College of Economics and Management Career Expo Fair 2018
University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)
June 1, 2018

This morning I woke up to the realization that 2 months ago I turned a new leaf in my life: I became a senior citizen. And nothing would have been more profound as a reminder than the fact that you see me in a T Shirt and jeans instead of the suit I was planning to wear to this morning’s affair.

You see, as I was dressing up to come here, I absentmindedly locked the dressing room of my bedroom. At that very moment my wife, who keeps the key, was 30,000 feet in the air on her way to Davao. So rather than come here naked, I decided to wear what was available outside the dressing room.

This is what I wear everyday: T-shirt with jeans, loafers, and no socks. Throughout most of my professional life I wore nothing but suits and barongs. So when I retired in 1998 from being a professional employee to become an entrepreneur, I decide to just live a simple life with simple clothes.

However, I advise you not to follow my example in your first job interview.

My advise: wear comfortable, inexpensive but decent clothes, and most importantly, wear your passion in your face and in your voice.

Passion? Yes, passion.

Passion is what drives you everyday. Passion is why you do what you do everyday.

Maybe it is serendipity that I locked myself out this morning and I was forced to wear this shirt: the UP Vanguard shirt. When I was a student here in UPLB, I pursued advanced ROTC. So for four years while I was pursuing my Agribusiness degree I was also undergoing military training. This training built me into what I am today and I have since embraced the shibboleth of the UP Vanguard: Duty well performed, Honor untarnished and Country above self.

Country above self: this has been my passion, this has been why I go to work everyday.

Before you embark a career whether it is finance, marketing, or whatever, you should know your “why” – what makes you want to wake up every morning and do something useful with your life. Professionally, this is the only way to become happy with your career, with your professional life.

I started as an financial analyst in Davao City for a financing company. Davao at that time was a war zone but that was probably the reason why I was attracted to that city. As a financial analyst I had to do financial projections on yellow columnar sheets using pencils and calculators. No excel spreadsheets – if after working for 5 hours you find that your balance sheet is not balanced, you would have to redo your entire worksheet, by hand. Today you have Excel spreadsheets with all sorts of sophisticated formula in cells; I am sure you find the “Goal seek” function very useful.

My advise: do not jump into your spreadsheets blindly. Learn first the fundamentals – the link between the P&L, the cash flow, and balance sheet. Learn to differentiate between accounting and finance issues.

As I told you, Davao was then a war zone. And all managers from Manila assigned to Davao inevitably resigned because of the peace and order problem. A grenade exploded right in front of our office that blasted the glass walls of our office. We saw people shot in front of us and in many occasions we were pursued by armed men in the countryside.

So there came a time when our Head Office asked me to be the ACTING TEMPORARY OIC. At 21, when my colleagues were struggling as clerks, I accepted the challenge. I became the head of the branch of one of the biggest financing company in the country. Eventually I ran the Mindanao operations, supporting small and medium enterprises, helping them with credit so that they too can help bring goods and service to the people of Mindanao.

I must have done well because when came back after pursuing my masteral degree abroad, the company made me the head of a development bank in Mindanao. I was 26 then. It is one thing to do credit analysis and then market your loans. What is more challenging is to market for deposits and then matching these with loans that you give out. You need to match the risk profile and cost of your deposits with the risk profile and .revenue from your loans.

Many of you will not have the privilege with being given this challenge. Many of you will work for a bank and will be in one of the departments of that bank. While I urge you to work your way all the way to the top, learn the fundamentals of finance: cost and risks.

My deep understanding of this fundamental relationship between cost and risk helped me immensely when at 36, I was asked by President Ramos to run the largest power company of the country: the National Power Corporation that had the biggest problem of the country as well. The country was experiencing 12 hour brownouts, we were short by roughly 4,000 MW that required over US$5B, the company had no cash and in fact was losing money, the government had no money having just come from a series of coup de etats, and protests were in the streets.

Question: how does an Agribusiness graduate of UPLB become part of the solution to an enormous power engineering problem?

Answer: know your calculus, finance, and accounting well enough to know how to understand the relationship between costs and risks. And be a true iskolar ng bayan by being honest in your work. Your honor untarnished.

Let me ask you: what is more expensive: a power source that costs P5.00/kwh and stays at that level in nominal terms for 25 years, or one that costs P4.50/kwh but is indexed to the price of coal and the forex for the next 25 years. How would you evaluate that?

The answer lies in what you have learned in the four years that you have been here. If you cannot figure that now, either you were absent when that subject was being taught or, you are just a late bloomer.

At this point, I want you to stand up. Look at the people to your right, left, and behind or in front of you. Shake their hands, embrace them, but no kissing. Take your seats.

Remember the names of your friends and classmates, and remember them well. Keep in touch. Be active in the alumni. As you go up through your career you will learn that it is not what you know but who you know that eventually will matter. Some people will tell you that this is a harsh reality: “hindi ako na promote kasi hindi ako sipsip.”

But that is reality.

That is marketing: dapat sumpsip ka sa customers mo.

However there is a caveat: a sincere sipsip cannot be shown unless you have the passion to serve your customers, your market. You cannot serve your market and you cannot be good in marketing unless you know why you are doing what you are doing. And only then can you be good in selling whatever it is you are selling as a person or as a company.

This is my take away: if you want to pursue a career in finance make sure you understand the fundaments of risk and cost. A career in marketing will require you to be passionate about what it is you you so that you can relay that passion to your market in whatever form it may be.

The main message is this: be passionate about what you believe in and let that passion drive you. That way you get to meet people and influence their lives positively with whatever it is that you are passionate about. Conquer the world with you passion!

DUTY HONOR COUNTRY: this is my passion

What is yours?

Good morning and good luck to you all.