My balae Manoling was a model Filipino international achiever

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WE, Manoling de Leon’s family, observed the 40th day of his passing on to eternal life the other day. My late balae and my wife, Jeanne, shared with him and his wife Chatina, with another wonderful couple, Calix and Annie, and with dear friends–Joel Fan and Dodo–some of the happiest times we all ever had in travels abroad.

It was on a trip to Germany, when we were in Bavaria–which is my most favorite place outside the Philippines–that I learned how the word “cranky” entered the English language. We went to daily Mass wherever we went and in the town of Ruhpolding where we were staying–and enjoyed the blessings of small-town Bavarian hospitality (I wonder if now, 40-plus years later, Ruhpolding is still a “small town”).

In our first two days in Ruhpolding, we went for morning Mass in a little church with small graveyard beside, it up a small hill just a short walk from Steinbach, our little hotel (which is probably now no longer little.) On our third autumn morning there, before we set out from our hotel to walk up the hill and go to church, the young and only waitress of the Steinbach’s dining room, Anna, told us that Mass would today be in the chapel of the “krankenhaus.” I learned then that “krankenhaus” is the word for hospital in German and Bavarian.

We reached the krankenhaus and entered the chapel just before the first reading of the Mass and settled in the rearmost pews. Before the priest gave the final blessing, the entire congregation of about 30 persons turned to us and clapped, because the priest was addressing words of welcome to us “guests from Hong Kong and the Philippines.”


Manoling was seven years older than me and 50 years more cheerful. Even in his last months, when, wheelchair-bound and unobtrusively enduring all kinds of pains and discomforts, he was never cranky. His sense of humor and willingness to do good and give comfort to others never left him. He remained a model husband and father.

The Inquirer columnist Prof. Randy David , who had come to meet him only two years or so before he died, saw this in Manoling too. Randy gave an eulogy after the funeral Mass for my balae. It came out in this space on August 22 under the title “Manoling de Leon, a good man with a clear purpose.” It amazed me that Randy had captured from his meetings with Manoling the one big thing that I learned from him, who referred to it as “management by objective.” In sum it says: Say and do only what will, or will at least help, bring about what you really want, your goal.

Our mutual friend, Jayjay Calero, also wrote about Manoling in his BusinessWorld column. It talked of Manoling’s genius as a marketing man. Manoling, Jayjay and the late Chuchi Escudero and I all worked with J. Walter Thompson once upon a time.

Some years ago, Manoling wrote the book Pinoy Pilgrim: In Search of Filipino Identity. The book is must reading for every Filipino–for all the 11 million or so compatriots of ours who are abroad trying to make a better life for their families back home here.

That book tells of his experiences at J. Walter Thompson and Unilever (in the Philippines, when it was known here only as “Philippine Refining,” and then in Europe). His stellar work for Unilever, and its rival Procter & Gamble, Shell Philippines and, later, on his own as a consultant, are instructive.

He became a bank director. He is one of the Filipinos who pioneered in doing business with China just as its leaders were opening it to the world. He has been a consultant to Philippine presidents. His father–his and his 13 siblings’ beloved Papang was close to President Manuel L. Quezon, after whom he was named.

Manoling was proud of having been one of the first Filipino overseas contract workers in Guam. He even worked as a crooner on an international tourist ship, when such a thing was not yet called a “love boat.”

He was one of the childhood kabarkadas of Erap in San Juan. And until he died was Erap’s neighbor in Greenhills. But Manoling never did anything to profit from that relationship.

After amassing a wealth of experiences, knowledge and information during his years with transnationals (here and abroad), he became a professional consultant.

His first client was the late Geny Lopez. Manoling became Geny’s man at the Manila Chronicle. Under his direction, that now defunct but respected daily newspaper made money for the first time. It was part of his job to give Geny fresh and strategic ideas for his businesses. He gave Geny and the Meralco board a step-by-step plan to prevent the not-yet dictator Ferdinand Marcos from taking over the Lopez companies. But Geny and the others could or would not take it up with the strong-willed leader of the Lopez conglomerate, Geny’s father, who was then FM’s ally. Philippine history might have changed if they had carried out Manoling’s plan.

You must read this book if your curiosity prods you to analyze the meaning of the strange contradictions in Philippine society. Why do our leaders behave the way they do? Why do we have these sordid weaknesses and angelic strengths? Why do we end up with hypocrites for our leader like BS Aquino?

You will find the answers you seek in Pinoy Pilgrim even if Manoling wrote it before PNoy became president.

It has the concrete vocabulary of a man who knows the Filipinos very well as consumers of products and also as lovable human beings each blessed with a God-given soul and a deep love for Jesus Christ and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I pray for and to Manoling. And I know that if we had more Filipinos like Manuel Aranda de Leon ours would not be the sad and poorly developed country that it is now.

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1 Comment

  1. I have a Tsinoy friend who always remember “Manoling”. In fact, he was instrumental in bringing my friend back to the Catholic faith. I wonder if the Joel Fan mentioned in this article is aware of Manoling’s death.

    Although I am not a Christian but if I had met this gentleman, I might be converted to be one.

    May he rest in peace.