Monday, April 5, 2010

Manny Pangilinan Controversial Ateneo Commencement Speech

Below is the Controversial Speech of Manny Pangilinan in Ateneo de Manila University Commencement Exercises in the School of Management & School of Science and Engineering last Friday, March26, 2010.

Magandang Hapon sa inyong lahat.

Rev. Fr. Nebres, distinguished faculty and staff, proud and relieved parents, graduates of 2010 – warmest congratulations. I am pleased to join the fellowship of this sesquicentennial class.


It has been more than 40 years since I graduate from what was a small, idyllic university. Wr were an all male institution then, with Maryknoll – now Miriam – providing some distraction. We wore neckties, and no celfones or Jollibee's were around. Since that time, Jesuit charism has produced many changes at the Ateneo, most notably an increasing engagement with the world – pushing the frontiers of depth and universality – to use the words of Fr. Adolfo Nicolas. This is consistent with the university's strategic mission of closing the gaps in poverty and competitiveness.

Honoris causa

More than 500 years ago – in 1478 – the first recorded honorary degree was conferred by Oxford University on Lionel Woodville, who was dean of Exeter University and brother-in-law of King Edward IV. Oxford made him a doctor of Canon Law in a blatant attempt to win the favour of the king.

This is my fourth degree – so far. I hear that Oprah Winfrey – The big “O” – has collected a total of 7 awards. So I have 3 to go!

There's the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson who got a Doctorate in Humane Letters for his wide range of skills, including biting off the ears of his opponents.

But the indisputable number one awardee must be Sesame Street's Kermit the Frog – who was given an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters by Long Island University!

Quo Vadis?

44 years ago I sat where you now sit, I also thought what you now think – What is going to happen to me? Where can I find a job? Am I really graduating a virgin? Perhaps the best way to answer the first two questions – only you can answer the third – is to point at those sunrise businesses which can best offer opportunities to you for employment and career:

First, businesses unique to our country's geographic or resource advantages such as tourism and mining.

Second, industries that are by-products of our labor mitigation, leaving us for example with a surplus of doctors, nurses, and care givers. And since our population is comparatively young – complemented by our warm disposition – we are naturally competitive in the medical tourism and retirement businesses.

Third, businesses linked to information and communications technology. The shift to a knowledge based economy is best reflected in the emergence of the country's knowledge process and business process outsourcing (KPO/BPO) markets – two of our fast rising industries. This sector generated 7 billion dollars in revenue in 2009, and is expected to realize 17 billion dollars five years from today.

Fourth, infrastructure and utilities. We simply need to build more roads, ports and harbor, power plants, modern airports, especially a new international airport, an efficient transportation system – trans, light rail, ships – modern hospitals to raise the level of medical care.

Fifth, agriculture. We need to feed our people first. I don't understand and cannot accept, why weer are the world's biggest importer of rice.

Life in the corporation – types of bosses

After suggesting where jobs can be found, let me say that most of you will probably work with a boss or with many bossess. Some of them will be first rate and inspiring, but some will make you wonder how they became managers in the first place. Of these managers, four typical types stand out.

First, is the "despotic manager" – who rules as if by divine right, because he thinks he is always right. He has a short attention span and expects everything to be done his way, right away. From him you get nothing but fear. Sa PLDT, sila yung tinatawag naming Argentinean o di kaya, Russian. Kasi palagi urgent yan or rush yan!

Second, is the "floater manager" – one who rises effortlessly in an organization. He is friends with everyone and doesn't make enemies because he does not make the tough decisions. From him you will learn nothing.

Third, is the "intriguer manager", the corporate rasputin. He operates below the surface and plots against everybody. From him you will get painful ulcers and sleepless nights.

Fourth, is the "narcissist manager", whose self-confidence and charm – sometimes combined with handsome or pretty looks – push him or her up the corporate ladder. From him you would get no encouragement.

How to manage your boss

On your way to the top, how can you deal with a corporate species called the boss?

First, you must learn how to manage not only your peers sideways, but also your boss upwards. Second, find the gem beneath the rough. Remember your boss will not be flawed in all aspects. Short of being the S/O/B – son of the boss – he must have had some strengths to have become a maneger. You can have a boss with a fiery temper, but maybe they work like there's no clock. The trick is to know what makes him tick.

