Thursday, September 17, 2009

Manny Pangilinan @ the 2nd Family Congress

(italics/emphasis mine)
by Manuel V. Pangilinan
August 8, 2009

Your invitation to speak at this parenting congress comes as a complete surprise–-considering that I have neither been a parent, nor am I likely to be one. Unless of course I follow the example of Abraham of the old testament–-who became a father to Isaac at the age of 100.

Indeed, one of the hardest things about being single is seeing happy families together – those for whom the whole world seems bright and cheery. Still, there may be some consolation to being single. For one, I get to see what my paycheck really looks like. And I could leave the toilet seat at home in any position.

Let me start by looking ahead, and asking these questions: what could the world be like when your children enter adulthood 5 to 10 years from today? What can they do in a period of rapid change, such as the world is facing in this 21st century? What assumptions about the future can a young man plan upon?

Around 700 B.C., a major invention took place in Greece: this was the alphabet. This technology formed the foundation for the development of western philosophy and science as we know it today. The alphabet made it possible to bridge the gap between the spoken tongue and written language, thus separating the spoken from the speaker, and making possible conceptual discourse.

2,700 years later, a technological transformation of similar historic dimension is taking place–-namely, the convergence of various modes of communication using interactive networks. For the first time in human history, the written, oral, and audio-visual modalities of human communication are being integrated onto the same system.. This convergence of text, images, and sounds coming from multiple points around the globe–-in chosen time, on global networks, in condition of open and affordable access–-is changing how we communicate, in
how we live.

These changes are seen in the increased use and importance of internet devices which are becoming more powerful, compact, multi-functional, and mobile. Soon, you will use only a single device that can do all you require.

In such a world of digital and virtual realities, today's youth will be situated globally–-he will no longer be confined–-like we were in our time-–by the boundaries of geography, family, and school. Indeed, your children can now reach out universally, and get exposed to influences and information in such massive quantities in so little time.

Yet this omnipresence is two-bladed. The internet enables the young for example to access wikepedia and to google just as easily as they can surf the net for "bomba" sites--of both the terroristic and titillating variety.

In this light the paramount question must be – how can parenting be responsive and effective in a technological environment characterized by new media such as social networking sites, rapidly changing telecommunications systems, networks of interaction formed around the internet, and the unbounded imagination of people.

In the face of the inescapable tide of change i have just described, parenting's supreme task must be to anchor our youth on basic, old-fashioned values that transcends time and circumstance.

My own values were shaped by my parents and grandparents, grounded in Benedictine and Jesuit education, enhanced by living and working abroad.

Like most Filipinos, i was not born into a life of privilege or pedrigree. The days of my "wasted youth"–-to quote Fr Ferriols-–were exceptionally average and simple.

I was close to my paternal grandparents. It was in their house at Isabelo De Los Reyes in Sampaloc--beside UST-–where my family had its first home in the 1950's.

Both my lolo and lola were educators.

My Lolo Benito came from Apalit. He did not finish college. Despite this, he was hired by the american provincial government to teach the new american curriculum. He was patient and a hard worker – rising from the ranks of a public school teacher in Pampanga and Tarlac, to become superintendent of public schools and, eventually, secretary of education under president quirino–-the first education secretary without a formal education.

My Lola Florencia also came from Apalit. Like my lolo, she was drafted by the americans to teach english in apalit. She was, at the same time, a housewife, endowed with the great Pampangueña traits of being generously hospitable, a great cook, and a strong temperament. Because Benito and Florencia had 13 children between them, my lola had to manage the family purse so that everyone had an education. 38 years ago, I gave my lola my first monthly salary of 1,000 from my first job.

My father Doming was also an Apaliteño. He started as a messenger at the Philippine National Bank, and retired as president of Traders Royal Bank, one of the larger banks in the 80's. I will always remember him as a fastidious dresser, as being fussy about his food. Maybe like most fathers of the time, my dad was strong-willed but somewhat distant, and not particularly communicative.

He was disciplined and orderly about his affairs, hardworking, a great lover of sports, conservative as a banker should be. And he was always on time.

My mother Solita was a plain but multi-tasking housewife. Her plainness though made me admire her. She was capable of taking on the full spectrum of household chores-–from going to the palengke at San Juan by jeep, cleaning the chickens and fish herself, cooking our meals and, whenever necessary, washing and ironing. She was warm and open to people and despite being a housewife, was my dad's equal in intellect and will.

Despite being surrounded by wealthier relatives when i was young, i seldom felt the envy of my parents towards them, or their unhappiness over our simple status. Much later on, after my dad retired, I proposed to buy them a house in forbes park–-an offer they politely declined. This honesty to self has been a value i have carried to this day.

My Benedictine education was rigorous, disciplined, doctrinaire. Insofar as foundation goes, it was a solid one. But in some respects, it can be stifling.

For one, it did not leave much room for self-expression and freedom of thought–-critical ingredients to personal creativity and innovation, and to strategic thinking. For another, this rigidity seemed excessive: like when we were taught that outside the church there is no salvation. This has puzzled me to no end because if other religions made the same claim, all of us would be simply damned.

I found my voice and opened my mind at the Ateneo. The humanities made me appreciate the beauty of literature and language, the depth and humanness of philosophy, the wonderful lessons of history. Coming as a refugee from benedictine rule, the ateneo was a liberating experience.

So I represent the third generation, cut from the same Pampangueño fabric. My boyhood memories were simple days of jolens and tex-–not texting–-of patintero, jackstones, scrabble and chess-–of tumbang preso, domino, jack en poy, dama and game of the generals. There were no malls, cellphones, ipods, computers then--yet they were fun days.

