Products are always only as good as how they are used. No matter how expensive these are, if not applied properly, the problem will not be solved.
Picture this, after years of saving up, you have at last moved into your dream home. However, you discover down the road that termites are literally eating away at your investment. For many Filipinos, pest control is usually not a priority. Instead, they choose to avoid facing the problem until the damage costs thousands of pesos to repair or worse, irreparable.
Now, if only they had called Josefina Ner Dueñas, in earlier when the situation was still manageable. Dueñas — or "Jojo" as intimates refer to her — is managing director of Pixa Corporation, a full service pest and hygiene management service with a nationwide network since 2009.
It may be uncommon to see a woman taking on the task of pest management, but for Dueñas, someone has to do the job. "I feel squeamish when I see a crawling cockroach, but my first instinct would be to run after it and swat it," she says. "Then, I would contemplate why and how the insect got in and what should be done."
This, from someone who looks like she couldn't hurt a fly, and who has fond childhood memories of wanting to be a nun and receiving the Most Obedient and Best in Conduct honors in school. "I was the girly type, who felt happy and so pretty when my papa would tie a bright yellow ribbon on my ponytail," she recalls.
Dueñas took up a bachelor of science in public relations degree at Santa Isabel College on Taft Avenue, Manila. She says: "The priority was to have me in a dorm because we lived in Tagaytay and didn't have a house in Manila. It was a relatively new course then, and I took it mainly because I was so afraid of math.
"My challenges at the time were financial, and I felt a bit guilty living a colegiala lifestyle, but my parents labored uncomplainingly. This pushed me to do well, so I could get a good job right away and help out. There were four of us, and I knew getting us all to college would be quite a toll for my mama and papa. My perseverance earned me Cum laude honors."
Public relations wasn't exactly her dream course – law was – but she is glad to have enrolled. "It gave me the confidence in performing at my product and business management positions at Bayer and BASF, and now as a business owner, with my predilection for sales and marketing. Our efforts are always strategic, intentional and staunchly committed to the business position I envisioned Pixa Corporation to be — in a class of its own."
Business of bugs
After graduation, she worked for the government. "Back then, when you graduated with honors, the Civil Service Commission gave you a Certificate of Professional Eligibility, following P.D. 907. My mom was so proud when she learned I had one. She was also was a government employee.
"Also, there was a ready job for me as an information officer with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA)." However, before she could take on the position, the EDSA Revolution happened. She says: "I first had to work as the executive assistant and secretary to then Tagaytay OIC-Mayor Francis Tolentino. It was after two years that I was able to work at the FPA, which was where my romance with insects and rodents was born," she says, laughing.
She continues: "Being the regulatory agency handling chemical companies, the FPA opened up opportunities for me to move to Bayer, where I spent almost 16 years. As someone who always wants to to excel in everything, I took advantage of opportunities for further education to be able to perform my roles well. This included some short courses on pests at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna on pests."
She was soon recognized for her expertise and invited to become one of the resource speakers in training pest control operators for their licensure. "The strong technical background I gained and honed in my long years in Bayer and another two years in the BASF Chemical Company as the regional business manager for vector control products - Asia Pacific Region, forms the backbone of my knowledge bank," she says
When she retired eventually from the corporate world, she asked two questions of herself: "Do I do what I love or what I'm good at? I picked doing what I'm good at. So, I became a pest control operator."
Having served in both the regulatory and practitioner levels, Dueñas felt confident enough to set for her new company, a good competitive advantage on the technical level, as well identifying strategic niches to focus. "Even when I was still in Bayer, I've always knew I would build my own company someday. This was fuelled by my disappointment at seeing not-so-cheap products being used incorrectly, leading to the desired results not really being achieved. So, in Pixa, as I always say: 'We do it right.'
"Products are always only as good as how they are used. No matter how expensive these are, if not applied properly, the problem will not be solved."
She describes Pixa's competitive edge. "One, we exclusively carry the TermX Replenishment System, the only high-pressure chemical delivery system from Australia, which addresses long-term, non-disruptive termite control. We guarantee a 50-year warranty under our Continuing Chemical Replenishment Program."
She explains that termiticide chemicals expire every one to two years, depending on the brand and other factors. When this happens, your home or building is again at risk of termite attacks.
She adds that their pest management programs are anchored on the principles of Integrated Pest Management, tiered according to the pest conditions of each company and factors that influence pest developments. Pixa also offers services that are non-chemical, a first in the market. Another one of its core competencies is professional high-level disinfection. "Requests for this shot up during the pandemic, although it has been a service we have been offering since Pixa was established," Duenas says.
She recalls one of her early challenges. "Committed to our brand position as a premium service, we stood firm and upheld the 'science in our pest management programs' even if there were a lot of clients who walked away.That was tough financially, and there were days I would cry because I didn't know where I would get the salary of my team." Fortunately, things have improved and her clientele has grown to include Maynilad, Avida, Firstgen, Lapanday, Oversea Feeds Corp., Del Monte and good chunk of residential properties in the class A and B villages."
Being a woman, Duenas remains a minority in the industry. She reports: "Our industry is dominated by men — especially since pest control may be seen as one of those 'dirty jobs.' And yes, there are colleagues, who tend to look down on our abilities." Unfazed, she chooses to fully use her assets in running her company. She says: "I think I tend to 'mommy' my team — blending discipline with nurturing.
"I am also very passionate, especially regarding technical procedures to ensure we get the results that we wish to deliver, and also in the enforcement of our operational processes. I want my team empowered. I am really proud of them when I see them performing and excelling without me looking over their shoulder."
As president of the Pest Control Association of the Philippines., Inc., the largest pest management association in the country, Dueñas observes that the industry is in need of dedicated regulation. She says: "Public exposure to both the pests and the chemicals used to control it is high, so, apart from the effectiveness of each service, safeguarding people, food and the environment from its hazards should be tantamount.
"I hope we can work together closely with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that the ideals of a responsible pest control operator are upheld, and that our industry be regarded as a credible and valued practitioner in keeping the public and property safe from the perils and economic losses due to pests."