Third, be smart, or better yet, smarter than the boss. Fourth, choose your battles. Not all disagreements with your manager will be good for you or your career. Speak out at the opportune time. The Greeks have a term for this – it is called "kairos" – which is to say the right thing at the right moment. Be sensitive.

The challenges – adopt a cause

When I started my own career, I was just like you looking for a job, any job. In fact, I began as an employee – as executive assistant to the president of Filoil Marketing wit ha salary of 1,000 pesos a month. And despite my Wharton MBA, I had to train as a salesman for 6 months working in many parts of Mindanao. It took persistence and patience and years of waiting until I finally became my own boss. Was I scared? You bet! Transitioning from employee to entrepreneur was like starting all over again. In 1981, I founded First Pacific with 6 people, 50 square meters of office space, and little capital. It was like the first day of school for me, and I couldn't call my mother to hold my hand.

So the struggles I faced to make it to this podium today reflect the struggles of so many other Filipinos born without privilege or pedigree.

I was born poor. My father started his career as a messenger at Philippine National Bank. His father began his – as a public school teacher in Apalit, Pampanga. As a young student, I lived on a 25-centavo daily allowance. Scholarships sustained my education from my elementary days at San Beda College all the way to my MBA at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

I grew up in Little Baguio, San Juan – along Barasoain Street. Our modest house stood right on the boundary of a squatter settlement. From my bedroom window, I could see, smell, and feel the lives of the poor firsthand – mga away ng mag-asawa at ng kanilang mga kabit halos araw-araw, mga taong naliligo sa may kanto, mga batang dumaraming parang kabute kada taon.

So whenever I look back on my years here at the Ateneo – I do have one lasting memory, and that's about the poor, and about helping them – on Saturdays when I would teach catechism at the National Mental Hospital in Mandaluyong, and Sundays amongst squatter families in Sapang Palay.

And my interest in sports has emphatically proven how basketball or boxing or cycling provides an escape from the poverty trap. Look no further than Manny Pacquiao as an example. And there are other equally inspiring success stories.

Joel Calderon was last year's Padyak Pinoy Tour of Champions. He is a tricycle driver in Guimba, Nueva Ecija who had to leave his job to train for this summer bikathon. Joel won, riding an old model bicycle borrowed from his teenage nephew. His proud father trundled his tricycle from Guimba to Baguio, 120 kilometers distant, to witness his son's glorious moment – finishing the 195-kilometer race in 5 hours, 58 minutes, 37 seconds.

Annie Albania is a member of our national women's boxing team. She comes from Poblacion, South Cotabato. And is the youngest of six children. Her father was a palay farmer who tilled the family's ancestral land of 2 hectares to put food in the mouths of his children. Annie's father died six years ago, leaving the task of bread winning to Annie. It was in the sport of boxing that she cast her lot. With determination and diligence, Annie is now the country's best lady boxer. And she will step onto the biggest stage of her life – the London Olympics in 2012 – hopefully with the country's first Olympic gold.

So graduates, for the Joel's and Annie;s of this country – take up a cause. Let your passion give force and moment to that cause. Be brave enough to live life passionately. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your passion.

And if you make your cause the focus of your career, that would be great. But even if you spend a few hours each week, a few days each month, you could still change lives. Even the life of one, single person. Few will have the resources to bend history itself. But each of you can work to change a small corner of this country of ours for the better. It is in the total of your individual acts that will be written the history of this generation.


I'd liek to close now by saying that to be truly successful, you have to stand for something larger than yourself, to use your life in service to someone else's. Beyond your immediate concern about jobs and career, there is the broader imperative of nation building – one of the 3 themes of Ateneo's sesqui.

The notion of nation building was best captured by India's first Prime Minister Nehru when he said, on the eve of Indian independence in August 1947: "The service of India means the service of millions who suffer. It means ending poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity." And then referring to Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru added: "The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, our work will not be over."

Whilst our work in this country is indeed far from over, may everyone on this occasion resolve to wipe every tear – in every eye – of every Filipino.

Finally, let me leave you with the wisdom of my fellow doctorate, Kermit the Frog, in his own commencement address – "You are no longer tadpoles. The time has come for you to drop your tails and leave this swamp. But I'm sure that wherever I go as I travel around the world, I will find each and every one of you working your tails off to save other swamps.

Again, many congratulations. God bless all of you. Good luck and good life.

- Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP)

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