Michael Villaflor, Jr.: Profile of Diligence and Humility
…another “unsung hero” of Philippine Airlines
By Apolinario Villalobos
When Michael Villaflor, Jr, or “Mike” to his friends and family was looking for a job after graduating from Mapua Institute of Technology with a Management Engineering course, the country was in its economic and political healing stage after Ferdinand Marcos was successfully ousted by the “People Power” which saw the installation of Corazon Aquino into presidency. It was during this uneasy period when Mike initially tried his luck for a job in San Miguel Corporation. Unfortunately, the company was giving priority to applicants who graduated from the University of the Philippines and Ateneo. He went through similar discouraging experience when he applied at Philippine Airlines which was giving priority for applicants from the two aforementioned universities, as well as, the De La Salle University.
His persistence, however, in following up his application with PAL paid up when he was finally given the chance to undergo an interview and a series of written exams which he passed with flying colors. For assignment, when he visited the Office of the Metro Manila Sales in March 1986, headed by Milagros Limgenco, without much ado, he was sent to the Escolta Ticket Office to immediately render duty as Information Clerk. Due to his remarkable good performance, in less than a year, he was promoted as Cash Custodian, then, as Domestic Ticket Representative in the same ticketing office. In 1988, he was further promoted as Integrated Ticket Representative, a job which required him to compute international fares, as well. Unfortunately, on that same year, the Escolta Ticket Office was closed which caused his transfer to the Makati (Greenbelt) Ticket Office. A little later of that same year he was transferred to the Taft Ticket Office, located on the ground floor of the Philippine Women’s University.
In early 1989, he retraced his steps to the Metro Manila Sales Area, but this time, with a new appointment as Sr. Market Planning Analyst under Marcial Zamora. His fast journey along the path of his corporate career brought him the following year, to the position of Staff Assistant for Luzon Sales Area which was merged with Metro Manila Sales by the VP-Sales and Services, Avelino Zapanta. This time, he worked under Teresita Al Luna.
While the career of Mike was gaining momentum, the general economic situation of the country was at its crucial that resulted to a slow down. Meanwhile, the management of the airline changed hands from Eduardo Cojuangco to Lucio Tan. In addition to the airline’s struggle to keep afloat, there were also problems that had to be dealt with – those of PALEA (Philippine Airlines Employees Association) and the ALPAP (pilots’ and flight attendants’ association), which finally resulted to the temporary closure of the company in 1998. During the time, Mike was under Danny Lim who was at the helm of the Metro Manila and Luzon Sales.
When Philippine Airlines resumed its operations, Mike was transferred to its “flagship” office located at S & L building along Roxas Boulevard as Staff Manager in place of Atty. Cris Pascual, to work under Enrique Javier, the Country Manager for Philippines and Guam. Later, all PAL offices at S & L building were transferred to the airline’s Learning Center along Padre Faura, where he worked under different Country Managers such as Marilla Revilla, Genaro Velasques, and Dina May Flores. When the San Miguel Corporation took over the company, it installed Salvador Britanico, Jr., as the Country Manager, and it was during this time that finally, Mike got his biggest break when he was appointed as Area Sales Manager for Luzon and Metro Manila.
When the Lucio Tan Group of Companies took over PAL from San Miguel Corporation in September 2014, Mike retained his job to work under his current boss, Harry Inoferio, who is virtually on a “home coming” stint, for he had spent a good number of years with PAL until he resigned to work with other airlines. Mike is doubling his effort, especially, at this critical moment of the airline industry under the shadow of the “open air policy” which is characterized by the cutthroat competition posed by locally- based airlines, as well as, foreign carriers that offer attractive fares. Despite the challenge, according to him, PAL is unfazed because its on-time departure reliability aside from its overall excellent service, have always been traditional trademarks that keep it flying with pride. Many passengers, especially the finicky, learn the lesson that a low fare can never replace an excellent service which is equated with comfort all the way of the flight, especially, long haul ones, hence, they go back to PAL after a “sad experience”.
In the office, Mike is ably supported by his equally diligent secretary, Melle San Jose Artillaga, who like him is equally meticulous in carrying out her job. And, at home, he is supported by his wife, Madeline and children, Mara Louise, Michael III, and Louise who understand his coming home late due to meetings. With all the challenges that he enjoys and the compassion of people around him that lightens his burden, he considers himself lucky and successful, yet feels at the same time, that he could still do more for the company.
To date, with a contented smile, he looks back to the day he was given a great opportunity by PAL which put him on the best career path, more than reason enough for him to continue doing his best. He also considers the short administration of the San Miguel Corporation as a good karma because it was during such time, while working with Salvador “Bud” Britanico, that he became a full-fledged manager.
But, most especially, for what he is now, Mike thanks his parents, Remy and Michael Sr. They molded him into a humble person who can work with utmost diligence and patience under pressure. Admirably, both parents who were supervisors of PAL then, did not try to use their influence when he was applying for a job in the company, as they wanted him to prove his worth on his own. Michael Sr. was a Ticket Office Supervisor (later on, a Manager), while Remy was a Desk Supervisor (later on, a Manager) of the Reservations Department.