Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry Christmas, lah!

The Manila Times
Business Times
Thursday, December 28, 2006

By Moje RamosAquino, FPM
Merry Christmas, lah!

WHEN I came back from a foray into a regular market here in Singapore, my son asked me how many new Filipino friends I made. I shook my head and said that I have been trying to spot them yet even after six days here.

Indeed Filipinos have the talent of a chameleon and more, lah. Until they speak in Filipino and in that loud manner, it is difficult to tell a Filipino from a local. They easily blend with the surroundings, lah. They take on the culture of the obtaining environment, lah. They acquire the accent and speaking habits of people around, lah. My son Adrian has been here for six months and when he speaks to the locals at the shops, he sounds like them, lah. Thus, we are able to get discounts on our purchases, lah.

Actually, there is no or very little bargaining because they quote you their last price. What you do is hop from shop to shop until you get an acceptable price. Electronic goods are definite bargains here compared to Manila, but everything else is expensive. One big plus is the clean restrooms in all malls with tissue paper aplenty.

Singapore is, indeed, very impressive. The infrastructures—physical, language and culture—are in place; thus, it is very convenient and comfortable to work, live and vacation here. What is more impressive is their attention to details. The nooks and crannies of Singapore are as well kept and tended as are the major visible areas. And Singaporeans are instructed to be nice.

I am pleasantly surprised at how Singapore celebrates Christmas in both spiritual and commercial levels. The emphasis is on “giving.” My son says Singaporeans are rich and are getting richer every day; thus, maybe, they want to pay back and what is more appropriate time than Christmas.

Singaporeans do seem to understand and imbibe the spirit of Christmas. The Good Shepherd Cathedral was jampacked during the midnight Mass. We noticed that the majority of churchgoers are Indians. There is no telling who are the Filipinos among the faithfuls, unless they speak in Filipino. There are lots of other nationalities too.

Hmmm, if Christmas is good for tourism and business, why don’t tourists come to visit the Philippines instead?

In Bangkok, although you hear Christmas carols all over the place, the Thais don’t really know what Christmas is. They see it as just another high point in their tourist arrival index and, therefore, mean more business. They are devout Buddhists.

“There are Christmas lanterns in some individual abodes and beautiful Christmas decor in big malls here in Singapore. There are all sorts of giant Christmas trees, even a pink one. They even have Christmas brochure entitled Blessing under a Star: Celebrate Christmas in Singapore.

Dr. Chen Tat Hon of Singapore Tourism Board writes, “Christmas is celebrated in a big way in Singapore. Visitors can enjoy the festive cheer together with local residents in celebration of this special season. Christmas in the Tropics has indeed become a huge draw for visitors. It attracts more than a million visitors from all over the world each year. One in five visitors surveyed last year said they had specifically planned their trips to coincide with the yearend festivities and 22 percent were repeat visitors. Orchard Road and Marina Bay transformed with festive street lightings and picture perfect opportunities for everyone to remember that special Christmas moment in Singapore.”

Rev Oh Beng Khee, chairman of Celebrate Christmas in Singapore says, “As Christians, Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift to man, the birth of Jesus into this world to die for everyone’s sins. Christmas brings forth this great and joyful news.”

Aren’t we the only country in Asia predominantly Catholics? The much ballyhooed Christmas street in Mandaluyong has deteriorated into one tiangge place with Christmas as an excuse for its being.

Again we are beaten in our own game, so to speak.

(Moje’s email is

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Celebrate - you, the person!

Learning & Innovation – December 21, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Celebrate—you, the person!

In many company celebrations—Christmas party, awards night/day, anniversary, Halloween (Yes, some companies observe this officially.), celebratory meetings, and others—notice that:
  • There is a special table/s in the center of the room for owner/s and family, executives and guests of owners and executives. The rest are called employees and they comprise the audience.
  • The tables and/or chairs are all facing a stage or what looks like one. There is hardly any eye contact or unrestricted opportunity to chat among employees.
  • The one who presides over the meeting or emcees the program is the star, even the God of the evening or day, and has the most exposure and airtime and seems to have the license to say or do whatever regardless of needs and feelings that abound.
Continuing from last week’s column, authors Terence E. Deal and M.K. Key (Corporate Celebration) identified the ingredients of great celebrations and the last two are:

