Farewell…Eboy (for Eboy Jovida)

Farewell…Eboy

(for Eboy Jovida)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

In this world you’ve ceased to live

But in our heart and mind

You shall linger with a smile –

And, it shall never fade in time.

 

You’ve tried to be the best you could –

Husband, father… friend

In songs you have crooned

Even the calm you well feigned.

 

Farewell…to the best father, farewell!

Friend, you’re a delight

Ride on the glory of our love

As you journey towards that Light!

Eboy Jovida

 

 

 

The Reluctant Musician of PAL…Eboy Jovida

The Reluctant Musician of PAL

…Eboy Jovida

By Apolinario Villalobos

Friendship is oftentimes forged on a common denominator. That is how groups of hobbyists are formed. We know of people whose passion is nature tripping such as birdwatching, mountaineering, scuba diving or simply trekking. Some are grouped as motorcycle riders or bikers.

When I just transferred to Manila from Tablas where I was assigned as PAL’s ticket/freight clerk to Manila to work with its Tours and Promotions Office, I met Eboy Jovida, a colleague who was assigned at the domestic airport ticket office. He was unassuming and full of energy every time he was sharing stories. His attitude was so contaminating such that, every time I talked to him, my problems just vanished.

The first time I felt that he was not an ordinary guy was when he got hold of a guitar and did some plucking and simple strumming while he was humming a song. With that, I became closer to him because of my love for music. Later on, I learned that he was also a flutist and was doing gigs in cafes and lounges in Manila and some hotels along Roxas Boulevard, as his side job. Much later, I also learned that he was adept in arranging musical pieces and even conducted choirs.

He was practically a guy oozing with musical talents, as he was into composing and singing. He was also a member of an acoustics group. I was then, expecting him to go places, especially when I learned that his group was becoming popular among the café habitués in Greenbelt Park of Makati City. I egged him to go on composing, especially, haunting tunes to jibe with his flute. The last time we had a serious talk that included my collaboration with him using my poems was when I visited him in their home in Cavite, during which we frolicked in the rain like children, when there was a sudden downpour.

Years have passed since our last meeting and I was surprised to learn that he tried his luck in finding a greener pasture in the United States. Though surprised, I understood his predicament in view of the cut-throat competition in the local music industry. The best memory that we in PAL have about him, was his conducting of groups of employees that rendered songs during special occasions.

The Philippines is a country of musicians. It is sad to note, however, that politics have also intruded the local music industry. Even singing contests are not free from its stain. Singers like Charise Pempengco became known as an international singer via an American TV program. She never had a chance of fair exposure while in the Philippines. The same is true with Lea Salonga whose singing with international caliber was given a better recognition when she joined “Miss Saigon”. Today, her name has become synonymous to the said musical play.

There are plenty of musical talents in the country, who just like Eboy Jovida, hesitated to assert his own, knowing that it would just go to naught. Wherever he may be, I wish that due recognition be given him so that he can have a chance to share his God-given talent.

The Unsung Heroes of Philippine Airlines (Part 2)

The Unsung Heroes of Philippine Airlines (Part 2)

By Apolinario Villalobos

With the rapid global development of air travel since the ‘70s, there has been a need for Philippine Airlines to be competitive. There was a rush among airlines around the world to grab a significant share of the industry’s inbound and outbound segments. PAL’s domestic department’s support to the effort of its international counterpart has been well-entrenched, ready to ferry incoming tourists to the provinces which were previously surveyed and classified according to their kind of allure.

For purposes of drumming up the airline’s effort and maximize its exposure to the international market, the International Sales-Philippines (ISP) was positioned in the heart of the Tourist Belt in Ermita, along the Roxas Boulevard. The Account Sales Executives of ISP were the airline’s formidable living sales machinery, who confidently faced their counterparts from other international airlines. The ISP served as the airline’s flagship, whose men and women earned profound respect in the field of airline sales.

The International Sales-Philippines, has been the training ground for prospective representatives groomed for overseas posting. Just like their counterparts in the Domestic Marketing and Sales, the ISP Account Sales Executives were likewise stout of heart and daring in treading new grounds. Part of their training was establishing good relations with the travel agents, organizations and commercial establishments throughout the country which was divided into three sales areas, namely: Metro Manila/ Luzon, Visayas/Cebu, and Mindanao, with Metro Manila further divided into north and south sectors, as well as, commercial accounts. Their week started with sales meeting to discuss the past week’s performance and plans for the current week. At the end of each day, the sales executives had to hurry back to the office to jut down results of their calls that included groups whose airline preference were successfully swayed in favor of PAL, requests for sponsorship of familiarization tours organized by travel agents, and many others.

