SLERS began as a personal culinary endeavor in 1969 when Fely Pelaez learned to prepare delicious smoked country hams in her home in Del Monte, Bukidnon. That year family and friends bought her ham for Noche Buena (Christmas Dinner).
The ham became so popular, the hobby became a cottage industry and later a family corporation. SLERS is an acronym of her children’s names.
The success of SLERS as an industry leader is the result of giving customers the highest quality hams and gourmet meats – along with unmatched customer service. Our goal is to exceed your expectations.
The first to bring the classic American-style ham to Cagayan de Oro (and the Philippines), SLERS Industries is a family-owned enterprise that has definitely come a long way from its humble beginnings as a kitchen-based ham business. Today, it is a multi-product enterprise and the SLERS brand has become a household name.
Two empowered women are responsible for the success and growth of SLERS: Ofelia “Fely” Cosin Pelaez, the school teacher who perfected the process of making American-style ham and then made a successful business from it; and her daughter, Mercedes “Litlit” Pelaez Mejia, who established modern systems and diversified the business to turn it into the multi-product enterprise that it is today. Here, you will get to learn of their stories…
It was the mid-1960s and my husband was working for Del Monte Pineapple Corporation, so we lived in Camp Philips, Bukidnon, just like many other Del Monte workers and their families did. Being an American company, Del Monte had a tradition of giving away one leg of American country-style ham to each of their staff every Christmas. My husband’s family, who hails from Cebu, loved the ham so much that I decided to try making my own. You see, hogs at that time were really small, so with just the one leg of ham we receive each Christmas, there wasn’t really much to share.
So I set about learning how to make American country-style ham. It wasn’t that difficult because I already had a passion for cooking. It was a lengthy process, though—the curing alone takes at least 30 days. To make sure the meat was perfectly cured, I had to tie my refrigerator with a ribbon so no one would open it and disrupt the curing process! When my friends would come for a visit, they would ask why there was a ribbon around my refrigerator and I would say it was a secret.
Finally, when my first batch of ham was ready, I had friends over for dinner and revealed my secret. To my delight, they all loved the ham that I prepared and suggested that I start selling them. I had already thought of making a small business out of my newfound hobby, but the recommendation of my friends was perhaps the final push that I needed. As a courtesy to Del Monte, which was providing us with free housing and utilities (electricity, water, etc.), I informed them of my plans to sell American country-style ham. Fortunately, they approved of my plans. And that was how SLERS* began.
At the time, the only kind of ham being sold in the country was Chinese ham. So when I started selling my own style of ham and sending some to my husband’s family in Cebu, people loved it primarily because it was something new; an alternative to Chinese ham. In making my own ham, I combined the American and Chinese styles; the SLERS ham was meaty, juicy, and not too salty. Soon enough, I was getting orders, not just from our neighborhood, but from other parts of the country as well. In fact, there were orders from as far as Metro Manila!
In 1969, the business was registered with the National Cottage Industries Development Administration (NACIDA) and I was granted a PHP5,000 loan. Among my first loyal customers were military officers who sent helicopters from Manila to Bukidnon just to buy SLERS ham. One day, I was amazed when I received a bulk order from the National Sugar Trading Corporation (NASUTRA) in Manila for 5,000 legs of ham! I wasn’t even sure I could make that many hams, but with the help of my husband, who created a makeshift cold storage for my business, and a few assistants, we were able to deliver. Those hams had to be shipped in a 20-ft refrigerated container van!
I had fun running my ham business from our humble home in Bukidnon. But in 1987, my husband and I came to Cagayan de Oro and we both decided to retire. My daughter, Litlit, had just come home from Manila and I decided to turn the business over to her. I am glad I did because she has proven very capable and has expanded the business to the SLERS you know today.
SLERS is an acronym that stands for Shirley, Litlit, Earl, Ray, and Sharon—the nicknames of Fely’s five children.
When asked what the secret of SLERS’ success is, Fely was quick to answer: “Quality, of course! Through the years, we have never compromised on the quality of our products and we never will.”
I came home from Manila sometime in 1987. At that time, my parents had moved to Cagayan de Oro and decided to retire. That was what people did in those days; they considered themselves retired at 55! Having lived in Manila for a few years, I had learned how business was done in the metro. So when my parents said they needed someone to take over the ham business, I took the challenge.
By then, I was already married. And because my husband hails from Pampanga, I decided to introduce tocino to Cagayan de Oro. When I first told my mother of my plan to diversify our product offerings by adding tocino, she was adamantly against the idea. “No! The Bisaya do not like sweet meat. They want savory!”, she insisted. But somehow, I knew it wasn’t really a matter of the Bisaya not liking sweet meat; they just haven’t tried it yet.
And I was right! Soon after I introduced the SLERS tocino, it became a hit among our loyal customers. That marked the beginning of SLERS’ journey towards becoming a multi-product business enterprise. Soon, we began to offer hotdogs, longganisa, bacon, beef pastrami, and other meat products. Even our original ham was diversified into several variants. Back then, our products were only distributed in three locations other than our own house: Ororama Superstore in Cogon, De Oro Foodmart in the Divisoria area, and at my aunt’s house on Corrales Avenue.
In 2001, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we give people a chance to sample our products in the form of sandwiches?” A sandwich is a lot more affordable than a whole leg of ham, so I figured that would encourage more people to give SLERS meat a try. And I also figured that once they’ve tasted our meat products, they’d be enticed to buy a whole pack. So the SLERS Ham & Café was born.
In 2006, we ran into a major problem. Our meat supplier, Nenita Farms in Davao, closed down! To make sure we did not run out of supplies, we resorted to buying hogs directly from hog growers. The meat didn’t pose any problem because we could process all kinds of meat from a hog and the bones could always be cooked into a delicious soup dish. But what were we to do with the skin? There was just so much of it and we didn’t want it to go to waste. That was when the idea for the SLERS chicharon came to be.
So, you see, what we first saw as a major problem back in 2006 turned out to be a huge blessing for the business because it paved the way for our Pica-Pica cart business. That also gave me the idea to go into franchising, and in 2007, we had our first franchise in General Santos City. Soon, we had franchises in Iligan City, Cebu, and even Metro Manila; we even had a cart at the Mall of Asia! The success of our franchises didn’t last very long, though. Just like many other food cart businesses, most of our franchises soon closed down, but that’s okay; it’s part of the business landscape.
We kept doing what we’ve always done, and that is to modernize the business while keeping the quality of our products intact. In 2009, SLERS chicharon became the first machine-packed chicharon in the country. And through the years, we have remained rooted in our pork-based meat products, which is where we began in the first place. Believe it or not, we may have modernized our systems, but we still follow the traditional way of making ham; the meat still goes through a lengthy curing, smoking, and cooking process.
We are happy to announce that since 2014, we have been operating a Triple-A accredited meat processing plant at Alae in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. And just recently, we have also been granted a permit to operate a country-style restaurant near the meat processing facility. The restaurant is designed to cater to tourists traveling to and from Dahilayan Adventure Park in Manolo Fortich. We hope to start operations at the restaurant towards the end of this year or maybe early next year.
Things are looking good and we are very happy to see what my mother’s passion for cooking and food preparation has become over the years. We were here when Cagayan de Oro was still a sleepy town and we hope to be here for years to come.