Edited transcript of the extemporaneous remarks delivered by retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban during the 60th birthday celebrations of Alberto D. Lina held at the Sylvia P. Lina Theater, De La Salle University, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
The other day, I received a letter from Donna May Lina asking me “to give a greeting and message on the stage during the program” to celebrate her father’s birthday. I have known Bert since 1969 when he was serving his first job after finishing with honors his BSBA at the Philippine School of Business Administration. He was a member of the audit team of the L. C. Diaz and Company that was looking at the books of our family’s first business venture, the Baron Travel Corporation.
Since those pesos and cents days, Bert – the poor boy born in Tondo, Manila with roots in Laguna – has risen to be a giant entrepreneur, a Filipino taipan with an authentic rags-to-riches story. I was tempted to say a few words of pun to roast him, like, “Bert, welcome to the age of the aged. You are now entitled to a Senior Citizen’s discount when you buy your pain killers and vitamins.” I was also tempted to give him a cane and say, “Bert, you better get used to this. You will surely need it starting today.”
But as I contemplated his grit and exemplary rise in life’s ladder, and as I began to wonder what the secret of his gargantuan success is, and as I tried to discover the one word that best personifies ALBERTO DAVID LINA, I came to the conclusion that that one word is LOVE, his enormous, googolplex love. Before you suspect any funny ideas, let me explain.
Bert loves his work; he loves to create, to innovate, to reinvent, to think out of the box. He loves challenges. He works his brains and brawns to solve them. He sees problems as opportunities, not obstacles, to success.
Bert loves his companies, all 18 of them and counting. He wants to make them grow, develop and attain his vision for them. They are in diverse fields, some of which quite alien to this retired jurist, like logistics, outsourcing, communications, connectivity, films, creative designs, sports, entertainment – and even businesses some of us may not delight being involved in, like waste management, which is the polite name of basurero, or portalet system, which – in more pedestrian language – is the kubeta business.
Bert loves his staff and his employees; he calls them his partners and collaborators, not “alalays.” He loves all 2,800 of them scattered in all parts of the country and some abroad. Each one gets a free meal everyday; and all – regardless of rank – participate in production bonuses and profit shares at the end of the year. Moreover, he allows conversion to cash of unused sick leaves, something unusual in most firms.
Bert loves his customers and friends, especially all of us and our spouses – all 400 of us – whom he specially invited tonight to help him commemorate his passage to old age; no, to senior citizenship.
Bert loves his country, warts and all, passionately, ardently and single-mindedly. Donna tells me he talks to his daughters all the time about how to rid it of corruption and malgovernance, and about how to propel it to first world status.
Bert loves golf and golfers. That is why he holds tournaments during his companies’ anniversaries and birthday celebrations; that is why he feeds them breakfast and lunch and gifts them with tee-shirts, golf balls and towels. And believe it or not, he is generous even to his fiercest business competitors, like Art Tugade.
Bert loves music. That is why he is the indefatigable sponsor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and patron of concerts and musicales. That is why tonight, he will show us a sample of his own “baritonic” prowess.
Bert loves the poor and the dispossessed. He never forgets his roots and his struggles against destitution and dispossession. That is why he holds annual medical-surgical-dental missions for them, and literally sheds his blood during annual company blood letting. He supports several charities, one of them the Guiding Light Ministries of Aklan, which he asks us to contribute to in lieu of birthday gifts to him.
Bert loves God. He credits the Lord with everything that he is and that he has. The Lord owns everything he says. He is merely God’s steward in this world, to use wealth prudently to spread the word and the reign of the Lord. That is why he donated the Carillon at the St. James Church in Alabang, as well as those in San Pedro, Laguna and in Mandaue, Cebu, because they remind him of his mortality and total dependence on God’s mercies and graces every time they chime.
Bert loves his four daughters, April Rose, Donna May, Lucia Jane, and Bertha Ann. He sends them roses on Valentines and never forgets to profess aloud his love for them day and night, even if he prohibits them from having boyfriends till after finishing college.
Bert loves his two grandchildren, Andrea Rose or Andy and Alberto Wynn or Alwyn. He loves to play hide and seek with them. They are the only people in the world who can countermand his orders.
Bert loves Sylvia endearingly, tenderly and eternally. She is the light of his life and the apple and mango of his eyes. Now at 60, Bert still possesses the same business drive that he had when he was 30. But with Sylvia, he is always a swain of 20, singing ballads, writing poems and sending love letters of undying affection. On her birthday last year, Bert gifted Sylvia with a brand new Jaguar. Before that, he finished the construction of this auditorium where we are now. That is why it is called the Sylvia P. Lina Theater. Guess what he will give Sylvia on her next birthday. A helicopter? A spaceship to fly her to the moon? A new baby boy? Well, the difficult Bert can do immediately. But the impossible will take him a little while. I’ll give him a month!
Two days ago, Bert celebrated his birthday in advance by sequestering the entire Ayala Greenfield Golf Course for one whole day. He named it the 18th ADL Cup. I know that the 18th refers to his mythical age whenever he professes his love for Sylvia. But I was wondering what ADL meant.
Now, after contemplating his secret, after discovering the one word that best describes him, I am certain thatADL means A Dynamo of Love. But may I respectfully propose that next year, the golf tournament be renamed from ADL to ADLS to mean Alberto Delights in Loving Sylvia. Payag ba tayong lahat? Hurray! Happy Birthday Bert!