By Antonio M. Claparols
There is a legendary bird that runs faster than others and when the dust settles all is delivered, – the roadrunner.
In the early days, people would communicate by letter writing and this was the main method of communication when the pen was mightier than the sword. This was a time when letter writing was an art, as well as a pleasure to receive. That was the mode in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. It was ripe for us and our goal to connect the islands and people.
As children, we grew up simply with our favorite toys — a slingshot, bicycle, a sword of wood, and pencils with lots of paper to write and draw on. This was our time.
Everybody wrote letters.
I remember the first time I heard of JRS was when Dad took the office to our home in tamarind due to some stockholders forming a similar company to compete with JRS. We were in Yakal then.
Dad had purchased an airplane, a C-45, making us the first courier to fly our own plane to Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan De Oro and Davao. In 1973, after graduation, I asked my father if I could work for him, and he asked, why? Did I not want to enjoy it as I graduated young? I took up accounting and another degree and went to an Insurance school as dad had Imperial Insurance, a non- life company.
Finally, I told him, “You are doing so much and we don’t know. I want to learn and help as you may have a stroke in six months.” He said, “alright.” He said I must earn the minimum wage of P4 a day and if I arrive late after 8 a.m., I need to work the whole day without pay.
That was our deal and I said yes. Thus began my first work with JRS. Dad would tell us, “To be strong, you need to be a fist and united as people will want to destroy you.” He would echo, “help the poor and the sick, work hard and be right. Love God, do what you have to do with the best that you can, and leave the rest to God.”
These values would form our work ethic and make us what we are today. We owe a lot to our Mom and Dad.
There, I learned the value of hard work and respect for our greatest asset, our people. I learned to be tough with lawyers and soft with our clients. Softer than soft and tougher than tough, Dad would always say.
I remember going to Legaspi and Naga via the Bicol express train. I stayed with a classmate and visited our branches. Dad asked me about the expenses and I said, “I stayed with a classmate from there and not a hotel.” I know he was happy as I developed a mind of my own.
After six months, he suffered from a stroke. My greatest fear had come. My Mom, Rick and Jav took him to Houston for a possible bypass, but it could not be done.
So he returned to work knowing what the doctor said, “Your life is like money in the bank. You cannot deposit, just withdraw.”
I started as a counter clerk and rose from the ranks. I became a financial analyst and went to canvassing before Dad appointed me as an admin officer, where my job was to report everything to him. I was in charge of the promotions and canvassing group, a tight group that could deliver thousands of letters and samples.
I remember my first trip to Zamboanga, where I first ate a bayawak lizard. It tasted better than chicken. I also went to Basilan Island in early 1975.Times were hard as we had martial law then in Dec. 11, 1975. The atomic bomb dropped on us when he suffered a massive heart attack and died. He left us trained to go on with the business. They appointed presidents on top of me and made me EVP.
After a few months, the stockholders offered to buy us out or we buy them out.
After a negotiated agreement, we had a three-year buyout, which was the hardest time of my life. My brothers joined me in the company, as we grew bigger. Drawing from Dad’s officers and plans, we expanded our scope. Our fleet was made up of biking messengers and vans. There were no motorcycles yet.
Today, we have more than 1,500 vehicles and more than 3,000 staff. Our couriers walk and ride bikes, motorcycles, and vans that would go from hub to hub and home to home.
In 1960, under R.A. 3260, we were granted a franchise to service the people and we have been loyal to them.
In 1983, after I took my master’s degree in Boston and visited the FedEx hub in Memphis, I met with Airborne in Seattle and Purolator in New York. I came home and we changed our trade name to JRS Express and introduced next day delivery of our new products: the JRS letter, one, three, and five pounders and JRS boxes.
We had competitors then, but most have gone bust. Courier was not that fashionable then. It was a labor-intensive blue-collar industry. Banking and capital-intensive industries were popular.
With the advent of the internet and e-commerce, we are well entrenched at the right place at the right time, with over 430 branches and a fleet that crisscrosses the country with 60 years of experience.
Today, we track and operate 24/7 and 365 days a year. We have Facebook as a platform and online clients, real heroes of the economy. Together, we have built a nation and an institution where we are their big brothers.
I have travelled to most of the country, going to places the brave dare not go — from Marawi to Malaybalay, from Basco to Basilan, from Gensan to Marbel, and I will continue doing so.
We are in every calamity affected area, helping. It is our duty-bound corporate social responsibility. During the 1990 earthquake in Baguio City, we pitched tents and set up LibrengHatidSulat Alay saKapwa to service the people. We were always there to help, even during climate calamities like typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban and Sendong in Cagayan De Oro. Today, the proliferation of illegal operators is the biggest threat to the industry, and corruption continues but we have beaten them with excellent service, innovation and goodwill.
In these days of apps and the internet, it is even more important to deliver door- to-door personally and not by drones or robots, the letters, parcels and love that connect our Islands and make us a family of Filipinos.
We are moving ahead of 60 years and there is no stopping us. God is our dispatcher and we are His messengers.
Servicing over 30,000 barangays and 95 percent of the country, we are an institution.
We are not just any company, we are a family. With the next generation onboard we are evolving faster into a new era. It’s been a great journey. I would like to thank our clients for their unending patronage and our people, our biggest asset, for a job well done. Kudos at mabuhay.
BRAVING THROUGH THE STORM
The Philippines was put on enhanced community quarantine last March 15, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. JRS Express abided by the government’s lockdown, and completely stopped operations last March 17. This was to protect our employees, and to follow the prescribed 14 day self-quarantine period, which eventually extended to a 45 day company-wide shut down.
During this period, JRS did not abandon our employees. We took the 45 days to prepare our employees by strengthening their immune systems and taking care of their homes and families. We advanced 40% of the 13 th month pay and paid the employees full salaries despite the company shutdown. We sourced and acquired all the necessary PPEs to operate safely and effectively as soon as the ECQ was scheduled to be lifted.
Once the government announced that the ECQ would be lifted on May 2, we and our army were ready. All our 440 branches and all company vehicles at the earliest time possible.
On May 4th, we resumed our operations following the safety protocols above and beyond those mandated by the DOH. We armed all our employees with the proper best available PPEs (Face shields, face masks, alcohol, gloves, acrylic countertops, foot mats etc.). We provided them with daily free shuttles to work, and instituted rapid testing per employee at least twice a month. For our customers, we put floor mats, temperature checks, alcohol sprays and contact tracing forms. We constantly disinfect and fog all our branches, vehicles and packages daily.
For those employees that have shown symptoms of COVID-19, JRS shoulders all rapid testing, swab testing and hospital expenses. JRS also rented a hotel to accommodate employees as a quarantine center with our own in-house Doctors. JRS will continue to provide free pick up service to give everyone the right to mail. We will always continue to innovate, and to find ways to successfully deliver by any means necessary. Whether through land trips, ships or planes, we will brave through this pandemic as company, a family and a country. Today, JRS is 100% infection free, and we will continue to remain vigilant.
Stay safe and healthy.