Thursday, March 31st, 2011
When the world is falling apart, count on a woman to be a pillar of strength. It is in the critical moments in life when a woman’s courage, waiting silently in the sidelines, comes to the fore to take charge and hold it together for everyone around her. It’s in the unmistakable steel in her voice, in the quiet dignity by which she faces her trials. It’s in the way she holds your hand- softly but firmly- offering not just comfort but strength.
I can’t let Women’s Month pass by without a story about one woman’s selflessness and another one’s bravery.
The love story of Ofelia Pamintuan and Antonio Quiogue blossomed during the time of war. And it was against the backdrop of Aguinaldo’s Declaration of Independence that they were wed. March 15, 1933 was the exact date.
It was a story straight from a period movie except that it wasn’t all romance and roses for those who lived through this trying time in our nation’s history.
Japan attacked the country without warning and the Japanese troops invaded the islands. War was declared when Ofelia and Antonio brought into the world Manuel Pamintuan Quiogue in December 22, 1941. They called him Meckoy.
Meckoy was three years old when Manila was being torn to shreds by the incessant bombings and the Filipinos were left with no choice but to find shelter- any kind of shelter – before the bombs dropped on their heads. The Quiogue family lived in Singalong. As the Japanese troops were being driven from the north of Pasig, they fled to the south of Manila and started killing people. It was during this time that Ofelia and her six children including three-year-old Meckoy found themselves running to a shelter in Singalong. The entire city was once again gripped in fear.
Ofelia Quiogue and her children were among neighbors in that cramped shelter in Singalong when the Japanese soldiers found them. Ofelia used her body to shield her children from the cruel assault of the Japanese bayonets and as she was about breathe her last found the courage to pass on three-year-old Meckoy to her neighbor and asked her to save her son. The neighbor, a woman of steely resolve, took Meckoy from the arms of his dying mother and kept him in a tight embrace, intent on never, never letting him go. She bravely took bayonet stabs on both her arms, on her back, on her face, in the different parts of her body while she embraced Meckoy.
She was wounded and was losing blood from all the stab wounds but the three-year-old she promised to protect was unscathed. Not a scratch.
The great woman, Sincera Villavicencio, lived to tell the story.
Meckoy survived. And it was because of his mother’s selflessness and love. It was also because of another woman’s determination to keep a promise she made to another woman.
The three-year-old child the two women saved grew up and went on to, maybe not change the world, but change the rules and change the game wherever he went.
I know. I’ve worked with him.
People who tell stories about Meckoy said that after leaving Ateneo, he got a job selling Carnation Milk in supermarkets for the Cornell Brothers Company. It was in 1962 and his salary was P200.00. I figure that was a lot in those days. I wouldn’t really know. I wasn’t born yet.
But that was the start of a remarkable career. He joined the Philippine Refining Company in 1967 and made Breeze the No. 1 detergent. He joined Coke in 1974 when Pepsi was the unshakable No. 1 and turned it around and made Coke the No. 1 softdrink in 1977. He joined J. Walter Thompson in 1989 and made it not only the No. 1 advertising agency in the country but no less than the Agency of the Year! He joined ABS-CBN in 1994 and created a niche for Studio 23 and changed the rules in network marketing. He was doing branded entertainment long before it became a worldwide practice. Of course, we all know that he became the President of GMA Marketing & Productions, Inc. in 2002 and it was the time the Kapuso idea was introduced and the network eventually became the country’s No. 1 Kapuso. It’s not that everything he touches turns to gold, it just becomes number one.
If it looks like I am amazed at what he’s done, you’re right. But what can I do? That’s his work history. The way he touches people’s lives is something that is even more remarkable, far more remarkable. The way he is loved by everyone- from the security guard he used to play basketball with to every employee he has worked with. I know. I saw them crying when he left some of the companies he headed.
Today, Meckoy Quiogue is the CEO of GroupM, the mother ship of the five important media agencies in the country.
But, I digress. This is not his story. It’s the story of two women’s bravery and selflessness.
I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Sincera Villavicencio and listening to her war stories, this one in particular. She was very happy to have met the three-year-old she saved a long time ago. She summed it up beautifully when she said, “He was saved because he was meant for greater things.”
Ms. Sincera Villavicencio’s house still stands where it used to be during the war. It still stands tall the way the woman of the house does. And Mrs. Ofelia Quiogue? She gave us an example of what a mother’s love truly means. I’m sure she stands proud in heaven as she watches over her son.
Yes, you could say one woman holds up the sky. The other one stands guard so that it doesn’t fall on us.
Happy Women’s Month.
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Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for but when I found it, I knew it was the one. It was a white coffee mug with a minimalist illustration of The Eiffel Tower.
I found my coffee mug. My office coffee mug.
Big deal, right?
I believe when we go to work every morning we bring more than our presence. We bring a part of our lives with us. We bring with us the very reasons we made the effort to get up, get dressed and drive to work. That’s why Reo’s cubicle is decorated with photos of her smiling children or why Del’s is peppered with her daughter’s drawings.
Mine has a calendar named The World’s Best Sandbox featuring the country’s most beautiful beaches as photographed by Mr. Butch Jimenez and, of course, my Eiffel Tower Mug. You get the drift.
I remember a time when I was a very young copywriter in J. Walter Thompson and each of us fought fiercely for our ideas. We were ready to kill for and die with them. And, looking back, I now know why.
