Victory Liner: Victorious through the years

(The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When Victory Liner Inc. (VLI) officially turned 70 years old last Oct. 15, its anniversary celebration this year recognized not only the longevity of the business. To the Hernandez family that owns and runs the bus company, it was another victory celebration for remaining as the top bus company in the country.

For the late Jose Isaac Hernandez and his wife, Doña Marta Dayao Trinidad Hernandez, who first set up the company just 43 days after World War II ended, they had no inkling that their small enterprise would eventually become what it is today. In fact, they did not envision that their business would become big and victorious so they named it simply as Victory Liner after “Victory Joe,” a post-war catchword.

According to Yvonne Gantioqui, finance and administrative manager of VLI, “Victory” was a popular word in 1945 when Filipinos would regularly greet Americans, who had just liberated the country from Japanese occupation. The word was also on the P50 bills and documentary stamps at the time. The Hernandez couple just wanted to earn a living when they opened the first bus terminal in Divisoria and started transporting passengers between Manila and Batangas Pier seven decades ago.

“Lolo Jose did not know that Victory Liner will grow big,” says Gantioqui. “The business was originally intended only for providing the day-to-day needs of the family. He only realized he had created a legacy during the 50th anniversary of the company.”

Today, VLI has 917 buses plying Northern Luzon at an average of 70 percent daily utilization with an average trips of 300 kilometers run per bus per day and with an average load factor of 60-65 percent. It also has 5 passenger terminals located in Metro Manila- Pasay, Caloocan, Sampaloc, Cubao and Kamias in San Fernando, Pampanga; in Olongapo City, Iba Zambales; in Dagupan City, Pangasinan; in Baguio City; in Santiago, Isabela; and in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. It also has five service terminals three in Metro Manila — Caloocan,  Baler, Pasay, two  in the province-  Olongapo and Dagupan where its buses are repaired and maintained. Its growth followed VLI’s journey in the road of excellent service and strong management.

From the original makeshift truck open on both sides, VLI buses evolved into a state-of-the-art public transport vehicle. The modern and clean VLI buses have Wi-Fi and CCTV cameras, speed limiters, plus courteous professional drivers and conductors. From its original service routes, VLI has since expanded its reach and increased its trips in Northern Luzon. VLI now ensures regular service by plying its routes more frequently even during bad weather. Gantioqui still remembers the challenge VLI had to overcome after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 to prove its dedication to serve the riding public.

“For 10 years, lahar flows would block roads in Zambales during the rainy season, but our buses would always be there. They stopped in front of lahar-ravaged towns and passengers will disembark and walk to buses waiting on the other side of the road so they may continue their travel,” Gantioqui recalls.“Even now, when there are typhoons and floods, our buses still make the trip to serve the people.”

As VLI’s victory in service attributable to modernization and innovation benefited customers, employees were also taken cared of through continuing training and retraining. “We don’t stop the training and retraining of operations and management people. In fact, we are expanding it,” says Gantioqui. Drivers are given defensive driving and route familiarization training. Drivers who have three years of service with the company are not automatically qualified to drive the Baguio route, for example, according to Gantioqui. The driver undergoes a six-month route familiarization training, wherein he would drive the bus together with an old timer until he can do it alone.

Gantioqui credited Johnny Hernandez for professionalizing the management of VLI. Although some family members are department heads, he hired professional managers starting in the ‘90s because he believes such mix of people can handle the business better. “Hernandez hired a management consultant to create the right management team that will help grow Victory Liner,” explains Gantioqui. “Not all leaderships are given to a family member. They are also given to non-relatives especially when the Hernandezes see that they can help the company. They follow a family constitution, which states that they can hire a family member only if he or she is qualified for the job.”

Jose and Marta Hernandez passed on the business to their children and grandchildren in the 1990s and 2000s securing for them a stable future. Jose’s son, Johnny T. Hernandez, is currently the president and general manager of VLI, and daughter Eufrosina H. del Pilar as treasurer. Johnny, 64, started in the company as operations manager and was named director together with his sister in 1989. The other Hernandez children also served in the company at one time before retiring. Eldest daughter Gerarda H. Villa was controller before becoming a director in 1989 and board chair in 2001. Atty. Arthur de Jesus, an in-law was the personnel manager, Jose del Pilar, also an in-law was the purchasing and warehouse manager.

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