Diosdado ‘Dado’ Banatao’s odyssey from Cagayan Valley to Silicon Valley

It is said that Silicon Valley likes to think of itself as morally exceptional: the saints of American Capitalists are there. They are actually regarded as successors to the big money magnates of the gilded age.

It is home to many of the world’s largest technology corporations, which have become famous in recent years for innovation in software and internet service; for silicon chip innovators with its  high-tech business in the area.

It has the most number of millionaires and billionaires in the United States per capita, and is now generally used as a metonym for the American high technology region.

Silicon Valley has replaced orchards-related agricultural and food production companies, who gave the regions its initial nickname — the “Valley of Hearts Delight,” in the past.

At the 25th annual Ateneo Blue Ball, Mr. Diosdado “Dado” Banatao, was the Guest Speaker.

A perennial magnet for the media world, he spoke to the crowds in a composed and excruciatingly polite manner.

When he set himself to smile with that infectious quality, it set a lightning storm of flashbulbs that night.

If you’re a journalist, you’d understand why every Atenean at the Green Leaf Mosaic Center was eager to see  and hear him.

You would understand why his peers respect him and hold him in high esteem; why he is appealing to men and irresistible to all.

His warmth, savoir-faire and simple rhetoric — there’s something that  goes beyond his wealth, his magical name and his ability to succeed.

He always does everything well: be it making millions, piloting his plane, fathering his children, doting on his grandchildren and being a beloved family head.

Rarely do I get  to interview one who comes down from his pedestal to be modest . He is dignified, patient, courteous and kind.

He never seems to be displeased. He never refuses to answer a question, even if they border on restrained probing.

Sir, you’ve always avoided a “question.” 

“What is the question, Mylah?”

How wealthy are you, Mr. Banatao? 

He answered with an infectious smile. “It is not a sin to have money, to work for it, but you see, I wasn’t brought up to study or work hard to get out of poverty, we have no notion of wealth or possession of it. We simply  studied became our parents instilled in us that education was important.

Who influenced you more Mr. Banatao, your father or your mother?

“Both of them and I also had generous teachers and investors, who helped and guided me to reach my goals. Both of them. It was a complete thing, in a spirit of equality they’ve infused on me, but I don’t recall anyone imposed anything on me. In marvelous freedom, I’ve always decided things for myself.”

Mr. Banatao, what matters to you as a man? What to you are qualities that are timeless? 

“Along with brains should be courage, and along with courage, dignity, dedication,  perseverance, strength, wisdom and compassion.”

Tell me sir, what do you think of the ethical dimensions of business? 

“It is important for business leaders to have a moral compass, ethics and discipline. There has to be strategies in place for holding people accountable. To keep a competitive edge, there has to be  an ethical edge…that’s  business ethics.”

Sir, unpleasant lapses still continue to rock the financial world. What will it really take to change the ethical paradigm for business?  Do you believe there is the right way and the wrong way to seek profits?

“Everyone has decent intentions. In  a healthy balance, you don’t build service just to make money, you make money to build better services. The world is still full of productive entrepreneurs out to improve mankind, make the world a better place. Put that brain in our environment, it will thrive…you can’t beat brains.”

Have you ever had regrets, Mr. Banatao? 

“No, never. It’s a waste of time. For anything that I have done, I stayed involved with my decision, take its consequences..sometimes you come to learn about life and its surprises.

Mr. Banatao,  a rather personal question: You have one of the most solid marriages in the Fil-Am community… is there any secret formula you may want to share?

“A marriage survival kit simply requires a balanced life, genuine love, adaptability, flexibility kindness and imagination to read minds and anticipate his or her needs.”

What is it that made you what you are now, Mr. Banatao?

“I did the right thing, Mylah!”

Thank you,  Mr. Banatao.


Post Script: We already know that he is a billionaire based in Silicon Valley and a friend of the late Steve Jobs. He consumerized one specific technology used exclusively before by the US military. Today, we have it in our phone and cars. We call it GPS, and 30 percent of every computer and laptop in existence carries technology and ideas developed by this gentleman.

He  dreamt of becoming a pilot. He bought his own plane and flies it for  trips and important business matters. It was in the early 70’s, at 26, when he decided to stay in Silicon Valley. With Steve Jobs, they became part of the  Homebrew Computer Club — a small group which put together their ideas and progress. After being employed for 10 years, he started his own companies and they did very well. He  sold some: one for $430 million, another for $650 million and another reportedly for over a billion dollars.

Today, both his business and advocacy are geared towards helping young students and entrepreneurs, who are set on making their mark in the field of science and engineering.

It is his noblesse oblige.

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