“We create our universe by the words that we speak.”
alibo, Aklan: I looked at my watch, and saw that it was almost 10 p.m.; yet judging from her continued enthusiasm, it seemed like it was only 10 in the morning for Tiger Air Philippines president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Olive Ramos.
It had been a long but momentous day for the new airline company, and although it was her fourth (or was it fifth) event for the day, Ramos was still brimming with energy. According to her staff, the big boss had been up since 3 a.m., making finals preparations for the inaugural flight (Clark to Kalibo) of Tiger Air Philippines.
Maybe it was the after dinner coffee and desserts kicking in, or because of the lively exchanges she was having with our small group of Manila-based media.
She had tried to excuse herself after our first round of questions, before deciding to throw her own by asking us why we became journalists, expressing her admiration for our work and her belief in the power of words.
“You are even more powerful than us business executives because your words can influence people; you can point out the wrongs and tell government what needs to be done,” she appreciated.
It was then that we discovered that besides her passion for her work and career, this top executive was even more zealous about her patriotic feelings for our country.
Belief in the Filipino
Ramos confessed that one of her inspirations in life is the National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
“Rizal was not only one the brightest minds of his time, comparable even to Leonardo da Vinci; he was also one of the most patriotic men who enlightened the minds of Filipinos,” she began.
“What saddens me is that a lot of Filipinos now are not too familiar with our history.
So when foreign tourists asks us what the best places to visit in the Philippines are, we can only share about Boracay, Palawan or some other beach destination, but hardly about our history. We should know our heritage, our history and our culture—and be proud to be Filipino. We are our country’s best salesmen, so we should speak good things about our country,” she enthused.
A Certified Public Accountant who graduated Cum Laude, Ramos initially chose to leave a promising career in the private sector to work for government.
“I left my job to join the administration of the late President Cory Aquino. A lot of us were very young then and we were all idealistic. We felt the turn of events was very crucial in shaping the future of our country; and believe it or not, we were working not for the money but for the love of country.”
As a fiscal analyst for the Department of Budget and Management, her group was tasked to prepare papers on how to finance the deficit to pay off government loans, study foreign grants and allocated United States Agency for International Development (USAid) grants.
“Those were very interesting and challenging times, and I even did a study about ‘debt for nature swap’ similar to the one used in the Palawan Underground River,” she recalled.
Ramos says she loved working with numbers and interpreting them even when she was young.
“I love seeing correlations among numbers; it’s like solving a puzzle and from all those numbers you can create a story.”
When she returned to the private sector, she would continue to use her love for country as a motivation, and her expertise in numbers to advance her career and achieve her personal dreams.
She would then join the supply logistics industry, eventually making a name for herself as the only female top executive of DHL in Asia.
“While I was in DHL, I was sent to mentor young girls in China because I was the only country head in Asia who was a woman. It was a very enriching experience knowing that you are inspiring young people and telling them that they can achieve great things.”
Supporting the next generation
“When you are young you tend to be very optimistic. Once you see a role model, they inspire you to be like them someday; that is why I joined government and why I believe that whatever I am doing right now is for the next generation, our children and their children.”
It is because of this mindset that Ramos convinced the management of Tiger Air Philippines to forego with the usual extravagant events to celebrate the launch of their airlines.
“When we were having our meetings, we were thinking of a way to create a buzz for our brand but didn’t really want to have the big party. So we thought, why not start with a corporate social responsibility project? It may not be extravagant but we could touch the lives of the youth and in a way, pay it forward.”
The company chose to donate 20 desktop computers to the Garcia College of Technology’s (GCT) Information Technology department, one of the leading schools in Kalibo.
The carrier’s pilots also conducted pocket seminars on airline operations and share with GCT students their experiences on how it is to fly an aircraft.
“Part of our philosophy as a company is to be people-focused. What better way to show that than to be connected with the community of one of our prime destinations.”
Ramos said they also wanted to highlight the province as more than just a gateway or stopover for tourists going to Boracay.
“There is more to Kalibo than just the Ati-Atihan Festival celebrated in January. It is also the hub for the piña fabric (pineapple silk) industry of Aklan, and the site of the Bakhawan Eco-Park, which was dubbed as the Philippines’ most successful mangrove reforestation project.”
Chief executive and ‘Ser Chief’
As we got to know more about this new “Tigress of the airways,” we were of course never going to let her go without a few showbiz questions.
Who is her favorite actor?
“I like Richard Yap because of the way he carries himself. He seems very responsible, a good husband and besides being an actor, he could also be a good example to the youth.”
She then recalled the best advice she ever received. “We create our universe by the words that we speak. So when you speak of blessings, good things will happen to you.”
It was a statement that pretty much explains her optimism and positivity in meeting the challenges of her new position and her approach to managing the company.
“Being in the transportation industry is a lot like being in the logistics industry, because of its timeliness and the precision of how things work. But in the airline industry you also have to consider people component—hindi yan katulad ng cargo na kahit ihagis mo, hindi a-aray. Here you will be dealing with people and their emotions. I think this is where the soft side in me came out.”
Apparently, being a woman is an advantage for Ramos in her current industry because women tend to be keener when it comes to details. They are also more nurturing because of their maternal instincts. She also considers her ability to listen as one of her strengths, because sometimes, she says: “All you have to do to please a customer is simply to listen to them.”
Ramos is also a firm believer of treating her employees as family.
“Just because you are the CEO doesn’t mean you have to be so detached and unreachable to your employees. I try to make myself accessible, making it a point to spend time consulting with the cabin crew because they are the front-liners of the company and interact most with our passengers.”
Despite her busy schedule and never ending meetings, it came as quite a surprise when we asked her about her family.
“I have a 24-year-old daughter, who is also a CPA. Family is very important, and thanks to the Internet and technology, I could bring home my paperwork and spend time with my daughter,” she generously replied.
“When she was still young, we would have dinner together and I would continue my work when she goes to bed. I used to bring her to my work before, so she knows that I enjoy what I do. Nowadays, I make it a point that we still have breakfast together. So it’s possible to have a career without sacrificing your family; you only have to make them feel that they are always part of your aspirations.”
With all the success she has attained what else does she aspire for?
“Personally I just want to see my grandchildren and take care of them. But there will always be a part of me who would want to contribute to the society and help out. I want to see the Philippines progress by doing my part and make it recognized and respected,” Ramos related.
“Taking on the helm of the new airline is both exciting and challenging; but building a brand is more fulfilling than trying to rebuild a damaged brand. So I hope Tiger Air Philippines could set a new standard in safety, reliability and provide an exemplary and seamless customer experience.”
We ended our conversations as the staff of the coffee shop decided to call it a night for us, but before we headed out, Ramos asked us about our plans for the rest of the night, and wished us a safe and enjoyable trip to Boracay. Exactly what a concerned mother would do for her children.
It was easy to understand why Olive Ramos now holds one of the top positions in such a competitive industry—she may have achieved it through years of hard work and dedication, but it is through her humble disposition and kind words that she continues to create a pleasant universe for those around her.