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Real estate and investment pioneer

Pedro Martinez Ada (1903 – 1995) founded numerous enterprises with his wife, Maria Palomo Ada, including a general store, supermarkets throughout the island, warehouses, a bowling alley, and numerous commercial and residential buildings throughout Guam. Ada and his wife built a company structure from an initial capitalization of $500 into a multimillion-dollar family-owned real estate and investment corporation.

Ada was the first Chamorro millionaire and was named to the Guam Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame, along with his wife Maria in 1993.

Among companies owned by “Tun Pedro” and “Tan Maria,” as they were known to friends and relatives, are Ada’s Inc. and Ada’s Markets.

Born on March 3, 1903 in Garapan, Saipan, Tun Pedro came from one of the families originally from Guam who moved to Saipan in search of better business opportunities. Ada’s family was one of the Guam families that eventually became prominent in Saipan. His parents were Pedro Pangelinan Ada and Maria Crisostomo Martinez.

After completing school on Saipan, Ada earned a college education at the Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo, where he learned Japanese. He then moved to Guam, where he met his wife, Maria Roberto Palomo, a schoolteacher who also worked as a clerk at J.M. Torres Store in Hagåtña.

Shortly before World War II, the young couple took advantage of an offer from Joaquin Leon Guerrero, father of Bank of Guam founder Jesus Leon Guerrero, and bought his retail store in Hagåtña using $500 from Tan Maria’s savings. She was reluctant to part with her carefully saved money, but eventually consented and the two became an inseparable partnership. Tun Pedro’s talent was in forming business relationships, while Tan Maria was efficient at managing the store’s finances and inventory.

With hard work, the two managed to earn enough money to open a second store that stood next to where the Julale Shopping Center is today. When they began construction of a third store in Maite, World War II broke out and the Japanese occupation stalled the completion of the store.

During the occupation, Tun Pedro was imprisoned on Guam for a time because he had worked as an interpreter for the American Naval Government.

After the war ended in 1944, Tun Pedro and Tan Maria were one of the few local entrepreneurs allowed by the Naval government to resume their business, and they began to reconstruct their enterprise. They opened a grocery store on the first floor of the old Takano residence in Hagåtña and then soon moved the store to their own home. Eventually, they were able to build a concrete building to house the blossoming Ada’s Market.

New opportunities soon arose, and in the late 1940s they bought Tun Ben Palomo’s store in Barrigada after Tun Ben moved to the States. In 1949, they opened Food City in Tamuning, next to where Ben Franklin’s department store was located, along with partners Lucas San Nicolas and Tommy Tanaka, Sr. San Nicolas and Tanaka later left the partnership to the Adas’ sole proprietorship. In 1958, they opened a new market in Sinajana and constructed the Ada Plaza Center next to the Post Office in Hagåtña in 1964. I n 1969 they opened another Ada’s market in Dededo.

Tun Pedro and Tan Maria left the retail business in 1973 to focus on real estate development and other investments, selling the markets to Seiyu of Japan. In 1974, at the age of 71, Tun Pedro retired, although he still visited the office daily.

Pedro and Maria Ada had two children, Agnes and Pete. They were also known as very generous benefactors to the community, giving scholarships to young students and seminarians and donating to many charities, Catholic parishes, and schools, and the University of Guam. Tun Pedro was also given the honor of a knighthood in the Order of St. Sylvester, one of the highest papal orders for Catholic laymen. He died on November 14, 1995, while Tan Maria followed him on September 2, 1996.

By Leo Babauta

For further reading

Guam Chamber of Commerce “Hall of Fame Laureate Profile: Pedro Martinez Ada and Maria Palomo Ada.” Accessed 3 July 2012.

Political Status Education Coordinating Commission. Hale’-ta: I Manfåyi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History, Vol. 2. Hagåtña: Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1997.