THE CERES EMPIRE – PRIDE OF NEGROS
by Michael Ocampo
During my college years, I would travel from Dumaguete to Bacolod every weekend to tutor the grandchildren of the Yansons of the Ceres Bus Lines.
Theirs is a rags to riches story. Starting from a simple jeepney unit purchased in 1968 by husband-wife team Ricardo and Olivia Yanson. Mr. Yanson hails from Valladolid, Negros Occidental and Mrs. Yanson is from Bayawan City, Negros Oriental.
This effort ultimately became a jeepney-assembly business. In the early 1970s, the market was flooded with Ford Fieras; the couple decided to diversify into a small bus line which plied the Bacolod City-Valladolid-La Carlota route (hence, Vallacar) and christened it Ceres Liner.
By 1980, Ceres Liner had covered the whole province of Negros and in 1981, they ventured into Mindanao. They bought out Fortune Express and Bachelor Express, both Cagayan de Oro-based bus companies in 1985, and formed Rural Transit of Mindanao, while retaining the name of the latter, as one of the conditions of the contract of sale.
In 2005, the conglomerate bought out Lilian Express Inc. and sister company Mary May Express, its fiercest business rival and became the dominant transit company in the island of Mindanao.
In 2007, its buses pioneered travel through the Western Nautical Highway. As part of their expansion of their Western Nautical Highway routes, and to establish a line to Metro Manila, Ceres Transport was established in 2009, being based in Batangas City.
In 2011, the conglomerate bought out St. Jude Transportation Company, a bus line based in Bohol, and renamed it as Southern Star Bus Transit.
In 2013, they bought out CCJRC Liner, a bus line based in Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte and integrated its operations to Bachelor Express, Inc.
In 2014, they bought out Weena Express, a bus line serving Cotabato City and became part of Bachelor Express, Inc.
Today, the corporation presides over a transportation business with 3,000 buses serving the island of Negros, Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Samar-Leyte, Mindanao, and Batangas City.
This family-owned and managed business has grown from a lone 14-seater jeepney plying a single route, to a conglomerate of transportation companies with a combined number of operating units operating in nearly 80 percent of the bus routes in the Visayas and Mindanao regions as well as some part of Luzon in the Philippines.
Today, they are manufacturing their buses and have a fiberglass, recapping, brake lining and battery plant.
Undoubtedly, Vallacar Transit is the largest bus company in the Philippines and a shining example of Negrense ingenuity.