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Papemelroti: A treasure trove of memories founded on love

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jan 12, 2022 8:50 pm Updated Jan 13, 2022 1:21 pm

Papemelroti has a special place in the hearts of many who grew up enjoying all the great finds in the store, may it be gift items, stationery or home decor. For over half a century, the store still runs on what it was founded on—love.

There are several generations of once cash-strapped kids who spent their allowance on Papemelroti items (which remain budget-friendly up to now)—notebooks, bookmarks, pens, calendars, and more. The store is a treasure trove of items that spark creativity and bring inspiration to those who need it or even just the curious.

Behind the success of Papemelroti was founder Socorro Alviola Alejandro, who initially set up shop at the ground floor of her family’s apartment in Tomas Morato in Quezon City on Oct. 13, 1967. The small “shop” carried an assortment of items like stuffed toys, picture frames and different merchandise. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Socorro or Corit as she was fondly called, passed away in 2014 but her legacy that is Papemelroti lives on through her family and the people whom she has fortunately crossed paths with. 

Award-winning artist Robert Alejandro, Socorro’s son, penned a heartwarming tribute to the Papemelroti founder for her birthday on Jan. 12 and to celebrate the strong Filipino women who are working hard for their families making a difference in society.

Alejandro walked down memory lane in his post and shared how his mother founded their very first store in 1967 called Korben Gift Shop (whose name is a combination of Alejandro’s parents’ name Corit and Benny) while raising five children as her husband worked for a company in Makati.

When she was young, Socorro, who graduated with an architecture degree from Cebu Institute of Technology, took up many hobbies like sewing, gardening, drawing and making miniatures. 

These she enjoyed and eventually passed on to her five children, who grew up in a home “full of creativity and never-ending ideas and projects.” 

The family was always working together, may it be molding figurines out of clay, painting, or making decoupage.

Growing up, Socorro’s children would joke about having a store named after them, too—Papemelroti, a portmanteau of their names: Patsy, Peggy, Meldy, Robert and Tina.

It was in the summer of 1976 when Papemelroti opened at the second floor of Ali Mall in Cubao, whose operations were ran by the members of the family themselves, from the cash register to gift wrapping, they were hands on. Pitching in to help with the business was among the many things Socorro taught her children.

“I am so grateful to her (Socorro). We were able to live a full life with a fulfilling enterprise that provided for all our needs,” Alejandro wrote in his Facebook post.

He said Socorro, apart from opening their family business, also started manufacturing products and helmed the family’s finances as she was thrifty and “she knew how to save the money they worked hard for.”

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“My mom was strict and she made it very clear what was right and wrong. We had a staff that respected and loved her,” said Alejandro, who recently shared on social media his valiant battle with colon cancer.

Alejandro or Kuya Robert to avid viewers of his now defunct GMA TV show Art Is-Kool added, “Growing up with Papemelroti was not glamorous. Our business was not a traditional enterprise that was streamlined with sales forecasts etc. Our business was more of a day-to-day miracle. More so now that we have survived 50+ years in the retail industry.”

The store is known for its eco-friendly products, which use recycled paper, reclaimed wood and other sustainable materials since 1967. 

And even before the rise of the support local movement in the Philippines, Papemelroti has been championing this cause as it prints or produces its products locally by artisans and suppliers. Each purchase in the store also supports Papemelroti’s livelihood programs.

Many of Papemelroti’s products, most of them bear Robert Alejandro’s artworks, cradle values and themes that were important to Socorro and to date, still resonate with her family—love of God, family, country and the environment.