Push the kariton


Let me set the scene for you. The year was 1945. Manila was a wasteland and the city was in ruins after the Japanese occupation during WWII. This person was not born rich; he was orphaned at a young age and was deprived of continuing his education. Both his background and the state of the market did not deter this person to make an impact to millions of Filipinos.

This man’s life should not only be a business case study for entrepreneurs but a case study for everyone to gain inspiration on how to create an empire from ruins and on how to leave a lasting legacy that impacted lives of a nation. I am talking about the late Mariano Que the founder of Mercury Drug.

Mariano was the original “med rep”. He started peddling pharmaceutical products from his “kariton” (wooden pushcart). Mariano had bottles of pills in his hand and sold the medicine piece by piece and with his brief experience of working in a pharmacy. Mariano found his niche and served the public and quickly earned P100. Mariano reinvested the gained capital and extended his product range. His number one selling product was Sulfiathiazole, an antibacterial that prevented and treated bacterial infections of the skin. The first Mercury Drug outlet opened in Bambang Street, Manila (a place that is close and familiar to me) on 1 March 1945.

The first Mercury Drug store was opened in Bambang St., Manila in 1945.
The first Mercury Drug store was opened in Bambang St., Manila in 1945.

How did Mariano Que build his empire? I have read numerous amounts of articles written about the rise of Mercury Drug and they all point to a few key factors. The first one is Mariano’s entrepreneurial spirit, his get up and go, his willingness to push that kariton and sell the bottles of medicine per tablet. Second, Mariano knew the importance of the handshake. Mariano was true to his word, his handshake was his bond and it was through the handshake that trust was earned according to Mariano. Third, Mariano knew his priorities and lived by them. In an interview he was quoted, “My life’s priorities are these: first God; and then my family; my country, my work, my health and peace of mind.” Lastly, Mariano lived by the motto “On, sail on” “Que sera sera”, (whatever will be will be).

The growth of Mercury Drug was not a smooth road and in any life of a business, there are many peaks and valleys, bumps on the road, a crisis or spot fire just waiting around the corner. There were family disputes and potential corporate takeovers but Mariano stuck with his values and priorities and continued business as usual. With that paradigm towards business and life, Mercury Drug expanded from an outlet in Bambang Street Manila to over 1,000 branches across the country. The P100 original investment is now worth over $900 million (as of 2016).

I hope that this short story on Mariano Que serves as a great example on how living by your values, having integrity, serving the public with what they need, having the intestinal fortitude to push through and leave a legacy is enough to inspire you and encourage that little voice in your head to say “I can do it, too.”

Until next time, STAY FOCUSED!


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