[OPINION] The way we were

ON October 2 at 8 a.m. Manila time (or October 1, 5 p.m., California time), alumnus of Advertising & Marketing Associates (AMA), the advertising agency where I worked for a total of 26 years – 13 of them as President and CEO – will pay tribute to co-workers, from our late Chairman Antonio R. de Joya (ARJ) to our late janitor-messenger, Joe Bravo, who have been summoned by The Great Client in the Sky.

It shouldn’t matter if you were with AMA for a few months or even a few weeks. We believe that once an AMAn, you will always be an AMAn . especially if you experienced an earful from ARJ or from GBM (meaning me).

The AMA Spirit is kept alive by a website called Mga Anak ng AMA, a great play on words that was conceived, not by the agency’s creative team, but by line personnel who, in the words of ARJ have “kept the flags flying.”

As far as I can tell, I am one of three of the oldest former AMAns who are still around, the other two being former AMA Executive Vice-President and General Manager, Antonio L. Cantero, and former AMA Vice-President and Head of Public Relations, Arturo S. Dimayuga.

Note that I use the term “still around” instead of “still alive” mainly because I’m hoping that there are many former AMAns out there who are, like Tony, Art and I, still “alive and kicking.”

In an earlier, article, I listed some of them. But there are those whom I failed to immediately recall: Vicente “Jun” Navarro, Pablo “Pabs” Layug and Vic Milan. three account supervisors whom I considered my role models as I struggled as an advertising cadet; Account Executives or AEs Albert Grupe, Ogie Pasicolan, Ener Sampang, Nelson Sotelo, Gerry Pira, Rey Arsenal,Tom Garcia and Eddie Ruiz; Account Group Heads Sonny Marabut, Ferdie Trinidad and my kumpadre, Conrad Villafranca; another kumpadre Conrad Villajuan and Armi Aquino, from whom I learned the basics of Media Planning; Rusty Velilla (the ninong of my eldest son, Ringo), the great jingle-maker Pete Galvez, and my former schoolmate at FEU, Rene Lacson, all of whom were, at one time, heads of AMA Radio-TV, and Felix Zamora who was head of Radio Production when AMA hired me to head TV Production; Rube Medina, AMA Creative Group Head and a former professor at FEU; Los Angeles entrepreneur, Rad Carpina, and the brilliant Abraham Lenin Cube, both of whom once headed Finance; the PR managers, Rex Lores and Oscar Trinidad; plus some folks whose names are on the tip of my tongue but are stuck there. What can you expect of an 82-year-old? My memory is not as sharp as when I joined AMA at 22.

Hopefully, they are all still around (I know Albert Grupe, Ener Sampang and Pete Galvez are). If so, please join us to honor those who have gone ahead. And we request the relatives of those who have passed on to please let us know, so that we can pay them proper tribute.

This e-reunion would not have been possible years back, when most of us first joined our AMA mater. Thanks to social media and digital technology, we can now reconnect with long-estranged frends and relatives.

Reunions, even if only virtual, can be a source of profound pleasure especially for people my age – even memories that may, otherwise, seem unpleasant.

Almost without exception, time heals all wounds. As the song, “The Way We Were,” puts it:

“Memories, may be beautiful and yet, 

What’s too painful to remember, 

We simply choose to forget. 

So it’s the laughter, we will remember, 

Whenever we remember the way we were…”

In the dog-eat-dog environment that I was raised in, I can, surprisingly, only count four indivduals whom I have personally disliked and considered abhorrent: one of them, a former U.S. president, doesn’t even know I exist; another one, gave me his hand in peace when we met on an overseas trip, and I took it; a third one wrote me a “peace letter” which I acknowledged, but he has continued to be obnoxious (although I haven’t seen him in years and have only heard about him in the news); and the last appears to have “retired” from being a villain and the last time I heard from him was only on Facebook – and he was on good behavior.

If he has, in fact, changed, then I would like to give him my hand in peace.

Now, note that these are four people I have disliked. That is different from those who have disliked me – and perhaps, continue to dislike me.

It’s not necessarily their fault. Over the years, in my personal and professional dealings with people, I may have offended some or several individuals – inadvertently or unintentionally.

Admittedly, there were those whom I offended intentionally. I eventually made peace with them (or they sued for peace).

My late boss, ARJ (a brilliant person who was easy to admire and just as easy to dislike) once asked me to write a “New Year Peace Letter” addressed to people he may have offended. He particularly liked a line that I wrote:

“Another year is ending and I have become older and wiser, realizing that, while many of the things I did were done with the best intentions, I also realize that the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and why a lot of people would like me to go there.”

ARJ insisted on keeping that line.

I frankly don’t know how many of his “enemies” appreciated that gesture, which was stated in all humility and sincerity. At any rate, I would like to use it for myself – and I assure those who feel alluded to that I mean every word of it.

When age sets in, pugnacity and arrogance, conceit and pride are mellowed by a realization of mortality. When we are summoned by our Father and we ask Him to forgive us our trespasses, can we honestly say that we have also forgiven those who trespassed against us?

Time is running out on all of us – even those who are relatively young. As we count our blessings, it also serves a good purpose to consider those who may be cursing us in their hearts. They could be right.

I recall my first few months as an Assistant Vice-President at AMA. The Human Resource Department conducted a comprehensive study on the attitude of agency personnel towards fellow employees and the managers.

When the results were released, the Chairman sent for me.

“Congratulations,” he said. “It looks like people in the agency fear and dislike you more than me.”

That must have been a left-handed compliment. And when I told my wife about it, she told me quite bluntly: “200 people couldn’t all be wrong. There’s got to be something wrong with you.”

That should have taught me a lesson in humility. But in a business where survival is said to be only for the fittest, I could not get it through my thick skull.

Mercifully, the AMA Spirit kept us going, without robbing us of our sense of humor. Many of those who considered me a tormentor and have become very successful in their careers (including Gil Chua, Group Chairman off DDB Group Philippines and patron of the e-reunion), give me some credit for being a mentor, as well.

Whether alive or dead, it would be nice to hear from you or your loved ones on October 2 at 8 a.m. (Manila time). Mass will be celebrated, memories resurrected and we expect a good time.

And to those who still harbor bad feelings, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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