Friday, September 30, 2011

Concern for People: Workplace Mentors 3

At every stage of our professional growth, God sends us bosses and peers who may not pontificate much, but through their example, help us walk the straight and narrow path.

Here’s my last installment on the workplace mentors who have strongly influenced my life:

Amading Veloso, my first boss at the San Miguel Food Group, was a kind soul who valued integrity and honesty.

I remember the time he agonized about firing one of my most promising staff who was caught with a padded reimbursement. Though he really liked the guy, Amading let him go anyway because he did not want to set a precedent for would-be cheats.

I was secretly looking forward to retirement when Pet Bautista, my second-to-the-last boss at the San Miguel Food Group, insisted I take up the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) management development program (MDP).

Other bosses would just have saved the money and rationalized that I was an old fogy anyway. But Pet valued his people and their need for continuous learning.

He also seriously practiced MBMA or management by moving around, often visiting far-flung company facilities, dealers and contract suppliers, and spending time talking to our farm and factory workers.

Pet sincerely listened to their concerns and encouraged feedback, motivating his managers to take immediate action.

Pet went back to his previous multinational employer after his San Miguel stint, after which he became managing director of one of the country’s biggest food manufacturing concerns.

My workplace spiritual mentor? Cyd Latunio-Esquivel.

She genuinely showed concern for her co-workers. She became light and salt to me at a time when, career-wise I flourished, but my heart floundered because of inner turmoil.

Cyd introduced me to Jesus who at that point in my life was just a name I prayed to. Cyd invited me to a balikbayan’s concert where for the first time, God’s love became real and I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Cyd, with her husband Gerry, eventually became full time missionaries of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC). While pregnant with her baby, Cyd’s kidneys started to malfunction. Suffering through years of dialysis, a kidney transplant, and a number of near-death crises, she continued to persevere in her ministry until she passed away.

Old ties last. I came full-circle with CCC when, after dedicating my recent book in memory of Cyd, I found myself holding a writing seminar for CCC missionaries.

My dear friend Che Solijon—who heads CCC’s communication unit, commented, “You have the CCC DNA in you.”

I believe this is true too of the mentors who figured in our lives.

Wherever they are Lord, I pray you will continue to keep them and strengthen them, and exceedingly bless them so they can continue to be a blessing to others, in Jesus name. Amen!.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Joaqui's First Draft

Guess the author:

“There was a blinding flash of light! After the huge flash there was a tremendous gust of smoke with a thundering roar like a tornado.

“Soon after it started to clear up, only to reveal that she was in an ancient ruin with weird symbols all over the cave walls!

“She tried to climb up the path she fell into but it was no use. Suddenly, there was a tremendous roar! She tried running away but there was no escape! She desperately looked for a way out but no luck.

“Just when she thought it was hopeless an arm came out from nowhere and dragged Elizabeth out of the way, out of the ruins just before the monster could grab her.

“ ‘That was close,’ Elizabeth said. ‘It sure was,’ said the voice that had saved her.”

This piece was written by our eight year old grandson Joaqui. His teacher, Ms. Berrell, noted in her class blog: “This was the first time we've written a narrative independently and students were required to pick up the story from where the 'story starter'—containing a little girl opening a box that she wasn't supposed to— left off.”

She wrote further, “As a teacher I am regularly blown away by the great work my students present me…This is Paolo's (That’s how he’s called in class.) first draft! He has informed me that in his next draft there will be a twist as another problem will arise. I for one, cannot wait to read the next installment!

“I encourage students to tell their parents about their stories, and parents to ask their children about them. It is through discussion of our ideas that we develop the detail and expression to describe these initial ideas, and produce such creative pieces of work!”

I naturally got excited so I promptly shared the above piece with my author friend Grace who responded, “Saludo ako kay Joaqui! Such an excellent command of the language at his age! He should really be a writer when he grows up.

”Saludo din ako sa teacher. She seems to be a very conscientious, sincere, and dedicated teacher—very affectionate, too. I wish we could all be like her!”

I asked Lucci if she had in any way helped Joaqui write this article. “I didn’t even know about it, he did that in class,” she replied.
Joaqui and his sister Charlize grew up with books—reading having become a bedtime habit and books always figuring in their play. So Joaqui never fails to go to bed without a read. They frequent the Campbelltown public library like they visit malls.
I’m really thankful to God at how He’s enabling our grandkids to grow up in the wisdom of the Lord. I’m grateful that their parents are Godly and loving and sensitive to their needs, and that they decided to send them to a Christian school whose teachers love and encourage their pupils like their own.
And I’m thankful, most of all for the grace of God in our children’s lives. His wonderful promise of blessings—pressed down, shaken together, running over—applies from generation to generation of those who love Him!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No Boundaries: Tribute to Workplace Mentors 2

I’ve been so blessed to have worked under bosses who mentored their people so that everyday work became an adventure of sorts.

