WHEN Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (JAZA) stepped back in April, he wanted to make the transition as low key as possible. No fuzz, no celebration. He just sent an email to Ayala group employees that he was stepping down as Ayala Chief Executive Officer, a position he has held for the last 26 years. He will still be around, albeit focused on chairman responsibilities.

And that was how it was during the last 6 months. But Fernando Zobel de Ayala (FZA), who has taken over as CEO, just could not let the year pass without somehow formally honoring JAZA, and recognizing his impact on the company, on the community, and on the country.

And so last Wednesday, the whole Ayala group put up a special show depicting -- through film clips, stories, messages, poems, songs and dance -- the respect, gratitude, sense of attachment that people had for JAZA, and how deeply he touched their lives professionally and personally.

The tribute can be viewed here:

Through a Boy Abunda-type interview, his daughter Mariana, son Jaime Alfonso and nephew Jaime Urquijoeven managed to show the lighter side of JAZA. (He prefers hotdog to hamburger, he likes barbecue better than spaghetti, he prefers reading hard copy rather than Kindle, he prefers Ateneo to La Salle.)

Certainly one of the most colorful personalities in Philippine business, JAZA was the longest standing Ayala CEO steering the company thru 26 years. In FZA's words, "they were a most adventurous period, riding thru various landscapes, climates and grueling stretches and reaching unprecedented heights."

FZA continues: "JAZA's tenure has seen Ayala's market capitalization increase more than 6- fold with a similar 6-fold rise in net income. With Jaime at its helm, Ayala rode the turn of the millennium, powered thru global crisis, rode the digital tide and took on every opportunity. Stronger...expanded... more diversified and balanced ... a company in control of its path and ahead of its time. With investments in transformative, deep-need and high-growth industries, the company has remained relevant to the stakeholders it serves and the nation it seeks to help build."

Visibly touched by the testimonies, JAZA acknowledged that "this journey of 40 years has really been with Fernando.... (We) grew together and worked together."And what a journey it has been.

JAZA gave some parting thoughts. Here are excerpts:

"First: People are the backbone of any organization... As organizations, we are just living organisms...organisms made up of individuals that are possibly evolving, keeping shifting and changing...These individuals have to be nurtured, cared for, helped to grow strong and evolve in progressive ways...

The most effective leaders are those who can build trust, empower, and in many ways think more of the institution than themselves. This ability to create and keep trust, while empowering and celebrating others is the real platform for value creation as we move on.

"Second: We must be accepting of institutional change. It is part and parcel of what makes us strong, what invigorates us, what creates value and longevity in our organizations. The Ayala group has changed dramatically during the last 40 years. When Fernando and I started in Ayala, AC and Ayala Land were one company. Manila Water did not exist. Globe was a telex company. IMI just had one plant in Manila. BPI took pride in its ATM network as their technology differentiator. Institutions need to evolve and change. We must never be scared to do that. We must encourage it and be comfortable with it in order to adjust to the changing needs, changing times and changing environment.

"Finally, we must be cognizant of environmental change and be able to adopt to it as well. The environment has changed and in many ways. Issues of inclusion, issues of the environment, issues of where capitalism is going and how good it is as a model, issues of governance, issues of climate. These are issues Fernando and I used to wrestle with. Now these ideas have become mainstream...I like to think we have been ahead of the curve. We have been thinking about these things for some time...All the leadership team, the Mancom think very similarly about these things. I hope we stay that way, that we want to be part of institutions that leave their mark positively in our society. Vibrant, charting new paths."

JAZA promised to keep connected. Echoing a favorite quote ("What is urgent is seldom important and what is important is seldom urgent.), JAZA now would like to do some things that he had not been able to do because the urgent always got in the way of the important. "I look forward to connecting with you in new ways and helping you in turn connect with all your constituencies. I look forward to touching base in less formal ways, seeing your projects, visiting teams and understanding the needs of the many constituencies that are part of the stakeholder communities that surround us."

Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay

Congratulations to newly-appointed Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay. Atty. Bulay was former Manila chief prosecutor, former commissioner of PCGG, former 3-term councilor of Muntinlupa City. He is a product of Muntinlupa National High School, my alma mater.

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