Washington Sycip in Davao

The SGV, the country’s and perhaps Asia’s best accounting and business consulting firm, marked its 50th year in Davao with a lavish dinner last night at the Marco Polo Hotel.

The golden anniversary was complete with songs and dances, tributes to past and present employees, thank yous to all clients and guests, and sumptuous dinner with an open bar.

What was unique about the event was the message of its founder, Washington Sycip, one of the most respected business leaders in the country and in the Asian region.

His words were not about the glory of the firm he built after the war to become was it is today. His speech was a tale of lament and a challenge.

He said the country was seen 50 years ago as the leading country in Asia after Japan. He said being democratic and a Christian nation were seen as the country’s asset for development. But now, he said the country lagged behind our neighbors, and has become a bottom-dweller in almost all categories in Asia. He cited though that the Philippines was No. 1 in corruption!

He expressed worry about the continuing decline in the quality of education, the rising poverty, and the ballooning population.

He said the country is now realizing that being “democratic” and a Christian nation have become instead obstacles to development.

The anniversary may not have been appropriate to promote his passion for certain advocacy such as education and raising the living standards of the Filipinos.

Yet, he said he was concerned about the country that we will leave behind for our children.

It was a message that struck the hearts and minds of most in the audience of accountants, business leaders and government officials.

SGV gave out copies of his new bio “Wash: Only a bookkeeper” as the program closed. I rushed to get mine and had it autographed by this great man, who at 88 was still sharp and witty. His citation of statistics during his speech was admirable.

I told him his speech was great. He just smiled knowing that he has inspired or challenged another human being, a fellow Filipino.

Dabaw Kaisa

Congratulations to the new officers of the Dabaw Kaisa Foundation, the local Tsinoy (Filipino-Chinese) association in the city, namely:

William O. Go – Chairman of the Board

Arch. Daniel T. Lim – President

Sergio Y. Haw – Internal Vice President

Edgar L. Te – External Vice President

Irene D. Lavares – Secretary

James Edwin O. Go – Treasurer

Directors:

Tian Beng C. Ang

Sebastian L. Angliongto

Charito Azarias

Dr. Romeo R. Du

James Y. Gaisano, Jr.

Gerald Arnold King

James A. Lao

Vicente T.  Lao

Lafayette A. Lim

EO Fuentes, 84

Eleuterio O. Fuentes, more popularly known as EO, passed away yesterday. He was 84.

EO taught English and Literature when I was in college at the University of Mindanao more than 30 years ago. I was not lucky to sit at his classes because I was at the Engineering Department. But I frequently met him at the Bolton campus because he headed the Publication Office of the university. We did not have a student newspaper at that time due to martial law. But budding campus writers mingled around his office and learned many things from him including photography. In our company were the likes of Jojo Santes, Nikki Gomez, Jimmy Cabrera, Dibay Garcia, Cecille Muñoz and Henrylito Tacio.

EO was softspoken yet his students enjoyed his Ilongo charm, wit and humor.

Christine Rizardo Omar of the Ateneo de Davao Univeristy School of Governance was once his student assistant.

I crossed path again with EO when I started to write for local newspapers where he also contributed articles. We also met at printing presses where we both published newsletters and edited local newspapers. He was industrious and prolific.

Our third encounter was many years later when my wife, Evelyn, became active in the floriculture industry. EO was likewise a horticulture enthusiast and in spite his advancing age, he was doing PR work for the group around FIDI, the floriculture industry association.

The main material I used as backgrounder for the City Council Resolution in 2001 proposing to name Waling-waling as the new national flower was written by EO.

My wife served as FIDI’s 3rd president in 2002. EO and Evelyn worked together on many projects and publications of FIDI. EO was already suffering from bouts of broncho pneumonia during this time. My wife often told me that EO has limited his activities to writing and making sure the printing presses finished their publications on time.

I am not sure if he has pending work at the presses. Its truly sad to think though that he has already written 30. He was a hardworker until his last breath.

Continuing trend

After the successful construction of two mid-rise condominium units near SM Davao by the Consunji Group and the groundbreaking of Filinvest’s similar project in the area at Ecoland, the trend of mid-rise condo projects in Davao is growing.

Consunji is constructing several mid-rise units at its property just at the back of City Hall in downtown Davao.

The other day, the Davao City Investment Incentive Board, where I sit, approved the application of Linmarr Towers for its six-storey Building A condo in Bo. Obrero. The P167 million project of the Bangayan Group involves the construction of 110 units of studios and two and three bedroom units. Two other buildings are also planned at its 1.1 hectare property along Porras St.

At the Ayala Center project at the Floriendo property at Bajada, mid-rise condos are also in the planning board.

Because of its vast lands, Davaoenos like to live in sprawling bungalow or two-storey type houses where they maintain front and backyard gardens. Now, there is increasing interests in condo living where occupants prefer to be near their offices, shopping areas, medical facilitities or schools for their kids.

The market of these condo units are split three ways – locals, overseas Filipino workers, and foreigners.

Milestones

IID

Warm greetings to the Initiative for International Dialogue (IID) for 20 years in promoting people-to-people internationalism. IID, a baby of my kumpare Gus Miclat, is one of the few NGOs based in Davao involved in advocacies on the international level. Its campaigns include promoting democracy, peace, human rights and self-determination in Timor Leste, Nepal, Burma and other Asian countries.

Among the guests I met at the anniversary party last night were Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, IID Chair and Department of Health Usec Alex Padilla, recently hostaged Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo, Palanca-awardee Mac Tiu, Malaysian Consul-General Nik Mustafa Kamal Nik Ahmad, Mahmod Adilao of the Bishop-Ulama Conference and Iligan Institute of Technology professor Geoffrey Salgado.

