Elar Z Story
ELAR history started in 1941, Jose Lontoc of Taal, Batangas got married to Leonor Rodriguez of Montalban, Rizal ( the eldest daughter of Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez who served as the Senate President of the Philippines during 1952-1953 and 1953-1963). The couple was given a 34 hectare land in Leonor’s hometown and it was then that they ventured to engage in hog-raising to produce pork meat for public markets. Since it was, and still is a Filipino tradition to have lechon during special family celebrations they also tried to roast some pigs for their family and friends. By word of mouth, the popularity of the lechon by ELAR spread and the demand from customers had to be met.
What does ELAR stand for? It is a combination of two surnames LONTOC and RODRIGUEZ. The letter L (pronounced as EL) and the letter R (pronounced as AR). The marriage of Jose Lontoc and Leonor Rodriguez gave birth to the brand name ELAR. The couple was blessed with five children – all girls. They are Josephina Lontoc-Portillo, Dolores Lontoc-Santos, Melinda Lontoc- Zalamea, Bubut Lontoc-Ora, and Marilen Lontoc-Hidalgo. Melinda Lontoc Zalamea was the first among their children who got married and had kids named Manuel Jose Lontoc Zalamea and Manuel Enrique Lontoc Zalamea (the first apo's) were born during the 60’s. Through the years, Jose and Leonor perfected the roasting of the lechon aided by their passion for cooking. At that time, they discovered the best lechon was produced by the following; a combination of having their commercial piggery, the proper feeding and caring of pigs, the method of slaughtering, dressing, and most importantly the roasting. Jose, an engineer by profession, developed a mechanized system of roasting which turns the pig over the charcoal at a specified speed (depending on the size of the pig) to assure even cooking and avoid over- and under cooking. So in 1972, they formalized Elar Lechon which promised the best-tasting lechon to its growing customer base.
Unfortunately, Manjo and Manric’s parents marriage turned sour and because of this, they lived with their grandparents and were brought to Elar Farm which is located in San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal every weekend from 1970’s up to year 2000. They stayed with their grandparents most of their lives and since the couple was deprived of male children Manjo and Manric became their favorites.
Initially the ELAR brand has several business entities like Elar Development Corp., (Piggery and Slaughterhouse operations) Slaughterhouse operations, Casa Elar Inc. (restaurant in Speaker Perez QC) and Elarfoods Inc (Catering). Melinda Zalamea is the right hand of Jose M. Lontoc (Chairman and founder of the lechon business, piggery operations, restaurant operations and slaughter house). Josefina Lontoc Portillo and Dolores Santos were operating the catering services as their personal business using the family corporation called Elarfoods Inc.
As Elar’s Lechon grew, Manjo and Manric became the apprentices of their grandparents when they were still studying and they learned the ins and outs of the piggery and lechon business. Both grandchildren loved animals and went with their grandparents to visit the piggery farm every weekend until such time that they were able to graduate and work fully under the lechon business. This means that the operations of Elar Lechon, Elar Farm and the Slaughter House operations were for Jose M. Lontoc (Jepot) and the Zalamea family (Melinda, Manjo and Manric). They supplied the lechon for the catering services of Josefina Portillo and Dolores Santos under Elarfoods which later migrated to Cuisine et flur. Meanwhile the two other daughters, Bubut Lontoc-Ora and Marilen Lontoc-Hidalgo did not get involved with the family business because they migrated to the US.
Leonor Rodriguez passed away on the year 1997, followed by Jose Lontoc and Melinda Zalamea in the year 2000. Soon after, Josie Lontoc-Portillo and Dolores Santos took it upon themselves and decided that they were the rightful owners of all assets of the Lontoc family. The Zalamea family only wanted to get their rightful share and start their own business but they were denied by the Josie Lontoc Portillo faction. ELAR Z was born when Manjo and Manric decided not to pursue the unhealthy and complicated estate war. They just want to pursue the legacy of their grandparents of being the top lechon brand in the Philippines.
Manjo and Manric encountered problems with ELAR Z due to certain family feuds and fight for assets, and other individuals who tried to get in the way. However, this did not stop the brothers to pursue what they envisioned for ELAR Z. By continuously studying the business model from the year 2002-2011 with the intention to beat Elars. Through time, their goal diversified to aim to be like big Filipino brands such as Jollibee and KFC because there was no big player in the lechon industry that could be at par with them. Manric decided to hire a new team of employees to fulfill his vision and made a record after 5 months in the franchise industry by selling 150 kiosk outlets but due to unforeseen events ELAR Z lost everything in the year 2013-2015. All these hurdles that were encountered did not stop Manric from fulfilling his ambition for the brand but motivated him to work harder. With the help of some loyal employees he was able to face all the difficulties that was given to him.Nationwide and Global Expansion:
In the year 2018 ELAR Z sold five city franchisees (reserved). Manric targeted Amb. Jose EB Antonio (Owner of Century Properties) who is ranked No. 39 of the richest Filipino in the Forbes Magazine 2020 as one of the prospective franchisees for Makati because of a mutual friend. Dennis Perez set up the meeting sometime around June 2018 with Amb. Antonio to sell the Makati Franchise and the possibility of selling Elar farm, he then said “Manric, I cannot do small businesses because I am 72 years old and I do not have time”. The businesses that I have to get into should be similar to Century Properties”. And Manric replied “I have a global expansion plan and I just need 5 minutes of your time”. After 5 minutes Amb. Antonio invited Manric to have lunch and counter offered. Amb. Antonio asked “Are you open for me to be an equity partner rather than a franchisee”? And Manric replied “If you assure me that my family will not be diluted and provide the joint venture of all the funding that is needed my family will consider it”.
Now, ELAR Z is the biggest and largest Lechon brand in the industry. It is the first lechon brand that will be able to penetrate the global market. As of December 2020, ELAR Z can now be bought in 2,000 major outlets (Puregold, SM, S&R, Landers, Alpha Mart, Super 8, All Day, Waltermart, Market Place, Landmark and others to follow). By 2021 we will start franchising and start distribution in other Countries.