As one saying goes, “the size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire.” These words hold deeper meaning for Luis Abiva Jr., since the industry he belongs to, is one that faced numerous challenges over the years, and continues to do so, even now. Abiva is the chairman of Abiva Publishing House Inc.— the oldest and one of the most enduring textbook publishers and booksellers in the country today.
Founded in 1936, the company was originally known as Abiva Press, publishing reviewer manuals for civil service examinations of patrolmen and junior and senior teachers. The company is the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Luis Abiva Sr. and Asuncion Quiray Abiva, who were both educators at that time. The current chairman, Luis Abiva Jr. recalls his parents started business in a one-room office in Evangelista St. Quiapo, Manila. Then the war and death of his father Luis Sr. in 1942 left his mother Asuncion with four young children and a fledgling printing press. She then sold the printing side of the business, but retained the publishing aspect of it.
In 1945, they ventured in publishing pre-school, high school, and college textbooks.
Soon, the company also started publishing supplementary books, reference materials, and multimedia instructional materials. Abiva Jr. says he was sent to the US by his mother to study printing at the Rochester College, while his older brother was also sent to study the publishing aspect of the business. When he came back in 1966, he says he had to restructure Abiva Publishing. “I revised all our books and introduced new authors, so our publication needs became bigger, which our 10 printer consignees couldn’t handle at that time. So I took out a company loan from the bank to re-start a printing company.
In 1969, Abiva Jr. took over as president of the company. It was also the same year when he grew the company further and started a separate printing company called Hiyas Press, primarily to serve as the printing arm of Abiva Publishing.
Today, almost 79 years later, aside from its main office in Quezon City, the company put up branches in Cebu and Davao, to serve Visayas and Mindanao.
Looking back, Abiva Jr. says the challenges both the printing and publishing industries faced then were numerous. “When I started, all the machines then were still analog. One of the biggest problems then of digital printers was fluctuating electricity, which kept damaging the sensitive digital machines and computers. A computer box then was worth P3 million.”
Besides the high costs of printing machines then and up to now, another challenge he pointed out is the need to professionalize the printing industry, and along with it, the establishment of printing schools to educate both the workers and the management on proper methods and standards at par with the rest of the world.
As chairman of the country’s oldest printing house, Abiva Jr. says he is one who practices what he preaches. “We continuously upgrade our machines to international standards, and send our employees and managers to train formally both here and abroad.” He hopes government will support the industry’s clamor to put up the country’s own printing schools, to hasten the development and competitiveness of the Philippine printing sector. His company is also in the process of handing over completely the reins of the business to the third generation, to continually infuse young blood and fresh ideas.
This move also affords him more time these days to pursue his other interests in life.
When asked how he devotes time for relaxation, Abiva Jr., says he is enjoying fishing and traveling with his group of friends. He then proudly showed off the big fish he caught in one of his many fishing expeditions. That fish is now a trophy hanging on his office wall.
In the end, he said his one wish is for the next generation to preserve and expand the dream that his father and mother started. He said that although he cannot promise the road to get there won’t be bumpy, at least the next generation can rely on the path taken by his generation, when before there were none.