5 Famous Filipino Brands and their Surprising Origin Stories

Good branding often sticks in people’s minds like the brand itself is the name of the product. They become generic names instead of brand names. Like how we refer to toothpaste as ‘Colgate’, or the vacuum flask as ‘Thermos’, the photocopier machine as ‘Xerox’ and contact cement as ‘Rugby’.

Most of us are not aware that they are just brand names, but since people have used the same brand name, again and again, it instills in our memory.



Even the local brands are becoming generic names, like how we refer the milk in halo-halo as ‘Alaska’ or the vinegar as ‘Datu Puti’. But are we aware where they came from? Here’s a list of Filipino brands and truths of their beginning.



1. DATU PUTI

Did the name come from a legendary chieftain? Unfortunately, No. Even though there was a real ‘Datu Puti’ that once lived with his 9 Bornean Datus who apparently landed in Iloilo in the pre-colonial era, the brand is not owned by him. 

It is owned by the Reyes family who got the name, ‘Datu’ from their mother’s surname and ‘Puti’ which means, ‘white’, because the color of the traditional palm vinegar (sukang paombong) is white.

The brand launched a ‘Mukhasim’ campaign or in English means, ‘sour face’ that shows how sour the vinegar is. This was a highly successful stunt that must have brought a lot of profits to the company.



Their first ever celebrity that was featured in their commercial was 1980’s comedian Conrado Piring or also known as ‘Pugak’.

2. ALASKA

Did Alaska milk come from Alaska? The truth is, No. Alaska milk was first manufactured in the Philippines, so Alaska is truly a Filipino product. However, a lot has been wondering about the iconic golden-haired boy on the cover.

There have been speculations that the boy might be Michael Uytengsu, the son of the late AMC Chairman, Wilfred Uytengsu. Michael Uytengsu happen to appear in Alaska’s very first commercial when he was young, together with basketball import, Cisco Oliver and used the now popular taglines, “Yeah men!” and “Wala pa rin tatalo sa Alaska.” But according to the company, the smiling golden-haired boy was only a fictional character which was an artist’s rendition.



3. NATIONAL BOOKSTORE

Did the owners of the National Book Store meet at a bookstore? The truth is, yes, the founders of the now established bookstore met at a bookstore. The co-founder, Soccoro Cancio or as we all know as, Nanay Coring, revealed that she had just finished high school when she met her husband, ‘Tatay’ Jose Ramos. 

Nanay Coring used to work at her brother’s bookstore, while Tatay was the brother of Nanay’s sister in law. According to her, “Tindera ako. Bookkeeper siya. Nagkakilala kami.”

However, the name ‘National Book Store’ actually came from the brand of their cash register. According to Nanay Coring, “it sounded like a good name.” 

But during the World War II, Nanay Coring almost renamed the store as “National Slipper Store”, because, during the war, there was a huge demand of slippers coming from tired Japanese soldiers, so Nanay sold slippers together with school supplies.

Apparently, the Japanese soldiers didn’t like American books to be sold, so they supplied slippers instead.



4. MAX’S RESTAURANT

Was Max’s Restaurant named after a man named, ‘Max’? In truth, yes. It was named after Maximo Gimenez who graduated from Stanford University and has American GI’s as friends whom he often invites over their house for a round of drinking. 

The military camp was near their house, so they were always full of guests. But what’s best with beer is chicken, so Maximo’s daughter Ruby Trota, cooked them a special chicken recipe for them to eat. The chicken was the same recipe we all love now, and that gave way to a business opportunity.

They apparently wanted to name their restaurant, “Maximo” but the Americans had a hard time pronouncing it, so they kept it as, “Max’s”. Since their regulars were Americans, they had a hard time when the war ended, and the soldiers went back to their homes. Luckily, they did not give up, and by word of mouth, they reopened their first store in Scout Tuazon in Quezon City.

5. GINEBRA SAN MIGUEL

Is Ginebra S. Miguel the founder of the brand? Unfortunately, No. The brand was named after St. Michael, and as you can see their logo is a painting of an angel triumphing over the devil. 

It is now called as “Marca”, and the painter? It was Fernando Amorsolo. The owner, Don Enrique Zobel was so impressed with his work that he decided to offer him a chance to study at Academia de San Fernando in Madrid.

However, the school itself gave him a different offer. Instead of accepting him as a student, they offered him to be a professor at the school!



It is fascinating to know the history and facts about the brands we love. They indeed have been a part of most Filipinos everyday lives.

They may have been around for long to serve and help supply the community and country’s demands.

Some were also part of certain celebrations and memories but it was not those things that these brands are well remembered, they also show steadfast dedication to their work.

Filipinos truly have what it takes to be competitive globally. These brands not only raise awareness for Filipino creativity or ingenuity but also as an inspiration to everyone in the business world.





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