Idleness is not in Florencia “Flor” Gozon Tarriela’s vocabulary. For over 40 years, she has been serving the banking and finance industry tirelessly and triumphantly, while actively working with numerous organizations to help better the lives of Filipinos.
A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Major in Economics, Tarriela is a proud student of the University of the Philippines. She pursued a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) before rising through the ranks of banking in the Philippines.
Tarriela first served Citibank for 28 years as Vice President and Deputy Country Corporate Officer from 1972 to 2000, and noted as the first woman to achieve the said position in the company.
Leaving Citibank, Tarriela went on to become Undersecretary of the Department of Finance from 2000 to 2001.
Currently, she is the Chairperson of Philippine National Bank (PNB), assuming the position as a government nominee on May 25, 2010.
Moreover, Tarriela is also a life sustaining member of the Financial Executives of the Philippines (FINEX) and Bank Administration Institute of the Philippines (BAIPHIL).
With such an impressive career, one would think this highly distinguished lady hardly has time to relax and unwind. The truth is far from this because one of Tarriela’s secrets to success is devoting time to a personal passion—one that neither keeps her idle of course in natural farming.
On most weekends, PNB’s big boss hies off to her herbal sanctuary in a five-hectare garden in Antipolo City. Rightly so, she has christened her own piece of paradise Flor’s Farm and Garden.
The Sunday Times Magazine paid the PNB chairperson a visit in the bosom Mother Nature to see a different side of the financial whiz, outside the boardrooms and her meetings. This is Tarriela in her zone.
Eager to grant an interview that does involve economic outlooks, the peso’s value or any official figures in general, Tarriela recalled to The Sunday Times Magazine how her family’s roots in the province of Rizal led them to her beloved garden.
Tarriela shared how her father Benjamin Gozon in 1963 ran for governor in Rizal. Her mother, Carolina, had gone along with her husband’s candidacy but prayed for him to lose, aware of the difficulties of a politician’s life.
“During the elections, we had jeeps which we used for the campaign. One of the political leaders requested my father if he could exchange his lot in Antipolo for a jeep. But back then, no one had even been here so the land was practically worth nothing.
“When the other leaders saw what this man did they copied him and the barter kept on going. In fact, so many people wanted to exchange their lots for a jeep that my father had to ask my mother if they could pay the leaders in cash instead because we had run out of jeeps! Of course my mom didn’t like that,” she added laughing.
“My mom, who used to produce Dalisay Patis, prayed about it again, and said if it is God’s will that we buy the land, the leaders would only ask for an amount she could afford—that is, the sale of her patis truck on any given day.
“Would you believe that when people arrived to sell their lots, and my mother would ask them how much down payment they wanted, it would be exactly how much she made from her patis truck that day—not a centavo more, not a centavo less. And that’s how we got this property,” she beamed.
In total, the Gozons acquired more than 180-hectares land in the area, of which she and her three other siblings were each given five hectares to develop. As such, situation just beside Flor’s Farm and Garden is Carolina Bamboo Garden, owned by her sister Kay Jimenez; and just across the street are those of her two brothers Ben and Felipe “Henry” Gozon of GMA Network.
With her five-hectares turned over, Tariella took little steps in transforming the property into the sanctuary that is Flor’s Farm and Garden today. A butterfly and bird sanctuary at the same time, she eventually decided to share her calming and relaxing space, opening it with families, companies, private groups and even schools for field trips, camps, seminars, workshops as well as weddings.
“Everything started when mom planted a talinum in my garden and I wanted to throw it away because that plant, if you don’t prune it, becomes tall and lanky. Fortunately, a friend of mine invited me to the garden of a landscapist, and Maur Lichauco—the eldest sister of Ninoy Aquino—said that the talinum saved their family during the Japanese occupation because it grows very fast and it’s rich in vitamin,” Tarriela related.
“After knowing that I said, ‘My ignorance would have made me throw a very variable plant. Maybe there’s more of this here.’ So people started telling me about different kinds of plants and their uses, and then we wrote a book.
“Even today, some of our visitors also tell us what they know about plants so the knowledge keeps growing. Over time, I was able to identify one are here ‘Garden of Life’ because of the edible and medicinal plants that grow,” she added.
Besides serving as her getaway, hobby and part-time business venture, Tarriela also formed a new advocacy in nurturing Flor’s Farm and Garden. According to the nature lover, she also learned how climate change is a very serious issue and that everyone should do their part in protecting the environment.
“Natural farming is also a way for everything to work ecologically, and with the regular natural farming seminars we do here, we are able to empower farmers to do this on their own. We’ve made this place available for such projects so now we are accredited by the Agricultural Chamber Institute as a training center,” Tarriela informed.
As such, the garden also serves as a laboratory designed to substantiate a campaign that she and her husband—corporate lawyer Ed Tarriela—have pursued to help promote healthy living among Filipinos.
“I am very happy that my husband shares the same passion with me,” she smiled.
And giving further credit where credit is due, Tarriela most of all looks to her mother for passing on to her a passion for nature, as well as the green thumb.
“My mom is really the gardener. I saw her love of plants ever since that’s why I love plants as well. I find the whole thing very exciting because there’s always something new in planting—new plants, a new fruit or flower to learn about. And the joy of growing something is so different—it’s unquantifiable,” Tarriela related.
The second-generation green thumb is blessed with three children, and it is her goal to pass on her knowledge of plants to her grandchildren.
“We have the sun 360 days in a year, but we tend to take it for granted. We should be grateful for everything we have and use it for the good. So really, we have to be more productive,” she explained.
Now active in Go Negosyo as well, Tarriela is really finding ways not just to preserve nature but also uplift the lives of the farmers.
“We’re always looking for ways and means to do mentoring,” she added.
With a day job that is far from ordinary and such a meaningful hobby, which has turned into an advocacy, there really is no slowing down for Flor Gozon Tarriela any time soon.
“When I retired from Citibank, I said I’m retired from the company but I’m not retiring from life. My mom was working until she was in a wheelchair at age 95; she passed away at 97. It is important to leave something behind, and anyone can do this. Because my mom also taught me and my children that if there’s anything you need to make things possible, you only need Jesus Christ, and everything else will follow,” she ended.