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Rough Cuts | Those years in my life and CoViD 19

For this particular piece I am using the first-person narrative for the first time. This is because all the things I write here are very personal to me. Hence, I cannot detach myself from the subject I am treating.

After my seven-year stint with government with the last year as a senior population research assistant at the Commission on Population in 1986, I found myself landing a job in a local news publication. Even as I was with the print media I also dabbled in broadcast working as news director, and later, as anchor person and news reader over at dxDC, the Davao City station of Radio Mindanao Network (RMN).

While doing coverage for both the radio and print during the first ever holding of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) XI-initiated “From Davao to the World” marketing pitch of the city at the Central Bank auditorium in September of 1992 I chanced upon a leading business executive whom I was longing to interview. He was Manuel “Bobby” Orig, at that time the vice president for Administration of Davao Light (He is now a director of Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc., a bulk water project of the Aboitiz Group). But instead of me shooting the question I was the one being asked ahead by Mr. Orig. His question was: Vic, don’t you have any plan of changing vocation? It stunned me for a while. Nonetheless, I managed to mumble an answer. I told the power company’s executive I cannot give him a definitive response. Then I shot back my own question which was rather more personal than news gathering-related. “Why did you ask me that question, Sir”? To which he had his ready answer “I’m considering you to join Davao Light. If you are interested see me in my office”. My parting words couched with a smile was “I’ll think it over, Sir”.

It took four more months and Mr. Orig’s perseverance of waiting that long, for me to make what was to be my life changing decision. I called Mr. Orig’s challenge and decided to join the company he managed then. After all, my main responsibility allowed me to closely interact with the media establishments and my colleagues in the media profession. My immediate primary assignment was to manage the company’s media relations which at that time, was found in a survey conducted by the Ateneo de Davao Social Research Office as “below ideal”. It was easy, yes. But still it was a tall order for me. Being a media person I have my bias in favor of the media as an institution. But as an employee I have to make sure that the company’s position on certain issues must be communicated in a manner that can be understood by the media and the intended audience, the electric consumers.
Already, I found myself in a collision course with some of my former colleagues because I knew that not every member of the media interprets issues on electricity business the way the company wants it understood.

But all those apprehensions became the proverbial “water under the bridge”. I survived my neophyte years in the corporate world.
As the holding company of the Aboitiz Group grew bigger and bigger there was need to streamline functions and responsibilities.

With the public listing of the Aboitiz Group holding company as Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV) a new corporate unit was established. This was the Corporate Communication Group. Each member company created its own Corporate Communication Department. Media relations management was included in the responsibility of the unit.

Being part of a publicly listed corporate group Davao Light has to help its holding company become attractive to prospective investors who have become more discerning and selective in investing their money. Even stock brokers prefer to handle marketing of shares of companies that are known to be responsible corporate citizens.

This development in the business world eventually led to the institutionalization of CSR as a major business strategy of Davao Light. My function then morphed from the company’s PR guy to its community relations man.

At that time the buzz words among big businesses were “Neighbor of choice company”; or “Employer of Choice”, or “go-to” company.

By “neighbor of choice” it was to mean that the company’s host community prefers to have a particular establishment located in its neighborhood over the others. No, not because the company has attractive office building or has handsome and beautiful employees. Rather, the company is perceived to be undertaking conscious efforts to help address community concerns in whatever ways it can.

In other words for a business establishment to be a neighbor of choice, it has to project an image that is more than its beautifully furnished concrete offices. It must be able to show that it has a soul and a heart that feels for its host community.

During the last three years of my service in the company as head of its CSR, there were major disasters that hit some parts of Mindanao. There was that massive floods that hit some provinces and cities in the Northern Mindanao region in December of 2011.

Then in the following year, 2012, also in December, super typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley Province in the Davao Region, and the Surigao and Agusan Provinces. In 2013 the world’s strongest typhoon Yolanda devastated the Leyte and Samar Provinces and nearby areas in the Visayas.

Davao Light and other Aboitiz firms through its social development arm, the Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., were among the first private businesses that extended relief assistance to the badly hit areas. Food, water, medicine, and house restoration materials were purchased and delivered to the local government units.

I was on top of the massive relief efforts and in coordinating with the officials of the recipient LGUs.

But far from everybody’s expectation, the Corona Virus Disease (CoViD 19) came like a thief of the night. The health emergency that started in early late January of this year rendered super storm Pablo, the Northern Mindanao floods, and the super storm Yolanda virtual “peanut disasters” in term of its effect in the lives of the affected population and the economy of the places hit.

CoViD 19 did not just hit a province or city, or a country. It hit the entire world and brought the economies of countries on its feet
As I ponder on my helplessness brought about by the CoViD 19-driven strict home quarantine I could not help but recall to mind the small role I played when I was on top of the Davao Light’s disaster response efforts.

Yes, as I heard and read about the activities of big businesses supporting the government in its anti-CoViD 19 fight, memories of my corporate life in the not-so-distant past came back.

Indeed time flies quite fast. This year I realized that it has been seven years since I retired from the power company.

I felt nostalgic when last Wednesday I had the opportunity to talk to the man who now wears my shoes at Davao Light’s CSR department, Mr. Fermin Edillon, our supervisor then. He talked of the company’s schedule of turning over assistance to health front liners in Davao City; of the company’s support to enhance the quality of education for the Filipino learners; of rural electrification projects.

His words brought me down memory lane.

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