Saturday, February 24, 2007

Learning from Mt. Pulag

Ana Margarita Zapanta of First Gas, one of the 91-strong Lopez Group-led mountaineers who climbed Mt. Pulag last February 15-16, came up with this observation, “If you want to get to know another person better, climb a mountain with him/her.” Indeed, we will derive lessons from Mt. Pulag and our climb not only about how people behave in certain conditions but also in how to manage and lead businesses.

First, some backgrounder and environmental analysis.

Mt. Pulag straddles portions of the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya in Northern Luzon. It is roughly 50 kms or 3 hours by car north of Baguio City. It is also accessible by foot from the capital town of Bayombong and located towards the boundary of Nueva Viscaya and Benguet.

Along the way from Baguio, you will pass the very powerful Ambuklao Hydroelectric Dam and crisscross the scenic upper Agno River that feeds the dam. Ambuklao is the biggest rock filled dam in Asia and is considered one of the huge projects that happened in the Cordillera area in the 1950s. The other dam along the upstream of Agno is Binga Dam.

Mt. Pulag is home to different indigenous tribes such as Kalanguya, Ibaloi, Karao and Kankana-ey. According to the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR), these tribes regard the mountain as a sacred place. “They have a rich folklore about ancestral spirits inhabiting trees, lakes and mountains. Agriculture, both subsistence and market oriented, is their major livelihood. Crops grown include rice, cabbage, potato carrot, beans, snow peas, tomato, lettuce and sweet potato.”

The Mt. Pulag National Park covers about 11, 560 hectares of public domain that lies on the north and south spine of the Grand Cordillera Central Mountain Ranges in the municipalities of Bokod, Kabayan and Buguias in Benguet; the municipality of Tinoc in Ifugao; and the municipality of Kayapa in Nueva Viscaya. It stands majestically at 2,922 meters above sea level and the highest point in Luzon, second only to Mt. Apo in Mindanao standing regally at 2,954 meters, a difference of only about 32 meters.

It is managed under the National Integrated Protected Areas Programme (NIPAP), a joint project of the Government of the Philippines through the DENR and the European Union (EU). It could use a lot more assistance from every Filipino.

DENR says Mt. Pulag has a large diversity of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to the mountain. “Its wildlife includes threatened mammals such as the Philippine Brown Deer, Northern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat and the Luzon Pygmy Fruit Bat. One can also find several orchid species some of which are possibly endemic to Mt. Pulag, and other rare flora such as the pitcher plant.

“It has floral affinities with those of temperate continental Asia, Australasia and to some extent Peninsular Malaysia. Studies show that Mt. Pulag contains 528 plant species and 42% of which are endemic to the area. The park is habitat of 76 bird species, 14 species of which are migratory, 9 are endemic to Luzon and 30 species are endemic to the Philippines. Also, 14 bird species have a global distribution of less than 50,000 sq. km. and 9 are threatened species.”

Next columns, let’s discuss lessons from our climb and from the experiences of the climbers led by Lopez Group top honcho, Oscar M. Lopez, who at 76 is the oldest to climb Mt. Pulag with not a scratch or hiccup and is ready to challenge Mt. Apo soon.

ASTD 2007. The American Society for Training & Development International Conference and Exposition will be held on June 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia. The plenary speakers are Jim Collins, Keith Ferrazzi and Tom Rath. When you register, you may use delegation code (20070256) to avail of discounted registration fee. You may also join the Learning & Innovation Team for discounted travel package. For details log on to for details.

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

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Preserving the joy of living

THE MANILA TIMES - Business Times
Thursday, February, 8 2007

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Preserving the joy of living

THE report of international scientists-experts on global warming is sending chills all over. I heard one CEO quipped, “I am buying a beach front property in Antipolo.” Huh, but Antipolo sits on top of the mountain? Exactly! Maybe, it will take a long time before the areas around Antipolo become part of China Sea, but it is just a matter of time if we continue what we are doing now to our planet.

There are many things we could do. Let us not wait for the government or for other people to do something. Let us in our own ways do everything we could so we don’t contribute to the increasing deterioration of our immediate environment.

Let us preserve the joy of living in this planet earth.

There is a growing hunger for meaning and purpose amid the obtaining chaos and uncertainties. It is never late to finally sit down and draw up a vision of what we want to be in the future and clarify our purpose for living. Picturing a positive future in our mind is empowering and guides our thoughts and actions accordingly.

Preserving the joy of living

• Companies could help their employees and the community they operate in by coming up with their own corporate long-term vision and mission to serve as an anchor for individual dreams. This will help organizations connect with their own stakeholders in a higher plane than the bottom line.

• There is, also, an increasing thirst for shared values especially of integrity, honesty and sincerity. We could start arranging in a line what we feel, think and do. Many times we say something to mean something else and do yet another thing.

Somebody said, “Without a vision, we shall soon perish.” Amen.

• There is a great interest nowadays among business organizations to do more far-reaching and in-depth corporate social responsibility projects. Not the usual dole-outs and sporadic medical mission. Even individuals are now doing their own “charity” work in more meaningful and regular ways. One lesson I learned is that you don’t need to join the Rotary or other such organizations to do good. You could team up with your natural teams of family, neighbors, friends, officemates and others. You don’t need to attend weekly meetings and put up with some characters and pretenders.

