MISS NOT-SO-COOKIE-CUT­TER

Busi­ness, her­itage, the arts, and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity all con­verge to shape Margo Frasco’s path

Cebu Living - - Cover Story - By CHINGGAY LABRADOR Im­ages by DON FRASCO

“We all live lives that call for ‘hy­phen­ation,’” says Margo Frasco, a busi­ness owner who comes from a long line of en­trepreneurs. Her fam­ily is re­spon­si­ble for the hun­dred-yearold busi­ness Ti­tay’s, home of the fa­mous Liloan pasalubong, which, un­der her wing, has made its way into the na­tional sphere with a strate­gic and pro­gres­sive ex­pan­sion.

“Ti­tay’s has al­ways taken great care of me. Our em­ploy­ees have and will al­ways be my fam­ily,” Frasco says. The re­spon­si­bil­ity she car­ries as the com­pany’s cur­rent COO springs from a child­hood im­mersed in the busi­ness and the rich his­tory it car­ries. She re­mem­bers spend­ing af­ter­noons at the fac­tory, mov­ing around heavy equip­ment, play­fully dis­rupt­ing ev­ery­one’s work. “I ap­pre­ci­ated how the staff would take good care of us no mat­ter how an­noy­ing we be­came,” she laughs. “I re­mem­ber run­ning around, snatch­ing ev­ery­one’s hair­nets off. I’m sure it was cause for frus­tra­tion for a lot of them and for that, I’m now re­ally apolo­getic!”

While Frasco and her brother (cur­rent Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco) were raised in an en­vi­ron­ment that had them in­ter­act­ing with the staff, their ex­po­sure to the busi­ness was never con­trived. “We were dis­ci­plined but al­lowed to make mis­takes,” she says, adding that they were con­stantly sur­rounded by peo­ple: vis­i­tors, de­liv­ery men and women, cus­tomers, lo­cals. “There was al­ways some­thing to do or some­where to go.”

Be­cause Ti­tay’s has been han­dled and passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, Frasco grew up very close to her grand­mother. “We would watch to­gether,

and she would al­ways call my at­ten­tion when the dol­lar ex­change rate would flash on­screen,” she re­mem­bers. “At an early age, my grand­mother taught me never to fid­dle with cap­i­tal, and to tap profit in­stead. She would al­ways tell me to know how much I had in the bank.”

Her grand­mother’s in­flu­ence ex­tended all the way into the kitchen. “She would wake up at 3 a.m. to pre­pare mix­tures for the next day, and then re­turn to bed smelling of dough, bat­ter, flour, and oil. She was ex­hausted but was be­yond hard­work­ing. Mass was al­ways a part of her week, and that’s some­thing I prac­tice to this day.”

Frasco was also a typ­i­cal “daddy’s girl,” which did not ex­actly spare her from the oc­ca­sional lec­ture from her fa­ther— some­thing that helped shape her work ethic. “I had to be awake early one Satur­day morn­ing to help him plant a per­sim­mon tree and I didn’t wake up on time. I re­ceived a huge lec­ture. He told me that at the rate I was go­ing, I would never get to the same level as my grand­mother. That hit me hard, and since then, I made sure I never dis­ap­pointed him.”

That said, she grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment that in­spired open minds through le­niency. “My par­ents al­ways en­cour­aged me to dream big and to never take any­thing for granted. We were con­stantly re­minded of our priv­i­lege.”

Busi­ness soon be­came sec­ond na­ture to Frasco, as her grand­mother pa­tiently schooled her in ev­ery­thing, from clos­ing the cashier at the store to sort­ing next-day de­posits. “It was never an ac­tual ex­pec­ta­tion for me to take part in the busi­ness; our par­ents wanted us to pur­sue our dreams and ex­plore the world,” she clar­i­fies. “But I did feel that there would come a time when I would even­tu­ally be in­volved. I woke up and won­dered about liv­ing in Cebu one day. I re­turned in 2012 from the U.S., and have been here since.”

The move wasn’t easy for her, as she had left her life in the U.S. on a whim.

It was never an ac­tual ex­pec­ta­tion for me to take part

in the busi­ness; our par­ents wanted us to pur­sue our dreams

and ex­plore the world.

With­out any friends out­side of her fam­ily, she rec­og­nized that it would take ex­treme strength and con­fi­dence to make her new life here work. “It wasn’t a walk in the park,” she ad­mits. Apart from that, the cen­tury- old fam­ily busi­ness was al­ready set in its ways “I had to set my ob­jec­tives and un­der­stand how ev­ery­thing op­er­ated. It took a lot of pa­tience on all fronts to get our goals aligned and vi­sion planned, but ev­ery­thing pointed to­wards wider dis­tri­bu­tion and com­plete trans­parency.

