How Marcos Prevented Philippine Industrialization

Quick History of DMG

This is a picture of the enormous Guevara plant in Libertad St. Mandaluyong back in the 70s.

Here, they used to make Radiowealth products, such as steroes, television sets, phonographs, etc.

Here is a picture of a Volkswagen Sakbayan.

The Sakbayan was a local derivative of a Volkswagen Beetle, sharing the engine and chassis but with a different body. It was very popular in the 70s and people my age remember it being used by PLDT as their regular vehicle.

Both products were world class. Dominguez Group of Companies (DMG) was the exclusive importer – distributor and assembler of Volkswagen, selling the popular Beetle and Kombi among others. Starting 1957, they EXPORTED locally assembled Beetles, Kharman Ghias, Micro Buses and Campers VWs. Radiowealth was a nationally popular brand and offered quality products.

Both were founded by Domingo M. Guevara Sr.. Guevent Group started as a small radio store and became a large, world class organization engaged in manufacturing, electronics, communications, agriculture and industrial development, etc.

Enter Marcos

Guevara was one of 7 Constitutional Convention delegates who voted against Martial laws declaration in September 1972. As a result, the Marcos pressured Guevara to give up these businesses, eventually he then fled to the US.

Radiowealth and the VW manufacturing plant closed, and with it the hopes of an industrial economy that would have flourished in a world where Japan and Korea were just starting to get their acts together.

From a Philstar Article dated Jan. 27, 2013, link here

National artist Nick Joaquin wrote about the peak of Guevara’s career in the early ’70s: The first full-fledged auto manufacturer of the Philippines was selling up to 5,000 vehicles a year, was creating the first Philippine-made car, and was manufacturing picture tubes and other electronic components.

He had brought his country’s economy to a crucial threshold: the point of take-off for a NIC, a Newly Industrialized Country.

Then Martial Law was declared and all of Guevara’s plans were thwarted. Before the Marcos takeover backed up by military rule, Guevara had been elected a delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention who sought to promulgate programs that would jumpstart the industrialization of the Philippines. Being the man of principle that he was, Guevara was one of seven delegates that voted against the martial law constitution.

Soon after, Marcos representatives were asking the businessman if they could buy into his companies. Domingo Jr., Guevara’s third son, recalls in his father’s biography: I quoted a price to the emissary and asked if his principle could pay it. And the emissary said no, and that no price would be paid. I said: ‘What do you mean?’ And he reported that I should feel flattered that President (Marcos) wanted to ‘invest’ in our company.

When the senior Guevara made it plain that he was not interested in a one-sided partnership with Marcos and his cronies, his firms began experiencing problems with his bankers, and from the Bureaus of Internal Revenue and Customs. What could a businessman do? There was no way of fighting back (under martial law conditions), Guevara recalled in his biography.

Personal Note

My Dad, Geminiano M. Mercado was a VP of DMG. I grew up with memories of many Radiowealth TVs and Stereos (which I thought for years was a foreign brand), and Volkswagens namely the Passat, a couple of Brasilias, a very rare 411 and the one I remember most, a shiny white Type 3 Sedan Beetle variant.

I’ll be honest, I was too young to remember my Dad before his death from cancer in 1986 so I didn’t here any stories firsthand. What I do remember is that one of Guevara’s sons rented an apartment in our old Manaluyong house. And that there was always talk about how much of a powerhouse DMG was considering it was actually manufacturing VWs (VWs!!) for local and foreign consumption. Radiowealth was a household brand. Sony only launched the ‘Trinitron’ tv in 1968. Radiowealth was already making TVs while its tech wasn’t up to par yet it was at least making a popular brand nationwide and an adoption of other tech was foreseeable.

Yes that might sound incredible but it was the 70s and technologies introduced in other countries was just as available here and elsewhere. We were an English speaking educated nation with strong ties to America and Europe so there was no reason why tech abroad would not have been adopted and improved on quickly here.

Being a motorhead I would grow up learning that most famous automakers started with very humble beginnings. Sakichi Toyoda was make spinning machines and looms, Soichiro Honda was making bicycles. After the 2nd World War everyone had to start with a clean slate and the Philippines had just as many reasons as any to get ahead industrially as any other country.

I have no doubt that jeepney manufacturers would have flourished given half a chance as well. Owner type jeeps were a staple vehicle then, being cheap and made of readily available parts. They had just as much tech as the cars at the time. If allowed to grow they would eventually meet better manufacturing standards such as improved ride, better emissions. better economy, better ride and safety. Why not? Because manufacturers in other countries had just as much opportunities as we had, no more no less.

We were not lacking in leaders and big ideas. We unfortunately though had Marcos.

Credits to:
• DMG, the company that started the Volkswagens in the Philippines. –
• Domingo Guevara: The road to industrialization –
• Isa Munang Patalastas Blog –
• Remembering DMG: Self-Made Entrepreneur ––finance.html
• Facebook post by Ms. Likha Cuevas –