  • “Family and affiliation: the collective experience. Affiliation is a means of survival in our species. It is also the underpinning of self-esteem—you are honored and affirmed by being accepted and belonging to a cohesive group.
Celebrations feature inclusiveness: I belong to a family, a team, other people. Celebrations help build interpersonal union by fostering common roots and traditions. They provide social support for being yourself and believing that you matter, that your talents are appreciated and used. Ritual and ceremony acculturate, give meaning to symbols, and help people learn a common language. Peter Block, in his book Stewardship, sees a vital need for personal connectedness in the workplace because the workplace has become the era’s new ecumenical cathedral, one of the few places where people congregate anymore. Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love, also sees the workplace as a front for a temple, a healing place for people. Celebration knits individual psyches into a shared feeling of fellowship and family.
  • “Focus: every function has a functional payoff. Without a common vision or purpose, individual effort fragments into a grating cacophony rather than a pleasurable symphony. The result is a dangling discord, with almost everyone singing from a different song sheet or following his or her unique script. Celebration needs to have a focal point, a reason, a theme, which becomes the framework for expression. What we do for the sheer joy of it also helps an organization function at a higher level of performance—something we too often forget or ignore. Celebration creates and focuses the energy needed for an organization to produce results.”
Organization leaders and celebration organizers—usually the human resource unit--seem to be forgetting that a Christmas is meant for the whole organization as a family to celebrate the birth of Christ and our salvation. It is not a show. It is to share appreciation for every one in the organization through fellowship.

A company is nothing without its leaders and employees. No matter how well intentioned it is, how high tech it is, how beautiful and updated its machines, methods, furniture and fixtures are, how awash with cash it is, and how well-connected it is.

People—owners, leaders, employees, customers, suppliers, community—are the most important components of a business. All the rest are tools. Leaders and employees set up the business, plan it, produce products and render services—the reason for celebrating.

I am thrilled that Time Magazine has named You and Me as the Person of the Year. Indeed, the Internet will be nothing if not for the many websites and blogs of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people like you and me.

“Who are these people? The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.”


(Moje consults on business excellence and talent management. Her email addy is

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Here's a toast to my TMT family!

Learning & Innovation – December 7, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Here’s a toast to my TMT family!

There are some celebrations that we anticipate attending and there are those that we are forced by circumstances to attend.

Since I started writing for THE MANILA TIMES, I always look forward to our annual Christmas party cum Thanksgiving and the Columnists Meeting. It’s only once a year that I rub elbows with the bigwigs and wiglets of TMT and their family during the party. It is also the only time in the year that I get to talk face-to-face with my handsome editor, Arnold Tenorio, and busy-as-a-bee editor, Nini Yarte, and other colleagues in the Business Times. It is also the time of the year, that I get photographed by our chief photographer for my mug shot for this column. Except for the very first picture on my day one, I’ve never actually seen any of those photos. Nonetheless, my twice a year visit to the TMT headquarters becomes even more exciting because of this photo op.

I enjoy the games, the dancing, the raffle, the chitchats and the departmental presentations. With ease and glamour, our Lifestyle editor Tessa Mauricio is always the life of the party as the perky emcee. What is most delightful is to see the happy faces of hardworking reporters, correspondents, desk persons and support staff enjoying the once-a-year togetherness amid the how-have-you-been-lately chatters and children’s gleeful babbles.

The Columnists meeting is TMT’s way of telling us that they, indeed, value our personal opinions. Our Publisher Fred de la Rosa and President and CEO Klink Ang would take turns explaining what has become of TMT the past year and what could we hope for in the coming year. They outline the financial health of TMT and how we compare with competition. It is a very exhilarating and reassuring to know that our leaders and owners have a dream and plans for this paper and that they are seriously pursuing excellence in operations and results. They also talk about rules and regulations such as deadlines, etc. Most of all, they make us all feel significant and important to TMT.

Although, there is not much talk going around after the amicable hellos, we manage to engage in some small talks. The seasoned columnists and the sports columnists are normally the ones who engage in lively banter and exchange of information. I guess most writers would rather listen and write quietly than talk. Even my usually chatty friend Rey Elbo chooses to sit quietly in one corner. I am an avid fan of our own columnists and I look forward to celebrating with them our being “kapamilya.” When I gather enough bravado, I would really like to get all their autographs.

These are celebrations that make you look forward to more in the coming years and bond you with the company and your colleagues.

So, what makes a celebration successful?

Authors Terence E. Deal and M.K. Key write: “In an authentic celebration, people are willing to step out of their daily routine, drop their outer masks, and be fully present in the occasion being a part (we) and also being apart (me). In the experience of we is the collective of family inclusiveness, communion, belonging, connection, solidarity, a common purpose, vision, and values. We cannot be complete as individuals unless we are deeply involved in community and there can’t be a community without unique individuals. In addition to coalescing a community, celebration cultivates feelings of being valued for oneself, heightens self-esteem, and encourages freedom of genuine expression—fun, humor, and the creative aspects of life. In celebration of me joins the we.

“Notice the mirror effect of me and we, if we place one on top of the other, the letters m and w are reverse images.

“People simultaneously want both—to be apart, me, and to be a part, we, in celebration. The mirror images of me and we interplay and fuse as one inviting unself-conscious participation that eliminates fear, satisfies basic psychological needs and connects everyone in the creative flow of true community.”

Enjoy your Christmas celebrations and don’t forget the reason there is Christmas. And share those tidbits of celebrating with us through our email

(Moje consults on business excellence and talent management.)