My dear Anna, Fil’s wife and his children Gina, Ping and Vic Vic, Miguel and Dea, and Rina, and my fellow colleagues and friends of our beloved Fil Alfonso.
It is difficult to speak of a long- time friend and associate like Fil in the past tense after so sudden a passing as his. And yet, we must do so, for how else can we properly honor him tonight and celebrate the wonderful life that he lived.
I will not even try to recite before you the many achievements of Fil and the many positions of great honor and responsibility he held during his lifetime of service and distinction. I am sure that most of you here are familiar with his record because you worked closely with him, and besides, to list his achievements would take much more time than you have given me to speak. Instead, I shall try to tell you what he meant to the Lopez Family and to the Lopez Corporate Family.
Like me, my late siblings Geny and Robbie, as well as those still living, namely, Manolo and Presy all had the pleasure to be able to work closely with Fil.
Our close association with Fil began during his incumbency, first as Associate Dean, then as President of the Asian Institute of Management. The Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc. is one of the founders and benefactors of AIM and has continued to support it through the decades. AIM achieved its highest standing in the world of management education during Fil’s presidency from 1990 to 1999. During his presidency, AIM became ranked Top in management education partly by winning the Ramon Magsaysay award for international understanding award, the Asian equivalent of the Noble Peace Prize. AIM’s highest standing was also partly due to Fil’s ability in soliciting funding and support for the Institute. You can approach philanthropists for donation once and you will often succeed in winning their support. But to be able to do so again and again, you must have a compelling dream or vision for the Institute you represent, and you must convince your benefactors of the worth and nobility of that vision. This was something Fil was very good at. You just couldn’t get yourself to say no to Fil, so compelling were his plans and dreams for a greater AIM, and so irresistible his charm.
Then, in the late 1990’s, once he was through being president of AIM we in the Lopez group began to rely on Fil for guidance and advice over a diverse range of concerns and matters, including evolving dogma on how to manage family-owned corporations for stability and longevity; matters of succession, corporate social responsibility, the development of a corporate learning center for the whole Lopez Group, performance management, and a succession of other HR-related subjects. In 2001, Fil formally joined the Lopez corporate family as Vice Chairman of Meralco and as Executive Vice President of Human Resources Development for Benares Holdings Corporation, now called Lopez Holdings Corporation. From 2001 until his sudden passing, Fil was a valued member of our corporate family.
It may be that our group values, and our dedication to the service of the Filipino people, resonated strongly with Fil. Certainly, his advocacy of national development, social justice and the responsibility of corporations to society resonated strongly with us. If I were to liken myself to a skipper and helmsman of a racing yacht, then Fil would at times have been my navigator, and at other times, my tactician. His guidance and counsel on any number of corporate and social concerns were always very well grounded in law, for after all, Fil was a very skilled lawyer, something that most people were unaware of, that aside from his business education, he was also a graduate of the Ateneo Law School. But they were also well grounded in what was politically defensible, in what was considered sound management and governance. Most of all, they were consistent with our Lopez values.
Yet, Fil was not just a counsellor. At an operating level, many of you here enjoyed working closely with Fil on your HR or CSR assignments, or in delivering executive education and training to our high-potential managers. He had the gift of being able to simplify what were complex and convoluted issues, and articulate any problem so that we could all clearly understand what it was, and apply ourselves to looking for the right solutions. He had a network of contacts and friends, both here and abroad, in business, in the academe and in civil society, and he was never shy in offering us access to his network. Over close to fifteen years, Fil was a valued comrade-in-arms as we fought our corporate battles and as we overcame adversity. Through our wars, he was always a cheerful and calming presence, ever the gentleman.
And so tonight, even as we say good-bye to him we salute a friend, a valued associate, a brother. Some try to leave their mark on this earth by building themselves status and memorials. But the real achievers are those who, even as they pass from this life, leave their ideas, their passions, their advocacies and their values alive in those fortunate enough to have worked with them, and in the DNA of the organizations and institutes that they led. Such a man was Fil Alfonso. We will miss him greatly.
Thank you for your attention and Good evening.