Eulalio “Ayong” Lorenzo, DVM, has come a long way from shoveling gravel, sand and cement as a construction worker in the ‘70s to build houses and earn money to be able to go to college and have a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
Today, Doc Ayong, as he is popularly known, is a legitimate business mogul, overseeing eight companies with more than 300 employees, and a certified pioneer in the animal-vaccine industry.
“We are the Filipino-owned company that ventured into animal-vaccine production,” said Lorenzo, president and chief executive of EDL Group of Companies, a conglomerate involved in marketing and distribution of veterinary products and production of animal vaccines, a product of biotechnology, which is basically technology based on biology, or the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products.
Biotechnology has been used by ancient humans to make food like bread and cheese. Today, modern biotechnology has given us advances in agriculture, medicine and other fields that merely decades ago seemed unimaginable, like Doc Ayong’s meteoric rise in the business world.
“Noong nag-aaral kami ng high school, hindi kami kayang pag-aralin ng aming magulang nang sabay-sabay, kaya after nang gumraduate ako ng high school sa Doña Aurora High School noong 1975, nag-construction worker ako, nag-mason ako para makapag-college,” Lorenzo said.
He added an aunt helped him get a scholarship from the Philippine Veterans Office.
“Kasi ang aking tiyuhin ay Philippine veteran, entitled sila sa mga scholarship. So doon ako nakapag-aral, from construction worker, nakapag-aral ako ng college, kumuha ako ng Vet Med,” said Doc Ayong who got his degree from the Gregorio Araneta University Foundation in 1982.
From there, he worked for the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry as a livestock inspector for one year.
“Pumasok ako ng 1982 hanggang 1983 sa BAI Rizal, habang nagre-review ako sa board exam. Lumabas yung resulta ng later part ng 1983. Pagakatapos noon nag-ahente ako sa Cordline Veterinary Products Inc. Nagsisimula pa lang ‘yung kumpanya kaya ako pa lang mag-isa,” Lorenzo said.
He added that during that time, contract growing was just about to boom, and Cordline’s timing in starting the business in the distribution and marketing of veterinary products like soluble vitamins and antibiotics for poultry and piggery farms couldn’t have been better.
In the next ten years, Doc Ayong became a salesman, a supervisor and then a sales manager, the last position he held in the company. He resigned in 1993 and established his first company.
“I put up East Asia Veterinary Products. A year later, I established my second company, Excellence Poultry and Livestock Specialists. During that time, there were only a few products for fighting cocks. I saw the opportunity to supply medicines for the control, prevention and treatment of diseases affecting fighting cocks,” Lorenzo said.
“It was quite simple,” he said, since he was already equipped with the necessary skills in sales and had a huge network of business contacts.
“Parang nagpalit lang ng upuan. Nagamit ko ‘yung experience, kaya napakabilis ng ating turnaround. Initially I was the agent, the driver, the delivery man, the collector. I was again by myself. After about a year, I was able to hire an agent, a secretary, and got a small office. From there, the number of my staff increased until I was able to form a formidable organization in the poultry and livestock industry,” he said.
The fun-loving and during his school years, sometimes naughty Doc Ayong revealed that he never found the idea of establishing a veterinary clinic that appealing since during the early 1980s, only a few bothered to have their sick animals checked by a veterinarian.
“Sa kagustuhan kong magkaroon ng sasakyan, nag-ahente ako. ‘Pag mag-opisina ka, hindi ka naman bibigyan ng sasakyan kung nasa bureau o nasa government ka. Kasi kapag ikaw ay ahente, hindi ka naman makakaruta kapag wala kang sasakyan,” he said, smilingly.
According to him, his involvement with the production of animal vaccine started because the animal vaccine company he acquired invested in vaccine production but seemed to have neglected the fact that they need to have a competent agent.
“Nagkaroon ako ng chance na mag-takeover sa isang kumpanya na nagma-manufacture ng bakuna sa Los Baños para sa ruminants, baka, kalabaw, kambing for hemorrhagic septicaemia. Nag-invest sila sa production ng bakuna, itong Hemosep, wala naman silang ahente. Binenta nila, binili ko, yung pangalan, yung equipment,” Lorenzo said.
And thus, East Asia Laboratories came into being for the development of local medicines, supplements and vaccines for animals.
“We invested P30 million just to start one vaccine. Other Asian countries have been investing in technology. We want to start producing local-animal medicines. Itong mga Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian nakakapag-produce ng sarili nilang bakuna, na nagsipag-aral lang dito sa Pilipinas, tayo wala. So sabi ko kaya natin ito,” Lorenzo said.
According to Lorenzo, they just got their license to produce animal vaccines in September 2014 after hurdling plenty of obstacles. Right now, they are producing vaccines for Coryza, a fast-spreading respiratory disease among chickens characterized by sneezing, running nose and clogged nostrils which causes unpleasant odor. Sometimes, the head and eyes of the infected chicken also swell.
He added it would be better if local strains will be used in the development of the vaccines since if the bacteria or virus strains that will be used will be coming from other countries, there is a possibility that the vaccine won’t work against local animal diseases because of bacteria and the viruses’ tendency to mutate.
Currently, Doc Ayong is contemplating also of venturing into the cosmetics industry using natural ingredients.
“Sino ba naman sa mga Pilipino ang ayaw gumanda, ayaw kuminis? Ang manufacturing ng veterinary products, yung equipment diyan, yung pharmacist, yung chemist, yung microbiologist, iisa lang naman yan saka yung sa cosmetics. I have the technology, so kailangan ko lang mag-set up ng isang structure, separate, pero yung mga tao, iisa lang,” Lorenzo explained, a clear display of his innate business acumen.
The DA Biotechnology Program Office has long been promoting the use of natural ingredients to derive useful products using biotechnology.
According to Lorenzo, the use of biotechnology and its applications is part of human development. It is becoming more and more needed since the world population is growing very fast, and along with it, the need for more food.
“Science yan e. Kailangan lang talaga, hindi masira yung environment at hindi delikado sa health ng tao,” he concluded.