was an astounding success. For one thing, she no longer had much trouble feeding the family and sending the kids to school. For another, when FortWally was forced to relocate to the central station in 2003 due to a city ordinance, the business had already built up enough capital for the move. It was a major hurdle, especially during the first year of operations, but it was easily cleared. Another indicator of success was in 2007, when Evelyn saw an increase in demand for vehicles travelling all the way to the scenic beach town of El Nido. In response, the proprietor established a second terminal in the municipality. She got five van operators to run trips from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and vice-versa.As of 2011, FortWally had 14 vans doing roundtrips on the Puerto-Roxas, Puerto-San Vicente, and Puerto-Taytay routes, in addition to the five vans from Puerto-El Nido. There was an average of 35 trips per day.
With the profits from this venture, Evelyn went on to put up a FortWally office and convenience store near the Puerto Princesa terminal. But the ever-gregarious entrepreneur did not stop there. In 2010, with tourist arrivals increasing from 113,831 in 2002 to 631,145 in 2011 (source: National Statistical Coordination Board), Evelyn sought to upgrade her services to the next level. With her pool of van operators and experience from dealing with all manner of travelers, she found it easy to set up a travel and tours business. By early 2011, FortWally Travel and Tours had obtained Department of Tourism (DOT) accreditation, established a partnership with an international online booking website www.via.com, and created its own website, www.fortwallytravelandtour.com. A plethora of packages were offered, such as tours around Puerto Princesa and the Sabang Underground River (officially one of the seven natural wonders of the world), island hopping and dolphin watching in Honda Bay, and a customizable island hopping experience in El Nido.
Evelyn’s next goal was to purchase a second van and eventually build up a fleet. Whether or not she would push through with this, she had already cemented FortWally’s position as one of the leading transportation providers for Palawan’s burgeoning tourism industry. In the process, she managed to single-handedly support her family with profits from the terminal, the restaurants, and the travel agency. It seemed that for every blow suffered to her career and her family, Evelyn was determined to come up with a winning business solution. Now that she had acquired much learning from the CMDC program, these plans would soon materialize and come to life.
|Educational Attainment||College Graduate|
|Enterprise Name||Fortwally Travel and Tours|
|No. of Years in the Business||4|
|Products and Services||Travel and Tours|
|Monthly Gross Revenue||380,000|
|No. of employees||6|