Club 888

Welcome to our friend Antonio Ajero, veteran newsman, as the new host of our Club 888 Tourism and Business media forum at Marco Polo Hotel. His appointment after the demise of Gil Abarico last March was just in time for the start of the club’s tenth year.

Tony Ajero, PTV host Ethel Cantor and me (Mo Billacura)

Tony Ajero, PTV host Ethel Cantor and me (Mo Billacura)

Birthday

Happy 100 years to Lola Luding, Lourdes Bantolinao. I believe she’s one of the oldest living persons in the city. She is my wife’s grandmother. The family threw out a big lunch party yesterday for her centennial birthday. She’s still alert and travels downtown by herself.

Her grandchildren played a trick on her by having 101 candles on her cake.

SONA form and content

The Malacanang occupant has been bitten by the pink bug of Bayani Fernando, Metro Manila’s czar who has painted the metropolis with pink colors for his beautification drive.

Short on good things to say on her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) today, GMA would highlight the event instead by what she would be wearing for the joint opening of Congress.

The SONA has long been a fashion show for the rich, the famous and the mighty. But this time it would be more than just a cat walk on the corridors of power. The pink gown of the Palace resident would appear to be the main feature of the SONA – State of the Nation, A dress. Philippine media is abuzz with it noticeably turning broadsheets into fashion mags.

This is how my friend Jess Dureza, now the Press Secretary, justified why GMA is wearing such a pink gown:

The President wants to capture the theme of her SONA—the Filipino’s self reliance, care for the environment, concern for the poor and vulnerable as well as the country’s stability as a nation to become a First-World country.

Har har har har!

On Second thought, bar her height I believe GMA could indeed be a fashion star. In fact, in the league of Naomi Campbell – famous models with attitude. (Foto credits – kaypoh.com and born-today.com)

GMA’s address is reported by the Philippine Star “to offer hope” to the suffering Filipino people. Did I correctly read it right, HOPE?

More

H – hunger

More

O – oppression

More

P – patronage, and

More

E – ecological disasters?

Tsk tsk! Same Old Nonsense from the Administration (SONA)!

Almost every SONA, colleagues in the media ask for my assessment. Here’s a preview: for Jess Dureza – I give 100 %; for Speaker Prospero Nograles, who will introduce GMA along with the Senate President – for such a simple ceremonial task – 95%; finally for GMA – hmmm … Abangan!

5:43 a.m.

Boy Zuño, 62

A premonition? After last Tuesday night’s So Kim Cheng Sports Awards, I and three other councilors had a nightcap at the lobby bar of Grand Regal Hotel. Councilors Danilo Dayanghirang, Nilo Abellera, Leo Avila III and myself reminisced how we all started in politics.

We also recollected many other politicians in Davao and one prominently mentioned during our discussion was Dominador “Boy” Zuño, Jr. He served our city as City Councilor and Vice Mayor. Councilors Dayanghirang and Abellera both started their political careers under the tutelage of Boy.

We asked ourselves how he was doing. Councilor Avila volunteered that he saw Boy lately at SM Mall. So, we all thought that he was doing OK. We all know he was sick but it was a shocker to learn that he passed away just two days later.

Boy succumbed to illness Thursday morning and was interred yesterday. He was 62.

Boy (3rd right) circa 2001 with (from right) businessman Botoy de los Reyes, Councilor Avila, former City Mayor Ben de Guzman, myself, and Councilor Diosdado Mahipus.

We learned of his ailment about four years ago. Almost all councilors were flying to Manila for the Philippine Councilors League convention when Boy was with us on the same flight. He had an appointment with doctors in Manila to check on his stomach ailment. He has since stayed mostly in their house in Matina in the company of Nanay Tinay Zuño, one of the most influential women in Davao society and politics. She wrote her column These I Know for many decades at the Mindanao Times.

Boy followed the footsteps of his father, Dominador Sr., who was also a lawyer and a City Councilor during the 1950s.

Boy first ran and won a City Council seat in 1971, just after law school. He was one of the topnotchers in the Council race. Unlike today when we elect councilors by districts, during his time, campaigning for the city council meant going from one end to the other from Marilog to Lasang. He was aligned with the opposition during the martial law era and was the leader of UNIDO in Davao, which was headed by fellow Batangueno and former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel.

He served as Vice Mayor from 1988-92 and lost in a congressional race pitting him with Jesus Dureza, now Press Secretary, and Prospero Nograles, now the Speaker of the House. Yes, Boy was in their league.

Boy was a close personal friend of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They played golf several times and danced together in parties in Davao. Arroyo appointed Boy as one of her presidential consultants with a rank of undersecretary. Boy, for instance, was tasked by Arroyo to handle the Southern Philippines Development Authority for some time.

Many old people would remember Boy as a political neophyte before martial law who could orate, sing and cry on stage. Yup, Boy can dazzle the crowd at political rallies with sad tales, tall tales, and romantic tunes. His favorite were Cliff Richard songs.

Our families were very close. Nanay Tinay and my father both worked for the Mindanao Times. My eldest sister Lea worked as executive assistant of Nanay Tinay when she managed a courier firm in the city. And I was a fixture as a young journalist at numerous political meetings at the Zuño residence.

When I ran for City Councilor, I also visited Boy and Nanay Tinay for their help. I remember becoming one of the favorite candidates at Cristina Village in Matina Aplaya. This is one of the bailiwicks of the Zuños named after Nanay Tinay.

I and many Davaoenos owe many things to Boy. I can only repay him with the thought that I never betrayed his trust. I remember him saying suloguon lang kita sa katawhan “we are mere servants of the people.”

Indeed, he was, and so am I.

5:51 a.m.