Ode to ADL

Foreword to the book of former Customs Commissioner Alberto D. Lina titled “Thoughts of a Filipino Entrepreneur,” formally launched on April 27, 2018 at the Sylvia Lina Theater, De La Salle University, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.


This lessons-filled collection of speeches of former Customs Commissioner Alberto David Lina is a must-read for everyone, young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, Filipino or foreigner, schooled or unschooled. Though he finished with honors a popular college degree (BSBA) and passed successfully the tough examination for certified public accountants (CPA), Bert, as he is fondly called, credits the school of hard knocks, grit, patience, determination and the care of our loving God as the main sources of his bustling success.

Aptly, this volume begins with the inspiring “things my professors never taught me.” For indeed, most successful entrepreneurs never depended on their college education. In fact, many of them, like Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, George Ty, or even the young Edgar “Injap” Sia, and non-Filipinos like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out of college to hone their entrepreneurial skills early on in their lives.

According to this book, Bert relied on three things he learned from common sense and observation: (1) “Pakikisama,” which he defined simply as the “value of having real personal relationships, based on caring and mutual respect,” (2) time discipline, and (3) the necessity of being “makulit” meaning, “following through consistently and repetitively” till work is finally done well.

Truly, there are many lessons outlined in this book on how to be a successful businessman, especially in the new field of logistics. It is not my intention to discuss all of them. For that would take the fun and pleasure reading it till its end. Suffice it to say that two threads bind and sew together his deepest thoughts.

First, he always quotes relevant passages from the Holy Bible to spice his speeches and bring home his message. He finds eternal truth in these timeless quotations which he applies in the seemingly agnostic world of business. And the second is “love, not just like, your work… have a deep passion and enjoyment in what you chose to do for a living.”

Indeed, love permeates everything that Bert is, touches and does. I have known Bert since 1969 when he was a young 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 peso-and-centavo days, Bert – the poor boy born in Tondo, Manila with roots in Laguna – has risen to be a Filipino taipan with an authentic rags-to-riches story.

But as I contemplate his grit, his inexhaustible energy, his exemplary rise in life’s ladder, I had to discover the one word that unravels the secret of his gargantuan success. And that one word that best personifies him is LOVE, his enormous, googolplex love.

Bert loves his work; he loves to create, to innovate, to reinvent, to think out of the box. He loves challenges. He works his brain and brawn 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 especially agricultural logistics, outsourcing, communications, connectivity, films, creative designs, sports, entertainment, land transportation, tourist airport transfers, solar power – 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. His favorite buzz word now is “back haul,” meaning, fill up our cargo trucks with agricultural products at cheap prices after they deliver their regular cargo.

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 every day, with especially selected healthy brown rice; 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 country, warts and all, passionately, ardently and single-mindedly. 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. For this reason, against my advice, he accepted the tough job of being Commissioner of Customs twice, once under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and another, under President Benigno Aquino III.

Bert loves golf and golfers. That is why he holds tournaments during his companies’ anniversaries and his 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 erstwhile fiercest business competitors, like Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Bert loves music. That is why he was the indefatigable funder of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, and is now a logistics sponsor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metro Manila Concert Orchestra, as well as a patron of concerts and musicales.

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.

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 Manila Cathedral, St. James Church in Alabang, as well as in Naga City, 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 prohibited them from having boyfriends till after finishing college.

Bert loves his three grandchildren, Andrea Rose or Andy, Alberto Wynn or Alwyn and Aurelia Jole. 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 70, Bert still possesses the same 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 birthdays, Bert has given Sylvia extraordinary gifts, like a brand new Jaguar car, brand new Bosendorfer piano, and a special gumamela flower variety which he specially asked the University of the Philippines in Los Banos to breed in pink, Sylvia’s favorite color. Before that, he constructed and donated the auditorium at the De La Salle University in Alabang. 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 will give him a month!

Bert celebrated his 70th birthday in advance by sequestering the entire Ayala Greenfield Golf Course for one whole day last Monday, April 23. He named it the 28th ADL Cup. I know that the 28th refers to his mythical age whenever he professes his love for Sylvia. But what does ADL mean?

Now, after contemplating his secret, after discovering the one word that best describes him, I am certain that ADL 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.”

I am dead certain the many readers of this book will concur. Cheers!

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