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!