They opened my eyes to fresh concepts and new ways of looking at things. Two of them pushed me to my limits, even if at times the process became traumatic or painful.

Winston Marbella, one of my former bosses in San Miguel Corporation, was my marketing guru. A once-upon-a-time physics student tutored by one of Eistein’s former students, he started his professional life as a journalist, moving later to public relations, marketing, then business management.

His legacy: “Think strategic. Think differently. Challenge ideas. Do not accept them for what they are.”

One of my most loved superiors was Eli Pinto-Mansor (she went to be with the Lord a few years back), my boss at the (once mighty, now history) Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP).

She showed how, with an eye for detail, minutest things could be incorporated into concepts and designs, turning the ordinary into spectacular.

Eli saw potential in people. She pushed us to our limits, even to the point of hurt. I would not have known what lay dormant inside if she didn’t demand excellence and my best and most creative effort.

She believed I was a writer even if I doubted that. I didn’t even consider myself a good enough writer. But she let, rather made, me write—feature articles in our corporate newsletter—until I discovered I really had it in me.

She gave me leeway to play around and have fun with the company’s stockholders’ meeting audio-visual presentation (AVP).

So I went ga-ga with my ideas and for the AVP’s opening spiel, used the “Pink Panther” theme music, replacing its lyrics with, “Your company has reached a billion mark, taran-taran!” Imagine the mixed reactions from the audience of mostly spiffy investors. It merited a comment from the Asian Wall Street Journal!

While producing this particular AVP, I made a very expensive booboo which I thought was unforgivable, so I offered to resign.

”It was costly,” Eli replied, but if that’s what’s needed to learn, so learn,” and assured me of her confidence. I never hesitated to work for her again when she asked me to join her later in another company. (Sorry to Burst Your Bubble, p.45)

Eli made such an impact in the Philippine design industry, when in a latter job at the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM, where I worked with her for a year), she took up-and-coming Filipino designers under her wings to develop world-class fashion and home accessories using indigenous Philippine raw materials.

Fearless, protective, passionate, but a mothering type, Eli helped define the course of my professional life: No boundaries.

After CITEM, a former colleague convinced me to move to Manila Hilton International (after which I went back to San Miguel). Having served three expatriate general managers in the hotel—an Englishman and two Germans— I sort of concluded that European bosses were objective, fair, professional, and gave their workers due recognition.

They taught me how global managers must behave. While respecting the culture of their host countries, they equally demanded professionalism from their staff.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tribute to Workplace Mentors 1

We all have our mentors, those who’ve left some indelible imprints on our character through various stages of our lives. Before my mind gets fuzzy, let me run through some of my workplace superiors and the lessons I learned from them:

Frankie Evangelista, kind-hearted and funny boss

The late Frankie “Ka Kiko” Evangelista. Quite an institution as a veteran TV news and public affairs anchor, he was my boss in Channel 13, my second job. He never flaunted he was “boss,” treated us like family and felt secure with his subordinates being such a bunch of extremely talented people. Among my colleagues were gifted writers Danny Javier, member of then up and coming singing sensation Apo Hiking Society; and Gemma Nemenzo, a scion of the brainy Nemenzos of UP (University of the Philippines).

Frankie treated us all equally and was generous with his praises. He knew how to motivate just by a tap on the shoulder or a humorous off-the-cuff comment—most of the time said in his disarming Tagalog accent. He referred to Gemma and me as “my girls” in a fatherly way.

The late Bren Guiao, my boss in RFM Corporation before he became Pampanga governor. We had a pretty tense incident after our head office inauguration. I don’t remember how it started, but our conversation grew into a shouting match. Probably piqued by my stubbornness, he told me to resign, so I did—and walked off. That was the last he saw of me.

It took years before I could muster the courage to tell him how sorr
y I was. He welcomed me with no recriminations, just like a father would. When he became Pampanga governor afterwards and I occasionally visited him with some of his former staff, he made it a point to see us even briefly even if he had hordes of politicos and kababayans waiting in line. He would then treat us to the best restaurants in the provincial capital, and send us back to Manila with loads of Kapampangan goodies.

