THE FIRST AND LAST BOOK OF MR. RICARDO G. PALOMA
…The Cordillera Tourism Master Plan
By Apolinario Villalobos
Mr. Ricardo G. Paloma, “Tatang” to his subordinates is well-remembered for his patience, thoroughness, and flow charts. He is so systematic that anything that had got to do with PAL operations were covered with a flowchart so that mishandling of passengers, baggage and cargoes can be easily pointed out along the way – from the time plane tickets were cut up to the time the passenger has left the airport terminal; from the time a baggage has been checked-in to the time it has been claimed at the destination; and from the time a cargo has been accepted for shipment up to the time it has been claimed by the consignee. Even phone calls were monitored together with the length of time involved in attending to the callers and from such transactions, their “requirements” should be noted and taken up during sales meetings.
He was also engrossed in the state of the Philippine tourism industry, particularly, on how PAL could contribute to its development. In this regard, the Tours and Promotions Information Center at the Terminal 4 (formerly, Domestic Airport) was set up and headed by Mr. Vic Bernardino as Manager, with pioneer staff, Ed Buensuceso, Mayee Santos-Cuenco, Thelma Villaseἧor, John Fortes, Reggie Constantino, and Alex Enrile. The TOPIC Magazine was used as research and information tool to promote local tourism, with Alex Enrile as the Editor. I was fortunate to have taken over the job of Alex Enrile as Editor when he left for the United States. I just joined PAL for barely a yera then, with Tablas station as my first assignment. Later on, the PALakbayan Tour Program which “segmentized” the traveler according to his needs was conceptualized and sold as a tour package, both to the domestic and international tourists. He was also regularly consulted by the Department of Tourism which earned him the recognition as, “Mr. Tourism”.
I did not know that ever since I started contributing my poems and essays to the dailies and magazine even while in Tablas, Mr. Paloma had instructed his secretary, Bill Trinidad to clip and collect them. I came to know about what he did when he summoned me to his office on his last day as SVP-Finance, an extended job after he retired as VP-Sales, Philippines. I found him and Bill packing up. While I was taking coffee that he, himself prepared, he opened an attaché case and showed me the contents – original copies of clippings that caught me by surprise. I did not even know that my materials were published because I had no time to check them. As a consolation, he had them copied and gave me the duplicates. He also gave me his first Parker pen which was given to him by his wife, according to him.
Several months after he left PAL, I was surprised when his driver visited me in my new office at S&L Building, along Roxas Boulevard in Ermita, because during the time, our Tours and Promotions group was integrated into the International Sales-Philippines which was under Mr. Rene Ocampo and later on, Mr. Archie Lacson as RVP-Philippines and Guam, after a brief stint with the Metro Manila Sales which was then, under Mila Limgenco as Senior Asst. Vice-President. The driver told me that Mr. Paloma was in the car parked at the egress of the building and he would not like to come up, so I went to him only to know that he was inviting me to a lunch at the French Baker at the Greenbelt Park, across the Vernida Bldg. where we used to hold office. He was aware of my diet so he chose his favorite Frenchy bakeshop-cum-restaurant, just to be sure that I would have my salad.
Over the lunch of salad and bread downed with coffee, he asked me if I had the time to edit some documents for him, to which I immediately said yes. With that, he gave me a brown envelop with documents. When he brought me back to S&L, he told me while smiling that more are coming to which I said, no problem. From then on, at least once a week, he would have me fetched at my office for lunch at the French Baker in Makati. The driver would also deliver to me batches of documents for editing.
After a lull of about two weeks he fetched me again for lunch after which he showed me a neatly bound book, “The Cordillera Tourism Master Plan”. What he told me while handing me the book and which I could not forget was, “you inspired me to do this”.
He had three copies made, one for me with a dedication, another copy for the Department of Tourism, and the third copy for his library at home. Many months transpired and our lunch became infrequent, only to learn that he was sick. My fault was that I did not find time to visit him….only at his wake. To compensate for my irresponsibility, I made a poem and essay for him. Both saw print in the PALiner. I know that those who know Mr. Paloma will agree with me that he was a great employee who started from the ranks as a porter, PAL ever had…our one and only “Tatang”.