Jose P. Leviste, Jr.: Humility Personified
By Apolinario Villalobos
I almost decided not to take PR1811, the second flight of PAL from Manila to Davao on April 30, as I was used to taking the first flight. It could have been a Providential design because on that flight, I met a guy with a down-to-earth character, and not just an ordinary one, but considered as an icon in the field of industry…Mr. Jose P. Leviste Jr.
At the PAL Mabuhay Lounge before the flight, he was with a group that I presumed to be businessmen on their way to Davao to attend an ASEAN scheduled activity. I observed his humble personality that somehow made him a standout. When we boarded our flight, we were seat mates and while we were fixing our seat belts, we exchanged smiles that broke the ice. He introduced himself simply as “Joey”, so I extended my right hand for a handshake at the same time giving him my nick name. He also gave me his business card and I apologized for not being able to reciprocate the gesture as I am not using such.
When I read the name on the card, I was struck with awe…seated beside me was no other than the Chairman of one of the respected industrial institutions in the country. Yet, he consistently showed a character oozing with humility. I was more than glad to learn that we were on the same plane of interests – nature, humanity and literary. However, I was very much elated for the opportunity of talking to a greatly accomplished industrialist. When he asked for my personal infos, he patiently typed them in his smartphone after which he took our photo. He also showed me his file of business cards coded with checks to remind him which of the owners of the cards have been met, meekly confiding about his tendency to be forgetful. His systematic habit was just admirable which showed that he was not totally dependent on others for all his daily personal needs.
As if on a cue, we would touch on subjects that interested both of us. We shared what we knew about the Philippine eagle, for instance. When I mentioned about my participation in the monitoring and documenting of the aerial mating of the national bird in Mt. Apo, while concealed with the Kennedy group sponsored by the National Geographic way back in the 80’s, he added his fascination about the monogamous character of the bird. When I mentioned about blogging, he told me that he got no time for such but shared that he has collated into a collectible book various write-ups about Lee Kuan Yew. He further surprised me with a confession that he had so far written four books, humbling me with my own, one title. A great guy, indeed!
I purposely slowed down on our conversation when I noticed that he was sleepy as I learned that since the start of the ASEAN Conference, he and other prominent businessmen were kept busy with meetings and social activities. He luxuriated on about twenty minutes of dozing which resulted to his late snacks. I was further touched when he gave me the small sachet of mango- flavoured chocolate from his platter that should have been part of his dessert together with slices of fruits.
As our plane was about to touch down, he confided that the reason for his coming to Davao was the inauguration of the Ro-Ro service between Davao and Indonesia…he was the guest of honor. He invited me to join him which I politely declined as I was on an urgent purpose.
As if the surprises brought about by the encounter were not enough, while we were on our way to the arrival area of Davao International Airport, one of my carry-on bags (I had three) slipped off my shoulder and which he unceremoniously picked up and carried! I was so embarrassed but he insisted on carrying it for me as he found me seemingly over-burdened. His gesture left me with two more carry-ons -a bag and laptop. What made me more embarrassed was when he told me that he was of same age with President Duterte and Sonny Domingo…the latter being his classmate! I was astounded as I thought he was just approaching his sixties. His being a mestizo and having a wrinkle-free face may be the reasons for his youngish look. At the arrival area, we parted our ways as I went straight to the conveyor to pick up my checked-in baggage.
When I finally reached my destination after almost four hours of travel, I texted my new friend with a message about my heartfelt appreciation and honest admiration of his rare character. I thought, he would not reply, being a very busy guy, but after a few minutes, I received an acknowledgment. I imagined him to have taken a fragment of his precious time just to send me his reply.
I coud not get over the overwhelming feeling after meeting the humble Joey Leviste, Jr., making me wonder if there could be other industrial icons like him. What is remarkable about him is his unassuming attitude that keeps his feet on the ground despite the dizzying success that he has achieved and keeps on achieving. Now I understand why he is immensely successful and blessed!