Bren Guiao (top photo) and Bert Pasquin (bottom photo, extreme right), my PR mentors

He and B
ert Pasquin, his then right hand man in RFM, whose path I crossed with in three other companies, patiently taught me the rudiments of public relations and news writing—even if I hated disciplined writing because I was more at home with creative writing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lose to Gain: Gems from The Biggest Loser and More

"Loser!" Someone naming you that might ordinarily spark a whack attack, a word war or worse, a fist fight.

It's one of those killer words bullies or those with illusions of grandeur or power heap on those they perceive to be weak or unable to fight back.

But thanks to its image-handlers, "Loser!" seems to have taken on a new spin---plucking it out of rehab and giving it a total make-over.

Television's reality show, The Biggest Loser, has grown into such a worldwide franchise that it tops viewership ratings wherever it broadcasts.

Recently, we became a church-ful of rah-rah folks for someone we prayed for to be this season's biggest loser. Eboy one day texted that he would be incomunicado for sometime; and asked for prayers while he competed in The Biggest Loser. At 481 pounds, he needed to act to avert a heart attack.

A gifted musician (he sings and plays the keyboard and drums plus other musical instruments), artist and budding entrepreneur, Eboy must have been born with humor hard-wired into his DNA.

We are alternately guffawing, snickering or stiffling our chuckles whenever Eboy manages a banter or pun in between songs during praise and worship practice. This is how we've always seen Eboy---mega-man inside and out. Note his Facebook remark re his photo with family and friends: "Team Tarre, Pata Team and Jabba."

Eboy realized he needed to whittle himself down if he wants to live to a ripe old age. So it was all systems go when he passed The Biggest Loser prequals. He may have been eliminated from the competition earlier than the others, but he continues to gain---his health, longevity, and yes, his handsome good looks, and definitely fans---as he loses more body mass.

I'm one of those believing Eboy will make a comeback in The Biggest Loser.

A few days ago, I felt even happier for Eboy---that things are working out for him as he had prayed for---after seeing a TV documentary about the super obese.

It featured a lady so overweight she had to either always be in bed or or pushed around in a giant wheelchair because the big mass from her legs started to fold under her heels. Big slabs had to be removed from her thighs and legs to enable her to walk again. After her operation, simple things---which we normally take for granted like being able to shop in the supermarket---had become such liberating experiences for her.

How about that---Eboy runs regularly today!

"I'm so fat!" I'd always complain whenever I faced the mirror while attempting to shrink my insides (by not breathing!) to fit myself into a dress; followed by this self-deprecating remark: "I look like a refrigerator."

Well, not anymore---since these above images. What am I complaining about?

Exercise, reduce your intake if you must; but never belittle and be thankful for the body you were born with. Genes and heredity have a lot to do with it too. That's why some people are bigger or smaller than others.

"I'm fat!" Said a young lady so reed-thin, she could easily be knocked over by a faint afternoon breeze. Then she would constantly fidget, believing that her eternal shaking would burn her calories so she could be thinner. (I think I read this too somewhere.)

Actually, for most of us, the battle is not really with the bulge. Call it low self-esteem, insecurity, discontent. We may exercise or ballroom-dance till we drop or diet till our cravings die but that's no guarantee we'd be happy with that vision in the mirror.

Some seemingly perfect-bodied and good-looking women (and men!) still have their lipo, lift and tuck. Lips get thickened. (A popular singer looks awful today because of her too out-turned lips. Whoever told them belles they could be next Angelina Jolies?!) Noses receive a trim or get cantilevered, while wayward ears are sewn closer to the nape. Good thing, I can only afford a facial, and even that is just once in a blue moon.

Fear. That's the underlying issue. "I look fat." "Look at my wrinkles." "I'm ugly." Most of these express our concerns about how others may look at us. But surely God did not make a mistake when He wove us so wonderfully in our mothers' wombs.

I'm glad Eboy is on his way to health, and that once super-obese lady now functions as a normal human being. Thank God for scientific advances, opportunities and people sent our way to help solve our health problems---in spite of our genetic predispositions or neglect or abuse.

But after the long and short of it, our daily dose of joy comes not from having gained all these but in knowing that our lives are in the palm of the one who shaped us into being.

In Genesis, God created an awesome universe and saw that it was good. After crafting Adam and Eve, what He saw thrilled Him so, because it was "Very good!"

We are His piece de resistance. And He must have added, "Lovely."