We were young and we were very brave. Brave enough to lay down our life stories on the table. Audacious enough to present our personal dramas and unashamed to let everyone in on our angst, insecurities, and struggles. We boldly told stories of our childhood. We dared declare our dreams. We stripped down in front of our creative teams. We mined the depths of our emotions and for what? For a sinigang mix???
And that was why when somebody shot down our idea or merely said the wrong word, it set us off like we were wayward missiles. Well, with all the shooting down and the defending, it wasn’t easy. A day didn’t go by without some kind of an office drama. Pictures were torn. Copies were thrown to the trashcan. Doors and drawers were slammed shut. I even remember a copywriter who brought his knife to the office. We went to work every day armed with our own personal stories and prepared to be better than the creative person next to us in the brainstorming table.
But, in that competitive fishbowl we found ourselves in, we found friendship. We reveled in the similarities in our childhood and celebrated the differences in our viewpoints. And in the midst of all the fighting, the crying and the shouting, we got to know each other and we learned about life.
And that was the time we created the most compelling ads in our lives. We grabbed most of the awards and won the pitches that mattered.
And it was all because we brought our heart and soul to work every single morning.
Now I don’t know any other way to work.
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Sunday, March 27th, 2011
When I’m desperate for an inspiration or if there is a nagging question in my mind, I always find myself in a bookstore. I don’t set out to find the answers in a bookstore. I just end up there. Perhaps, it came from that grade-school training of heading to the library to search for answers.
I don’t always pick up the right books but there is always something interesting in each one.
The following may not be the best lessons in life but it’s funny how they strike a chord deep inside.
Bring the gift to work.
Seth Godin, Linchpin
It’s all about putting a little soul in what you do every day, of bringing your art- whether it’s the art of engagement, the art that is your charm- to the workplace. It’s the gift that rewards the giver.
And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
It’s about pursuing your Personal Legend and wanting it so badly the universe has no choice but to rearrange everything so you can have it.
The 10,000 Hour Rule. Even Mozart- the greatest musical prodigy of all time- couldn’t hit his stride until he had his ten thousand hours in. Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.
Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers
To be very good at something, you need have put in ten thousand hours in it. Read the story of The Beatles and be convinced. And just to put it out there, I wish I were Malcolm Gladwell.
You never know.
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, The Power of Nice
The coffee girl you just shouted at is a non-entity to you. But she could be the daughter of a client or the future wife of your boss. Hey, you never know!
At least once a year, you must lie at the ocean’s edge and let the waves break over you.
Clinton Kelly, Freakin’ Fabulous
No explanation necessary. Live a little.
Give the girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.
Bette Midler in Nina Garcia’s The Little Black Book of Style
These may not be the best selection there is but at one point in my life, each made sense. Especially the one on shoes.
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Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
There’s nothing like the thought of bacon to wake me up on a Sunday morning. And remember, this comes from a member of a family who loves to sleep. In fact, we begrudge anyone who disturbs our Sunday morning. But, hey, Hotel Sofitel’s Spiral Buffet is so legendary folks troop to as far as Roxas Boulevard for the experience.
And we’re no different. We made a second weekend booking in Sofitel for another round of that famous early morning spread.
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Monday, March 21st, 2011
We married young and were raising a baby while friends our age were traveling and partying. Once while in front of the ATM, I wished for lots of cash. Then before I could finish my thought and before I could even insert my ATM Card, out came what was probably a thousand bucks. Shocked and taught not to take anything that’s not mine, I froze. And the machine took the cash back. Weird, right?
As a newly graduate pounding the streets of Makati distributing my CV, I ran out of advertising agencies to barge into. Then I remembered I had a former classmate who got into McCann, the biggest ad agency during that time. My problem was I didn’t know where McCann was. As I kept on walking towards no specific direction, I literally bumped into that classmate from McCann. Yes, bumping as in bodies colliding. And, yes, with exactly the same person I had in mind.
My father woke up in the middle of the night and, without really knowing why, decided to sleep in the only air-conditioned room in my parents’ home where my sister and her month-old baby slept. With his futon, he slept at the foot of my sister’s bed. A few minutes later, my sister’s baby rolled and fell out of bed and into the soft beer-belly of her surprised grandfather.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a higher being who guides us and protects and in some instances, finds us a parking slot just when we thought we’d cry out in frustration.
In fact, this time last year, I walked out on my job. And this I say with pride because it was the right thing to do. It was a split-second decision. It was like being on the edge for a long time and finally taking the plunge into the unknown.
And in an attempt to put my life in order in the blurry days after that decision, I e-mailed my CV to someone who I knew believed in me- a managing director in my old agency. Never mind that he was based in Shanghai and I’m a non-Chinese-speaking-and-non-Chinese-writing copy-based creative director.
He didn’t respond to the e-mail.
I wasn’t counting on it, anyway. But I started to panic. As uncertainty began to set in while I was mulling over the wisdom of my decision over a cup of hot chocolate in Greenbelt’s Max Brenner, a familiar face passed right in front of me.
It was the Shanghai-based managing director.
We were happy to see each other and we couldn’t stop laughing at the coincidence. He was in Manila for just the weekend and what were the odds, right? Well, it didn’t lead to a Shanghai post but it felt good to see someone who truly had faith in me.
There is poetry in chance encounters, sheer beauty in coincidences. Each is the hand of a higher being, a reassurance that everything will work out fine.
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