“My ul­ti­mate dream for Ti­tay’s is that it would be­come rec­og­nized as one of the world’s [mak­ers of the] most ex­quis­ite cook­ies,” Frasco con­tin­ues. “I want it to be around for an­other hun­dred years and be known as an in­sti­tu­tion that takes amaz­ing care of its em­ploy­ees.”

While the busi­ness con­sumes most of her days and nights and con­sis­tently keeps her “on her toes,” she keeps her­self busy with non-work re­lated in­ter­ests, too. “I dis­like be­ing stag­nant,” she says. Her quick­est es­cape hatch to re­lax­ation is through sto­ries, whether through books, role-play­ing games, or a pas­sion she’s had since her teens: the the­ater. “I re­mem­ber be­ing ex­tremely timid, and don’t get me wrong—there will al­ways be but­ter­flies ev­ery time I step on stage.” She did not ex­pect to be able to in­dulge in her fond­ness for the­ater upon mov­ing to Cebu. “I was ap­pre­hen­sive that my pas­sion would be lost be­cause I was so un­fa­mil­iar with the lo­cal scene.” But as luck would have it, she was ap­proached to spon­sor a pro­duc­tion of

Sid­dhartha. “An adap­ta­tion is in the works, and we aim to stage it in De­cem­ber.”

Apart from the­ater, mu­sic has also been a huge pas­sion of Frasco’s, from her child­hood days study­ing the pi­ano to her cur­rent job as a DJ at Magic FM. “We’re a di­verse bunch of ec­cen­tric and hard­work­ing peo­ple who’ve got each oth­ers’ backs 100 per­cent of the time,” she says of her ra­dio job. Frasco started her ca­reer as a DJ at a house party when she was 19 years old, and her mu­si­cal tastes have run the gamut of sen­ti­men­tal love songs (when she was in grade school) to hip hop and R&B slow jams (in high school) to house and techno/EDM. “These were the

types of mu­sic that in­spired my DJ ca­reer. I fig­ured, if I can’t sing, then I may as well be on a plat­form, mix­ing my fa­vorite tracks. It’s amaz­ing how nos­tal­gic peo­ple be­come when they hear a fa­mil­iar tune.”

Frasco’s col­or­ful life is made vi­brant by so many of her in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing her role as a mem­ber and ad­vo­cate of the LGBT com­mu­nity. Be­ing openly gay has opened her up to highs and lows like no other. “It’s nor­mal for mat­ters to hit rock bot­tom be­fore the sit­u­a­tion gets bet­ter,” she explains. “When I was young, I used to con­tem­plate on whether there’d be a day I could bring a part­ner to a fam­ily func­tion with­out that feel­ing of dis­ap­proval or un­easi­ness. And when that day fi­nally came, I felt the weight lift off my shoul­ders.”

The stigma hasn’t com­pletely lifted, but Frasco holds strongly to the be­lief that she is not alone—some­thing she’d like to im­part to peo­ple deal­ing with the same sit­u­a­tion. “There are mo­ments when you may sense that ev­ery­one is against you, but you are ab­so­lutely wrong. God watches over you. You have your fam­ily and friends. Oc­ca­sion­ally, there may be bumps on the road with fam­ily, but al­ways be mind­ful that when you hurt, they hurt. When you miss them, they miss you. And when you are in an­guish, they worry. Most im­por­tantly, when you are happy, the fam­ily is al­ways happy with you.

“We can’t have ev­ery­one ac­cept us for what we are, but we can try to make them un­der­stand who we are. We can try to con­vince them that we are no dif­fer­ent from any­one else. We cry, we laugh, we hurt, we love. Let’s not dwell on the bur­den of pain, but em­brace the af­fec­tion from those who love us in­stead.”

At the heart of Frasco’s life, it is love that speaks loudly and clearly: love for oth­ers, her fam­ily, her pas­sions, God, and her­self. “I’m will­ing to ac­cept the in­evitable fate that we all have. If we are meant to change some­thing in this life­time, it’s be­cause we are des­tined to. We’re al­ways try­ing to change, to in­no­vate, to make things bet­ter— but be­hind it all, we need to change, in­no­vate, and im­prove our­selves to be­come greater peo­ple.”

“I RE­MEM­BER BE­ING EX­TREMELY TIMID, AND DON’T GET ME WRONG—THERE WILL AL­WAYS BE BUT­TER­FLIES EV­ERY­TIME I STEP ON THE STAGE,” SAYS MARGO FRASCO ON HER LIFE AS A

THE­ATER AC­TRESS.

MARGO FRASCO MUNCHES ON TI­TAY’S ROSQUILLOS CO­RA­ZON, A BUSI­NESS THEIR

FAM­ILY HAS OWNED FOR 110 YEARS.

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