The bigwigs of the flagship then, were Rene Ocampo who was at the helm as Regional Vice- President, Archie Lacson as the Director for ISP and later moved up in place of the former, and David Lim who took over the position of Archie Lacson. Providing them support were Tessie Ona who administered the ledgers of generated sales, as Manager of Sales Administration, the Product Managers: Marila Revilla, Noel Abad, Elsie Enriquez, Millie Braganza, Ging Ledesma, Danny Lim, and Tony Herrera. Milagros Limgenco, came later, as the RVP in place of Archie Lacson, and Atty. Doming Duerme, in place of Dave Lim.                 .

The formidable sales force was composed of Celso Dapo (who was assigned later, as manager of different overseas stations), Erwin Billano, Mona Caburian, Agnes Buenaventura, Mike Sunga, Miguel Estrada, Reggie Constantino, Bong Velasco, Marlene Pajanel, John Fortes, Dell Merano (who became sales manager of San Francisco), Renato San Luis, Rey Garcia (who was posted in Middle East stations), John Fortes, Jojo Baena, Reggie Constantino, Dina May Feliciano (who is currently, manager of Yield Management), Harry Inoferio (later assigned as manager to Hongkong and other international stations), Emma Relampagos Caseῆas, Lency Roceles, Joanne Sarmiento (who was also posted as sales manager abroad), Ed Ramos, Gerry Jimenez, Nonoy Versoza, Jimmy Lucas, and Fabie Espino. Those who provided administrative support later, were Atty. Cris Pascual, Ayee Garvida, and Mike Villaflor.

Customers perceived the ISP as “the PAL”, the country’s flag carrier, with the company’s name prominently displayed on a portion of the building’s façade, facing the Roxas Boulevard, one of Manila’s premier thoroughfares. Sleek in ties or barong Tagalog, and elegant blazers and comfortable slacks or dress, the men and women of ISP were proud of their mandate to generate sales from the field, using their profound intelligence and resourcefulness.

A lot of sacrifice has been made by them…braving the scorching heat of the sun on the way to clients, enduring the drench of sudden downpours, extending time to attend nocturnal socials tendered by patronizing agents and groups, and missing the families when sent on missions overseas or when assigned to foreign stations. All of them were sustained in the name of professionalism, and love of chosen profession – without a bit of complaint.

Stories about early days in foreign posts were sometimes hilarious, as when one was made to stay posthaste, but temporarily in a quaint quarter, located in a busy business district of Hongkong, that saw good old days as a tailor shop, hence, with glass-covered frontage. Another, that of Dell Merano’s, she who had to sleep on the cold floor of her newly-found apartment within a business district of San Francisco (USA) during her early days as sales manager, until she was able to purchase modest furnishings. Despite the discomfort, she had to start calling on identified clients within the district in order to make an impressive performance.

Commendable is the story of Harry Inoferio who, practically had to lobby for a permit from the Hongkong authorities to post PAL posters in the trains of the city’s mass transit system. This he did as his last resort to outdo the strong sales efforts of other Hongkong-based competitors who were armed with significantly and drastically reduced fares. He also saw to it that being a Filipino, he alone had the hold on the Filipino communities, which made him miss weekend days off, just to be with the co-patriots as they picnicked in parks. For the Hongkong OFWs, he became known as “Mr. PAL”.

There’s the story also of Rey Garcia who had to cross a field of amor seco grass to be able to attend a meeting with a client somewhere in Ortigas business district, when it was still new. Drenched in sweat and with amor seco thistles in his pants, he was able to make it on time – a professional show of PAL being on time – always!

Not only were the early ISP Team best at capturing sales …they were also best on stage. During special occasions that called for shows, they became show business personalities, impersonating actors and lip-synchronizing singers. All of them were practically graceful, too, in their dancing shoes. All of those they did, for the sake of their beloved clients who sincerely showed their delight and appreciation for the exerted effort.

Philippine Airlines has been part of the country’s historic past, and its culture is deeply impressed with the former’s colors and logo. The airline’s endurance has been tested so many times, since its first flight after the WWII, through the Martial Law days, and until today as the country waddles in a volatile economy …but, thanks to its men and women, it has survived, still flies around the globe – and still, ever proud, too!