As well, those were the days of going to the Chinese sari-sari store at the corner--para bumili ng mga kailangan sa bahay, pero nakalista na muna sa utang-–mga meryenda na taho, binatog, hopia at monay na may matamis na bao–-but no jollibee's or macdonald's.

Your children may one day be in the same shoes i once wore–-a young man with a college education who thought that perhaps, the best passage to a better life was an air ticket abroad. After working here for 6 years, I departed the country to work in hong kong. I left for a number of reasons–-my career here was at a dead end, with prospects for the company I worked for as being limited and constraining. I wanted a fresh and exciting career. There was of course the attraction of a better pay offshore.

And whilst our extended family system gave me a lot of comfort and warmth, it was becoming confining. Since I lived with my parents, I had to conform to house schedules. And my mom would worry from time to time about my whereabouts–-I did not want her to worry. I wanted to be accountable to myself, to stand on my own, and be independent.

Life as an ocw was not easy. I had to adjust to new cultures, bury myself in work, acquire an intimacy with loneliness. I labored long hours, knew the biting cold of winter, the pang of disappointment and exclusion, the pain of loneliness-–of christmases spent alone or amongst strangers.

So almost 30 years ago, a young man from Apalit, Pampanga left the Philippines to work in Hong Kong. In 1981, he founded an investment firm based in that crown colony and called First Pacific. He only had six people, 50 square meters of office space, not a lot of capital. And he had one mission-–grow the business regionally.

Today, that small company has become a regional conglomerate called First Pacific Company. I was its founder, and remain its managing director. We now employ over 80,000 people across southeast asia-–a very large family indeed.

How to manage, and lead this large corporate family is a complex "parenting task.." Believe me, I deal with all sorts of people–-nationalities, personalities, temperament, religion, culture.

I'm sure my life's experience is no different from yours. Most of you would not want to see the deprivation and lack of comfort which we experienced when we were young, happen to your own children. One of the early sayings i remember as a child was what Chiang Kai Shek once wrote-–"the problems i've encountered during my lifetime, let them not be visited upon my children and grandchildren. Because they will have problems different from mine."

The values I learned at home and in school were enriched by working and living abroad. I worked in Hong Kong for 22 continuous years, and got exposed to an excellent work ethic.

Let me just say this to our youth today-–if you ever get a chance to study or work abroad, seize it. Life outside the country will open your mind and heart to new vistas, and make you a better person. Just remember to come back to this country.

The values which guide our business encourage and reward integrity as much as entrepreneurship. Management-–especially the CEO-–must not only be exemplary stewards of corporate assets, they must also serve as the moral compass of the company. We believe the best insurance against the perils of crossing the ethical divide is transparency. A ceo must actively encourage his team to be open in their decision-making processes, and their reporting relationships. He should encourage opposing viewpoints to arise so that true and right decisions may be made.

The challenge of leadership precisely is to create an environment where honesty is paramount, where integrity emanates from the top and builds success from the ground.

Let me close, in the same way I began-–by asking this question: what is the measure of your success as a parent? When your child grows up to be a movie star and commands an audience of millions? Or a super athlete who earns a pay of millions?

In my book, I would write a different standard. Successful parenting means a child who consistently gives all he's got with what he's been given. A child who feels capable, confident, and enthusiastic-–no matter what the challenge. A child who arrives at adulthood with a skill or talent that will give him satisfaction the rest of his life. A child who does what he sets out to do, and doesn't quit getting there.

My parents did not impose any ambition on me. They did not build a basketball court or a swimmming pool to make me a champion. But whatever I wanted to do, they were behind me, calibrating their level of support and enthusiasm to mine. They did not handpick the activities of my adolescence with an eye to grooming me for greatness.

Successful parenting understands the value of self-esteem: how confidence and mental toughness come not from being handed rewards and compliments, but from being encouraged to set goals and go after them until they're achieved. Parents should serve as a grounding wire, loving unconditionally and never confusing what their child does with who their child is. More than anything else, you may want to see the importance of putting your child in the driver's seat-–because the sooner he does, the sooner your child will understand that the trip ahead is all up to him, and that he can deal with whatever's down the road himself.

And don't despair when your children meet failure. I've come to be grateful for my own failures, because they force me to review all that had brought me to that instance of failure-–all my upbringing and training, all my trials and triumphs, all the lessons i'd learned from my parents and from competing.

Champions are raised, not born. I believe that. Because what gave me the edge, what helped me rise above my peers, even above my own expectations–-the discipline, the mental toughness, the emotional stability, and the belief in my own capacity for improvement-–can be attributed to my parents-–to my nurture more than my nature. Their unqualified acceptance of who I am freed me up emotionally to take risks-–to seek success and not fear failure. My own insistence on personal accountability made me see myself in an honest way-–how high i reached or how hard I fell.

The grounding which Ateneo gave me helped me remember that no matter how much other people were counting on me to win, the only expectations I had to meet were my own. And the only people who mattered were those who loved me regardless of where I placed in a race.

Finally, I'm not a parent, so I'm not saying this to tell anybody how to be one. In sharing my story, I hope to show what my parents did right. Accepting your invitation was a chance for me to say "thank you"-–the kind we ought to write to teachers and mentors who made a huge difference in our lives. To all the parents here today, I hope it will simply be an inspiration.

Maraming salamat, at mabuhay kayong lahat!

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