(The following are excerpts from remarks at the 12th anniversary of BizNewsAsia, the Philippines’ largest business and news weekly and my 65th birthday, November 25, 2013, Monday at the Intercon)
Allow me to acknowledge my children—Ivy, Noreen, Ciara, my sons-in-law Benedict and Mike, my grand children— Anika, Enzo, Gio, Audrey, and Rafa. Thank you my kids, thank you my grandchildren.
Thank you for attending the 12th anniversary celebration of BizNewsAsia tonight.
This day is the 17th day since the November 8 attack by that monster typhoon that devastated Eastern Visayas and many other parts of the country.
May I therefore ask the audience to stand up for a minute of silent prayer for the 2,500 or 10,000 who died in that typhoon.
In this regard, in this ballroom tonight are the men and women—the corporations and enterprises—that can do a lot to help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tacloban, Guian, Hernani and many other places in Eastern Visayas.
They can also do a lot in helping repair the battered image of our government—and our country—because of massive failure—by our leaders and certain agencies of government, to prepare, respond early enough, and provide rescue and aid to the victims.
By the way, did you notice something about the victims? They are resilient. They smile. They are stoic. Best of all, they speak good English.
That’s why CNN and other media got their stories right from the horse’s mouth—so to speak. They were stories of heart-rending suffering, incalculable pain of loss, and equally incredible incompetence of government. No food, no water, no medicines for the injured. No help. For three, four, five, six days. For weeks, in fact.
A mother slept for several days beside the cadavers of her three children. She had no food, no water, nothing. By day, she looked for her three other children who also died.
Anyway, we have tonight in this hall the top honchos and decision makers of corporations with the resources and expertise to build. San Miguel, SM Investments, Megaworld, Vista Land, GMA Network, RCBC, BDO, Meralco, PLDT, to name some.
In fact, we also have the top corporations in the home building and property development business. Nearly all of them can build complete towns—in one month, even less. Some are born builders.
Some of our guests tonight have the technology to build a house in eight days or less.
We have Pro-Friends, 8990 Holdings, again, Megaworld, Vista Land. PCCI.
To serve is in the heart
To build is in their vision; to serve is in their heart; to feel pain and balm it is in their DNA.
Many of these men and women we honor tonight.
BizNewsAsia has awards for Visionary Management, Management Excellence, Excellence in Public Service and Excellence in Real Estate, what we call the BizNewsAsia Real Estate Who Is Who or BREW.
If you are wondering why some of them are repeat BizNewsAsia awardees, well, that is the idea. We look at track record, a consistency of devotion to visionary work, excellence in the things they do or build, and significant or substantial contribution to the betterment of the Filipino—his life and lifestyle.
By the way, tonight is also by birthday, my 65th birthday. If you are planning to give me a birthday gift—in cash and in kind, that will be appreciated. I will appreciate it more, however, if you can donate to my current charity, St. Pius X Seminary which was damaged by Yolanda.
There is one more significance of tonight’s event.
43 years of journalism
I am celebrating my 43 years of professional journalism, from 1970, when I graduated from UST and even before that, when I joined the Manila Chronicle and the Voice of the Philippines as a newswriter/reporter. A year later, I joined The Manila Times as a senior business reporter. I became its construction editor and for four straight months, was actually the business editor, because my business editor, Alfio Locsin, had a kidney transplant, my deputy business editor, Satur Ocampo, went underground and joined the communist party, and my other deputy editor, Jake Macasaet, went to the United States. No he didn’t join the CIA.
So the youngest and greenest of them, me, took over as business editor of the Philippines’ largest newspaper, which has cornered 70 percent of the market. But then martial law was declared and The Times was padlocked. I lost my job. I thought martial law would last four—six months at the most. It lasted 14 years.
A few months later, The Times Journal was born. I joined it and became its business editor in just five years. I also became a foreign correspondent, joining the Mainichi Shimbun of Japan, German Television of Germany, and later Asiaweek of Hongkong.
At Asiaweek, I learned the nitty-gritty, the economics of magazine publishing. In fact, I helped propel Asiaweek’s circulation from 100 to 10,000 copies—in five years, from 1978 to 1983, the year of the Aquino assassination. The magazine would grow bigger, up to 25,000 copies. It was gobbled up by Time magazine. In less than three years, Time killed it. By 2001, I was again jobless. But with plenty of retirement and separation pay money.
So I did the next best thing— put up my own magazine. BizNewsAsia. The brand embodied my expertise—business. It embodied my profession. News. It embodied my territory. Asia. BizNewsAsia.
With a publication of my own, I discovered to my delight who enjoys press freedom. Press freedom belongs to the owner. There is nothing like having your own newspaper or media.
‘Be willing to do everything’
Tonight is the 12th year of my magazine. It has been a long grind and painstaking work. But it has been worth the time, the hard work, the challenge. John Gokongwei once told me, “if you are an entrepreneur, you should be willing to do everything, including cleaning the toilet.” I do.
Ramon Ang and Eduardo Cojuangco taught me one other important lesson—strive for the best, care for your people, care for society, care for the country. Business is only as good as the environment or country it operates in.
This is encapsulated in the editorial mission of BizNewsAsia. To focus on the things that count—business, the economy, the Philippines.
So tonight, even as feel tragedy, we celebrate triumph.
In many senses, that triumph is yours. Let’s celebrate even as we say, thank you.