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.

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