The Unsung Heroes of Philippine Airlines (part 1)

The Unsung Heroes of Philippine Airlines (Part 1)

By Apolinario Villalobos

By modern lingo, heroes are not just those who saw action in the battlefields. Heroes nowadays refer to people who keep the streets clean, sun-scorched and rain-soaked traffic enforcers, young policemen who risk dear lives in tracking down criminals, overseas Filipino workers, and many more. In the case of Philippine Airlines, the employees who belong to its era of early operations, they who laid down its foundation, the frontliners who faced irate customers and passengers at the ticket offices and terminal, endured the sun’s scorching beating at the tarmac, and those who lost sleep and skipped meals as they worked overtime on policies that are needed to be collated into operating manuals, are the “unsung heroes”, I am referring to.

The airline as the country’s flag carrier has been magnanimous in its role – practically in bringing the islands together, easing the travel of Filipinos, propping up commerce that nurtured the eventual development even of far- off towns and islands, and shuttling people from abroad to interesting nooks in the country, thereby bringing consciousness about an exotic archipelago somewhere in Southeast Asia, along the rim of the Pacific. Philippine Airlines, proudly flew the country’s colors in its effort to put the latter in the international tourism map, and it was successfully done with its prime travel program – PALakbayan. And, that was the era of the airline’s struggle to make significant contribution to the country’s economy. With Ricardo G. Paloma, “Mr. Tourism” among the people of the industry during his time, at the helm of this effort, success was achieved, and of course, with the help of its “unsung heroes”.

The screening of future heroes of the airline started at the time of preliminary interviews, during which sincerity was gauged in the answers to two questions: “are you willing to be assigned anywhere?”, and, “are you willing to learn?” Standard answer was of course, yes, but the clever interviewers, station bosses, who themselves, rose from the ranks, were able to discern sincerity in how such single word was further enhanced by the interviewees. With further filtering, the hundreds of applicants were trimmed to the very few that consisted the so-called “cream” – thick in its consistency of enthusiasm, courage and sincerity.

During the rigid training, the applicants were further scrutinized, as not only the basics of station operation, check-in counter handling, and ticketing were taught, but moral values and attitudes, as well. Those that showed resistance were eventually eased out. The early management of the company showed compassion and fairness by not giving much weight to the alma mater of applicants. My case was a clear example, having graduated from an obscure school in the south, but proud Notre Dame of Tacurong College.

My first assignment in Tablas, exposed me to the intricacies of station operation handled with resourcefulness most of the time. The station personnel got worried every time there was rain and the direction of the wind changed, factors that dictated the load of the aircraft. Some of the towns where the ticket offices were located had no electricity. Reservation was done manually. As an extra mile in serving the customers who came from far barrios, those who arrived late, meaning, early evening, were served with the use of a kerosene lamp. That was the situation when I set foot in Tablas where I found Celso Dapo, Oswald Alamo, Sonny Garcia, and Bien Alvaro, the Supervisor who welcomed me with warmth. They were the first heroes of PAL that I met. We had no day off as even on flightless days, we had to conduct some kind of community outreach by mingling with the locals to ensure their patronage of the airline. Our threat was the more frequent schedule of ferries from the nearby town of Looc and the bigger ships that made regular calls at Odiongan.

I saw the same situation in other stations that I visited when I assumed later a job to research on tourist spots for the TOPIC Magazine that I edited. When I visited Mamburao, Obet Reyes, the station Supervisor and his staff endured the loneliness of being far from loved ones. Assignment of personnel depended on the need of any station, so that some of my batchmates during training were assigned to Jolo, like Abet Yu who hailed from Cagayan de Oro. I came to understand why right at the moment of the first interview, willingness to be assigned anywhere was extracted from applicants, as I later found out that those who hailed from Luzon were assigned in Mindanao or Visayas stations, and those from the latter provinces were assigned in Luzon stations or Manila. Just like the gallant men of the military, they boldly accepted assignments without question.

What we see today is a somewhat modernistic Philippine Airlines that fly world-class, long and wide-bodied aircrafts which is far from the picture of many years ago when the Philippine skies were sliced by its HS-748’s, DC-3’s, YS-11’s, and a little later, BAC1-11’s. The airline’s president, then, was Benigno Toda, a Hispanic and very accommodating person who were perceived by the employees as a “father”. During his time, the airline was like a big family. And, there was no spat in anyway, with the union.

Aside from the harried effort to come up with systems and manuals, the airline was also into community outreach to promote air travel awareness, at the same time. Through its Public Relations Office (PRO), now Corporate Communications Department, aircraft familiarization tours for school kids and groups were conducted. The office was also tapped when there was a need for exhibits in schools, complete with stewardesses in sleek uniform. The staff of the said office, likewise, conducted film showings in communities and schools, or during seminars about the airline. This effort showed that PAL flew its aircraft not only for profit but also to foster goodwill, and contribute for the welding of the islands into a cohesive country despite its diversified cultures.