• There is a rising awareness to look for alternative and innovative ways of doing things that will not hurt the environment. In Japan, you seldom see big cars. Everybody, no matter what their socioeconomic status or standing in business or society, the Japanese use the smallest of cars. They use their car for a couple of years, maybe, with topnotch maintenance, they are given one more year to continue using their car. Then, no more. You don’t see old cars anywhere in Japan. Old cars are not fuel efficient.

• And many other ways of preserving the joy of living. You know the drill. Don’t do it for yourself. Do it for your children and your children’s children and their children.

If you need some help in creative thinking, you may want to attend a 2-day workshop on “Unleashing the genius of creativity and innovation for a competitive edge” on March 26-27 at the Mandarin Hotel. It will be conducted by Tony Buzan, the world’s guru on mind power and creativity and best-selling author of 92 books. To register, e-mail Serely Alcaraz at or call 887-7428.

ASTD 2007. The American Society for Training & Development International Conference and Exposition will be held on June 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia. One of three plenary speakers is The Jim Collins.

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies—how they grow, how they attain superior performance and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested over a decade of research into the topic, Jim has authored or coauthored four books, including the classic Built to Last and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Harvard Business Review and Fast Company.

(Visit Moje’s web office at or e-mail her at

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Goodbye, dear Bert Tato!

Business Times, p.B3
Thursday, February 01, 2007

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Goodbye, dear Bert Tato!

HOW do you say goodbye to a dear friend? How do you preserve the memory of a great friendship? How do you pay tribute to somebody who could not anymore hear you?

It was heartening to listen to the officers and members of the Geodetic Engineers of the Philippines Inc., talk about their esteemed past president, Edil­berto Barrera Tato. They refer to Bert (Ed by those who knew him from Cotabato and Nonoy by those who knew him since childhood) as their guru who was always ahead of his time thinking about the science and art of geodetic engineering. He was the first to use high-tech in surveying industry. He was always the first to acquire any new technology, soft or hardware, about geodetic engineering. He was a teacher and learner.

One thing that is remarkable is that he was always willing and able to teach his colleagues and share his competitive advantage with them. He had the advancement of geodetic engineering in the country foremost in his mind. He would say, “There is really no competition because there are a lot of jobs around and we better do a good job at it to gain the respect and business of our customers.”

In his company, Acre Surveying and Development (ACRE), his policy was to hire, not the best and the brightest, but the most willing to learn and work hard. He plucked “istambays” from the street corner who are not even high-school graduates, hired them and painstakingly taught them the ropes of surveying until they could do accurate and reliable jobs. He would tutor, coach and mentor them not only about the technical aspects of the job but also on the refinements of dealing with customers. His employees, past and present, all said that the best thing that happened to them was to get employed with ACRE because it gave them, not only a job but also respectability by clients and other employers. When business was bad and they had to secure jobs elsewhere, having worked with ACRE gave them an edge because clients and other surveying company know that they are well trained and up-to-date in technology.

Eli Evangelista, president of the Confederation of Filipino Consultants (Cofilco), said that the best thing that happened at the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) was to have Bert as an observer in the Bids and Awards Committee. As such Bert watched with eagle eyes and sharp ears all the goings on in the committee, particularly the pricing of projects. Eli said that Bert lost a lot of business with some foreign bidders, but he was relentless and unbowed to keep the integrity of the bidding process.

Bert’s friends in childhood in Iloilo, Cotabato, Capiz, his friends in elementary, high school, University of Notre Dame, University of San Agustin and UP Diliman, his friends when he worked in Vietnam and Iran, his friends in his neighborhood, his friends in the numerous professional organizations he served as president or treasurer, his friends at Rotary are all agreed that there is no mean bone in him. They remember his sweet sense of humor and wit, his legendary kindness and generosity, his creativity, his gentle manners and his fondness for pens and ballpens (he always carries four or five of them in his shirt pocket).

Fellow Service President Popoy said that as an ordinary person and as a Rotarian, Bert built bridges of hope, faith and aspiration over rivers of poverty, difficulties and doubt among his fellowmen. He was a socia¸ tã∆formist and undertook projects that empowered people and enabled them to be productive. Bert believed that the measure of his success is not in the material things he has acquired, but in the number of people and the quality of life he has helped improved.

Since Bert was the first son and the brightest among his siblings, he was the first to earn a degree as a scholar of the Bureau of Lands. His sister Elizabeth said that Bert sent them all to college and are now in the profession of engineering, nursing, commerce, military service. When she first tried her luck in the USA, Bert gave her airfare and living money until she was able to fend for herself. He helped all his siblings to stand on their feet proudly.

Everybody who had long or brief moments with him will surely have only good and fond memories of him. We will miss him and continue praying for him.

He is survived by his wife Bui Thi Lieu, son Junjun and wife Maritess, daughter Lela and grandsons Angelo Gerard and Andrew Gabriel who all love him so dearly.

Goodbye, Bert.