• Thirsting for a heroic top 1 percent

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    GAERLAN

    MARTIN R. GAERLAN

    As we celebrate heroism this August, I thirst for even one, just one, of the many illustrious names in Forbes’ 2013 50 Richest in the Philippines to leave a heroic legacy in the spirit of Francisco de Carriedo y Peredo (1690 to 1743), whose 270th death anniversary falls this coming September 7. Carriedo who?

    Yes, this is the same Carriedo without whom Manila’s first waterworks system, the forerunner of today’s Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System or MWSS, might never have materialized in 1878, or 357 years after the official founding of the City of Manila in 1521.

    Francisco de Carriedo y Peredo, from Santander, Spain, died in Manila at the age of 53 and executed a will which gifted his adopted home for 22 years, the City of Manila, with a seed fund worth 13 percent of his cash assets which he accumulated from doing business in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

    Around December 1733, ten years before he died, Carriedo offered to Manila’s authorities, which included representatives of the business sector, the sum of P10,000 to carry water by means of pipe to Manila. For reasons unknown, the city rejected Carriedo’s offer even amid Manila’s centuries long thirst for a safe and reliable water system. Undaunted by his beloved city’s rejection of his gift, Carriedo signed a will which stipulated 14 conditions related to his original offer. He explained that his life’s purpose was to “take part in a work that is acceptable to God” so that “great benefit will accrue to the poor.” Not even the short-sightedness of Manila authorities, not even death, could stop Carriedo from fulfilling his life’s mission.

    Eventually, Manila accepted Carriedo’s will, including the provision that the fund cannot be touched for any reason, not even for emergency purposes, except for what it was intended—water. Surprisingly, Carriedo’s fund survived Manila’s tumultuous history which included, among other things, the British occupation of Manila, earthquakes, cholera epidemics and even, bad debts. From 1743 to 1880, or a period of 137 years, Carriedo’s fund grew at an annual compound rate of 2.7 percent from about P10,000 pesos to a peak of P411,134, mainly from income earned from loans (30-percent average interest rate) and investments.

    While the fund continued to grow, Manila took quite some time to actualize Carriedo’s mission. The project only gained momentum in 1868, with the appointment of Genaro Palacios y Guerra as project engineering consultant. On August 28, 1878, the birthday of King Alfonso XII, Archbishop Pedro Payo and Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera officiated the inauguration of the project’s construction phase, with the cornerstone laying held at Nagtahan, Sampaloc, Manila. Finally, on July 23, 1882, Manila celebrated the grand opening of the Carriedo fountain located in the rotunda of Nagtahan, Sampaloc, the main distribution point for Manila’s first ever water system. About 53 percent of the P668,000 spent for the Carriedo waterworks up to July 1883 came from Carriedo’s will of 1743, with the rest coming from a city-imposed 1-percent meat tax levied on every pound of animal slaughtered in Manila. On August 8, 1882, the City of Manila offered a requiem mass in honor of Francisco Carriedo whose one gift, one purpose, and one will, finally became a reality after 139 years.

    Now, how many of the Philippines top 1-percent would be willing to leave 13 percent of their wealth to benefit the 99 percent of their chosen city? How many will be willing to gift their one city of choice, for one benevolent cause, and under one water-tight will? How many will be willing to bet that goodness will prevail, even if it takes 139 years or even more to realize their life’s mission?

    Is there anyone among the top 1-percent heroic enough to take on Carriedo’s heroic legacy of gratuitousness? Even just one?

    The writer teaches Management of Organizations and Human Behavior in Organizations at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. Hemay be contacted at martin.gaerlan@dlsu.edu.ph. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.

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