Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Celebrating Filipino Talent

This post is antedated. This was my column November 30, 2011.

We can all continue to gripe about how democracy is being weakened in this country by what seems like a lynch mob mentality or continue to wallow in the negativity and the pall of doom and cynicism that have enveloped our existence as a people and as a nation.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to argue with moral righteousness. In the immortal words of C. S. Lewis, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Fortunately for me, I was present in a few awards events recently that somehow rekindled hope and faith that despite what our leaders do or don’t do, there will always be Filipinos we can be proud of and make us feel good about being Filipinos.

I was a judge in this year’s Mabuhay Awards, the annual search for outstanding employees in the hospitality industry under the auspices of the Association of Human Resource Managers in the hospitality industry. At the awarding ceremonies, I met a person that made me believe once again that the Filipino is truly among the best in the world regardless of the tragic absence of concrete plans to effectively nurture and harness Filipino talent.

Recipient of this year’s AHRM Mabuhay Gold Award was Pablo Logro, more popularly known as Chef Boy. I’ve seen the celebrated chef on a number of occasions in some local TV cook shows where he dazzled with his culinary skills, wit and candor but television does not really fully capture the brilliance of the man.

At the awards ceremonies, Chef Boy spoke from the heart as he narrated his life’s journey described by many as a “Cinderella story.”

Chef Boy was the second of eight children of a fisherman and a housewife in Bicol. Poverty forced him to abandon his high school studies and to come to the Big City in search of better luck. He was barely 13. He found work as a houseboy in a Chinese restaurant in Quiapo where he picked up basic kitchen skills. Since he spoke little Tagalog, he would make illustrations of things he saw being done in the kitchen—the vegetables used, how to cut, put together, and cook ingredients. The man basically taught himself.

It has been said more than often enough that opportunities come to those who work hard to improve themselves. Chef Boy eventually found employment in a number of restaurants as a cook and eventually got mentored by some established chefs.

His life made a complete turnaround when he found employment as sous chef for the royal family of Oman. The Sultan of Oman was so impressed with Chef Boy that he was soon appointed as Head Chef of the Royal Palace. Chef Boy went places as he accompanied the royal family on various trips abroad and further honed his competencies as a global chef. As Head Chef of the Royal Palace, he was given benefits and preferential treatment almost equal to a cabinet minister.

Eventually, Chef Boy came home to become Executive Chef of the Manila Diamond Hotel. Soon after, he established his own culinary school in Cavite.

The rags-to-riches story may not be unique—there are many Filipinos from humble beginnings who also achieved great success in life.

But what makes Chef Boy immensely endearing and inspiring is the fact that he is always brimming with a “can do” attitude. He is passionate about his craft and just as equally passionate about sharing what he knows with others. There is a child-like quality that envelops him—he is always smiling, seems eager to please, and makes no apologies for his humble beginnings. Particularly important to note is the fact that this man does not make apologies for the fact that he does not speak “perfect” English. In fact, people at the awards ceremonies lapped up every word he uttered despite the badly fractured English and the local accent. Chef Boy has achieved global recognition because of his competencies and because of certain attributes. He is respected and celebrated for what he is and what he has achieved. We can meet global benchmarks without having to lose our soul and identity as a people.

I sat as judge for this year’s Mabuhay Awardee for the Managerial Category along with Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Joji Aragon and TESDA Executive Director Gabby Bordado. We spent a whole day reviewing the qualifications of the 12 finalists and interviewing them. Truly, we have great people manning our hospitality industry; our hotels have some of the greatest talents in this country. The 12 finalists we talked to each deserved to be given an award. Unfortunately, we were told to pick just one. Our unanimous choice was Gibeth Guzman Gloria of the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila.

Gloria impressed us with the excellent way in which she has been able to balance the different demands placed on her shoulders. She is probably one of the very few women (if not the only woman) holding the position of Food and Beverage Director of a five-star hotel, a post usually held by an expatriate. She had a very global mindset and yet a distinct Filipino temperament. As a manager, she impressed us with her ability to balance being a stern taskmaster and being a people-oriented person.

Still speaking of awards, the People Management Association of the Philippines last week handed out trophies to the winners of the PMAP First Makatao Awards for Mass Media Excellence. The awards were designed to recognize and honor mass media institutions and practitioners who continuously champion the cause of genuine people management and development in this country. What makes the PMAP mass media awards unique is that the finalists and winners are voted on by the members of PMAP, who are human resource management professionals.

ABS-CBN garnered most of the radio and television awards including best news program (TV Patrol) and best news program anchors (Noli de Castro, Ted Failon, and Korina Sanchez), best radio news program (Radyo Patrol 630), Pasada), best radio news program anchor (Noli de Castro), best radio program (Dos for Dos), best radio program hosts (Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja), and Radio Station of the Year (DZMM).

However, TV Station of the Year was won by GMA7. Best public affairs program was won by I-Witness and best public affairs program host was won by Jessica Soho. The Philippine Daily Inquirer won as best newspaper

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