The effort of the PRO was duplicated by the Tours and Promotions Office, under its manager, Vic Bernardino which conducted slides presentations in schools and during seminars organized by government agencies, such as Department of Tourism, local government units, and travel agencies. The said office conceptualized the PALbayan Tour Program, which gave a new face to travel. Practically, the whole staff were adept as resource speakers for tourism forums. The whole staff was also given tasks that covered all facets of tourism industry. Ed Buensuceso was a scuba diver, mountain climber, birdwatcher, and cave explorer and so were John Fortes and Thelma Villaseῆor; Bong Velasco was a mountain climber and bird watcher; Mayee Santos Cuenco was a thorough researcher on festivals and tourist spots; Reggie Constantino, Ed Ramos, Bong Velasco, and this writer, whose primary responsibility was to edit the TOPIC Magazine, were also into mountain climbing and cave exploration. Tour programs for groups were developed by any of us for tourism students who would like to visit a place to fulfill a requirement in their course. The same effort also benefited travel agents who had requirements for special groups. Again, in this effort, those assigned in outlying stations were all out in giving their support. They served as “meet and assist parties” for groups that arrive in their stations. Practically, passengers were made to feel that PAL cared for them – all the way.

On the other hand, those behind their desks at the head office, worked double time in formulating policies for the operating manuals. The combined efforts of the Marketing and Sales-Philippines Department’s divisions, such as, Standards and Coordination under Ed Guatelara, Luzon Sales under Teodorico Pabelico, Market Planning under Gil Carolino, Cargo under Joe Clemente, the Administrative group under Salvador Caburian, and Metro Manila Sales under Tessie Luna, proved to be just impressive. What with their brilliant staff, such as Dennis Balictar, Gary Cruz (who later became a Director/AVP of Cebu Pacific), Toto Antonio, Jovy Jovida (who later headed another department), Jay Delfin (now, a respective Marketing Consultant in Indonesia), Bong Valencia (who later became VP-Airport Operations), Johnny Carls, Gabby Briones, Emma Tronco, Ceres Noble (who later became a Director of Cebu Pacific), Gene Asuncion, Frankie Guttierez, Alvin Feliciano, Edwin Bautista, Toton Oban, Dixon Ilanderal, Nelson Du, Rey Reyes, Tina Bacaltos, Ramon Magno, Ex Estandarte (who later became Manager-Research of HRD), Mike Villaflor (now, concurrently, Staff Manager of the Philippine Region, but with a dual function as Head of Luzon and Metro Manila Sales), Belinda Yngente, Edette Razon, Amee Atotobu (now, a manager of Metro Manila Sales), Ayee Asuncion Garvida (who held a Ticket Office manager), and Nina Intengan. Plucked from the provinces for their talents were Archie Batu, Juancho Dimagila, Ludy Bagares, Raymond Baylon, Cris Lebumfacil, Ayee Noval, and Glenna Tan. Not to be forgotten is Milagros S. Limgenco who during that time was an executive of Luzon Sales, and later, Director of Metro Manila Sales…she who worked earlier than the regular log-in time, till late in the evening. There could be other names that I have missed…but, as recalled, they will be mentioned in other related blogs.

PAL’s Golden Era was during the time of Mr. Benigno Toda, during which Mr. Ricardo Paloma was the Regional Vice- President for Philippines and Guam. It was during that time that the oneness of employees as one family was strongly felt. Those belonging to other departments did their share by upholding the spirit of discipline and pride for being part of the country’s flag carrier. Everybody was driven by the desire to excel in their assigned tasks, be they at the Comptroller Department, Corporate Planning, Marketing and Sales-International, Airport Operations, Passenger Handling, Public Relations, Inflight Service, Passenger Service, Reservations, and Maintenance Department (now, Lufthansa Teknic).

This desire to excel in assigned task was among the sparks that ignited the idea to come up with the Total Passenger Care program. The concept actually was developed during a workshop of supervisors and managers in Baguio, and a name I can recall that formulated the concept was that of Tessie Luna, manager of Domestic Ticket Office. The program practically made those who availed of PAL service, feel not as customers, but as members of the PAL family, too. They were pampered with comfort all the way from the time they purchased their ticket until the time they reached their destinations.

PAL would not be what it is today, without the unselfish dedication of its unsung heroes. Some have retired many years ago yet, some just a few years ago, some still just lately, and with a very few still working for the company, as if like leaves clinging to the robust tree, waiting for their time to fall…and become a nutrient to further its life. That is the humble legacy of the early employees of PAL…as nutrients to ensure that it will go on streaking the Philippine skies with pride!